Using SEO to Build the Right Marketing Funnel for Lead Generation

We all have the right intentions with marketing our services online.  We are told that it is as simple as advertising for your target search terms on google, sending the traffic to your website and getting leads. The sobering news is that is not the case and as prospects are requiring more and more touchpoints to move through the sales pipeline, we need to look at the digital marketing funnel with a more holistic approach.

Here are my 5 steps to building a rock-solid digital funnel for lead gen:

1. Research Keywords & Competitors

The first place to always start with your digital funnel is with research.  I always start off by analyzing the clients’ website and start by building a list of relevant search terms with intent to purchase that service or offering.  We always want to make a list of relevant competitors online as well as the differentiating factors.  From there I start using keyword research tools like kwfinder to or the keyword tool in google ads to build up a list of the top 20-30 medium to high search terms for the client.  I sort these by search volume but include average click costs and keyword difficulty as a core metric to analyze.  

Then I will use tools like ahrefs or SEMrush to start reverse-engineering the competitors’ pages and see what keywords they also rank to expand our keyword list.

The next piece of the funnel puzzle is to build highly relevant search terms based on the keyword set.  In Google Ads, we separate the campaigns into Ad Groups.  For instance, there might be “Text messaging software” and “SMS messaging software” ad groups in the “messaging software search campaign.” These say essentially the same thing but should be hyper-segmented so we are serving the searcher the most relevant page.  This will also render a higher quality score for our landing pages in the google ads account meaning better ad placement at a better cost because Google knows that we will deliver a better user experience based on relevance.  

2. Build Highly-Relevant Landing Pages

The most important piece of this puzzle is sending traffic to the place that will convert.  For any paid traffic source, we want to use a pretty specific page format.  These landing pages need to get across the value proposition of the business in the headline, supportive text for how the value proposition is relevant to customers, and a very clear call to action of what you want the user to do next.  Generally, the best call to action is a form with wording such as: “request demo” or “learn more.”  

Lose the leaks. Don’t send your hard-earned traffic to the home page or another internal page of the website because the header and footer on these pages are full of internal links to other pages which are basically “leaks” from the action we want the user to take. An easy way to think about it is to consider landing pages as your #1 hyper-segmented and focused sales rep. These reps need to do a good job of selling the service based on the benefits to the target customer or business––not to just babble about features the customer may not understand.  All the information on the landing page needs to focus on why your product or service is a benefit to the end-user.  

Building trust is key. Good landing pages should include testimonials with faces and/or third-party reviews to build trust.  A trust ribbon of clients’ logos helps accomplish this as well as having “softer” calls to action on buttons like “learn more” or “request demo” as opposed to “buy this now.”  There are several services you can use to build better-targeted landing pages such as Unbounce, Optimizely, Lead Pages or VWO.  These tools also allow great functionality such as dynamically inserting keywords searched from Google into headlines and split testing different elements of the page for conversion rate optimization.  Standard website pages simply don’t have this functionality so it’s nice to partner with specific companies that do this all day long.  

3. Setup Search Campaigns in Google Ads

Now that we have the right place to send the traffic, it’s time to build out the Google Ads account to drive targeted traffic.  You will want a different landing page for each ad group or campaign depending on how you’ve structured the account build.  The formula is complex and simple at the same time but can be broken down into keywords and ads at the highest level.

Select and Refine Your Keywords

For keywords, I generally use the broad match modified setting or phrase match depending on how many searches are estimated each month. Since new searches are happening every day, you don’t want to limit your reach especially if there is low search volume.  

It’s always best practice to build out some very common negative keyword that shows no intention to purchase.  Keywords like “how to” just show that the user is too high in the funnel or looking for a DIY solution so we don’t want to waste any spend on them.  These can eat up your ad budget fast and take away from those actively raising their hand looking to use your product or service.  Once the keyword list is properly segmented and fine-tuned, it’s time to build out the text ads.

The Ads

Ads are really important as they will be the first touch that most businesses have with their prospects.  The copy needs to get across the three elements of any good ad:


So What?

Now What?

So, for #1, you’ll want to answer what the offering is by weaving in the core keyword from the ad group.  It is important to have the core keyword in the first headline of the ad because the person searching for that keyword will feel an instant connection to your business.  They know they’ve arrived at the right place on the web.  “So what? may be the most important part of the ad.  Why should the person making the search care?  What’s in it for them?  This is your opportunity to drive your value proposition home, and tell how your product or service benefits the user.  Lastly, make it easy for the searcher with a solid “Now what?” statement. Define the action you want the searcher to take.  Is it a free demo or to shop a limited time sale?  This is your opportunity to get that across.  There are also two sets of descriptions you can add.  Less is more as you are limited by the number of characters you can use so be brief and direct.

Now we’ve dialed in some pretty targeted traffic.  We need to monitor these ads and continually optimize keywords based on performance.  We also need to comb through the search terms to ensure that we are getting good traffic and constantly expand our negative keyword list to ensure that our spending is going towards search terms that have the best chance of converting.  The sad reality is that depending on the industry, a good conversion rate can range from 1-5% for most businesses.  That’s a heck of a lot of traffic to get to your site to not convert.  Of course, you will want to set up retargeting on Google and Facebook so you can recapture those searchers and bring them back to your site. At this stage, try softer calls to action so you can capture those who may not be quite ready to schedule a demo just yet.

4. Create a good lead magnet

A good lead magnet can do wonders to drive in marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to your business.  The key here is to figure out where you can provide the most value to prospects visiting your site, causing more intrigue.  You can put your core search terms into Answer The Public and see what type of questions you can answer in detail. The idea here again is to build value, not give away your service, but to educate your prospects and build value.  Of course, you will need to ask for an email address in return for the downloadable PDF, E-Book, etc.  This should go into your email automation funnel and try and make these as personal as possible.  

5. Setup Your Retargeting List & Email Flows

Retargeting is one of the most valuable campaigns in any digital funnel.  Prospects that have visited your site, but who have not converted are generally pretty hot and considered in-market for your product or service.  There are several third-party companies that offer retargeting, but I find that there is little control and the reported metrics seem to be pretty far off from reality.  I like retargeting with the Google Ads interface as well as in the Facebook news feed.  Here you can make bids up or down based on the device used as well as creating specific exclusions and placements.  Doing this yourself in the specific interface will also allow you to see a much more straightforward click-through-rate, conversion rate and cost per lead.  I also split test sending this traffic to a landing page or to the home page, as the end user may need more info that is simply not offered on the landing page.

Out of any traffic source, email always seems to have the largest ROI.  Your email list is virtually a gold mine and the art here is finding the right ways to go into that gold mine and extract revenue.  Personal email automation has really made some great headway in the last few years and can skillfully engage your subscribers.  The key here again is to add value through useful information and then promote infrequently and with taste.  

Final Thoughts on The Digital Funnel

Every element of the proper digital funnel should continue to increase performance over time.  Results can’t be expected overnight, but over time the traffic source should be getting more dialed in.  The landing pages should be tested and the exit pop-up can bat cleanup for those not quite ready to fill out a full form yet.  These steps cover off the foundation and ensure that someone interested is going to give an honest look and decide yes or no based upon what they have been presented.