In this article, we'll cover Top of the funnel content marketing techniques. You will learn the techniques of using content to generate traffic and building awareness at the top of your sales funnel.
How effective is content marketing?
I will answer this with the popular "The Old Spice" case study:
Since their video launch "The man your man could smell like" on YouTube, the previously unknown startup has had more than 50 million views with sales growing more than 55% in the first three months!
Don’t let the irreverence of this feel-good video fool you… it was a calculated, well-organized, and masterfully orchestrated endeavor.
They produced a video that is the perfect example of just how powerful content marketing is. There is no direct call-to-action in the video. It’s more-or-less just a commercial so entertaining, people wanted to show it to their friends — and, in doing so, gave it more exposure than if it were aired on national TV.The Old Spice video is the perfect example of just how powerful content marketing is. Click To Tweet Click To Tweet
This article presents advanced Top Of the Funnel content marketing techniques to increase eCommerce traffic and improve brand recognition.
Here we focus only on the top of the sales funnel, the stage with the largest pool of people that give it its natural “funnel” shape.
This content is meant for growing traffic — not directly pitching a sale. Remember, a good first impression now can lead to the sale of a lifetime later.
Why Top-of-the-Funnel Content Is Different
If you haven’t read our earlier piece about how content differs through each stage of the sales process, we’ll briefly explain again why the top of the funnel is so different.
Unlike the other stages, where content marketing goals are more specific, the main goal here is attracting attention. This is far more difficult than it sounds, considering the amount of competition and distractions you’re up against.
Your content should revolve around brand awareness, brand reputation, and introducing yourself to new customers. In addition, you can also promote specific campaigns or products/services, but you must do so respectfully — at this stage, sales pitches are a mistake.
What to Post to Increase Top of the Funnel Traffic.
Because the pool of readers is so wide, you should stick to broad and popular topics that appeal to the masses.
For example, the Dollar Shave Club video had jokes that everyone could laugh at, not just their target customers of adult males who shaved. As a result, the video was shared by women and non-shavers as well, which ultimately raked in more views from adult males who shaved.
What are the most shared content types?
A study of social media shares published by Buffer revealed what type of content gets shared the most:
- Lists (22.45%) — Less of a “type” and more of a format, lists seem to comprise the most shareable posts. Ex: The 10 reasons why SMEs should adopt Facebook Marketing. Why Posts (22.32%) — Coming in a very close second are Why Posts, content that makes an assertion, and explains why. Ex: Why eCommerce brands need a content strategy.
- Videos (18.94%) — While product videos are especially important, standard Videos on more general topics appeal to a wider audience for getting your name out there.
- How-to Posts (18.42%) — How-to Posts narrowly fall behind videos. These are basic instructional and guide pieces. Ex: How to apply content strategy to each stage of the sales funnel.
- What Posts (17.88%) — While still popular, What Posts like news articles fall in last. These are posts that describe or explain an issue, though less opinionated than Why Posts. Ex: What you need to build a winning social media team for your business.
You’ll notice that the competition between the different types is close, with each one taking in around a fifth of the total shares.
Just as important as the type of content is the emotion it elicits. OkDork conducted a similar study on the emotional character of the 10,000 most-shared posts:
- Awe (25%)
- Laughter (17%)
- Amusement (15%)
- Joy (14%)
- Anger (6%)
- Empathy (6%)
- Surprise (2%)
- Sadness (1%)
- Other (15%)
As you can see, Awe, Laughter, Amusement, and Joy clearly distinguished themselves over other emotions, meaning that positive feelings are more often shared than negative ones.
What makes a Post Shareable?
Just what is it that makes a post go viral and pushes its ranking high enough in search engine results to consistently increase eCommerce traffic?
There is no one set formula, except to say “high quality.” Really, the anatomy of a shareable post is the anatomy of a good post, for which the criteria varies.
That said, there are some tips and techniques that are proven successful, which we’ll explore now.
According to Harp Interactive, headlines account for up to 50% of a blog’s effectiveness. As the deciding factor in whether or not to read the piece, the headline will be read by 5 times as many people than the actual post. Here are some takeaway tips for crafting shareable headlines:
Source: Must Have
Numbers. Titles with numbers in them create 73% more social shares and engagement. Not just any numbers, either… odd numbers have a 20% higher click-through rate. Presumably, odd numbers seem more realistic, and therefore more trustworthy.Headlines account for up to 50% of a blog's effectiveness. Click To Tweet
Unique Rationale. Neil Patel suggests using what he calls a “unique rationale,” which means giving people a reason to read your post that only you can provide. Using words like tips, lessons, ways, and secrets all implicitly explain their own value.
Power Words. Some words are more effective than others. When he analyzed the headlines for the most click-worthy sites, Buffer’s Kevan Lee found these words used most often:
- You & You're — speak directly to reader.
- This — denotes specificity.
- What, Which, When, Where, and Why — to pose questions that the post answers.
- The Most or Best — superlative, but also invites an argument.
- How to — demonstrates value by offering to teach.
