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ToFu MoFu BoFu Marketing: The Online Sales Funnel Strategy

ToFu MoFu BoFu Marketing: The Online Sales Funnel Strategy

In the world of online marketing, the “funnel” is a big deal. Being conscious of the way visitors behave as they navigate their way to their final goals is crucial to being able to get them there, and to be the brand they choose.

You might have heard about “ToFu MoFu BoFu” marketing. Sounds like gibberish, but it’s not science fiction – here’s what it means.

The funnel describes the path shoppers take as they go from first browsing to when the finally click “buy now.” In between those, there is an entire multi-stage funnel where they begin the preliminary research phase, start searching online what their options are, researching prices, narrowing down their choices, choose the brand/service/product they want, reading reviews, sleeping on it – and then finally make the purchase.

In this sales funnel, ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing is a sort of contraction of the terms “top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and bottom-of-funnel.” These terms are so important because they refer to different stages of the digital marketing funnel where shoppers have different needs, and as a result where marketers and businesses can fine-tune their content to best engage with potential customers.

Optimizing a ToFu MoFu BoFu strategy for internet business is a great way to increase website traffic, grow brand recognition, increase click-through-rate (CTR), and most important of all to increase sales or conversions!

The online sales funnel consists of a lot of different core channels, including search engine traffic, pay-per-click advertising, inbound marketing through content, social media, and more. Understanding how these digital marketing strategies are the main ways people discover and select brands is crucial to being able to optimize your ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing.

Here’s what it means.

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Marketing with the “push” and “pull” approach

First off, what is digital business marketing? It might help to have some insights on what types of strategies there are in digital marketing.

For all businesses, digital marketing means something different. There are hundreds of platforms, channels and strategies to choose from and they all work in one or more parts of the online sales funnel. But generally speaking, digital marketing involves two key approaches: “push vs. pull digital marketing.

Push marketing involves more aggressive or “pushy” strategies that put your brand straight to where your audiences can see it. And this can work for all stages of the ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing sales funnel:

  • Pay-per-click search ads
  • Display ads
  • Social media paid advertising
  • Pop-up on-site ads
  • Sponsored content
  • Email marketing
  • Video ads
  • Etc.

Pull marketing involves an if-you-build-it-they-will-come approach that relies on high-quality content that a target audience is actually interested in. And then they come to you.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Regular social media content and posts
  • eCommerce marketplace SEO
  • Video marketing and entertainment
  • Word-of-mouth/customer reviews
  • Etc.

Understanding the basics of these strategies can help businesses understand what works best for their model, and even how best to engage users in the online shopping funnel. People can enter into the funnel with any of these digital marketing strategies, and they can discover your brand at any part of your ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing campaign. In fact, market research from Google shows that people bounce around the “funnel” in a very non-linear way: “most journeys don’t resemble a funnel at all. They look like pyramids, diamonds, hourglasses, and more.

It doesn’t matter at what part you catch their attention, just that you can engage them well – and having a strategy for all of the ToFu MoFu BoFu increases your chances of catching a wider range of customers.

TOFU marketing

The top of the online sales funnel visualization

ToFu (top of the funnel) refers to the beginning of the online marketing funnel. ToFu here means the stage at which potential customers have just begun their journey and are just starting to shop around. It’s the beginning portion of their journey where they first decide they want or need something.

Usually the main goal here in marketing is making your brand known to them, or just being visible to them.

Now of course there’s no one single way people enter the ToFu, it could be through any channel. That’s why having a total, multi-channel ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing strategy is important:

  • People often begin their shopping journey by doing a search in a search engine like Google or Bing
  • They might choose to click on a search PPC ad instead of an organic result
  • They might first become interested in something because of a social media post
  • They might begin research in the ToFu stage by looking at videos
  • Or they might even jump straight to an eCommerce marketplace they know like Amazon, eBay, etc.

