December 1, 2021 | Sean Foo
If you take a look at your browsing history, chances are, the majority of the websites there probably came from a Google search with you asking a question.
You likely were searching for answers to a problem you wanted to solve and landed on a piece of content that gave you what you needed.
While you didn’t buy anything immediately from the brand that published that content, you are now aware that they exist – and that is the main objective of top of the funnel (TOFU) content!
It drives visitors to the beginning stages of the buyer’s journey in your marketing funnel.
It introduces your brand to your target audience and is the very first step in a journey towards converting a fraction of them into paying customers.
Your mission here is to gather as much attention from the right audience to fill up your funnel to the brim with targeted traffic.
Let your bottom of the funnel content handle the conversions.
But that is only half of the story when it comes to top of the funnel (TOFU) content – they fulfil another important function of helping your website to bring in prospects with commercial intent who are ready to buy!
Top of the funnel (TOFU) content is content that targets potential customers who are at the beginning of your buyer’s journey.
They are still at the awareness phase and are far from making a buying decision.
While many digital campaigns focus on driving immediate leads through pay-per-click and ad campaigns on Google and Facebook, that strategy is costly and bottom of the funnel leads can easily dry up.
TOFU content is at the backbone of effective content marketing.
It allows you to reach and engage a wide pool of prospects that are actively searching for answers and information and then start filtering out who might actually be interested in learning more about your products or services.
TOFU content is all about informing, engaging and helping readers solve their problems.
Ideally, after reading your TOFU content, your readers should be:
While your TOFU content’s primary purpose is to fill your marketing funnel to the brim with potential customers, there are four goals you need to constantly assess to determine if your content is hitting home runs or missing the mark.
Gathering attention is but the first step – you need to be generating leads & beefing up your website’s authority at the same time!
TOFU content’s first and foremost objective is to drive the right visitors that aligns with your business and what you are offering.
You want to cast a net broad enough to bring in a big amount of audience (especially for the peripheral benefits that we’ll cover in a bit) as well as niche enough that it targets readers that are a perfect fit for what you are selling.
To accomplish this you need to first establish your content marketing mission statement by answering these 5 questions:
A. Who are my ideal readers I am creating content for?
B. What information am I going to provide?
C. The benefits my content will deliver
D. The big goals that my readers care about
E. Where they are located
You want to eventually arrive at a solid statement that will guide you through the selection of topics for your TOFU content and during the content creation process as well.
Here’s a template of what it will look like:
So for example, if you are running a coffee delivery subscription service, your content mission statement could be:
“Our content provides businesses in San Francisco with tips on how to accomplish more in a day to help them drive productivity in their office & employees.”
To better help establish your content marketing mission statement, be sure to check out our buyer persona guides to help you flesh out your target audience:
Are your readers searching for the topics you are covering?
A big mistake is to tackle topics that might seem cool and relevant to you – but no one is actively searching for!
Let’s say I am looking to write an article about buying a home in the United States, by using a keyword tool (Ahrefs in this case), I will be able to find specific topics with a validated audience.
Immediately I can tackle lower difficulty topics for quick wins such as:
Remember to do some competitor research and investigate the top-ranking search results for each topic you are interested to rank for. Determine:
1. The format and structure of the content being presented (eg. Top 10 tips, Ultimate Guide, Examples of…etc)
2. The length and depth of the content (eg. Can I create something more comprehensive?)
3. The angle and argument of the content (eg. Should I take an opposing view?)
The immediate goal of your TOFU content is not to drive conversions just yet. I mean if it happens – hurrah!
But more likely than not, you’ll need to firstly convert readers into leads and then nurture them over time into paying customers.
To do this, your primary goal should be to get them to enter your content ecosystem.
This can be subscribing to your website’s email list or YouTube channel – whatever the case, you want to have a 1-on-1 direct communication line with them so that you can start building a relationship with them.
To accomplish this, you need your content to stand out by adding immense value to your audience.
This means creating content that is engaging, actionable, visual and most importantly useful.
Gary Vee’s 270-page deck on how to create 64 pieces of content in a day is an example of a fantastic piece of TOFU content that has garnered millions of views across multiple platforms from his blog to Slideshare and LinkedIn.
As Andy Crestodina mentioned, a big misconception is the idea that readers of your blog posts will start from a blog post and move down towards your product and services page before converting into a customer.
