There’s often a big focus on creating top-of-funnel content. When you educate at scale, you cast a larger net, right? It feels good to show high traffic volume and demonstrate more awareness in the market.
But only a small percentage are ready to act. Middle-of-funnel content is crucial for capturing those who are more than window shopping. Those consuming this content are much more valuable.
So, how do you create content that bridges the gap between education and your solution?
Josh Spilker, Director of Content for Range, joins Jeff Coyle to talk about the missed opportunity of the middle-of-the-funnel.
The Middle Funnel and What Makes It Different
Josh looks at the funnel in traditional terms of awareness, consideration, and decision. In the case of products, it’s problem aware, solution aware, and product aware. For him “the solution aware is really the right way to think of it” (the middle funnel).
He goes on to explain that once someone recognizes they have a problem, they go in search of a solution. He refers to this search as using “industry specific or generic type words around a solution before you actually start naming any brands.” The way he sees it “the problem is very clear and then you need a solution. You’re just not putting a brand name to that particular solution.”
Josh offers the example of someone driving down the highway who is hungry. The solution is food and you have various options from which to choose. But “you’re just not quite sure what’s at that exit.”
How Query Length and Buyer Journey Funnel are Connected
Although he didn’t have time to get into detail concerning this topic, Josh was kind enough to elaborate on this post-webinar. Here’s what he says:
Your goal with mid-funnel is to help people drive awareness from other solutions to your solution.
To do this, start with your head term and then add modifiers. Head terms or seed keywords are usually shorter, and the middle funnel is usually 4 to 6 keywords. For the consideration and solution-aware stages, use modifiers like these that indicate some level of intent:
- short head term = [category] “Accounting Software”
- middle funnel head term: [best][category] = Best Accounting Software
- better middle funnel term: [best][free][category][noun] = best free accounting software
- add on your use case with a preposition for even better middle funnel terms: [best][free][category][noun][for] = best free accounting software for healthcare
Obviously, that’s not perfect because you want companies to pay for your product, but you can see the direction it’s going in.
The next part is a Keyword Jumble, because you can start brainstorming all of the variations & modifiers — whether by color, price point, cities, business case, industry, along with the right preposition (for, under, in).
There’s more on this in my content playbook, How To Scale Traffic in 1 Quarter for B2B SaaS.
Building Authority for Middle of Funnel Terms
In Josh’s experience, most B2B SaaS companies have some sort of content. Most often they’ll have brand or high-level awareness content. What they typically lack is middle funnel decision-type content.
He often finds that they “have this baseline of expertise, authority, and some level of trust.” This allows him to start off creating middle of the funnel content and test out ideas. At this level of the funnel there’s usually enough search volume to prove out a concept.
Types of Middle Funnel Content
Personally, Josh has found that lists, templates, and how-to types of content work really well for this stage of the funnel.
Creating Competitive Comparisons
Josh believes that honesty is the best policy when creating comparison content. People are searching for this information in multiple places, and they might also come to you for the answer.
In this type of content, he is sure to mention is number one or number two competitor because he knows that visitors are “probably be looking at those solutions anyway. So I might as well have them look at it in my list post.”
This gives you the opportunity to control the story and how it’s told. Plus, it allows you to weed out those who don’t fall within your ideal customer profile. As Josh says, “I’d rather them make that decision on my site than on somebody else’s.”
Building Middle of the Funnel Content
When Josh creates middle funnel solution aware content, he typically links from his top funnel awareness content, allowing readers to progress on their journey down the funnel. Usually he’ll have a landing page that the middle funnel content links to that very product-specific.
Everything else is “topic authority to help build that expertise, authority, and trust.” That can come in the form of interviews, how-tos showing expertise, trend and industry reports. He then links those to the middle funnel on a specific topic.
While Josh expects his middle funnel content to do well, he’s very cognizant of the need to create supporting content that may not get very little traction. He’s okay with that as the content plays a critical role in establishing expertise and authority in the mind of his audience, if not that of the search engine algorithms. For him, it’s important to have a strategy and stick with it.
Josh Spilker, Director of Content, Range
Josh Spilker supercharges marketing, content and SEO for B2B startups and is currently the Director of Content at Range. He has also led content at Toptal, ClickUp, Workzone and other B2B SaaS companies on their content marketing strategies.
Middle of funnel content is like the Rodney Dangerfield of marketing. It gets no respect! Top of funnel content gets all the recognition for attracting traffic. Bottom of the funnel content is showered with praise for its conversions. Yet the middle of the funnel is the connective tissue enabling the prospect journey.
Starting with middle funnel content is a good way to test out ideas (like an MVP or prototype) since these terms typically have decent traffic. Competitive comparisons, in particular, are a great type of content for this stage of the funnel. List posts for these comparisons are an ideal way to differentiate yourself from the competition. It’s important to call out your competition as prospects are going to be doing their research anyway. At least this way you can control the narrative.
Jeff Coyle: Hello, welcome to MarketMuse content strategy webinar in the MarketMuse content strategy series. I’m Jeff Coyle, the co-founder and chief strategy officer for MarketMuse today’s. Discussion’s gonna be about a particular part of the content and reader and buyer journey, the middle of funnel and middle of funnel content.
And how many teams forget about this? Don’t understand the opportunity or can’t put the ideas into practice with building content across the buyer journey, across the information journey. I have one of the most amazing content strategists and guests today. And I’m so pumped to talk to him, everything that he writes it’s, it just makes me smile, cuz he thinks about content from a strategic and a surgical approach.
Make sure he can get things done and that speaks to his entire career. He’s the director of content at range and that’s range co make sure you do that instead of range Coom thanks for joining us, Josh. Folker I’m really appreciate that you’re here today. Yeah, pleasure to be
Josh Spilker: here.
Thanks for having me on.
Jeff Coyle: Awesome. Before we get into anything else. A few housekeeping, ask us anything and gosh, ask. I have so many questions for Josh and hopefully you will ask away if you have any questions about us, about content, almost anything, we’ll answer everything. If it’s relevant to what we’re discussing in line.
