How-to content drives most traffic and leads across marketing funnel

September 10, 2020 by Aimee

How-to content is the top-performing format for attracting traffic and generating leads at the top and middle of the marketing funnel, according to a new survey of B2C and B2B professionals released this week by SEMrush.

The ‘Anatomy of a Powerful Marketing Funnel’ report collates the insights and expertise of 350 employees at small, medium and large-sized companies around the world, with the aim of defining marketing funnel characteristics.

The study found that content marketing is being used across the entire marketing funnel but that the awareness phase at the top of the funnel (TOFU) is still the most popular overall. 95% of marketers said that they now create content for the TOFU, compared to 86% for the middle and 76% for the bottom.

While TOFU gets the most attention, the study noted that 87% of marketers “rely on content” across the entire customer cycle and that articles, blogs and videos are expected to peak customer interest, relay product and service details, and close sales.

Marketers turn to various formats to get the job done, but there is one content type that is driving results and ROI consistently. Three quarters of respondents said that the how-to guide is the top performer for attracting traffic, putting it ahead of landing pages (35%) and infographics (28%).

SEMrush noted that while infographics are behind how-tos, the short, eye-catching and digestible format is particularly adept at helping visitors to make sense of the problem they are facing and determining the best way to solve it.

When assessing the impact of content at the TOFU, 73% of marketers rely on the ‘number of visitors’ metric, while 54% and 52% keep track of ‘conversion rate’ and ‘time on page’, respectively.

Organic search is also the best channel for driving traffic at this stage, with 70% of respondents saying that it is the most efficient, ahead of social media marketing (60%) and email marketing (54%).

What is perhaps surprising is that further along the funnel, how-to guides remain the top performer. 44% of respondents said that how-tos are crucial for generating leads at the middle of the funnel (MOFU), though product overviews (40%) and case studies (34%) are not far behind.

For nurturing leads during this phase, 43% are using success stories in addition to product overviews and case studies, highlighting how content formats can be tweaked slightly to achieve certain objectives.

Channels are also optimised. 69% said that organic search is best for generating leads, but for nurturing leads, search takes more of a back seat with 28% compared to the 72% that deploy email marketing to follow up and engage with leads.

At the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), marketers are set on closing a sale and make liberal use of product overviews (51%) and customer reviews (49%) to drive payments. Email marketing is the most efficient channel here, and ‘conversion rate’ is the most tracked metric for success.

The study also looked at the way that marketers build a funnel. For research, 88% are conducting analysis of keywords and 73% of competitors. Finally, the primary challenge when building a funnel is crafting content that drives quality leads (52%).