Sales funnels for bloggers. Pic by Adrian Hon

Sales Funnels 101 (for Bloggers)

Disclosure: Just so you know, we may sometimes earn a small commission from affiliate links on this site.

Are you trying to come up with a way to maximize conversions and sales from your blog? A proper sales funnel can help, big time.

Take some time to plan out proper, strategic sales funnels for various conversion goals to increase ROI (Return on Investment) and make more money from your content.

A sales funnel represents the steps required for a visitor to convert - from finding content via Google search, or on social media, to reading an article, to signing up for a newsletter or purchasing a product.

They are often represented diagrammatically as a way to show each stage and the number of people at each stage in the process. There are more complex examples, but I like this one from AdEspresso because it closely models the sales funnel for a blog:

Standard sales funnel

From a blogging perspective, a better name for the sales funnel would be the conversion funnel, since bloggers don't necessarily earn revenue by selling products. For example, revenue from Google ads and affiliate links can be considered sales. Getting people to follow you on Twitter, Google+ or other social media, sign up to a newsletter or get your feed can also be considered a sale because these lead to revenue further down the line.

Identifying sales funnels

It's important to understand that different goals or objectives can have completely different sales funnels. Most sites want to do the following:

  • Get traffic from organic search
  • Get traffic from social media
  • Sign people up to a newsletter
  • Get followers and fans on social media sites
  • Get people to consume an RSS feed
  • Make money from advertising
  • Make money from affiliate links
  • Sell stuff - subscriptions, eBooks, etc

Each of these goals require a different marketing strategy in order to maximize ROI. However, the first two don't really require a funnel because the marketing strategy for getting more traffic (from organic search or social media) is to create great content.

Every aspect of marketing, conversions and making money is based on a foundation of great content.

But each of the remaining goals does require a specialized marketing strategy. Before we look at a specific example, let's quickly look at the general strategy behind creating a great sales funnel.

Sales funnel design strategy

In order for a funnel to be effective, it has to be focused. People who come across a post (regardless of where they enter the funnel) should be skillfully directed to a specific conversion point.

In order to do that, each piece of content needs to be written with specific targets in mind. A post that is not really relevant, has no call to action, or doesn't engage and inspire readers is not going to be effective in pushing people to the next stage of the funnel.

In general, the strategy behind creating a sales funnel for a specific conversion on your blog goes like this:

  1. Identify a goal (sometimes called business objectives) such as making an affiliate sale
  2. Create relevant content
  3. Provide clear direction, with little distraction, to the next stage
  4. Make converting simple, easy to understand, and fast

By keeping this general strategy in mind whenever you create an article, you will find that, over time, each business objective (conversion point) on your blog builds up a body of highly focused content that directs readers expertly and efficiently to that conversion.

Real world considerations

Offhand, many bloggers might be wondering why a sales funnel is necessary at all. After all, anyone reading a post will most likely be able to see a newsletter signup block, a social sharing block, and so on.

That's true; and certainly, having all these conversion points on each post helps to pick up the easy conversions - the low hanging fruit. But an article crowded with links, graphics and ads is not focused and will also miss out on plenty of conversions.

Not everyone is going to buy an expensive product or service because they stumbled across a blog post. But they may convert if they are directed to a more focused one that provides exactly the information they need - i.e they are pushed into a strategic sales funnel.

Why funnels are necessary

Consider the case of a blogger trying to earn money from affiliate marketing:

It's not advisable to add affiliate links to each and every post. Google doesn't like content with lots of paid links. Adding affiliate links to every article will likely result in some sort of Google algorithm penalty that will decimate organic search traffic volumes and hurt every sales funnel - not just the affiliate conversions.

The answer is to set up a strategic sales funnel for affiliate conversions.

Implementing a sales funnel

Instead of pasting affiliate links everywhere, risking the wrath of Google's Panda algorithm in the process, it is far better to create a few highly focused articles (I'll call them conversion posts) that contain a few affiliate links.

Google has nothing against internal links from one post to another. This means you can write as many unique articles in, on and around the topics of those conversion posts, and link to them in order to funnel traffic towards a conversion.

Since the purpose of this content is to attract traffic before passing it off to a conversion post, we can call this type of post a landing post.

People find a landing post, get directed to a conversion post where they are far more likely to click on an affiliate link (because this is a highly focused post that they have explicitly requested to read).

The net result is that:

  1. You avoid Google algorithm penalties
  2. You create many on-topic landing posts to drive traffic
  3. Landing post readers are pushed to conversion posts
  4. Conversion posts enjoy a high CTR (Click Thru Rate) because the traffic they receive is highly relevant

You now have a strategic sales funnel for those specific affiliate links.