If we can’t really weave it into the conversation, naturally, we’ll get it at the last 10 minutes in a Q and a section. So we’ll get to everything today. And so ask away, it’s always fun. The first question comes in and then people are like, oh my gosh, they actually answered them live. And then you get like many more.
So don’t be shy. Ask away anything about content, strategy, intent, classification, funnel development, information journey. We’re gonna be able to knock those out. Also you’re gonna get this replay in the next few days while you’re at it, go check out the on the top of the MarketMuse dot com site.
Find the webinars tab. We’ve got over a hundred webinar replays on there getting into all aspects of content strategy from amazing people like Nick UBank on SEO and keyword research. Andy Crestodina, Pam diner on sales enablement. I just had a webinar with the verbally O team about how to scale content to 15,000 pages with one project effectively.
So there’s a lot of stuff out there. And go check those out if you watch a few of them and you wanna gimme some feedback, shoot me a note at Jeff MarketMuse dot com. And who knows? I might set up a content audit for you. I think I probably will. All right, Josh, so let’s get into it. Yeah, middle the funnel.
How do you define, how do you define the funnel? I’ve heard people now like poo-pooing on the actual funnel saying that the funnel’s bigger than just T O F U and B O F U. How do you define the funnel now? And how do you define the middle of the funnel? For teams where you’re working on content strategy.
Josh Spilker: Yeah. I think of it in a classic way, as far as the buyer’s journey as just that awareness and then that consideration and the decision, and then maybe from the product side as you have that larger awareness and then the solution aware and then the product aware. So I really think about the solution aware and decision in that same framework.
Jeff Coyle: Gotcha. No, I love that. A lot of people aren’t familiar with that concept, so not problem aware, you’re not even in the funnel, right? You are in that information seeking journey or the problem finding journey. You may still need to create content at that stage, but certainly that’s not in the, it’s not in the funnel.
Yeah. And then you have that awareness consideration purchase, or if you’re at IBM care, consider, choose, whatever. And then you’ve got post purchase. Yeah. Post purchase troubleshooting, you’ve got implementation, you’ve got content for your customers. So what differentiates middle of the funnel and if someone’s not familiar, like they’re not doing this at all, what types of things would exist?
In that bucket.
Josh Spilker: Yeah. I think the solution aware is really the right way to think of it. So it’s I’m, I need new accounting software or I’m having a trouble with my accounting software, or I need this new feature. And so you’re willing to you have a problem, you need a solution.
You’re just not exactly sure which one. So you’re not sure if it’s QuickBooks FreshBooks or bill.com or whatever your need is. And so then as far as search goes, then you’ll start the journey with those more, like I call ’em like industry specific or generic type words around a solution before you actually start naming any brands.
And so that’s how I would think about defining it is the problem is very clear and then you need a solution. You’re just not putting a brand name to that particular. So you’re driving you’re down the highway.
Jeff Coyle: It’s a great thing. Yeah. So a great thing you need to you’re that way. Huh?
Josh Spilker: so if you’re driving down the highway, you need lunch, you need a solution which is food, but then you have your multiple choices that you’re then gonna pick out. You’re just not quite sure what’s at that exit. That’s how maybe another way to think about it as
Jeff Coyle: I love it.
It’s that the unbranded funnel. The challenges that you’re focusing on and one way I’ve heard people, you described it very eloquently and I’ve heard people say what if you weren’t allowed to put the brand on it? So in, in Pharmac pharmaceuticals and life sciences, a lot of times, they’re not right.
If they have a site about an ailment or a disease that site’s not allowed to be branded. So it’s focused on truly that problems, benefits, diagnoses and then a separate site has the. The drug that you’re supposed to take, but the two are not allowed to overlap. So a lot of times it’s a great way to describe it the way that you did.
So how do you go about building authority that will allow you to perform on these middle of the funnel terms? What is the process that you go about? Do you need the entire funnel covered first? Can you start in the middle of the funnel? I know a lot of people a long time ago would start at the bottom because they thought that was the trick to getting quick sales.
But then they realized you actually have to have content at all stages of the funnel. Can you start just at the middle or do you need some infrastructure for topics that you’re targeting?
Josh Spilker: Yeah. That’s a really good point. Like I would say most of the time I’m entering into companies now that do have some type of content.
It’s very rare to have somebody who’s I have absolutely nothing, I guess it depends on your industry, but in B2B SaaS they at least have some type of content around there. And so what I find though is don’t have that decision type content. So it’s either like brand or just really high level, like what-is type awareness content.
And so then what I’m finding is that they have this baseline of, that expertise authority and some level of trust. So in those cases yes, I can step in usually and create middle funnel content because you have that baseline. And the way that I like to think about it is yes, start there because.
Middle funnel content in my experience has pretty good volume. And it allows you to use that as a MVP, so to speak or prototype, to test out some ideas, to see how it goes, because you have enough volume to like, prove that concept out. Whereas if you just have this very strong foundational layer, of bottom funnel content, you might not have the volume that you need.
Of course it does depend on your industry as always big, huge disclaimer. But generally speaking, especially for these kind of like solution aware type terms, the middle funnel does work out a lot better.
Jeff Coyle: Are questions and questions analysis. Part of this research that goes into middle of the funnel, is it problem analysis, benefits, analysis, feature comparisons.
What are the types of things or is it all the above or what are the types of content that one might build? And then what are they targeting?
Josh Spilker: Yeah, that’s a really great question. There are certain formats that I’ve found personally worked out really well. I would say lists work very well.
G2 crowd Zappier a lot of these brands have just built huge SEO wire cutter for that matter to think a little bit more consumer have just built like huge brands off of just lists like that. Templates is another one that I would say work pretty well. And it’s something that I’m personally investing a lot of time in right now at range.
For example we need a weekly staff meeting template. We know what the problem is we need to organize our meeting notes. We need to organize our agendas, but we don’t necessarily have a product. That we’re tapping into for that. We don’t have a product name, in my case, I want them to use range for that.
And then I would say the third kind of main way I’ve seen, this is just how to solve a particular problem. So you have a developer how to solve this X, Y, Z problem, linear can help with that or launch darkly or whatever the program is that you need to be able to do something. And they can then slide in their better solution to solving that problem.
