6 Reasons Why Top-of-Funnel Content Delivers Leads and Sales

Female hand holding a green funnel on a red background. Sifting the truth. Be able to analyze.
Female hand holding a green funnel on a red background. Sifting the truth. Be able to analyze.

You expect to earn sustainable sales, traffic, and consistent ROI from content marketing.

As you should!

Here’s the thing. You wouldn’t expect someone to morph into a loyal customer after seeing one piece of content from your brand – that’s ridiculous.

You know it’s not logical, especially in B2B. You need top-of-funnel content first.

That’s why most B2B marketers say their main goals for content marketing include:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Earning credibility and trust
  • Educating their audience
  • Generating leads

In that order too: Customer loyalty, sales, lead nurturing, and even lead generation all come second to those main goals.

You must prove yourself first by solving a problem, answering a question, and just making someone’s life easier – all without selling them anything.

That’s why top-of-funnel content is critical.

In fact, it’s the only content that matters. Traffic, trust, authority, SEO, backlinks, engagement, leads, etc. – it’s impossible to overstate the value of content at the top of the funnel.

Not convinced?

Our own website ranks organically for nearly 100,000 keywords, delivering an estimated 44.3 thousand monthly hits:

Semrush

So what? Well, look at the keywords driving most of our traffic:

Semrush

What do you notice about these keywords?

Every single one focuses on top-of-the-funnel search queries – not buying stuff now, not pricing, not product comparisons.

We reach over 44 thousand people each month organically because they want to learn something, and we offer a useful answer.

That’s why you won’t see us (or anyone who takes TOFU content seriously) complain about Google algorithm updates. We care about integrity and provide real answers to real problems.

You can and should too. Here’s why and how.

Quick takeaways

  • TOFU content supplies a solid foundation for successful SEO by answering questions, ranking well, driving organic traffic, internal linking, backlinks, and more ranking factors.
  • It also lets you avoid sales pitches and jargon which is important for Google-friendly content that’s genuinely helpful and adds to the conversation.
  • Humans need TOFU content to learn about your brand, see your authority, trust your expertise, and understand how you can help rather than what you sell.
  • Prioritize integrity in TOFU content. One blog could be someone’s only touchpoint with your brand.

What is Top, Middle, and Bottom-of-Funnel Content?

Most of what we consider “content marketing” falls into top-of-funnel content for boosting awareness and attracting leads:

  • Intro-level informative blogs
  • Industry tips and guides
  • Infographics and explainer videos
  • Guest blogs

Next, you have middle-of-funnel content for engaging leads in the consideration stages:

  • Product comparisons
  • eBooks and PDF guides
  • Intermediate-level industry blogs
  • More niche guest blogs

Finally, you have bottom-of-funnel content for encouraging sales and building customer loyalty:

  • Knowledge bases and resource centers
  • Tutorials and detailed product explainers
  • VIP content

HubSpot

Where does thought leadership fit? Everywhere.

Thought leadership is more of a mindset and approach to content at all stages for showcasing your expertise, knowledge, and authority.

Even top-of-funnel content should display your unique thought leadership voice and style. You still want visitors to understand who you are and what you’re all about even in the awareness stage – why hide it?

What is Top-of-Funnel Content? Let’s Break It Down

Content at the top of the funnel includes anything intended to build brand awareness, recognition, trust, and leads. It’s the initial touchpoint.

Typical Goals for Top-of-Funnel Content

Map specific goals for your TOFU content first. 36% of B2B marketers say tracking ROI is their top challenge so mapping your goals first is important.

TOFU content goals generally include:

  • Better site-wide SEO
  • Ranking for more keywords
  • Dominating the search results landscape in your industry
  • Driving organic traffic
  • Improving website engagement
  • Convincing visitors to sign up for email lists, follow your brand, or download lead magnets
  • Generating leads

Make sure you apply specific – measurable – goals to each piece of content so you can track the performance over time.

Key Elements of Top-of-Funnel Content

TOFU content should have mass appeal (at least within your industry).

You’re attracting a wider yet relevant audience by answering their questions and solving problems.

