Well researched, planned and implemented sales funnels can simultaneously boost traffic and increase conversions and revenue to make more money for blogs and businesses alike.
A sales funnel represents all the stages 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.
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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:
From an online perspective, a better name for the sales funnel would be the conversion funnel, since not all websites earn revenue by selling products (i.e. blogs).
For example, revenue from Google ads and affiliate links can be considered sales. Getting people to follow you on Twitter or sign up to a newsletter 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.
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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
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.
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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:
- Identify a goal (sometimes called a business objective) such as making an affiliate sale
- Create relevant content
- Provide clear direction, with little distraction, to the next stage
- Make converting simple, easy to understand, and fast
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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.
Sales Funnels in the Real World
Offhand, you 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 potentially more valuable 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.
Consider the case of a webmaster trying to earn money from affiliate marketing.
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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 one, maybe two, 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.
Sales Funnel Secret #5
Widen the sales funnel by growing a large, profitable audience using inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing doesn't push advertising onto customers. Instead, it draws in customers by providing engaging content.
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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 page.
People find a landing page, 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:
- You avoid Google algorithm penalties
- You create many on-topic landing posts to drive traffic
- Landing page readers are funneled to conversion posts
- 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.
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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:
Here's a screenshot of the visitor flow through that page:
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.
Over time this sales funnel generates thousands of dollars in what becomes, essentially, passive income.
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?