You’ll see that in a lot where someone’s like if I’m like Googling for my iPhone, it’s here’s how you solve for Android. Here’s how you solve for Mac. Here’s how you solve for Mac OS. Maybe this can also help you improve that. And then you could put your product in there as well.
So that very actionable. How do you solve this issue without tagging a specific branded type term to it is the way I think about it.
Jeff Coyle: Right on. And no that, I think that’s great, cuz it gets into how I can turn that into pragmatic value. And so do you ever use and so you mentioned templates, that is a tangible thing, right?
So do you use content upgrades? And when I say content upgrades this is something that could also be used for lead capture, but in, in the form of I’m getting some sort of solution that’s a very popular middle funnel technique in B2B. And I do, I will give it a digital disclaimer, a lot of what Josh is saying relates to B2B technology, but there are applications to other industries, services, consulting offerings, and I’ll try to add some color for other spaces, but even in DD DTC and eCommerce these things are completely valuable.
You may have a little bit of a different. Wordless or, variant list, that you’re looking for. Like you mentioned how and you mentioned things like templates as takeaways, but do you ever do anything where the goal is in of the middle of funnel is to drop leads or to capture in some way,
Josh Spilker: It’s really great consideration, and I’m trying to work that through myself.
Like most of the products I’ve used this with have been freemium products. So I really in product like growth. So I really want to just drive to the sign up to the product, sign up and not really distract with. Here’s an a Google sheet doc to help you do this, or here’s like a Figma template or a notion template or something like that, because I’d rather them just get in the product and let that kind of speak for themselves.
But obviously having that content upgrade or that lead magnet where you have a cheat sheet, a checklist those have value. I think it’s just more of what’s your follow up on that? What you’re nurturing to go along with that. Whereas I haven’t really focused as much on building out that lead nurturing from there because I have been so focused on freemium.
And so our lead nurture would look differently once they’re in the product,
Jeff Coyle: such a critical clarification it’s if you’re in a hybrid or if you’re in a sales led growth only or a PLG hybrid your definition of middle to funnel may also change, right? Because you may be doing what was referenced as, product qualified lead.
Creation as your goal. And that goal is to get them, show them the value, get ’em into the platform. Then they’re using the platform when they use the platform in certain ways that exhibit expertise or they PQL product qualify, right? Yeah. In slack, I think the PQL number, if you’re not familiar with the concept, it means when your team is sent their 10,000 message, it’s something like that.
That’s a ping PQL. Oh, got it. So each a product led growth org will have kind of a PQL definition and that’s someone becomes a expert where they get hooked on it. So the middle of the funnel for someone like what Josh is describing gets you into that zone. You may have other definitions, you may want someone to buy a pair of.
As your end goal, you may want them to drop a lead. I love the way that you differentiated there because I think it can guide the person to what they’re looking at. A couple questions have already come in and I think they’re totally relevant.
So examples of queries if someone is feature aware, on a topic. So that’s a great question. I’ve got a few ideas, but yeah. Awesome question.
Josh Spilker: Yeah. Feature aware. I have a lot of thoughts about feature aware, but yeah, in middle funnel can build, yeah, you can build some of this middle funnel post around a particular feature as like an intro to your product, even if you have a whole range or a whole suite of features and products to do.
And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It just may not. You may not always explain all the comprehensiveness of your product. It’s just like this slice and an intro into getting there.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah. So where they understand the problem, they understand potential ways to solve it. And it’s in their terms of how they’re thinking about people might appropriately solve the problem, or they might actually just think it’s solved in a way and you do something slightly different. So I think that’s a really, it’s a really great way to one thing you might want to look at are also the sales process at your organization.
What are those steps that would create like an ideal sales process or. Whether it’s patient acquisition or whatever the goal is, what’s that middle of that sales process. So go into your CRM, see what that middle looks like. What is your, your does, does that align with the marketing side?
If you’re, if your goal is to buy a, content strategy, software platform you’re looking at, I want an industry analysis. I want to understand my strengths and weaknesses as a, with the content strengths and weaknesses. I wanna know what topics I should focus on. I wanna know how much content I need to create.
I wanna know. And how can I build content that tells the story of somebody who knows they have all those problems that kind of know how they’ll solve it. Those are the types of queries you’re looking at. So how do I perform a gap analysis, not the gap analysis, right? So you define that, but I just wanted to add some cool color there.
You might get a situation where it’s a a, a diagnosis or a you’re looking for a product that, solves a. Drop heel or a flat foot or something. I’m just trying to describe some some other middles. What is, you mentioned list type in middle of funnel.
Can you elaborate on that as a content type or content types relate
Josh Spilker: around list? Yeah, sure. It’s usually framed around like your best or your cheapest or your, free solutions to the particular problem. And then you would have maybe like the top options off of there. I would say another one that I didn’t mention earlier would be like integrations.
So if your product, seamlessly fits in with another product, like a slack integration or teams, integrations, things like that you could also create list around there, but it’s of often competitors, sometimes other solutions that could fit your. The problem that you’re trying to solve. For us at range, one of the things we’re trying to do is move the daily standup into async standups, but one of our competitors would be just slack.
Another one would be, just the daily in person meeting, all of those things are competitors. And then we have some other competitors as well that we would less. So it’s being aware of not even your direct competitors, but also those adjacent competitors like Google docs can be a competitor for us as well because it’s serving some of the same function.
And we’re just trying to solve that in a different and hopefully better way. So that examples of list. Yeah, no,
Jeff Coyle: those are great examples.
Hey, how do you do, how do you approach in B2B tech or, this would apply to most, how do you approach competition using competition to your advantage using feature knowledge?
I love how you described covering adjacent areas of the industry. It can be very successful project. Like not on the nose, it’s not something that’s obvious. We, certainly covering things that other people do that aren’t direct competitive. Is, are those the types of things you’re talking about?
How do you approach discussions of competitors, competitive feature differentiation and all that in content for B2B?
Josh Spilker: Yeah. I think it’s important to be honest. And usually you have to realize that people are searching for this in multiple places. They might as well just come to you to find the answer.
So I’m gonna list my number one or second competitor, very closely to us and go ahead and call out the different the differences, because I know they’ll probably be looking at those solutions anyway. So I might as well have them look at it in my list post like altogether. So here’s why competitor one is different than us.