While that does occur from time to time, it is exceptionally rare as these readers do not have commercial intent. They are there to get the information that they need and not to buy.
However, the real conversions happen from people who intentionally search for and land on your ‘money pages’ – product and services pages.
And this is where TOFU content really shines in helping your money pages rank for those sweet commercial keywords!
It takes links to build your website’s domain authority and realistically, no one will link to service or product pages.
You’re selling something after all and not providing value!
By creating content that is highly shareable and backed up by original research, you can create link-worthy content.
Every link you earn on your TOFU content (such as blog posts) will help make your overall website, including your service pages, more authoritative and likely to rank higher for your commercial keywords.
Blog posts are the staple of TOFU content that targets potential customers still in the awareness phase of the marketing funnel.
An effective blog post targets a topic, be it broad or niche, that your readers are actually searching for and interested to learn more about.
Ideally, you want your blog post to educate and inform your readers to the point that they:
However, due to blogging forming the backbone of most brands’ content marketing strategy, you’ll need to step up your game to stand a chance to compete and rank well on search engines.
This means adhering to tried & true blogging best practices including conducting original research, utilizing statistics and crafting enticing headlines to draw in the clicks.
Blog post examples
Close’s piece on closing sales better is a perfect example of top of the funnel blog post content that adds immense value to readers.
As a sales SaaS platform, they tackle big topics that their readers are keen to learn more about – with a validated audience of 3,000 searching for the keyword ‘Sales Strategies’ every month.
The article is engaging, fleshed out with a wealth of examples and backed up by statistics to add credibility to the tips and advice given.
What we love about the content is how they link sales concepts to popular TV shows to draw analogies on concepts that would otherwise take paragraphs to explain
Sometimes, the best way to blog is to tell a story that truly resonates with your readers.
Groove did just that with their intimate blog post on how they were failing in their SaaS startup and the things they were doing wrong – a true concern for most startup founders.
Through a heartfelt narrative, they took a storytelling approach and touched on key pivotal moments that almost led to the end of their business.
What’s interesting is the sharing of key details of what went wrong and more importantly their thought process of how they came to the solution that solved their problem.
Plus they ended the article on a cliffhanger – directly interested readers towards another blog post where they go through how they turned potential tragedy into a smashing success!
There are many ways to resonate with your readers and sometimes taking a storytelling approach is just as effective as the standard ‘how-to’ guides.
The key is to understand the challenges facing your readers and drill deep into the best format to gain their attention and solve their problems.
One of the best ways to capture attention, generate valuable backlinks and garner shares socially is by adding infographics into your TOFU content arsenal.
After all, an astounding 65% of buyers are visual learners.
Whether it is to showcase statistics, break down a complex idea or present a compelling narrative, an infographic is an invaluable tool every content marketer needs.
When using infographics, be sure to follow a few best practices to maximise your efforts and investment including:
The story of gold and silver can get complex and explaining its timeline is best displayed visually.
Goldsilver published a wonderfully informative infographic on the history of money and currency in the USA, in a visually appealing manner that is easily understood.
Much better than a 3,000-word long blog post!
When it comes to showcasing lots of statistics, especially in the B2B marketing realm, infographics are powerful devices to present your argument coherently while retaining your audience’s attention.
Paypal’s infographic on the shift to digital selling presents a compelling argument by showcasing vast amounts of information visually that is easy to digest.
The best infographics aren’t just informative or merely well-designed. They are native to the topic for maximum storytelling power.
Salesforce’s infographic on Whatsapp for business doesn’t just tell the facts or showcase numbers, they immerse the audience into what a sales conversation might actually be like.
Infographics are amazing pieces of TOFU content and their usefulness doesn’t just stop at publishing them on your company’s LinkedIn or Facebook page.
They can be easily distributed across sharing sites such as Pinterest or on other 3rd party websites that choose to showcase it to their audience – plus, you’re more likely to get a backlink as well!
Blog articles are good and while it is the backbone of many B2B TOFU content strategies, video content is fast taking over.
In fact, by 2022, online videos will comprise of over 83% of all consumer internet traffic in the United States and even within Google search, 62% of searches include a video from YouTube.
YouTube videos are fast becoming the next frontier to simultaneously build awareness while garnering an audience – as long as you can please the algorithm gods!
