Understanding Intent Data: The Marketing Keyword Funnel

Posted on 25 Nov
understanding intent data - the keyword funnel

Intent data is different to most other martech right now. It’s newer, and people don’t understand it fully. That is why thinking about the keywords you track in the same way you Marketing funnel works is a helpful exercise.

Something we’re seeing all the time, is people using intent data and treating all of the leads very similarly. This usually emanates from needing a better understanding or visualization of the keywords if you imagined them in a funnel, instead of bad practice or lacking resources. For example, treating leads who share content on “sales development” the same as leads who engage with content on “SDR training” if you sell Sales Development training.

Equally, you’d engage with leads who are middle of the funnel in a different way to how you would top of the funnel leads. Intent data leads work in a very similar way, and require this similar mindset and approach.

So, let’s build out an example of the Marketing keyword funnel and explain how to categorize your own keywords:

Top of Funnel

Just the same as any Marketing funnel, the keywords that are related to your brand and services sit in this stage of the funnel. But how do you group these keywords?

For LeadSift, an example would be “lead generation”. It’s this higher level of general keyword that doesn’t describe a specific process or routine, tool or practice. You couldn’t justify sending someone who engaged with “lead generation” a case study about how X company used intent data to generate 5x pipeline. It’s the education piece you need to wire into your process with top of funnel leads.

We use our own data, so we’re not looking at these leads and thinking that they’re ready to talk about an intent data strategy. We’re thinking about educating them on how they can do things differently, how we can get that message over to them.

One key thing marketers are doing with this data is to review the common top of funnel keywords and then reviewing their content strategy based on what they’ve seen. If you’re pumping out tons of content on 1 topic but the data is saying there are 3 bigger topics your buyers are engaging with, these top of funnel keywords need to be more prevalent in your content strategy.

Think about:

  • Does the keyword describe the industry, the function that your buyers work in and on
  • Does the keyword describe at a basic level, what you do or what your service helps the buyer do
  • At a basic level, does the keyword have a lot of content and discussion happening around it? (I.E Marketing)

If yes to the above, you’re looking at a top of funnel keyword. These are people who are swimming around your fishing hook, not looking at the bait on the hook.

Middle of Funnel

Middle of funnel intent data leads need a little more education. It’s about passing relevant information and weaving in the ask. Not direct demo booking or anything too serious, like sharing extensive case studies.

For LeadSift, a middle of funnel keyword could be “better leads” or “higher qualified leads”. It’s not as vague as to say “lead generation” but not quite as specific as “intent data”. The question we would have to ask when looking at middle of the funnel leads looking at “better leads”, is what does that term really mean? Does it mean more qualified leads, or more information on the leads? Something else?

We’d then need to educate these leads on how they can get “better leads” and processes that could improve their leads. No case studies or demos would help these leads at this stage.

On the content side of things, middle of funnel keywords can help you work out which topics your downloadable content should be based around. Webinars, eBooks, cheat sheets and white papers – what are you creating content about? Are the topics you talk about resonating with your buyers? The data will tell you this. If you talk about the topics you see grossing in the data, you’re on target. There may be some surprises or experiments you will want to try, content you’ll want to try out.

Think about:

  • Does the keyword describe HOW a service or practice is carried out? (I.E Lead Scoring describes a part of how Marketing Automation works)
  • Does the keyword keyword correlate to a part of your offering and services, without directly describing it? (I.E Google Ads Console is part of PPC advertising)

These keywords require different attention. These leads are looking at the bait on your hook, you just need to make them realize why they want the bait.

Experiment with ads leading to top and middle of funnel resources you have in your Marketing weapon wheel. Ideally, you’ll be Marketing to them using different messaging and referencing pain points or goals you know these buyers are looking at and want to work on. They are not ready to see case studies or testimonials, as they’re looking at the solution to their problem or goal but not directly your solution just yet.

Bottom of Funnel

These leads are showing a direct interest in the solution we offer, they still may not be aware of us as an option so we need to start with some education. But we can assume they are aware of our solution, so we can use more specific language and messaging where-as top of funnel messaging needs to be less specific.  

So for LeadSift, a bottom of funnel keyword could be “intent data”. It directly describes our solution, which means the only information these bottom of the funnel leads now need is around how to apply “intent data”. Best practices, stats and numbers you can back up.

On the content side of things, this data can inform your case study material creation. Largely, the stories your customers have will dictate what case studies you create. But if you’re asking for the chance to do testimonials and case studies in future, look at the data. Bottom of funnel intent data tells you what buyers are thinking about before they pull the trigger.

  • Does the keyword describe an offering or process your services deliver?
  • If you saw a customer engaging with content around this keyword, would you think they’d be interested in using additional services from you?

These are the leads you need to tailor your messaging toward the most. Experiment with different value propositions and pain points, goals and ways to entice the lead into your list. For example, “custom landing page building” describes a part of a Landing Page or Marketing Automation software could offer. But your ad and messaging shouldn’t be “Custom landing page builder”… you already know the lead is looking at content like this.

So, what should you do to take them 1 level deeper into the topic? Show them something new, something to strive for. Tell the story of “How We 4x’d Our Landing Page Conversion with 1 Design Tweak”.

Show them how your custom builder allowed you to move the CTA on your landing page up to a new section of the page, and show the results before and after the change. Prove why the custom builder worked, without talking directly about it in the title of the content. People are going to be more receptive to how you did something related to the keyword. That’s opposed to using the keyword as the main pull to your content, in something like “How Our Custom Builder Gave Us 4x Landing Page Conversion” – good but it tells the lead nothing new!

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