Here’s why competitor two is different than us. And here’s also why competitor three, that you may not have even thought of. Or the old way that you’ve been doing it is different than us. Cause I think that’s very important too. Is if somebody is doing a to-do list on a notepad, you could call that out and say here’s why our to-do list app is better than a notepad.
So you’re also calling out the traditional way of doing things in these type of lists that may not even, occur to somebody as well. And then secondly, I would note, so I would say it’s okay to do that. Some people don’t agree with that, but then secondly, is I just try to be fair and call out what we do better and what they do as well.
And sometimes I’ll highlight different things, but I really wanna say like why we solve something in a better way. And then I turn to sites like G2 crowd trust radius those type of B2B comparison sites to then, maybe pull a review or two or to highlight what we do as well. And those can be looked at as, more of the middle ground or fair.
Judge in, in some of those cases, especially for B2B software. Broadly speaking, I just think Hey, people are doing these searches, they’re doing these comparisons anyway. They might as well do it on my site and weed out or funnel out those ICPs that may not be great for you.
So if it’s, if you’re going after a certain buyer and you’re actually, and they’re searching for a different option, then you wanna go ahead and weed out some of those buyers from the start. And so I say, go for it and let the person make their decision. And I’d rather them make that decision on my site than, on somebody else’s side
Jeff Coyle: Now that, that is the, I want to control the conversation as much as I can. I want sure.
Provide just there’s two questions that align to just clarifi. Of the word list, which is of funny. Cause the list can mean a lot of different things. So when you’re saying, and you can spit this out or validate when you’re saying list, you mean a literally a list of concepts, of some sort, maybe a list of feature comparisons or a list of benefit statements where you’re providing context in order to educate and drive towards consideration.
Is that fair or? Yeah, our
Josh Spilker: list of tools, a list of other software options, a list of whatever those competitors could be a list of ways that they could solve this problem that they’re aware of, but just not product aware of.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah, there you go. So it’s a list of things that are driving towards what would be considered mill, the funnel, answering a question, learning about a feature, learning about a benefit.
I just wanna make sure that we clarified cuz yeah. Brian had asked a question of whether we were talking about actually like list development or like targeted mailing lists or something like, no, just literally the content. Is a list of things of some list of some things. So that’s what is being referenced here?
Another question from Helen Helena or Helena, I’m not sure is how do you classify a guide is a guide, a middle of the funnel concept, then we’ll get back into some of the more middle of the funnel and funnel concepts that I wanted to ask you about.
Josh Spilker: Some guides are middle of the funnel.
It, of course depends like kind of the buyer’s guide was a very classic B2B kind of software thing to offer, five to seven years ago. Somebody told me they were working on one recently and I was like maybe I need to try that again. But with that they’re having specific criteria for what to consider when purchasing a new product or going into an enterprise.
So that could be MarketMuse versus, XYZ solution. And here’s the different criteria you may wanna consider when you’re opting into a tool like that. And so for me, it would be like, this is the criteria. This is what, how you get the best performance out of this. And you lean towards, towards what your product could do.
So I would say yes, that would be middle of the funnel content. If it’s more of the broader like industry report or like a, what is type thing I personally would not label that middle funnel content, even though you could get some leads from it, again, it goes back to what we were saying. You would then have to nurture them more towards that solution where, oh, yes, I actually need a solution.
I have a problem. That type of thing. Yes. Guides can be middle of the funnel. Not all guides are middle of the funnel,
Jeff Coyle: right. Square rectangle, for sure. So the guide, yeah, it does. What does the guide too? The thing that the good guide is too, and its level of specificity really drives the location of the funnel just as you described.
So your beginner’s guide to CRM is not middle of the funnel unless you, unless you really force it in there. But for, a particular use case or a particular problem or feature, you can get more in the middle. You could even have pricing guides or guides that yeah. Are more aligned with procurement installation problems troubleshooting which go post, even post published into docs which can be extremely valuable to produce even though it’s post sale which is another topic we can get into, I have a question for you about that.
But Hey, describe to me top of funnel support, how bottom of the funnel supports and then kinda where does the inspiration come from for middle low funnel content? Is it are, internally who is for it, who’s against it typically. Who, and then where is the inspiration come from for this, is it stuff you’re already ranking for?
Is it coming from, internal research? How do you come up with this strategy and when it’s appropriate when it’s not?
Josh Spilker: Yeah. So just looking at this screen or this bad graphic that I drew on the screen here I was thinking of this as like different than a pillar. The traditional pillar content way is where you kinda have this very broad, short keyword.
Topic that you then hopefully build this pyramid up to, to start ranking for. And Jeff is better at this than I am, but personally I could never get those to rank very well for me. Maybe I just didn’t have the time. So instead I like the decided I would invert it a little bit to where, Hey, if I want people to be aware of what I’m doing, I’ll build a pillar page towards the middle funnel instead.
And so that’s what this graph or this drawing is trying to illustrate here. So what I’m thinking of is I have my top of the funnel awareness type post, and then linking down to my middle funnel solution aware. And then you can see that BOFU bottom funnel is really close to it is I usually have another landing page that middle funnel links to that’s very specific on product.
And then everything else underneath is topic authority to help build that expertise, authority, and trust. So that could be my interviews. That could be my how tos my expertise. Like here’s what I’m finding my trend reports. My industry reports, all of those things within link back up to my middle funnel on a particular topic.
So I was going over this with somebody on my team earlier today. My, I have a middle funnel post right now. I’m trying to rank around team communication tools. If you Google that I’m competing against myself with some other companies I’ve worked for, but then what I can do is I can create a specific landing page about team communication.
I can link all of my posts, my interviews about team communication into that. And then my, I don’t have a post like this, but my, what is team communication or best practices for team communication would be my top of the funnel support. And then those would link back down to my middle funnel. And so that’s what this drawing is.