Valuable ContentIf a good headline gets your post read, then good content gets it shared. Click To Tweet
Content is still king on the web, and people share the content that moves them the most. The trick is to have quality posts that both engage the reader and remain relevant to your brand.
Relevant Interests and Pain Points. Armando Roggio advises you to pay attention to your industry to find where your shopper’s interests and pain points are.
For example, Patagonia is a specialized clothing store for outdoor sports like surfing, climbing, and snowboarding. Their blog The Cleanest Line has articles on each of these topics, plus their brand’s overarching concern about environmentalism.
They feature news, how-to, and human interest articles on these topics, which appeal to more than just Patagonia shoppers. Everyone interested in outdoor sports might stumble into the Patagonia online store by way of their blog, and once they’re on the site, maybe they’ll do a little shopping…
Avoid Clickbait. It’s not about hits, it’s about establishing a connection with your target customers.
In this sense, clickbait is the opposite of quality — you’ll likely annoy more of your visitors instead of enticing them. Neil Patel warns “don’t B.S. your readers”; a reputation of making promises your content doesn’t deliver is hard to live down.
Controversy. Topics that are shocking, debatable, or otherwise outside of the norm tend to attract attention.
As long as you’re respectful and can back up your headlines with quality content, controversial topics can get you noticed amidst the sea of your competitors.
You always want to include a powerful image with your posts: that’s a hard-and-fast rule you can use in any situation. We’ve collected a series of statistics explaining the magnitude of benefits visuals have on content marketing:
- Visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared on social media. (Buffer.)
- People are 80% more likely to read content with colored visuals. (Xerox.)
- Facebook posts with images get 2.3 times more interaction than text-only posts. (Buzzsumo.)
- Tweets with images get 150% more retweets than those without images. (Buzzsumo.)
- The word “video” in an email subject line increases open rates by 19% and clickthrough rates by 65% while reducing unsubscribes by 26%. (Syndacast.)
- Pages with images or videos draw almost twice as many (94%) more views than pages with only text. (Business 2 Community.)
- Article with images every 75-100 words get shared twice as much as articles with fewer images. (Buzzsumo.)
- 93% of human communication is visual. (Business 2 Community.)
When it comes to content marketing, the old adage proves true: a picture is worth a thousand words.
Source: Reformation. Facebook
Off-Site Top of the Funnel Content Marketing Tactics
If you’re trying to build your customer base, you can’t always wait for them to come to you. Here are some of the experts’ best tactics for marketing off-site.
Link building is a method of improving your SEO and new traffic by putting links on external sites. The placement of backlinks, or inbound links, on the right sites can earn you prestige in search engine algorithms, which factor in the quality and amount of these links when rating sites.
Outside of SEO, each link you have on an external site creates an opportunity for someone to click and visit. If these inbound links exist within quality content, you give new readers the incentive to check out your site.
Some link building tips
Link to your unique assets. Do you have a product no one else offers? What about a how-to video on an in-demand topic? Audit your unique assets so you can give other sites a good reason to feature your link.
Target places where your target shoppers go. Location, location, location. For whatever your industry or product is, research the most popular blogs, online forums, directories, and communities. For more thorough results, check your competitor’s backlinks by reverse-engineering their URL in a tool like MOZ Open Site Explorer.
Ask for opinions in other blogs’ comments sections. There’s a fine line between asking for advice and spamming. Reach out to the community to get their opinions on your site, product, or some content you posted; that’s a justifiable excuse to put your link in the comments section.
Guest blog. Getting your link on popular blogs is always helpful, both for SEO and exposure. If you have any friends in your industry, try exchanging blog posts on each other’s websites. You can even make new articles exchange friends on sites like MyBlogGuest.
Even more effective is reaching out to the bigger and more popular sites in your niche, especially if their main purpose is blogging and not eCommerce. It’s okay to send these sites a cold email, like this template from Kalo’s post:
Hello [name of blogger],
I’d like to share my knowledge with other people on the topics of [your topic]. Last few days I’ve been writing an article on [your topic]. I noticed that your readers are interested in [the topic]. I think I can contribute to your blog by talking about the following points:
[A brief list of things you are going to write in your post]
I think this material will be well worth it for your readers, what do you think?
Reclaim brand mentions. If other sites are talking about you already, request a backlink. These 5 free tools can help monitor who’s mentioning your brand, but you can also try a reverse search on your product images.
Getting a high-profile influencer to talk about or even share a picture with your brand’s product is more than just exposure — it’s social proof.
Leagues of new people (likely your target customers, if they share the same interests as the influencer) will not only discover your product, but they’ll also associate it with the influencer in the future.
Here are some strategies for reaching out to influencers and opening up collaborationsCheck out some strategies for reaching out to influencers and opening up collaborations. Click To Tweet
Free Gifts. Giving an influencer a free gift (or discount or coupon) is a common tactic for getting them to either review your product or simply showcase it in their social feeds. Just remember, there’s no guarantee here. It is, after all, a gift.
