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Content marketing might seem like the most simple, straightforward platform out there. You start a blog, you set your goals, you create a strategy, and then you write the content.

While it may sound easy, it’s common for brands to work hard to develop a strong strategy for their content marketing (or pay someone to do it for them), and then they end up getting sidetracked. The posts themselves don’t truly align with their goals, or they struggle to decide which content should be used to appeal to users at different stages of the funnel.

Not optimizing your blog posts properly for your goals and for your content and sales funnel is one of the biggest reasons why brands will struggle to results with their content marketing. The only thing that might get in their way more is just terrible content in general, but that’s another problem for another day.

We want to help you get leads, traffic, and whatever other results you’re hoping to get through your blog by showing you how to keep your funnel clear and optimizing for it appropriately.

Set Clear, Actionable Steps When Developing Your Strategy

When you’re developing your content marketing strategy, it’s important to define the goals that you want to accomplish. Do you want to rank for more search terms and increase your SEO? Are you hoping to use your content to get more backlinks and increasing your domain authority? Or would you want to use the post for lead generation and sales purposes?

You can absolutely want to accomplish all of this with your blog, but it’s important to clearly define the tactics you want to use to help you accomplish each. You could, for example, decide to have CTAs at the end of your post encouraging users to get in touch. Or you could create unique case studies that are designed to generate a lot of backlinks while demonstrating your authority in the subject.

Having clear goals and clear ways to optimize different posts for those goals are an important first step in keeping that funnel clear, because different stages of the funnel will be receptive to certain optimizations than others, so you need to keep it all straight moving forward.

Assess Which Posts Belong in What Stages of the Funnel

Before you ever start writing a blog post or a lead magnet, you need to decide what stage of the funnel it will work for.

If we were to write a post like “Content 101: What Is Content Marketing and Why Do I Need it,” that would be a pretty beginning-of-the-funnel post. It’s attracting users who aren’t familiar at all with content marketing or its benefits, so they’re not ready to hire an agency yet; they need to be convinced that it even works first. They might need more information, and we can offer a link to a free in-depth guide in the form of a lead magnet, so we can at least nurture that lead.

A post like “10 Advanced Link Building Strategies for the Pros,” however, would be closer towards converting. They’re familiar with content marketing and are likely even using it themselves, but they’re struggling to get results with their current strategies. And after seeing how much time these strategies might take, they’ll be happy to get in touch to see what else we know and hand over the reigns. They’ll be more likely to be receptive to book a free consultation outright.

These examples are pretty cut and dry. But what about “Intro to Link Building Tactics” or “How to Get a Guest Post Published?” Some are harder to discern up front, but a lot of it comes down to search intent.

Search Intent

Let’s swap sides and say that you’re the user now.

One day, you’re curious about why it’s hotter upstairs at night than it is downstairs. You enter the question into Google, and find a blog post from an air conditioning company explaining the reasons why, and then detailing solutions about how to resolve the issue. You might call them, but you might not. This is a relatively low-intent search; you want the information, but not necessarily a solution at this point. You might be willing to subscribe to the blog for more updates, learning more from this company you now trust.

Let’s say six months later you’re searching for “What type of AC unit should I buy for a 2 story house.” You can guess where this search is leading: your unit crapped out, and it needs to be replaced. Typically people won’t be looking up “which should I buy” searches if they don’t actually want to buy, so this is high-intent. Following up with a CTA to “contact us for a fast, free consultation” is the way to go.

Both searches brought users to your site, and both could eventually be customers, but they have very different search intent. Search intent has a lot to do with funnel stage, so keep that in mind when you’re optimizing your posts.

Consider The Funnel When Choosing Internal Links

Each blog post should be given a distinct label for where it sits in the funnel, and you should optimize the post accordingly based on its content and funnel stage.

Part of this optimization will also include your internal linking strategy, which is often overlooked by businesses. Most just try to fit in any links they can to their own content, but I’ve found that you’ll be most successful when you strategically use internal links to push users through the sales funnel.

For links earlier on in the post, try to link to content that’s at similar stages of the funnel. If you’re in a beginner’s guide for interior design, link to a “101 to granite cleaning” post that’s pretty entry-level, too.

Towards the middle or end of the post, however, link towards content at further stages of the funnel. That “why is it hotter at night” search might not be ready to convert, but then they click a link towards the end of your post that takes them to a secondary location where you talk about how much money they could save with a cheap, simple fix, and they’ll be more likely to call after that.

Internal links are good for more than just SEO, so be strategic about where you place them and why.

Conclusion

Having a strategy, well-planned content marketing funnel is essential to attracting users at all stages and accomplishing your goals, but you also need to execute that funnel well. And execution, unfortunately, is where so many brands struggle.

While you’re creating your content, it’s crucial to approach each individual blog post or lead magnet separately. Look at the keywords that will help users get there, the content you’re offering, and think about what their intent is when reading the piece. This will help you to decide what goals you should optimize for, because it will show you what stage of the sales funnel your readers fall into.

By optimizing your posts correctly and understanding what funnel stages they’re attracting, you’ll be able to keep that funnel clear and make it significantly more effective along the way.

Need a little help getting your funnel set up or optimizing your posts properly? Schedule your free meeting with us now to see how we can help you.

Ana Gotter
Ana is a content marketer, copywriter, and ghostwriter specializing in business management and social media marketing, though she's written in a variety of other niches. She can be contacted at anagotter.com