With video, you’ll be able to break down complex topics, introduce storytelling and are perfect for tutorials.
Just be sure to analyze your audience to determine if the majority of their information gathering is done through text or video – it all depends on your niche and customers!
YouTube video examples
While the topic of SEO has been done to death through blog posts, many readers still have difficulties understanding the concepts and how to implement them strategically & in a step-by-step manner.
That’s where Ahrefs’s YouTube videos come into play!
They cover a multitude of hot SEO topics in an interactive and instructional manner that engages the audience searching for them.
The beauty of YouTube is the ability to touch on topics that are tangential (loosely related) to your main content pillars that otherwise won’t make sense on a blog post.
Slidebean, a SaaS pitch deck builder, chose YouTube as their main top of the funnel content platform to reach a wider audience than just blogging on the standard SEO-driven topics their competitors were already doing.
By identifying their core audience, startup founders & aspiring entrepreneurs, they could effectively cast a wide and engaging net by creating videos that revolved around interesting businesses, industry trends and start-up challenges.
All in an interesting mini-documentary format mixed in with personal experiences from Slidebean’s founder, Caya.
When it comes to B2C TOFU content, YouTube videos reign supreme.
They give brands the ability to create viral videos that can rake in the millions of views that are essential for B2C brands looking to build awareness.
Red Bull’s YouTube channel is an amazing example of video TOFU content done right when you intimately know what your brand stands for and what your audience seeks – in this case, the spirit of adventure, dare-devil experiences and a sense of freedom.
If you rely only on blogging content, you might be missing out on a world of opportunities to better reach your ideal audience.
It is, after all, the world’s biggest search engine besides Google!
The key here is to treat the platform just as you would with blogging – you need to find out what works, what your audience is searching for and how to carve a niche that is engaging to your viewers while enticing them to subscribe for more.
When we do a search, we are looking for a solution to our problems – and the majority of good content provides a roadmap to help the reader reach their end goal.
But what if you can immediately give them the answer? Straight to the end goal without wasting time teaching them the entire concept.
Let’s face it, if I want to calculate compound interest on my mortgage loan, I just want the figure of how much I have to pay monthly and not a math lesson!
Implementing this is simple – just find a common problem that your audience has, something essential where they just want the answer, and create a tool to satisfy that need!
Let’s take a look at some real-world examples of online tools that are perfect TOFU content that trump even the best blog posts or videos, especially when it comes to attracting backlinks.
Online tools examples
For many SEO and online marketers, understanding how authoritative your website is in the eyes of Google is crucial to benchmark if your website will outperform your competitors…
…and if not, how much more work is necessary.
To determine this, understanding your website’s domain rating authority is necessary.
Moz does this perfectly with their website authority checker, a tool that immediately analyses any website’s domain and spits out its domain authority.
The tool is so popular that it attracts tens of thousands of visitors every single month!
Another great example is Grammarly’s Grammar Check tool that immediately analyzes any spelling, grammatical, punctuation and misused words while providing corrective suggestions!
Essentially, they took one of the core features of their paid solution and turned it into a tool that everyone can use for free.
While creating your very own online tool or kit might involve additional investment, it is a powerful piece of content that not only brings invaluable traffic, it can show audiences what your brand can do.
If your product or service can be broken down into individual parts that help solve a bigger problem, you can always take a feature and repurpose it into an online tool.
If that isn’t possible, then identify a problem that the majority of your audience face and create a tool that solves the problem – it doesn’t have to be complex, just handy and useful!
Sometimes there are tasks that can get complicated and a lengthy blog post could be too overwhelming.
In this case, you want to provide your reader with a checklist!
Instead of a content piece of “How To Decorate Your Living Room”, a checklist content piece – “15 Decorations To Buy For An Impressive Living Room” is far more compelling to click and structure in its presentation.
Checklists are powerful content pieces that are straight to the point, well-segmented and can be turned into both written and visual formats such as an infographic & even a video format.
It leads your reader down a step-by-step process that is both simple to understand as well as provides enough information to get the job done.
Preparing your Airbnb listing isn’t easy, there are a ton of things to prepare and essentials to buy to attract the best guests to your home.
Kin understands this and creates a simple host checklist in the form of blog posts that guides readers through exactly what to prepare for each room without any excessive details.
Checklists can also come in the form of ultimate guides, especially for challenges such as how to pack for your study abroad adventure.