Effective TOFU content should be:

  • Comprehensive: Answer the query to the best of your ability. Don’t cut corners or use outdated information.
  • Relatable: Keep your audience’s knowledge level in mind. Explain with basic concepts respectfully then dive deeper into details. Don’t overwhelm newbies with complex concepts in an introductory blog, for example.
  • Nuanced: Don’t be edgy but avoid generic content too. Always offer something unique.
  • Engaging: Follow the thought process of your reader. Answer their questions in subheadings along the way. Trigger emotions and write conversationally.
  • Sensory: Use videos, infographics, charts, graphs, and event audio to stimulate different senses, keep visitors engaged, and ensure your information sticks.
  • Focused: Stick with a single main topic (usually a question or long-tail keyword) and dig into the details with subheadings. Don’t digress or get distracted – write other blogs and link them instead.

Examples of Awesome Top-of-Funnel Content

Check out these websites that got TOFU content right…

Example 1: What is SaaS? 10 FAQs About Software as a Service

Software Advice

This blog runs through all the main questions someone might have when they’re first learning about SaaS like:

  • What’s the history of SaaS?
  • Who controls my SaaS data?
  • Is my data safe in the cloud?
  • Can I customize my SaaS?
  • What if my vendor goes out of business? (Great question!)

It covers the topic thoroughly without confusing language to beginners and includes plenty of multimedia. The reader walks away with a better understanding of how SaaS works because it answers real questions.

Example 2: How Often Should You Blog? [Blog Post Frequency Research]

Here’s another incredible benefit to taking your TOFU content seriously: You can earn those coveted Google snippets.

Our MIG blog, How Often Should You Blog? [Blog Post Frequency Research], did just that for the keyword “how often should you blog:”

Google

How? We made sure to:

  • Base our answers on reliable research from reputable industry sources
  • Include snackable content beneath each subheading.
  • Write conversationally without sales promotions or jargon
  • Answer specific questions about company size, B2B vs. B2C, and the real impact
  • Include visuals to drive home our points and engage the reader

MIG

Speaking of visuals. They pay off big time. We’re also ranking on the first page of image results for two graphics:

MIG

Example 3: How to Make Cold Brew Coffee

Here’s a basic B2C example just to help you see how powerful TOFU content can be when you take it seriously.

I searched a simple keyword, “how to make cold brew coffee.” None of these first page results are selling us anything. They just answer our question with recipes, tips, supply lists, and plenty of visuals.

See how important top-of-funnel content is for earning these “People also ask” snippets? Those always involve basic (yet critical) questions many content marketers overly focused on middle/bottom-of-the-funnel content ignore.

Frankly, it’s far more common for B2B content marketers to ignore these basic questions. Consumer brands usually know better – they take full advantage of TOFU content.

Shorter sales funnels in B2C mean someone could visit a page to learn about making cold brew coffee (awareness), self-nurture as they read the extremely useful blog (consideration), and end up either buying supplies at the end or subscribing to the email list (action).

Hence, the thoroughness of this Simply Recipes blog on the topic of how to make cold brew coffee. Don’t worry about the details. Look at the subheadings, bullets, and visuals:

Simply Recipes

Now that’s excellent top-of-funnel content.

Those images also earned them a spot on the first page of image results for the keyword too (which no doubt faces incredibly high competition). More optimized images = more chances to rank.

Google

Speaking of visuals, Google loves them because it can embed your videos and graphics directly into the search results.

You just need to optimize visuals properly with keywords in your title, ALT text, and descriptions. Like copywriting, keep your visuals concise and straightforward too.

Here’s an example of what you can achieve when you win at TOFU video content:

Google

6 Reasons Top-of-Funnel Content is the Only Content That Matters

Have you ever clicked on a top search result excited to learn something only to see 200 words of generic blabber across your screen, wondering how it even placed in SERPs?

We all have, sometimes several times a day (and often from well-known brands no less).

Too many marketers assume TOFU content is easy to create because it covers basic concepts. Don’t fall into this trap of oversimplifying your TOFU content.

When you oversimplify your TOFU content, you tend to:

  • Forget to take this important content seriously
  • Talk down to your audience or make them feel stupid
  • Neglect updates to improve ranking content
  • Take rankings for granted
  • Throw out 300 words of generic content and call it a day

That’s why top-of-funnel content gets a “blah” reputation: B2B marketers treat it that way.

