If you are working in the marketing, sales or advertising sector you are probably familiar with the concept of the sales funnel. It basically represents the customer journey from the moment the customer becomes aware of your product or service or your business as such, until the final destination - the purchase.
The purpose of this post is to find where SEO fits in the sales funnel. First, we need to understand what are the different types of search intent and apply them to the stages of the sales funnel.
Types of Search Intent
Have you ever noticed that you get a different SERP look depending on your search query? Sometimes you can see the organic results at the top of the page, other times Google widgets are displayed and for certain searchers, there are a lot of ads that fill up a great portion of the page. Google recognises the purpose behind the search and respectfully adjusts the SERP. The purpose Google recognises in each query is called search intent. There are four main search intents: informational, transactional, commercial and navigational. Let’s take a closer look at each one of them.
Informational search intent
Informational search is a query with the intent to answer a question or find more information about a specific matter. A lot of informational searches are formulated as questions, but this isn’t always the case. Here are a few examples of informational searches:
“is jogging better than running”
“premier league table”
Navigational search intent
When looking for a specific website, the search intent is navigational. In this case, instead of writing the whole URL, the user types only parts of it. This is sometimes more convenient than typing the entire URL or the searcher just doesn’t know the exact one. In short, they navigate themselves to a particular website or a business. Sometimes they search for a physical location as well. The navigational searches look like this:
“restaurants near me”
Commercial search intent
Researching different solutions, comparisons and reading reviews represent the commercial intent. The searcher is unsure of which solution can satisfy their needs best. These types of search intents can take the following forms:
“canon vs nikon”
“best tools for keyword research”
“vacuum cleaner under 500eur”
Transactional search intent
When the user’s end goal is to make a purchase the search intent is transactional. A purchase is considered to be a download, application, reservation, actual purchase of a product/service or any other goal of the marketer. The searchers might be ready to buy and know exactly what they are looking for or they might be just one step before purchasing, for example searching for the right place to buy from (comparing offers and competitors). Examples of transactional searches are listed below:
“buy nikon d5600 online”
“na-kd discount code”
SEO and the Sales Funnel
From the first time a potential customer hears about your business until the moment he makes the purchase, he passes through different stages of the sales funnel. The funnel is used as an analogy because the number of customers reaching the final step decreases throughout the stages, meaning a lot of prospects don't get converted into customers.
Below are explained the three stages of the sales funnel. If you want to reach searchers at different points in their journey towards the purchase, you have to write and optimise different kinds of content. So the answer to the question where SEO fits in the sales funnel is - everywhere!
Top of the funnel
Potential customers based at the top of the tunnel are trying to identify their problems. They are searching for more information about it, trying to define it and ultimately solve it. The queries they are using are often formulated as questions, e.g. “how to…” or “which product…”. They are not using technical language and their search intent is informational. To attract those searchers, you have to answer their broad and general questions and optimise on keywords you’ve identified as most likely to be used.
Middle of the funnel
This group of potential customers are considering to make a purchase but are still unsure of what and from whom they are going to buy. The customers are now comparing different types of products, searching for different suppliers and trying to find the optimal solution. At this stage, the customers are moving towards a transaction, but they still require more information in order to decide. Their intent is commercial. To optimise your website for this phase, try to create informative and educative content without directly promoting your own brand. Based on this, the customer can make their own decision.
Bottom of the funnel
The bottom of the funnel consists of prospects who are ready to buy but might also need a final push. Their intent is transactional or navigational when they need to find the physical location of the business. As prospects move down the funnel the competition in the SERP increases. Consequently, as the bottom is closest to the purchase, most businesses invest in advertisements especially for this stage in order to increase their chances of conversion. The prospects take into account the price, the quality and the value they are going to receive, so the key is in showing them why they should choose you.