Gooverseas uses the checklist idea to create a full guide that brings readers through, in a step-by-step manner of the essentials to pack as well as what not to pack.
What’s more, the checklist format allows them to create a short and snappy TLDR summary at the start!
Checklists can be both a way of structuring your content in blog posts or turning them into actual checklists in the form of infographics.
Furthermore, you can even turn the actual set of checklists into downloadable content as part of your lead generation efforts for TOFU content, like how CoSchedule does!
TOFU content isn’t just restricted to blog posts or infographics that are solely published on your website.
Social media posts are some of the most effective top of the funnel content that can capture attention with the potential of being shared socially.
Whether your social channel is Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn, social media posts should be native to the platform.
Social posts should be bite-sized and snackable content that gets to the point in a concise manner – plus it doesn’t hurt to be witty at the same time!
Social posts examples
Apart from Dollar Shave Club’s blog, the world-famous men’s grooming brand has amassed a Facebook following of over 3.5 million fans – all thanks to their engaging, wacky and witty social media posts.
Not only do the humorous posts reflect what the brand stands for as well, but they also spur engagements with their community through their edgy and lighthearted content!
Sometimes, you can even integrate your product into your social posts when done in a slick and tasteful way.
Steinway piano does this by showcasing their piano being played on their Facebook social posts, allowing the music of their instrument to be the content itself.
Not only do their audience listen to an enchanting musical piece, but they also get to sample what the product (the piano itself) can deliver, making it an effective content marketing post.
Every brand has to have a social media presence and that means creating the right social posts that will drive attention while being highly shareable.
The best way is to trigger emotions, create the highest quality design possible, use compelling copy and tell a story that connects.
Creating a podcast is probably last on the list of most marketers.
After all, why not start with the tried and true method of blogging & YouTubing?
We heard you, but podcasts are growing fast with 75% of listeners looking to learn something new and over 90% listening from the comfort of their own home – making it the ideal platform to reach your audience and build a connection.
Truth be told, I prefer to listen to podcasts instead of music – even while working out in the gym!
Whether you are looking to do an interview show or be the main star of your podcast sharing your experiences, this guide will help you get started on the right track.
If you have heard of Tim Ferriss (the man with a thousand talents), you’d probably have heard of his podcast – The Tim Ferriss Show.
Done in an interview format, Tim talks with some of the world’s top business people, entrepreneurs and icons, covering a whole host of topics that inspires and educates his audience to live their best life.
You might be thinking, are podcasts just meant for general audiences?
Nope! Remember, podcasts are about delivering value and education – especially for the B2B crowd as well.
The Rework Podcast, a collaboration between Basecamp & Hey, is a podcast all about how to run your business better and is targeted at entrepreneurs & business owners.
In each episode, Jason & David talk about business and draw upon decades of experience as successful entrepreneurs, giving priceless lessons and advice to their audience.
Starting a podcast is a challenging (but rewarding) endeavor that requires you to develop and hone a spectrum of skills, from interviewing and strategy to scripting and training your podcast voice.
It isn’t for everyone but if you embark on it and knock it out of the park, you’ll unlock a powerful content channel that builds a loyal following like no other!
When it comes to building authority and influencing an audience, especially in the B2B world, thought leadership is by far the best type of content.
A thought leadership article goes beyond just a piece that is useful and value-adds to the reader. It challenges their perspectives, influences their decision-making and takes a clear stand on the issue at hand.
Done right, you’ll not just build an audience that hangs at your every word as an expert, you’ll unlock networking opportunities – especially with readers in C-suite.
Thought leadership examples
An example of a thought leadership piece is the timeless ‘Here’s How I Did It’ story of success.
Denise Persson of Snowflake shares her thoughts, approaches and journey of how she grew the company from obscurity to over $100 million.
By sharing her strategies, mindset and unique perspectives, she helps readers with actionable insights they can implement in their quest to scale their company.
LinkedIn is one of the most effective platforms to share your thought leadership articles at.
Gary Vee shares tidbits of wisdom through his thought-leadership writing. He addresses a key challenge most business leaders face – how to become better leaders for their employees.
He shares actual strategies that he implements daily in his business to create a truly helpful article backed up by real-world experience and not just some pie in the sky theories.