Search Engine Optimization:

To understand how to catch people at this stage, it’s good to understand common online search and shopping behavior. BrightEdge research shows that 53% of all internet traffic comes through search engines, and that they generate more than 40% of all online revenue! This is why SEO is one of the single most important ToFu sales strategies.

This is also where brands can rely on “head keywords” to help them gain visibility. These keywords can bring people to top-level landing pages on a website like:

  • The homepage
  • Category pages
  • Nav-bar pages
  • Any “introduction” pages where they can first learn about a product or services

Remember though, business shouldn’t expect a conversion or a sale here (necessarily) at the ToFu stage visitors might move on from your content or site – and possibly come back later.

With good strategic SEO, brands can build their content in a way that’s easy to understand, and provide navigation that can help visitors find what they want. The “SEO sales funnel” means having a comprehensive keyword/meta-data/content strategy that provides content to these shoppers at every stage. For ToFu marketing that means “head keywords.”

An example of a head keyword search in Google

Search Pay-Per-Click (PPC):

Likewise search engine pay-per-click advertising or “search PPC” is one of the most important parts of ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing – especially for catching people at the beginning.

Why is PPC important for gaining attention at the top of the funnel?

One advantage is that search engine ads are one of the best ways of getting a brand straight to the top of the page 1 of search results. With the right ad strategy brands can place themselves ahead of their biggest competitors, for their most valuable keywords. It’s also one of the biggest ROI types of marketing there is, with some estimates claiming 2-to-1 returns.

And with more visibility and more real-estate on search engine results pages (SERPs) PPC can work with an SEO campaign for better CTR, greater brand recognition, and more appearances in front of shoppers at the beginning stage of the online sales funnel!

There’s no direct link between PPC ads and SEO rankings – however businesses that optimize both are more likely to improve their SEO.

Social Media Ads & Content

As one of the rapidest growing channels in marketing, social media’s importance in ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing cannot be overestimated.

Social platforms can provide both organic and paid methods for putting your brand in front of potential customers and for building a reputation. Shared posts and viral social content can help brands become recognizable to people that otherwise wouldn’t know. Same with paid-social posts – the biggest advantage here is that businesses can catch people at the top of the online sales funnel by building their brand on multiple channels, across the web. It’s all about outreach!

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. have goals specifically designed for top-of-the-funnel objectives. These adverts have “ad objectives” that can prioritize:

  • Website traffic or click-throughs straight to landing pages on the site.
  • “Brand Awareness” as an objective, for greater impressions.
  • “Consideration” that prioritizes brand awareness through greater traffic.
  • “Reach” which prioritizes showing ads to as many people as possible.
  • Lead generation.
  • And more…

These goals are quite literally designed for ToFu marketing, and the numbers speak for themselves. More than half of social browsers use social media to research products, 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend that brand to friends and family. Plus 49% of consumers depend on “influencer” recommendations for building trust in a brand.

MOFU marketing

MoFu (middle of the funnel) is the the next stage of the marketing funnel. But as the intermediate stage it’s no less important.

Businesses can still rely on the same forms of digital marketing to engage potential customers in the middle of the funnel – but they need to adjust their strategy to meet the needs of those shoppers. Providing high-quality content and a barrier-free journey is key here. The most important thing is to engage with visitors, and to provide them with what they need, as simply, and as easily as possible. Otherwise they’ll go elsewhere.

Search traffic is still a crucial middle part of the internet sale funnel, but in this instances people’s search and research behavior will shift. Business will find that longtail and secondary queries will be their key to driving traffic to secondary pages on their site: category pages, product pages, and informational pages that can segue people to conversion.

So how does this work? In SEO and in PPC methods will be almost exactly the same, but with a different focus on keywords that people use in the middle stage of the online sale funnels. Now instead of queries like “women’s tops” site search engine traffic will come from searches like “women’s red leather coat” – where the intent is clearer, and the shopper has a better idea of what they want.

For social media content, target social media ads, and even on-site content, this mindset stays true. Think about what sort of questions, concerns and mental blocks visitors might have and work to preemptively assuage them.