Trying to illustrate. And then I would break this off for each of my kind of you could do it by feature set or topic clusters. I would try to have one of these for that. And you can start to see how this can get messy and gnarly if you don’t like, map it out a little bit nothing will ever be perfect but that’s kinda how I think about that is I’ll have five to seven of these type plays that I’m running simultaneously trying to get us to these, to the top for the keywords that are most important to us.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah. I, the, this is, it’s an alternate approach to topic clustering that I think is it works. It works really well for most industries even de to direct to consumer eCommerce. It does rely on there being some power sources right there to leverage. So I love the way you described it. So the.
How I would differentiate the two. And you did you described it well, would be, I am looking at a topic, a general topic, and I’m building content, targeting that topic at all stages of the funnel. It’s like a thing. And then I have the flat piece for beginner, advanced awareness consideration purchased.
I’m gonna have that, but you’re going into that topic of being actually a feature or a benefit or a problem statement. As that, instead of that, I really love this. I think that it’s a way to punch above your weight class and start to perform well before you have the authority. And it’s something that works really well for that specific use case.
If you’ve already got the huge battery of power as the guy who used to run, what is.com, I love the way you say what is . But that was a power source and it could allow for. Massive Cluster wins. And so this is a strategy maybe if you don’t already have that big power source.
So can you elaborate on that a little bit more?
Josh Spilker: Yeah. That’s a really great point to bring up is like most of the sites I’ve implemented this on I’m gonna refer to the ahref’s domain authority, different discussion, different point, but like kind of the 50 to 70 range is where I was like trying to punch up against people higher than me that are like in the 80 fives to nineties or whatever.
So I’ve been in project manager and software for a while in productivity tools. So I was competing against the Atlassians, the asanas. I was at ClickUp for a while where I also pioneered this and we were not, they were not as big as they are now. So yes, this was a way to try to gain some of that market share with knowing my what-is-agile will never get, it could, but out of the gate, it’s not gonna get to that top spot when I’m just trying to explain some of these concepts. So I can have that post. I just know it’s feeding into my middle funnel. And so my expectations are different. My expectation is not to rank for that really short keyword phrase. It’s to rank for that.
This is another point we should probably talk about is my middle funnel queries are a little longer, right? They’re like in that four to six keyword range, not that really short one. And I can still build those posts. I just don’t expect them to be at number one. I expect my middle funnel post to be number one, number three, on the top five.
Jeff Coyle: So this is usually the hardest part. For everyone to understand about this discussion. We’ve never had this discussion, but it’s so funny that you described it. So all this content working together as a mass, it is basically gathering power on this topic and all this, the branches of this topic to give you the opportunity to rank.
And so that in your case, the way you’re describing it is you’re setting expectations appropriately, that early stage awareness stuff that pre-funnel informational stuff, you have to build it to tell the story. that You’re an expert. You have to build it. Even if it will get no traffic, all right, you gotta build it.
to give yourself the opportunity for the middle of the funnel to perform. You’re, we are two of very few people who think that way, but it works. And that’s what we gotta think about. The hard thing about this is getting people to understand. They have to invest in content. That’s not gonna perform.
Now. And that’s
how do you get around that situation? It’s so funny you described it. I literally had that written down to ask. Yeah. Yeah. I do very little. I do very little prep. No, I’m just kidding. No, I had that question written down because you are one of the few folks who really illustrate this, but you show it in the winds.
You look at, click up, look at some of the other entities and it, this strategy in a distressed or under authority situation can lead to a midterm benefit. So how do you justify that internally?
Josh Spilker: It’s always an ongoing discussion. But it, but what I do like about the middle funnel, especially in that PLG, like freemium is they can start to see the signups happen from these posts compared to the more top of the funnel, like broader posts.
So yes, it does take time, but then once it starts kicking in it usually converts, usually have that higher volume and then it usually converts better. email@example.com, we were having like, five to 10% signups just for my middle funnel post getting like thousands of visits a day. And so you can start to do the math on that and it really starts to compound.
So it does take a minute or more than a minute to, to get it going. But I also find that the middle funnel converts. At a pretty good rate. And then if it doesn’t, they usually click through to my bottom funnel post. And then those usually, hopefully if your copywriting and your message match is correct, has good conversion rates too.
So that’s my goal with that is they don’t necessarily I want them to convert on the middle funnel. We all want ’em to convert on the top of the funnel, right? We just know the percentages are lower. I’m increasing their odds of converting on the middle funnel. And then I’m tightly linking to the bottom funnel.
Then they’re ranking, I’m sorry, they’re converting at an even higher rate as well. And then to take the next level, what’s great is when Google starts to, double your rank it your pages on the same search query with your middle funnel post and your bottom funnel post. And I love that feeling because you’re taking up two positions in the SERP.
And so that’s really great when that starts to happen as well.
Jeff Coyle: I want to elaborate on that a little bit more. So that used to be called the free ride. We used to call that ride. We discussed this somewhere, the free ride. Now it’s referenced as the indent. Which means the indent, you have one and two, when you have two pages at two different stages of the funnel, what that means typically is that indented page might not have ranked as highly on its own if it was ranking. So it, the free ride is they might have landed on 15, but it’s two because they’re not gonna split domains in the search result.
That’s where that word comes from. Yep. And what do you say to someone who thinks of that still thinks of that as cannibalization potential?
Josh Spilker: You’re the expert on this? I it is hard to navigate and hard to balance. I’m just S. I would be running that play anyway, because I didn’t expect my bottom funnel page to necessarily rank, like sometimes it does, but really what it’s focused on is the conversions.
And I do optimize it for that. So if that fades down, I’m not like terribly worried about it. I just look at it as a bonus. I’ve always looked at cannibalization in that way. I could be wrong. If you’re at six and seven it probably is better if you had one, one post at one.
I’m gonna throw it back to you a little bit. Like to me it hasn’t ever worried me. I haven’t really looked at it as much. I’m more concerned about it. I’m more of my top of the funnel post, where I have a six and an eight and I’m like, oh wait, I would love to have a six and eight sometimes like a six and a 15 and thinking like, oh, is that 15?
Keeping that six down. Where can I combine in that way? Are they answering some of the similar things, but on my middle funnel and bottom funnel, I don’t, I’m not as concerned about it. But please
Jeff Coyle: tell me your, no, I think you’ve hit it. You’ve hit it. It’s are the pages differentiated?
