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We use models as tools to describe and understand things, to simplify them into something we can get our linear minds wrapped around. But they aren’t reality.
Same with models of search intent. “Informational” should correspond to “top of funnel” content and fat-head (short) keyword phrases. “Commercial” intent should correspond to “bottom of funnel.”
This is a useful heuristic as far as it helps us organize our content and thoughts:
- “positioning meaning” “what is positioning”
- “types of positioning” “books on positioning”
- “how to position myself for clients”
- “positioning for freelance graphic designers”
- “positioning consultant for independent creatives”
The idea with this search intent model is that the longer and more specific the query, the more the user knows what they are looking for, the further on a linear path they go from learning what positioning is, to types, to options for exercises to self-direct, to how much options like consulting or coaching or courses cost, to similar paid option comparisons and reviews, to salivating at ultimately making a purchase.
If we are taking an inventory of the hundred articles we have on positioning, TOFU/MOFU/BOFU and search intent models are useful because they prompt us to consider things like:
- where am I strongest?
- where are the gaps?
- am I drawing logical connections between content for users to get around?
- ultimately, where do we fall short on matching the intent (read: meeting the needs) of users with these problems?
With this model, we can do keyword research and say, “You know, other sites spend a lot of time talking about positioning statements, and ~1,200 people are searching it each month.”
Does that mean you don’t have enough “top of funnel” content? That you need a 4k word positioning statement guide?
Maybe, but not necessarily. Those could all be MBA students looking for the same answer to some end of chapter textbook question.
This is where you as the expert come in – if you’ve never put down an authoritative perspective on positioning statements, you see others are missing something important, and you think, “I have something to say here,” then by all means, share.
You can estimate what people want when they consume content that you’ve listed as being somewhere in some funnel and related search intent, but even Google isn’t good at that.
That’s why there is so much SERP (Google results) diversity. They try to make room to satisfy the various types of intent different users have searching the same things – informational intent with FAQs and knowledge panels, commercial intent with knowledge graph lists of similar things, related intent with “people also search” boxes.
An example of how bottom of funnel content can be top of funnel content, too: We were investigating conversion rate optimization (CRO) options for a mid-size ecommerce client two years back. We started by looking at software features comparing Optimizely and VWO. This was a purely informational top of funnel exercise we were conducting consuming what would by any standard be considered bottom of funnel content comparing products simply to better understand how competitors using these tools were handling CRO.
The point being that thinking about and organizing content as TOFU, MOFU, BOFU is meant to be a useful exercise.
Will following these models “open the floodgates of profitable traffic” to your site? Probably not.
But when you identify (and qualify) a gap, you see an opportunity to create something useful to your target audience, you have (or feel like you should have) something meaningful to say, then create that content, and put it in a proper context.
Because the more complex user journeys become, the more they look like an M.C. Escher 4d maze print than a linear funnel.
The more complex the journey, the more you need to make it easier for people to get around:
- a lobby where you can say, “start here,” or see our best work
- side doors to “related content,”
- supplemental navigation category pages curating topics for those looking to go in a specific direction