Beyond the Bottom of the Sales Funnel – The Case for Long-Tail Keywords
A couple of weeks ago I attended the Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC. It’s an online marketing conference with several marque headliners attracting attendees mostly from the southeastern United States.
One session I attended talked about the intersection of the traditional sales funnel, the customer buying cycle, and SEO, highlighting the value of long-tail keywords within this three-way intersection.
Traditionally, long-tail keywords are not associated with ‘value’, as they tend to generate lower search volume, and thus low value when it comes to driving SEO traffic. But Michael Stricker of SEMrush, who gave the presentation, makes a strong case for reevaluating the ‘value’ of long-tail keywords in generating qualified B2B leads.
With SEO, it is difficult to rank for the more popular keywords because they are in such high demand. As a result, it often times feels as if our SEO efforts are in vain: all we can rank for are longer keywords, which while more relevant to our business doesn't drive much traffic.
However, when you take these long-tail keywords and apply them to the sales funnel and the customer buying cycle, as Stricker does, we find not only are you able to rank for these keywords (because they are less popular), but they are valuable.
Let’s take a closer look.
In the diagram below we have the sales funnel in the middle and the stages of the buying cycle down the far left column (the customer has a ‘need’, and then looks for a ‘solution’, which leads to ‘consideration’ of specific providers, which then requires ‘qualification’, before ultimately ‘buying’, and finally the opportunity to retain or refer the customer in an ‘upsell’ or ‘cross-sell’ opportunity).
Source: Michael Stricker, SEMrush
The types of keywords that correspond to the customer buying cycle are positioned to the right of the Buying Stage column. As we move down the funnel we go from more general keywords – the ones that are in high demand because they are broad – to more specific, long-tail and full sentence keywords – which not only correlates to the more valuable part of the funnel (the transactional part) but which are also aligned with the more valuable type of shopper – a lead, customer, and advocate.
Pulling the keyword evaluation out of the sales funnel and the customer buying cycle equation, we can more clearly see in the graphic below how more broad and general, one to three word terms, are high in cost and competition (upper left), while the full-sentence keywords/queries are lower in cost and much more attainable (lower right). And not only that, but long-tail keywords correlate with a much higher purchase intent (Tweet This!).
Source: Michael Stricker, SEMrush
Beyond the bottom of the funnel what we have are more highly engaged customers, which, according to Stricker, are 3x more valuable than other customers, buy 90% more frequently, and spend 60% more in each transaction.
This is not to say that you don’t need to get people into the top of the funnel, you do. But unless you already rank high for the broader, more general, higher demand keywords for your particular product or service, you shouldn’t count on utilizing SEO to get folks in the top of the funnel.
Practice using long-tail keywords to attract better qualified leads, and spend your time (and money) utilizing other tactics to get folks into the top of your funnel.
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