Are they providing unique value? Are they rounding out the illustration of expertise on this topic, then you’re gonna be in a good spot. If they’re the same page or providing the same value, then you probably have some thoughts. So you have some thoughts to put together. I love that. Yeah. Nathan great question.
Can you explain the concept of T O F U supports? So in your graphic, we mentioned it a little bit with scaffolding with what is but what is top of funnel support? Why is it important? Just go through that again. What types of pages might you be looking for to define.
Josh Spilker: Yeah, I was gonna hit on that.
It’s exactly what you said earlier about the pages you have to have, but you may not necessarily rank for, so it is explaining that in depth concept, I was talking about like agile software development earlier. If I’m in that space, I need a post that talks about agile software. Even if I’m not gonna get to number one for it, even if Atlassian or somebody else is gonna be ahead of me for that, I still need that post to show expertise.
And that’s why I call it support in this graph or in this drawing is because, Hey, I know it’s not necessarily gonna be number one. That’s not my expectation for it at this time, but instead I need to show my expertise and then I’m gonna link back down to my middle funnel, to where I am expecting it to rank a little bit higher and to have the conversions there.
So it’s just like a necessary top of the funnel post that you need that provides support to the middle funnel.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah, exactly. And how do you feel about those potentially like being almost like. presented as pillars, even though, they’re not gonna perform as pillars.
Josh Spilker: Yeah. I think I’m gonna be okay with that.
How you arrange it, like still being comprehensive. I would encourage people though to just go ahead and publish and iterate and not necessarily have to make it the most comprehensive one out there, but just to start, get the URL out there, have a decent amount MarketMuse of course is good for this.
And then you can start building on that over time. As you get more knowledge, as you build out your infographics, as you even have more SMEs or experts like interviews, come in there as you add videos. So I would just encourage people not to like, have to make that perfect, but just to start, have it out there, it answers the query.
And then build upon that.
Jeff Coyle: A follow up question to that is. Do you Def, so the idea of support for a reason for a content item is you’re not necessarily thinking it’s gonna be a winner on its own for entrances. It may come from way finding where someone’s clicking through to another place.
Do you prescribe to significant middle funnel support pages and how, what are some types of those that would be interesting. So mid middle funnel support, or you always bring in somebody from middle to bottom, like your graphic
Josh Spilker: shows. Yeah. I’m trying to bring somebody from middle into bottom.
That is really how I think about it. I wouldn’t really say I don’t do a lot of interlinking between my middle funnel post. I try to keep those separate. Yeah. And to build that one, like clustering around it. Yeah, I think that’s generally how I approach it.
Jeff Coyle: Gotcha. So it’s your trap?
It’s your middle? It’s you’re trying to trap them into this thing and you’re only letting them go to the bottom of the funnel. I think that’s one strategy that I’ve seen more, I would say. Yeah, that one. Sure. B2B I’d say in in certain industries. I’m looking at some people in the audience that are in e-com and agencies, people with massive portfolios, et cetera.
In certain industries support content is needed in middle of the funnel. If your middle of the funnel maybe is industry general and you need to go to industry specific, or if it’s a service and the service is generalist like general consulting, but you need to get into some really specific, you may need some support pages there.
And that, industry specific’s a great easy one. So you may be in like, let’s say a feature of CRM, but you only sell CRM software to, Liquor stores and breweries. You’ve gotta make sure if you’ve got generalist answers of call center management, or, track, you’ve gotta get to the industry specific somehow, but that maybe isn’t gonna be your entrance point.
So just be thinking about that. Yeah, that’s a good, it’s a good point answer. Speaking of industry specific from Cara who’s in real estate what strategies do you use for mid funnel content ideas? Can you give an example of products and subjects that you broke down into content pieces to cover multiple funnels?
These questions are great by the way. So give us some examples of product. How’d you break those down into multiple pages. What are the, what are example multiple product or content types that you put together? Yeah.
Josh Spilker: I like the jobs to be done framework. So if I’m like, I’m trying to answer these five different things or my product does these five different things.
What are the five different problems I’m trying to solve? I usually go with five if you can get there. For me, it’s like team communication, team productivity, ay meetings meeting notes, those type of things. So I started to break it down by my core competencies, thinking about it through the jobs to be done framework.
And then what I do from there is I going back to our previous conversation about features, I do think about features that people are already familiar with and how we answer that a little bit differently. So for me, again, it be best standup tools, best to-do list in our previous life, best standup software, those type of things.
Best pair of running shoes would be something like that. And then I, going back to my earlier point, middle funnel usually has four to six keywords. So I’m throwing on the modifiers best cheap, free online enterprise, small business, personal, you could even get into like alternative, then I’ll put the product like kind of category on there.
So are we talking about Android, iPhone, those type of things. And then you may also wanna tag like your use case and features. So that could be best CRM software for bars. Like you said, best blank for small business, best blank for nonprofits, best blank for sales teams, for insurance, those type of things.
And then start building. That’s usually how I get my middle funnel ideas for a list. And then for templates, it would be, how do you solve this problem with a template and then you could tag template on there how to do something. You could do that as well.
Jeff Coyle: That’s awesome. Yeah, there, you gotta figure out for your specific industry, what are those variants, right?
Yeah. What are the concepts? The variants superlatives are typically an easy one to just get people’s brains in the middle of the funnel, the best the coolest, the smartest. You can also consider
Josh Spilker: like location. If you have some seasonality like daily, weekly, annual fall, summer, a price point under $10 under $50 under $500, like all of those things can help you eliminate and define what that middle funnel might be for you.
Jeff Coyle: Also yeah, exactly. I, you’ve said it. No, no elaboration needed. It’s also a great competitive research technique. If you’re looking at other people. Middle of funnel gaps. Say, they’re not gonna use that variant. It’s just, they’ve never used it in the past. You can use it and immediately lever up on them.
So always be looking at, if you can come up with that variant what differentiates you and then what are the different slices and dices? Those are really good ones for middle of the funnel. That’s a great question. Yeah, questions are just hot and fast and furious and these are good ones.
In middle of the funnel are you repurposing from other sta I gonna elaborate on the question.
