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Unpacking the SEO conversion funnel: How to turn searchers into buyers

Guide customers through their entire journey, from building awareness to driving sales, by optimizing content for each stage of the conversion funnel.

Jon Araten
By Jonathan Araten
Lia du Preez
Edited by Lia du Preez
Romi Hector
Fact-check by Romi Hector

Updated June 28, 2024.

Unpacking the SEO conversion funnel: How to turn searchers into buyers

Key takeaways

  • The SEO conversion funnel maps the customer's journey from awareness to purchase.
  • Content must fit the mindset of each stage to propel customers further down the funnel.
  • Simplifying the purchase process and presentation of information optimizes conversion at the bottom of the funnel.
  • Post-purchase, the focus shifts to ensuring satisfaction, repeat business, and boosting lifetime customer value.

Understanding the conversion funnel and its various stages is crucial for businesses aiming to secure and expand their customer base. But what exactly is this SEO conversion funnel, and why is it essential to perfect each of its stages? Let's examine how to approach the customer at each stage of their journey, from product awareness to the final purchase.

What is the SEO conversion funnel?

Simple graphic breakdown of the conversation funnel

The conversion funnel represents a customer's journey with a brand, and it can be divided into three main stages:

  • Top of the funnel (TOFU): This is the awareness stage. Potential customers discover your brand or product through various mediums like videos, online ads, TV, or radio advertisements. Your goal is to draw them in by sharing information about your brand or product.
  • Middle of the funnel (MOFU): This is the consideration stage in which potential customers start engaging with your brand or product. At this stage, customers are exploring their interest in your offering, and the objective is to keep them interested and guide them to the final funnel stage.
  • Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): This stage marks the point of conversion, where a customer takes an action that contributes to the company's revenue, such as making a purchase. The goal here is to provide a smooth purchasing experience and resolve any doubts or queries about the product or service.

Each stage requires a unique strategy to guide potential customers toward making a purchase. It's crucial to understand the specific needs, motivations, and behaviors of customers at each stage to be able to cater to them effectively.

» Learn more about SEO and paid search approaches to conversion funnels.

TOFU: Creating brand awareness

At the top of the funnel, most users are in the information-gathering phase, much like window shopping, and are unlikely to convert immediately. As marketers, the goal is to guide them through their customer journey by providing the information they need and encouraging them to move further down the funnel.

At this stage, customers are typically trying to find solutions to their problems. From an SEO funnel perspective, the emphasis should be on creating top-of-the-funnel content that focuses on the problem your product solves and associated topics to target awareness-focused search terms like this example from Mayu Water.

Screenshot of a TOFU blog post from Mayu Water

A visual campaign, such as an ad, would follow a similar approach. It would address the problem without explicitly mentioning the solution or the brand. At this stage, the primary focus is on the problem, not the product.

Screenshot of IKEA's ad campaign for their homeware

Effective strategies for boosting awareness

The best way to make customers aware of a product depends on several factors, including how you plan to sell it. The goal is to make a connection with customers who are just starting to look for your product or service.

Images and videos can be very effective for this, but always consider where you're selling your product. If all your sales are online, things like billboards or TV commercials may not be as useful. Instead, you could use banners, videos for social media, or even Google Ads.

A common pitfall at this stage is bombarding potential customers with sales pitches or excessive promotional content. Focus on building credibility and trust and establishing authority in your industry.

The aim should be to address the problem and the broader context: use broad strokes that are highly relevant to your product or value proposition. Whether it's a TikTok or search campaign, speaking to the problem with relevant content without being too salesy—like this example from Headspace—is a crucial strategy at the top of the conversion funnel.

MOFU: Engaging interested customers

As customers continue down to the middle of the SEO conversion funnel, their interaction with your brand increases. Here, customers are in the exploration phase. They have moved beyond awareness of your brand or product and found something of interest.

For businesses, the primary goal at this stage is to guide these users to the bottom of the funnel. Targeting MOFU users is easier, as their focus is already somewhat narrowed, and they typically convert at a higher rate than those at the top of the funnel.

You can address more specific issues at this stage and position your product as a solution. Customers in the MOFU stage are likely to engage with multiple brands and conduct their research. They will consider your brand in this comparative process, so the content you provide should highlight your strengths.

If you're confident about your brand and product, you can provide direct comparisons, laying out how your product stacks up against the competition.

» Find out how Google's reaching further down the funnel with AI-driven Search.