Target queries for searches related to what you have, create campaigns for target audiences and cohort segments that are already best-performing for your niche.

With a multi-channel ToFu MoFu BoFu strategy, keeping the ball rolling in the middle-of-the-funnel stage includes best practices like:

  • Long-tail, intent driven keyword research and keyword density on blogs, category pages, and information pages.
  • Guides, videos, and explainers that walk visitors through the ins-and-outs of your brand.
  • Retargeting ad campaigns to re-engage past visitors.
  • Ad objectives that focus on app downloads, account creation, email sign-ups, phone-calls, etc. Ad campaigns in the MoFu stage of the online sale funnel might focus more on “product/services” than brand awareness.
  • Keyword “match types” like phrase match and exact match for MoFu search queries.
  • Content, videos, photos, and social posts about products.
  • Product listing and product detail pages.
  • Shopping ads on Google or Bing.

The truth is that the middle of the shopping funnel is where most businesses do most of their marketing. This is the stage where most often businesses hawk their brands and services.

BOFU marketing

The bottom of the funnel is the final stage. This section of ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing is the most crucial since its where shoppers finally make their decision and click on “buy.”

In search this can mean focusing on long-tail search queries where shoppers indicate they know precisely what they are looking for, and indicate their intent. Their behavior evolves from: “women’s tops” > “women’s red leather coat” > “where to buy Michael Kors belted leather Moto Jacket scarlet.”

These “longtail” intent-driven keywords are some of the most important parts of BoFu marketing in SEO and in search PPC. And digital marketing with SEO and PPC can help brands emphasize the parts of their eCommerce stores and their sites that are best suited for the bottom portion of the online sales funnel:

  • Product pages
  • Conversion pages like sign-up pages, online forms, quotes, etc.
  • Phrase Match and Exact Match for Bing and Google PPC
  • Product/services content, and detail product/services information
  • eCommerce marketplaces and “Shopping” platforms

Even off-site strategies like social media content and social advertising can play a role in engagement at the bottom of the online sales funnel. Paid ad platforms provide brands with opportunities to capture interest at the decisive moment for eCommerce transactions, or for setting specific “goals”:

  • Facebook Shops and Instagram Shops for on-platform transactions
  • In-app product ads like Stories ads, Shopping Post ads, Carousel ads, etc.
  • Instagram’s in-app “Explore” tab
  • “Conversion” objectives like product sales, custom conversions, etc.
  • Micro-targeting for high-value specific audience demographics based on gender, age groups, life events, politics, education, etc.

With “narrowed down” conversion-ready visitors from these channels (using these ToFu MoFu BoFu strategies) the final goal is to just make it easy for people to convert!

Ease their pathway through the shopping cart, the order fill-out process, and the payment process. Many marketers understand that UX and UI are important parts of the online sales funnel.

Needs met and EAT in Google

An example of the online sales funnel

Google has provided online businesses with a rule of thumb for better search engine algorithm relevance and for engaging with shoppers.

When targeting keywords for SEO it’s important for marketers to consider what the searcher actually wants, and then consider whether their on-site content (and of course products/services) actually meet that intent. Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines provide a little extra insight on how to approach search intent – and it’s where they introduce the concepts of needs met and EAT (a.k.a. Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness).

Concepts like EAT and needs met are strong indications of what Google prioritizes in the content it delivers to searchers.

Good SEO then, must rely on achieving them!

When creating content for both your website and for off-site platforms, it’s important to make sure that you use SEO search keywords that correlate with the content’s subject matter, and to provide a UX that will help visitor get their “needs met.”

Google’s guide on EAT content works as a guide for every part of ToFu/MoFu/BoFu marketing. It specifies that a “high quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well.” Specifically, they say that on-page content should have:

  • High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
  • A satisfying amount of high-quality main content, including a descriptive or helpful title.
  • Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.
  • Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the main content on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the main content, if different from that of the website.”