Are you repurposing from other stages of the funnel? Are you personally doing any repurposing tactics with the work that you’re doing?
Josh Spilker: Yes, I am. Like, I like to have a pretty clear. Especially in these lists kind of comparison posts that I was talking about. I like to have a pretty solid product feature set that I then reuse and I call it my product feature bank to where I have my descriptors.
I’m like copying and pasting from that. And then reusing that. It’s not word for word. I usually change it to then meet the search query and the intent. But yeah, I do repurpose in that way. Hopefully that, that helps answer part of the question.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah. I think always thinking about reuse and repurposing.
If you feel like the article is, a big list you maybe if you’re breaking it down, if you have a long collection of questions doing each individual question into a deep dive, if you’ve got video, making sure you transcribe, if it’s Audi, those types of things would be, if you’re gonna invest, I always say, if you’re gonna invest a lot of time and energy into one page, be thinking about how that could turn into five or six other like sure.
Marketing, marketing channels. And that’s just good. I wouldn’t say that’s specific to a stage of the funnel. And we can get into repurposing techniques, but I’ve got a lot of recordings and talk about Jeff Coyle, rich media optimization, repurposing. You can listen to me. Talk about repurposing for about 40 hours next week, if you really want to.
But no, that’s great. But back to by the way, thank you so much for that question. I think there’s some cool repurposing techniques in mid-funnel that I know Josh does, where it’s to say, I wrote this piece on this topic, I’m gonna take a little chunk of that and blow it and expand on it. So would be thinking about that to keep in funnel.
You have the topic authority pointing to the middle of the funnel. You talked about power sources. How do you build and what are those typical? Is it stuff that the company already has? You talked about interviews and things like that. Is it stuff that has the potential to be to drive off page power?
Is what, how do you define getting, how do you get power to the middle of the funnel? In novel ways when you don’t maybe have as, just piles of money to just throw around
Josh Spilker: I don’t think I’ve ever had that really. This is a hard one, right? And it really does start from the top, I would say is usually the founders or the SMEs are like better at this than they know they are.
And so it is just creating post around that. And then going back to your repurposing conversation is it’s like, You can put them on your website, but they may be better served and better distributed through your newsletter through your social or maybe even a paid, promoted type interview or in a podcast or something like that.
And then you can use that to then link back to your middle funnel. The distribution might be different for these bottom graph topic authority, but they’re still important to then link back to your middle funnel, just to let Google know that you know what you’re talking about. And of course in the, the acronym, but in the medical, in all of that area, that’s even more important, but it’s also important where you’re just describing like, Hey, this is why we’re experts here.
This is why we are good at solving the problem. Here’s kind of our CV or resume on why that. Look at all the good stuff my SME and founder like talked about. So that’s why I think it’s important to have, even though you may not get a lot of search engine traffic from it or organic traffic from it, you could still use it, in social newsletter, other ways.
Jeff Coyle: I think that’s great answer. Thinking about where your what raw materials do you have internally to take advantage of that maybe aren’t standard. Are they, did you have a press release that did well, could you interview experts that worked there and turn that into some gold?
Always be thinking about sources of expertise. Maybe you have someone that only works on support documents, maybe the moderator of your support forums, maybe your post-sale docs manager, if you’re in a medium to large enterprise which would be like troubleshooting, implementation, community content you’re head of customer success, and you’ve got your founders, you.
Squeeze all the goo out of their brains, it tends to create middle of funnel content whether you’re a lawyer, whether you’re a and so really be thinking about that what is the, yes, somebody do they know stuff and they’ll say, no, but get ’em talking about things. And those ideas will come shooting out of their brain because they’re the ones that actually have, they’re the practitioners they’ve gone through the pain of building this company or whatever.
You can really squeeze a lot of information out of somebody who’s who does it every day as a
Josh Spilker: practitioner, or just like fielding answers to whatever your customers are asking you and like what problems they have. Again, it won’t really always have search volume there, but right. It helps you build that expertise and authority to then you can, distribute it in another way, but go ahead and print that answer on your blog to, or your resource guide or on your site to help build that authority.
Jeff Coyle: Yep exactly right. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to go to the party by doing this, they doing those things in any way. You can. The key and I have another important question here.
The key there is getting that buy in that, Hey, we have to build a lot of right.
Examples of expertise. And they’re all not gonna be lightning rod. This is why. And I have a question for you. How do you a lot of B2B technology companies, as well as in other space, they will worry about awareness phase or top of funnel content. Is it worth writing, right? Because won’t generate any leads.
The money is usually coming from the bottom. The same thing goes for middle and a non PLG. So how do you just, how do you tell that story internally? If they haven’t. , they don’t have that culture of content. And I’ve seen this go two different ways that I’m sure you’d have commentary on someone who’s in charge of lead management or leads.
And they’re like, no leads are coming from what is right. The other one would, yeah, the other one would be, why we have these, hundred pages about, long tail pages, they’re not generating enough traffic to matter, so let’s delete them.
Josh Spilker: I, I think the important part is to have a strategy and then just stick to it.
So this drawing kind of sums up mine very like quickly and succinctly. So it’s Hey, think about the post. Not as one-offs, but as part of a larger cluster in picture, and this isn’t the only strategy that you can use. I would say there’s a lot of different strategies out there that you can choose from to help build that.
And so if you have that mapped out, it makes the conversations go a lot easier as it’s like, Hey, this isn’t just a one off post that I’m doing. Here’s how it feathers into the plan. Here’s how it links up together. And I think that is, is very helpful in I’ve been at my current position for two months.
That is something I’m constantly having to remind myself of and realize is I need to keep educating and say this is where we’re going, because it’s very easy to get stuck in the weeds of I’m trying to publish this post in WordPress or whatever your CMS is. And just the daily grind of that can become a little overwhelming and frustrating when you don’t actually see how it comes together.
Jeff Coyle: Nah, I think that’s super great advice for somebody who is in that situation. Like sometimes it feels like you’re publishing something that. Won’t win, but it is contributing to the foundation. Yeah, the flip side of that is, and this is a question that came in is what, how do you respond to typical content auditing practices?