The bigger an influencer is, the more of these gifts they receive. Try to stand out by adding a personal touch. Kalo recommends this format for gift emails:
Hello [blogger’s name],
[A short introduction to you and your store].
I’m approaching you because [rapport creating reason].
I’d like to ask what you think of our store.
Last but not least, I’d like you to give us an address where we can send a small gift we’ve prepared for you. We think you’ll like it.
Interact with the Influencer’s Content Regularly. Influencers are running their own businesses too, so they appreciate the attention and support they get.
If you interact with and share their content regularly, they’ll start to notice your name, giving you a chance to break the ice.
Be creative when interacting with influencers. Direct video messages, customized photos, boomerangs, and gifs will stand out from everyone else’s text messages.
Tag Them in Your Own Content. Knowlton suggests posting about the influencer and then tagging them.
You could even mention them in a blog post, then tag them in the social media announcement. Tagging ensures they receive a notification and at least notice you.
You can then use a tool like ContentMarketer.io to market to all of the mentions in the post.
Collaboration. Work with an influencer, or perhaps a group of influencers, in a mutually beneficial campaign such as a contest, giveaway, or artistic collaboration. For example, feature the influencer as a model in your product photos, or give them creative control in a new product design.
At the very least, initiate an affiliate or referral program that gives them a commission on assisted sales. For professional influencers like fashion bloggers, this is one of their main sources of income.
Social media channels are one of the best ways to improve both brand awareness and customer relations, among many other advantages.
While managing a brand’s social media is a skill on its own, DIY business people or short-staffed companies may find tools like Quuu helpful. In conjunction with a Buffer account, Quuu “hand curates” your social media content based on your industry.
Skyscraper Technique to Increase Top of the Funnel Traffic
Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique is a direct and powerful link-building method based on taking other successful posts and releasing even better versions of them — like building an even taller skyscraper. Dean lists the three steps as:
- Find link-worthy content. What articles have garnered a lot of backlinks? What post did your target customer base find so useful or valuable, they continually shared it?
- Create an improved version. What makes your version of the content better than the original? Are you updating old information, adding new insights (like personal experience), improving the visual design, or maybe you’re just fleshing it out for a longer, fuller post? This technique works best when you manage all four.
- Reach out to the right people. Send a message to everyone who linked to the original version and tell them you’ve written something better. Then, reach out to new channels in the same way we suggested above in the Guest Blog section.
The beauty of the skyscraper method is that the content subject matter has already been proven to be popular. All you’re doing is giving people something they already want, but in a better way.
Done well, this is an easy way to increase eCommerce traffic. Just make sure that your post is completely original, copying someone else’s content without permission and attribution is not only unethical, but it could also get you blacklisted by search engines.Skyscraper method is a link-building tactic that involves taking other successful posts & making better versions of them. Click To Tweet
Repurpose Content to Increase eCommerce Traffic
Different people prefer different types of content: millennials prefer short-form videos, educated users prefer podcasts, etc. For eCommerce stores with a wide customer base, it’s best to provide something for everyone instead of just something for a few people.
If you have a piece of high-quality content that’s proven to be in demand, try recreating it in different formats, aimed at different channels. Kevan Lee of Buffer explains some different ways to repurpose content:
- Infographics. Whether raw data or an opinion piece, you can always make your point with slick visuals in an infographic. As we’ve mentioned before, infographics are, as a content type, one of the most conducive to sharing.
- Ebook. If you have a series of well-written posts on a related topic, collect them together into a free, downloadable ebook. These compilations are a lot more convenient than scanning through months of old posts, plus they give you the opportunity to collect email addresses.
- Email Series. Likewise, you can release your posts periodically as an email series, for multiple interactions with customers over time.
- Answer on Quora. If you have a post with in-demand information, chances are someone has posted a similar question on Quora. Rephrase your post in your answer, of course backlinking to the original for more information.
- Slideshow. Sites like SlideShare appeal to fans of presentations, both speakers and attendees. Plus the individual slides are a great visual aid for processing data piece by piece.
- Video. We’ve spoken a lot about the advantages of videos over written content by now, you can see the value having both a video and textual account of the same topic. Videos also open up doors for video-only channels like YouTube.
- New Blog or Article. If you have a successful blog post, try rewriting it in a different way. For example, if you wrote a great Why Post, redo it as a List Post. This allows you to republish the content on a new site for solid link building, or give it a breath of new life on your own site. It’s like applying the Skyscraper Technique to your own material.
In this article we have covered ways to get your name out there and increase eCommerce traffic, but what about sales? We haven’t forgotten about the bottom line — stay tuned for more upcoming tips in our content marketing series, where we’ll cover list growth, purchase conversions, and more.
Do you have any tactics you use to increase Top of the funnel eCommerce traffic? Share them in the comments below.
Ayebare is the Chief Digital Strategists and co-founder Campaign.
He has more than 10 years of experience in the digital field.
He has worked with several fortune 500 companies worldwide in various Engineering and Website strategy disciplines.