Once you’ve attracted visitors to your site through SEO content, your on-page content needs to fulfill the promise made by your organic listing. It also needs to welcome new visitors into your marketing funnel, to begin their customer journey. What are the best formats for top-of-funnel content?

Awareness: The Top of the Marketing Funnel

The 3 main stages of the buying funnel are Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion. They are often nicknamed ToFu (top of funnel) for Awareness, MoFu (middle of funnel) for Consideration, and BoFu (bottom of funnel) for Conversion. The Awareness stage is generally for new visitors, who aren’t familiar with your brand. These casual browsing audiences are aware that they have a need, concern, or problem, but they’re not sure what to do about it, or what their possible solutions could be. Awareness-stage content (or “ToFu content”) should emphasize educating top-of-the-funnel visitors about the problem in general, mentioning but not focusing on how your company can solve the problem. You want these visitors to know that you have solutions, but more importantly you want to demonstrate that you understand their needs, concerns, and problems. Top-of-funnel content offers the most opportunities for creativity, as its purpose is to attract and retain visitors’ attention and make them want to learn more and spend more time with your brand. However, top-of-funnel content also offers the lowest conversion rates of the buying funnel, because you’re essentially encountering cold leads.

When Creating Content for Awareness

A somewhat journalistic tone is good for this stage, rather than the more marketing/sales-oriented tone that’s better for later stages. Journalism also has a handy model for what information to include in Awareness content: the 5 Ws + H. The 5 Ws are who, what, when, where, and why, and the H is how. Using this model, an infographic could depict:
  • An image representing a problem (what)…
  • …facing marketing decision-makers (who)…
  • …when it’s time to consider (when)…
  • …taking digital marketing outside the company (where)…
  • …to get deeper experience in search engine marketing (why)…
  • …and 2-3 possible solutions to the problem (how).

Best Formats for Top-of-Funnel Content

Another reason ToFu content offers lots of opportunities for creativity is that it can take so many formats and cover so many topics. This list provides some top-funnel content examples, but you aren’t limited to these formats. One of the best ways to get someone’s attention is through brevity. If you can deliver value without demanding too much of your visitors’ time, that leaves a very positive impression and brand association. Therefore, these formats are listed in ascending order of visitor time investment:
  • Social posts: Little bite-size nuggets of content that could include: summaries of and links to existing blog posts, surveys, single question-and-answers from your FAQ page, and “did you know?”s.
  • Infographics: These are among the most appealing and shareable types of content, but they can be rather time-intensive to create, so plan them well in advance. Also, in the planning stage, start with “What do our customers most want to know? What are their pain points?” rather than “What’s easy to depict in a graphic?”
  • Videos: Right up there with infographics in terms of shareability and appeal. A screen recording or footage of someone speaking is easy to capture (though editing might take a while); an animated video can take much longer to create. Again, plan well in advance, and start from the perspective of answering customers’ questions and concerns, rather than what would look cool. Once you’ve got the customer perspective down, then find ways to make that look cool.
  • Checklists: When done well, checklists combine the value of a good blog post with the visual appeal of a good infographic. To provide the most value to potential customers, look back over all the questions your customer-facing team members have gotten from customers or prospects, and highlight the ones that begin “How do I…?”
  • Tools and interactive content: These have high potential for visitor appeal and shareability. Like many of the other types of short-form content, they can involve a lot of planning and technical logistics. As always, develop them with a focus on what customers would find most useful, rather than what the dev team has already produced. (That said, many times, modifying an existing tool can meet customer needs while not over-taxing the dev team.)
  • Blog posts: The average blog post takes less than 10 minutes to read, and 2-3 hours to write, making blog post creation among the most efficient uses of marketing time. The challenge is maintaining a steady publishing cadence of interesting, valuable, customer-focused content. To get a head start on content planning, go back to the list of questions from customer-facing team members and answer one question per blog post.
  • Whitepapers: The best whitepapers are a multi-team effort: R&D for subject matter, sales for helpful customer feedback, and marketing for creativity and a benefits-oriented perspective. The best topics for whitepapers are new developments that will have a noticeable impact on customers’ lives or businesses. And the best length for whitepapers? Three pages, max.
Clearly, you’ve got lots of options for creating top-of-funnel content that attracts and engages new visitors. But what about visitors who are already aware of your company and what you offer, and are weighing their options about choosing your solution(s)? Next week, we’ll look at how middle-of-funnel (MoFu) content can help move them farther down the funnel. In the meantime, if you’d like to talk about a customized content strategy for your company, let’s talk about your online buying funnel and how best to fill it.