And I’m gonna elaborate on that. A lot of content auditing or inventory and practices delete content that doesn’t have traffic. How do you interpret that? As a process, and I know, I have obviously my own feelings about that. You can tell by the redness in my face, when I hear those types of things, but how do you interpret content auditing practices that might look at traffic as the only value?
Josh Spilker: Yeah. Again, it’s just what is your goal? If you’re a. If all your revenue’s coming from like Google ads then yeah. Like that is something to consider and is a different value. And know, a different goal than what I personally have, which is like conversions into a product.
So yes, like cutting traffic and cutting post that may be underperforming on that. And like chasing a trend, maybe a little bit different for you on that. Usually I don’t cut post, when I’m starting somewhere new, because it’s just do you know how much time we invested in that? So I definitely take my time to assess and take some time to map out what’s currently there to, to what the clusters are.
And so get, buy in on the clusters for sure. And your overall topics, like are, is topic X a value for us? Do we want to educate on this? Do we wanna, and list those out and make sure you have the top down? Kind of approval. And so then when you start going through, you can say oh this post doesn’t quite meet into that.
We don’t offer that service anymore. That post is very dated talking about a certain point in time that maybe isn’t relevant maybe something from the 2012 presidential election, like maybe that isn’t relevant anymore. It’s different. It’s 10 years later, things like that to say Hey what are we really getting value on this?
How have the business shifted those type of things. So that’s what I generally think about. I’m not really acting a lot. I also don’t have a lot of proof points. I’ve seen some of the evidence. I don’t think I’ve worked on sites that have been large enough to where like pruning has really helped me.
But that could definitely be changing for.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah. I mean it make sure you’ve got a better answer than just the traffic going to that page. Make sure there’s a really good reason and you can’t update it and you can’t integrate it into your current strategy first before. Yeah.
You’re going into that. Cause it can be devastating. I see it happen all the time, imagine
Josh Spilker: too maybe it’s an opportunity to repurpose that. So maybe the post or the content doesn’t quite hit on what you are now, but can you take something out of that? Feed it into another post. I just did that recently where it’s use some of this, combine it with this, you’ve built up and then we’re gonna redirect the URL into this one post and that’s been really helpful and successful.
So don’t just throw it all out and just think Hey, is there something valuable here? What can we do with this?
Jeff Coyle: Yeah, no. And don’t throw it out because of some arbitrary parameter or like a one data point. I think you’re gonna run in drop trouble. The exception there is, if you’re in the arbitrage game, I.
That’s but that’s one, one exception, and gosh, your rules are way different if you’re in that game anyway. And that’s, but that’s where a lot of this information and misinformation comes from is a lot of people learn how to do content from affiliate and from arbitrage. So it’s, just keep in mind where that source of information, Josh is doing B2B technology for product led growth based software, if that there’s specifics here. If you’re selling shoes, if you are selling, software SLG, sales, led growth, or some other B2B technology or B2B service, you don’t play by the rules of affiliate. So don’t make that same mistake. But that’s a great question.
Kara what kind of que CTAs do you use in mid funnel content?
We touched on this a little bit, but you have any like specific examples.
Josh Spilker: I usually just sign up now.
But I was looking at a site today that posted some good gross, and they actually said, check out our pricing page, which I thought was pretty smart. And I even had that on the side. Usually I’m like sign up, get more information. That’s what I link down to the bottom funnel post. I’m not really hard on that requested demo, it just, again, it depends on your context, like sales, like growth.
That would be a very natural thing to do, schedule your demo, those type of things. But I usually do have a CTA in line to my post on these, I don’t just leave it up to the sidebar or to the nav to do that. So I’m pretty driven on talking about your product in your post. That does not scare me.
I think it’s a little outdated way of thinking to avoid mentioning your product even in the middle funnel. So I’m very much an advocate of explain what your product does as long as it meets the problem that you’re trying to solve with that post, with that piece of content.
If your product relates to that if not, then if you’re just more educational then yeah. Just keep something at the bottom about your product and not go as in depth.
Jeff Coyle: Nah, I think that’s awesome. And yeah, I’ve been thinking about, you’ve got a good answer for that, depending on what your business is.
Carrie is break down the sales funnel, break down the marketing funnel. Are they the same? Do they mush together or are they like completely off face as your salesperson? Think the process is one thing. In Josh’s case product, the products is being used as a premium offering and then people decide to buy.
So the product is driving sales. If you’re not, you’ve gotta go. What are the reasons why somebody goes from stage a to B. and what are the, what are those decision making criteria? Those can be great CTAs. If you are a more traditional, so yeah,
Josh Spilker: We touched on this earlier. If you do have a guide, that’s like a buyer’s guide, like maybe the middle funnel would be good for that next step.
I will say on all my middle funnel, because I am free PLG. I do have a sign up now, but I just changed a lot of my CTAs on my top of the funnel to just sign up for our newsletter, because I know that is a better intro point. They’re not going all the way back to the beginning of our conversation here.
They’re not solution aware. They’re not product aware. Yeah. And then I get ’em in my sequences that way and just have that touchpoint of a newsletter with them.
Jeff Coyle: Cool. I have a presentation on content upgrades for sales led growth motions. We will send along with this replay as well, which I think Kara for your specific use case will be super valuable.
Josh, this has been rapid fire. I can’t believe how many questions we answered. And thank you to the audience for asking so many great ones. If you want to go check out MarketMuse we’ll do a custom, not we, not just me, but I and the market team will do a custom content audit, evaluate your site, how you wear your strong, weak where you have some middle of the funnel weakness.
How about that? For Josh, but Josh, how can people get in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing and connect?
Josh Spilker: Yeah, I think LinkedIn is the best way. Just Josh spoke on LinkedIn. I do have a course kind of content playbook going over the middle funnel. And you can find that on my LinkedIn would probably be the best way.
So just J O S H spoker on, on LinkedIn.
Jeff Coyle: Yeah. And go download the course, get it going. It’s worth. Worth every minute of your time. And Josh, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been so fun. There is so much knowledge to pull out and put into pieces and repurpose here from this discussion.
And I know my content strategy team they will be doing that. And thanks again to the audience. Look for that recording in a few days. And thanks again, Josh.
Josh Spilker: Yeah. Thanks.