Optimizing the middle of the funnel

The key to creating the best MOFU marketing strategies lies in emphasizing your value proposition. As customers are engaging with your brand and considering a purchase, it's crucial to highlight what sets you apart. Clear language, visual elements, and product placements are all valuable strategies at this stage, as we can see in this article from Zoom.

Screenshot of a MOFU blog post from Zoom

Customer testimonials, reviews, and other forms of social proof can also help build trust and nudge potential customers toward the bottom of the funnel. Strategically placed around the middle of the funnel, this type of content reassures customers that others have had a positive experience with your product or service. Brands like Stanley are the perfect example of how to do this well.

The middle of the funnel also allows for actual performance optimization. Tracking behavior can be challenging at the top of the funnel, but in the middle stage, you can start seeing immediate performance and conversions. This data provides insights into the user journey and highlights what elements lead to successful conversions.

Keep in mind

Users at this stage are likely interacting with multiple brands. So, standing out and providing clear, valuable information should be your top priority.

» Discover if brand marketing will help you stand out.

BOFU: Making the sale

The BOFU stage revolves largely around technical aspects and a clear presentation of information. At the bottom of the funnel, customers are almost at the point of purchase. The ultimate goal here is to ensure a smooth purchase experience.

Customers need a clear understanding of what they're buying and how they're purchasing it. Is the buying process easy and intuitive? Is the delivery information readily available? These customers are ready to seal the deal, and your content at this stage should be precise, without exaggerated claims or unnecessary distractions, similar to this example from Shopify.

Screenshot of a BOFU blog post from Shopify

Most sales start with users entering at the bottom of the funnel. However, top-of-the-funnel content plays an important role in generating awareness and building topical authority, which improves your search engine ranking.

Measuring success at the bottom of the funnel

At this stage, the primary focus is on the conversion rate. You're not looking at traffic or click-through rates anymore but rather assessing how many users convert from those that reach BOFU or how much revenue each user generates, depending on your company or brand's specific goals.

Optimizing the bottom of the funnel

Simplicity is the key strategy for optimizing this stage of the conversion funnel. Everything should be very conversion-focused, minimizing distractions and streamlining the process. The fewer clicks a user has to make to complete the conversion, the better.

Solid product or feature pages that clearly lay out every specification, option, and add-on are very important at this stage, as they enable customers to understand exactly what they're buying.

Example of solid BOFU feature page from Entail AI

There needs to be a clear and accessible "Buy Now," "Book a Demo," or "Add to Cart" button, and prices should be clearly displayed. If there are options, such as product variations, these should be minimized to avoid overwhelming the customer.

Keep in mind

Brands focusing only on the bottom of the funnel may find it challenging to convert due to a lack of topical authority. While a bottom-of-the-funnel campaign alone could work in specific instances, such as a product launch with a limited budget, it may not be a scalable strategy in the long run.

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Re-engagement: Maintaining success after conversion

As the journey continues post-purchase, you essentially kickstart a new sales process with the client, re-selling or introducing new products. Given that these customers have already purchased from you, they're typically more likely to do so again. That's why campaigns targeting existing customers often yield better results than those aimed at acquiring new ones.

Once a customer makes a purchase, the focus shifts to three primary aspects of their journey with your business:

  • Client satisfaction: Gauge client satisfaction through surveys, which can be sent via emails, texts, or direct calls. Your understanding of client satisfaction will help you refine your service or products to better meet customer needs.
  • Retention rate: Calculate the retention rate by examining the number of repeat purchases or tracking the repeat revenue generated. A higher retention rate often indicates successful customer retention and loyalty.
  • Customer lifetime value (LTV): This measures the total predicted revenue from a customer throughout their relationship with your business. By knowing the LTV, you can project each customer's potential worth.

Maintaining customer relationships and enhancing their LTV are central in this post-conversion phase. This involves re-engaging customers through various communication tools such as newsletters, promotional emails, promo codes, discounts, and special sales.

Tailoring your messaging and offerings to fit individual customers' preferences—a strategy rooted in the personalization used in creating look-alike audiences on Facebook—can encourage customers to make repeat purchases.

» Explore a more unified approach to content marketing.

Master every stage of the SEO conversion funnel

Navigating the customer journey effectively is a cornerstone of successful marketing. Each stage of the funnel requires a unique approach and strategy to move potential customers toward the point of purchase. However, the journey doesn't end with a sale. Re-engaging customers, ensuring their satisfaction, and boosting their LTV are vital for sustained success.