A good rule of thumb for businesses is to put themselves in the shoes of their target audiences and ask themselves if they think their content can get a customer where they want to go. If not, then they’re not meeting their audience’s goals – and people might be struggling to move along the online sales funnel!

In cases where needs are met users would maybe be immediately and fully satisfied and wouldn’t need to navigate elsewhere, or do another search.

In cases where “needs met” is not achieved, the content could be misleading, harmful, dishonest or just lacking in credibility or complete information.

Keyword intent

Via SEObility
Via SEObility

Many marketers already know the value of keywords, meta-data, and technical ranking signals for better SEO. But Google has been encouraging businesses to focus more on users and less on algorithms. Part of this is with their guidance on newer concepts like searcher intent, “needs met” and EAT.

So what is “search intent” and what does it mean in ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing?

Intent is the idea of the intended “goal” behind every search query. It boils down to the intent of the searcher, and their motivation for beginning the search in the first place – plus what their ultimate destination is.

Search queries, and their intents, can be divided into three main categories:

  • Navigational search queries
  • Informational search queries
  • Transactional search queries

Navigation search queries are for instances where the searcher’s intent is to easily and quickly get to a specific page or location. Usually this means people that already know where they want to go.

Information search queries might include people who simply want some sort of information and that’s it – a blog, or an information page, a wiki, or even a video.

Finally, there are transactional queries. This describes searchers where the ultimate goal might be to eventually make a purchase or complete a transaction of some sort. Thinking about, and actively addressing these intents, is crucial to being able to build out content for every part of ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing.

It’s not always clear what people want, but this is why targeting detailed, long-tail keywords in SEO often offers better results. Someone who searches “pickup trucks” might not have a clear intent: they could be looking for the history of pickup trucks, a technical definition, wanting to know what models there are, or even looking for a dealer where they can sell their truck.

Alternatively a query for something like “2021 chevrolet silverado 1500 crew cab price” has very clear intent. It strongly indicates that someone is looking for that exact year, make, and model of truck, with the crew cab feature, and they want to know the price. Being curious about the price strongly suggests they want to buy – and you want your brand to be there in front of them!

Content marketing

Content marketing is crucial to the ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing sales funnel – since it’s the building block for basically every type of digital marketing strategy.

Content is a key tool in the funnel since it’s the one way that businesses actually communicate with their target customers and their site visitors. Afterall, keywords, technical SEO, and ads are great ways of driving traffic, but they do very little to actually communicate with visitors about what sort of services/products you offer, why you are distinct from competitors, where they can go next, and what sort of information they want before moving on to the “purchase” stage of the online sales funnel.

We’ve already discussed Google’s “needs met” and “EAT” concepts above. And these are good rules of thumb  – they’re ideas that are a great way of providing value to visitors and easing their path along the shopping journey.

What should you do here? Think about what types of content, and what specific forms are ideal for the audiences you are trying to appeal to. Then think about what pieces of content could address their needs along the funnel.

Specific examples for ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing could include blogs, which are some of the most effective forms of content marketing:

  • Top-of-funnel blogs for broad, introductory concepts meant for people who are just starting to shop. Blogs for ‘what is…’ type queries, basic definitions, etc.
  • Middle stage blogs that talk about different options, describe product categories, or that provide extra details, for people that are already familiar with the basic brand. For example, think about previous customers who might want to upgrade or shoppers looking for related items.
  • BoFu blogs could be something like a review blog that compares a product with a closely related competitor’s product, an explainer blog that walks people through the process of a complex purchase, or a blog that talks about the process of getting a price quote for something.

Other content strategies could include top-level website pages, or navigational pages on a site. Good UX, and inter-page linking (including anchor-text-links) can be key here, but overall site hierarchy can be key to helping people move along the funnel.

Site structure, and complexity can mean the difference between a simple and easy funnel experience, and a confusing nightmare.