Don’t be that brand. Be the website people are thrilled to find and never want to lose.

Here’s why you can’t afford anything less.

1. People Find Your Brand via Top-of-Funnel Content

No one clicks ads – especially PPC ads in the search results like this:

Google

Why would they when they have all this valuable (and non-salesy) content to peruse?

Google

Even targeted ads on social media work best for nurturing/converting leads because you’ve already earned their trust.

Organic content at the top of the funnel is really your only chance to reach new audiences. That’s how the buyer’s journey begins. Plus, organic content is far more cost effective than paid ads.

2. Top-of-Funnel Content Gives You Infinite Chances to Uphold Brand Integrity

Integrity matters in everything you publish. Especially TOFU content.

Assume every single piece of top-of-funnel content will be:

  • The only thing a new visitor associates with your brand.
  • Good enough to make the top of search results.
  • A major driver of organic traffic to your website (if not the only one).

Neglect one blog and guess what? It’ll make it to the top of results (for some strange reason), becoming the “one thing” people associate with your brand.

Not a pleasant thought, huh?

3. It Gets Rid of the Elephant in the Room

I don’t want to say TOFU content disarms your audience because it’s not predatory – that’s the point.

It gets rid of the elephant in the room (sales) by offering valuable answers and solutions. This means TOFU content also:

  • Makes people comfortable visiting your site
  • Encourages people to bookmark your page
  • Boosts shares via DMs, forums, social media posts, and comment sections
  • Builds trust in your brand as a solution

4. Top-of-Funnel Content Creates a Positive Feedback Loop for SEO

TOFU content creates the positive feedback loop for SEO you were promised when you started content marketing because it:

  • Is what Google wants to rank for EAT: Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness
  • Keeps you safe from Google algorithm changes for natural language processing
  • Answers genuine questions thoroughly and accurately

By prioritizing top-of-funnel content integrity, you’re not hitching your SEO to shallow tactics that border spam.

CoSchedule

5. It Inspires Successful Middle and Bottom-of-Funnel Content

Middle and bottom-of-funnel content only earn rankings for:

  • Branded keyword terms
  • Niche product terms

Nothing to help generate leads or awareness.

Once you have some successful top of funnel content, however, you can analyze its metrics and create complementary middle/bottom-of-funnel content to link like:

  • eBooks
  • Email journeys
  • Podcasts
  • Intermediate-level videos
  • PDF guides
  • Product comparisons

6. Top-of-Funnel Content Improves Site-Wide SEO

Google’s love of TOFU can also improve rankings across your entire site. You really only need a few successful pieces to get your foot in Google’s proverbial door.

Once you’ve got some top-of-funnel MVP content, you can:

  • Prove your worth with the organic traffic
  • Find ways to keep visitors engaged
  • Earn backlinks from high authority sites
  • Pepper in strategic (relevant) internal links
  • Create blogs around relevant subtopics

See why it’s critical to only publish content in your industry?

Traffic from high-volume keywords outside your expertise is useless. If anything, it creates a vicious cycle where Google misjudges your niche and keeps ranking you for irrelevant keywords.

Don’t Neglect Top of Funnel Content. It’s Your Money Maker

To recap, TOFU content matters – possibly more than any other type of content you’ll create because it:

  • Earns you top rankings for important keywords in your industry. (Google loves it.)
  • Lets you reach new audiences without spending a dime on advertisements.
  • Demonstrates your authority, knowledge, and expertise (thought leadership).
  • Begs to be shared on social media, DMs, and forums.
  • Improves rankings across your entire site (once you get a few pieces ranking).
  • Offers ample opportunity for internal links to other relevant blogs and pages.
  • And so much more.

You just can’t go wrong putting your heart and soul into top-of-funnel content. Take your TOFU content seriously and it will reward you for years to come.

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? We’ve probably already worked with other brands in your industry! Book a free no-obligation 15-minute consultation to discuss your brand, goals, and audience so we can create a custom content plan that delivers results like those shown in the intro for MIG.

 

 

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

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