While the benefits of thought leadership content are vast, you need to make sure you meet the criteria to develop an impactful piece while being taken seriously.
If you can answer these three questions confidently, then go forth and start writing!
Sometimes an article just can’t cover a particular topic well enough – this is where whitepapers & reports come in.
The unique selling proposition of whitepaper and reports is to provide content and information that can’t be found anywhere else – and that means conducting original research to truly add value.
This can be done through:
Whitepaper & report examples
Hubspot, for example, releases a yearly report on the state of content marketing where they go through the different content strategies for various platforms, from Google search to social media and email.
What makes this research so valuable to readers is the amount of work that went into it:
Shutterstock’s yearly Creative Trends is another great example of a report done right.
They don’t just dictate what the year’s visual and design trends are, they analyze a wealth of user data and search terms to determine the upcoming trends that are forming on the horizon.
By combining beautiful visuals, motion pictures and a creative presentation, the report is a visual treat to both creative experts and casual observers.
One key advantage of reports is the ability to attract tons of backlinks, especially if you have original research packed with statistics.
Be sure to dress up your report nicely and present your statistics prominently to allow readers to quickly identify them and fully appreciate their importance and impact.
Best of all, you can easily chop up and repurpose elements of your report into multiple different content pieces – from blog posts to visual infographics!
Now that you know the best formats for the top of the funnel content, how do you ensure maximum results every time you hit the publish button?
Let’s quickly recall what the end goals of TOFU content are:
Here are 5 tactics to implement to drive better results for your content.
A compelling call to action here is simply giving something of value to the reader of your content in exchange for their email.
One great way is to link your TOFU content to lead magnets such as gated ebooks.
Close, for example, located their ebook lead magnet on sales negotiation mid-way through their blog post on how to close a sale. Making it a highly effective and relevant resource that readers would probably be interested in.
Sometimes the simplest tactic can yield the greatest results.
The majority of the traffic that comes from TOFU content would consume your article and leave once they got what they need – it’s 100% natural.
That means if you locate your email subscription form directly in every blog post, you’ll stand the biggest chance of converting readers who truly enjoy your content into subscribers who will want more.
Shopify understands this and makes it ultra-convenient for their readers to subscribe to their email list by locating it at the beginning of every blog post.
Internal links serve two key purposes for your TOFU blog posts and content.
Firstly, it helps your reader navigate to other areas and content on your website, allowing them to venture deeper into your website.
Secondly, it allows Google to better find and index your content while establishing relationships, relevance & hierarchy between the different topics you covered.
A great way to do this is through the topic clusters strategy where you determine a pillar content topic and connect it to the smaller cluster content that it mentions.
These are called contextual links that are topically related.
Be sure to internal link the following:
One of the biggest mistakes when publishing written content on your website is to leave them isolated and at the mercy of the SEO gods.
Don’t do that!
A good way to amplify your article’s reach is to promote them socially on your channels including Facebook and LinkedIn.
Take Semrush’s LinkedIn page, for example, they regularly distribute their blog content through social posts.
By repurposing the meat of the content native to LinkedIn, they create both a standalone piece of social content as well as one that serves as a good introduction to the main blog post.
What gets measured, improves.
The end goal for top of the funnel is to drive as many targeted visitors to your website and convert the most amount into leads that you can nurture down the line.
However, if you are starting from scratch, results could take months and you’d want to know if you are on the right track.
That’s why it is crucial to measure both vanity & actionable metrics at the same time.
Vanity metrics include:
Monitoring these metrics will allow you to determine how your content is performing in the short term and if you are gaining traction or not.
While actionable metrics include:
Tracking these actionable metrics will allow you to ultimately determine if your TOFU content is driving business results or not.
Think of your content marketing efforts like building a castle and your TOFU content as the bedrock where you construct it.
If the foundation is shaky, the rest of your structure might collapse.
Your top of the funnel content is the gateway for audiences to discover and learn more about your brand and without driving quality attention, the rest of your marketing funnel is moot.
With compelling and engaging TOFU content, you’ll be able to build a readership, accelerate your lead generation and establish an authoritative website that allows you to compete!
Looking for more resources on how to create your content marketing plan from scratch?
Be sure to check out these two guides, especially if you are running a SaaS company:
Need help with your TOFU content creation or want to develop your very own content strategy?
We can help!
Simply drop us a note here and we’ll be in touch.