Ultimately it should be easy for people to get to the conversion pages. That’s why site structure also matters. Setting up an intuitive site structure/hierarchy can help them move along the purchase path:

  • General, exciting content for top-level pages like the homepage, about pages, or introduction style splash pages (ToFu).
  • Category pages for product listings – with content that explains the category options (MoFu).
  • Explainer articles, walk-through videos, guides, FAQ pages, etc. (MoFu).
  • Product page content (BoFu).
  • Get a quote page content, calls-to-action, contact info pages (BoFu).
Site structure examples for the sales funnel

Retargeting in PPC

What is retargeting?

Retargeting (also called “remarketing”) is a specific type of pay-per-click ad strategy – and a perfect strategy for middle-of-the-funnel marketing. Retargeting ads are designed to remind previous site visitors about your company, or to remind people who’d previously interacted with your brand about you. This works by showing them ads again, later down the road.

With Google PPC remarketing this means re-capturing those potential customers either in search ads, or in display ads across their partner website network. Google offers 4 key types of remarketing:

  • Standard remarketing
  • Dynamic remarketing
  • Remarketing lists for search ads
  • Video remarketing for YouTube
  • Customer List remarketing

Likewise Facebook Retargeting works similarly buy using the “Facebook Pixel” to track users that have interacted with your brand – and to provide them with retargeted ads.

For app developers and businesses using mobile applications, the Facebook SDK gives a similar ability. Plus the social media giant also boasts “dynamic” retargeting options that can automatically create ads using the business’s pre-existing ad details, catalog, and the analytics data that Facebook collects in order to target the most high-value leads.

In ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing, these strategies are a huuuge opportunity to reconnect with shoppers and potential leads who might otherwise drop out of your online sales funnel completely.

Email list building

This strategy is based on sending emails to would-be customers and building brand loyalty through email content – this can be a key MoFu or even BoFu strategy for re-engaging with customers.

Here’s what email prospecting involves:

  • List building to create target audiences and to build the most valuable email leads.
  • Strategic copywriting for better engagement and CTR.
  • Analytics monitoring and data insights to test new strategies, find new leads, and focus on only the best potential leads.

Email marketing can mean reaching out to previous customers – with their email data or account info – to re-engage them with information on new products, sales, discounts, abandoned shopping carts, and more. This makes it a great way of avoiding drop-offs and helping to encourage shoppers through the online conversion funnel.

Plus it’s one of the most successful forms of digital marketing there is – with some of the highest ROI. It’s ability to catch shoppers in the middle of the funnel makes it ideal for conversion rate (CR) growth.

Site performance and UX SEO

In the world of conversion rate optimization (CRO), user experience is a key way of scooting along as fast as possible – and it can offer implications for SEO and website traffic in general. This means that for ToFu MoFu BoFo marketing – things like site loading speed and mobile friendliness can be huge.

Here’s how.

Google introduced a mobile-friendly update as part of its ranking algorithm back in 2015. This meant that having a mobile friendly website was now a crucial part of SEO marketing – and the sites with mobile UI would be way better suited for mobile search engine rankings.

Mobile friendliness is a pretty complex concept that encapsulates a lot of issues for web design, but it can include things like:

  • Text that is not too small for mobile devices
  • Proper meta viewport tags
  • Avoiding content that’s not too wide
  • Avoiding buttons that are too close together
  • And faster page load speed

Google has confirmed that site speed (a measure of the loading speed for a sample of pages) is a ranking factor for websites – and in 2020 it also introduced it’s new “core web vitals” (or CWV) to further push better user experience SEO. The core web vitals are designed to algorithmically favor websites with better loading experience, speed, and UX in search rankings.

This can have big implications for ToFu MoFu BoFu marketing, since these are experience based metrics that can help prevent frustrated customers from leaving an otherwise terrible website. In fact, for bottom-of-the-funnel marketing, improving page load times and UI can make it way easier to finally complete that transaction.

Afterall, Google’s own data suggests that longer page load times have negative effects on bounce-rate and visitor retention:

  • As page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, bounce rate increases 32%.
  • If page load time increases from 1 second to 6 seconds, bounce rate increases by 106%.

Learn More

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