Sales funnel demo

We use sales funnels all the time. Sometimes the funnel is long and requires people on the fringe of a purchase to go through a number of steps before they are ready to convert. Others are ready to convert when they arrive at a specific page (assuming Google has matched the search with the correct content - something you can't take for granted).

A good example comes from one of our forum answers that was incorporated into our beginner guide on How to Make a Website

This is a common question that many new webmasters are looking for information on before they buy. SEO is just one consideration and there are many others, but it's a waste not to treat this peripheral question as part of a sales funnel (since people reaching this page are likely thinking about using a website builder).

We added a few visible calls to action to the answer (which includes quite a bit of in-depth research and information about built-in SEO features of each of the major website builders) that directs people to a free, step-by-step setup guide that helps them get over the initial learning curve a bit quicker:

Visible calls to action as part of the sales funnel

Here's a screenshot of the visitor flow through that page:

Mapping visitor flow through a webpage

As you can see, the vast majority of people clicking through go to one of our four website setup guides. These guides are all conversion points for us because if users do end up starting a website with one of the platforms we provided guidance on there is a small affiliate commission captured.

Have you set up strategic sales funnels to improve conversions on your blog? Has knowing about, and implementing funnels, helped you to make more money? What advice would you share about how best to drive traffic to convert?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Almost all businesses that have researched Internet marketing strategies are aware that high quality, engaging and relevant content is one of the best ways to drive valuable organic Web traffic.

The problem is that many people don't have the time or patience to build up a good base of content via blogging.

So what's the alternative?

Learn how to write a blog. Pic by icatus

Learning how to blog is an important business skill that can increase page rankings in Google and bring plenty of traffic to your website.

Genuine bloggers and businesses use high quality articles to build high page rankings in Google and generate plenty of valuable organic search traffic.

The problem is that the better the content, the more likely it is that others will duplicate, copy, or spin those articles and publish them on their own sites (without permission or attribution).

Most of the time this is not an issue because low quality, article spinning sites generally tend not to rank well in Google search results.

No blog traffic. Pic by stefanos papachristou

If you're creating great content on regular basis, but not driving traffic or engaging new customers then you need to understand what to change, before expending additional resources.

To paint the picture: there are millions of bloggers, social media marketers, content marketers, startups, entrepreneurs, affiliate marketers, you name it, all creating content. There simply aren't enough eyeballs to consume all this content, so most bloggers and businesses aren't succeeding.

Reach out to influencers to grow your blog. Pic by uncoolbob

If you're blogging regularly, using SEO, sharing content socially, sending out newsletters, marketing, and doing everything right without success, then I've

Video blogging (adding clips to a blog) can help to drive traffic, lower bounce rate, increase engagement and conversions, and generally improve SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Internet marketing.

Video blogging also provides plenty of "different" marketing opportunities that written content can't - because it is a rich medium for communication.

Bloggers who rely on written content only may find their rankings in search engines suffering as Google continues to include more and more video results (especially from YouTube) in its organic search results.

Proof that business blogging works. Pic by nicoleec

The vast majority (in the region of 95%) of all sites and blogs ever created fail to make any money at all - let alone a profit.

Blogging traffic tips. Pic by duncan c

A lot of popular blogging techniques have died out as Google's search algorithms (and the rise of social media) have changed the content landscape of the Internet.

For startups and small businesses utilizing blogging as part of their content marketing strategy, keeping tabs on industry best practices can be a bit like trying to herd cats.

As a result, unfortunately, many people find themselves swimming upstream as their content fails to capture high rankings in search results, generates little to no buzz, and generally offers little to no return on investment (ROI).

Choosing the most profitable topics that target valuable keywords to drive lots of juicy organic search traffic is quite hard - especially when you factor in

Start blogging

Blogging works! It doesn't matter if you are a college student thinking about making extra pocket money, or a entrepreneur looking to promote your brand.

It also doesn't matter what topic you decide to write about, provided it is a relevant to your niche and something you are passionate about and interested in.

Starting a blog is exciting, but it is also a medium to long term commitment (if you want to derive any real benefit from it), but if you have the drive to succeed there's no better time to start.

why sharing content is bad for business

Content syndication (sharing stuff with permission) can be a great way for small businesses to get more website traffic.

Convincing bloggers to promote your company

Blogger outreach and PR is difficult - I've read a lot of How to articles and guides that say stuff like "Get bloggers to review your site or product", or, "Get as many backlinks from other bloggers as possible".

So everyone knows what to do, but no-one's talking about how to do it. In fact, gathering backlinks is often time consuming, ineffective and infuriating.

Hands up anyone who has spent several hours emailing other bloggers asking them to take a second to look over your new [blog/site/product/service/article/video] and gotten almost no response. It happens all the time.