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This week’s PPC Chat session was hosted by Julie F Bacchini which sheds light on the concept of the Funnel in PPC and which part of the funnel has been focused by PPCers for their PPC work and more.

Q1: How do you define “The Funnel” when you’re talking to clients about it or when you’re talking internally about it?


When speaking, I try to refer to “buyer journey” more than The Funnel these days. Concept is still awareness, consideration, decision/action, retention. @akaEmmaLouise

The funnel is mostly discussed in terms of customer mindset in relation to a conversion where: top of funnel = not ready to purchase yet, bottom of funnel = know what they want and are ready to purchase and all of the steps in between. @jlash_digital

After writing that I feel like we tend to discuss it solely in terms of digital in my world and within my team which arguably is incorrect but clients rarely give us enough data to do otherwise .@amaliaefowler

We define it as the stage the consumer is in of the conversion funnel, from “initial thought down to committed and planning to convert”. @JonKagan

I tend to define the funnel as steps in the process a potential customer will likely go through on their way to purchase.@NeptuneMoon

I’ve begun talking in terms of Demand Creation and Demand Capture. Almost 2 unique groups rather than a “funnel” per se. That is people we need to get interested, & people interested who we need to convert. Will be diff levels of intent in each tho.@PPCKirk

I think the key word @NeptuneMoon used was LIKELY. Hubspot recently suggested that marketing is more of a flywheel than a funnel. I think when we forget the “likely” part we force people into our funnel and create a bad experience. @markpgus

Whether right or not we define the funnel as the actions people will take from beginning to end of the buying process with that client in particular – from research to lead .@amaliaefowler

Funnel is a way to define the stages of the buyer journey, from awareness to decision.@Mel66

When it comes to the funnel, we tend to talk about the broader stages with clients (increasing brand awareness, drawing in possible customers, retargeting, getting a purchase/reservation, etc.). @marccxmedia

It’s a flawed but ultimately useful way to structure script, copy, or ad sequencing from 0 awareness to qualified sale. @ferkungamaboobo

We don’t really talk about the funnel beyond we need to convert some traffic with remarketing. The rest will be about prospecting. Top Conversion Path Report is pretty good if you like funnels in GA: @duanebrown

Funnel is a standard way of describing the tactics related to the customer journey. But as we all know customer journeys go all over the place and vary in length. @LisaSanner

I’ve begun talking in terms of Demand Creation and Demand Capture. Almost 2 unique groups rather than a “funnel” per se. That is people we need to get interested, & people interested who we need to convert. Will be diff levels of intent in each tho.@PPCKirk

For me, the funnel is the customer journey simplified. We know that a user starts not knowing anything about us and we hope they end up giving us lots of money. That process is simplified into an easy to understand funnel .@markpgus

I usually provide feedback on a lot of the marketing activities. The funnel extends from the first time you see the brand to years later with your 1,000th purchase. 😉 Just depends where you are talking to the customer on the message/purpose. @lchasse


Q2: Where is most of your PPC work focused – TOF (top of funnel), MOF (middle of funnel) and/or BOF (bottom of funnel)?


2010 PPC was 100% BOF focused.

2015 PPC was thinking about MOF.

2018- PPC is learning how valuable TOF is. <<<< my PPC marketing journey in a tweet (and a lot of what I’ve seen represented in the industry).@PPCKirk

BOF, not for lack of desire to fill the top of the funnel but because budgets and client understanding hamper the process. @amaliaefowler

It depends on the vertical, as pharma is heavy top of the funnel, everything else is mid funnel for search. Display is usually top of funnel but with better targeting we’re getting more mid funnel placements.@JonKagan

BOFU. If your conversion points don’t work then there’s no benefit of adding more users into your “funnel”.@AdamSeybold

We prefer to tie every strategy back to the ultimate revenue-driver for the company, so as much as we can connect ToFu/MoFu/BoFu together within the larger effort, it makes it easier on all of us (client included) and we’re able to make smarter decisions.@akaEmmaLouise

Pretty evenly balanced. Paid social is more TOF, search is more BOF.@Mel66

Based on where our conversions tend to come from keyword-wise, a mix of top and middle (maybe a little bottom, depending on how long-tail the keywords are). @marccxmedia

TBH more & more is focusing on MOF (or, as I prefer, MoFu) for increased reach. Not a lot of clients have saturated enough to go super ToFu and most have already figured out BoFu by the time they get to us. So MoFu is the “low-hanging fruit” for growth in many cases.@akaEmmaLouise

For us, this one depends on the client/budget. We are always more concerned in getting middle funnel optimized and testing with high funnel. Trying to get as much lower funnel as we can. @360vardi

I also think you need to cover you BOF in PPC (search) before you start focussing on the TOF. Would be sad if you are only visible in the TOF stages. So can you really do the one without the other? @StephanieErne

I feel like you need to start with BOFU (Easy Wins) and scale out. I think it’s critical to ensure your client/boss knows that is your process. Scaling out will almost never deliver the same results you get up front. That clarity is key! @markpgus

Search advertising is largely BOF. Display and social are more TOF with retargeting hitting the good old MOF segment. @NeptuneMoon

For every new client we start at the bottom or lowest hanging fruit. That is usually brand bidding, remarkeing/retargeting and anything along those lines. Then we look at what we can layer on that based on GA data. @duanebrown

I’d say historically most PPC focuses on BOF or demand capture, but budget have been rising to MOF and TOF with ability to use better targeting – audience, device, display.@LisaSanner

Depends on the clients needs. But if done wel you set up a strategy on how to use PPC in every part of the funnel and then discuss with the client about budget, possibilities, focus and so on. @StephanieErne

Currently lots of BOF, but when a new campaign launches with video assets a good percentage moves to TOF and MOF.@ericdfarmer

Almost all of our paid search is focused on bottom of funnel, I see the value in top of funnel strategy and think we need to focus more on it than we currently do…getting buy in for TOF awareness generation has been a challenge. @jlash_digital

You can get fancier, but…

Paid search is very BOF – you’re saying “you’re searching for X? we’ve for the best X!” Display can have other roles, but absolute TOFU should probably be organic/PR . @ferkungamaboobo


Q3: Do client expectations vary based on the part of the funnel you’re targeting with a particular initiative? If so, in what ways?


YES. TOF has few expectations for conversion; goals are more focused on reach. As you move down the funnel, conversions are expected and optimized for. But conversions should be measured throughout the funnel to ensure you’ve got things in the right place. @Mel66

I would say no if they have not talked about it. Though we try to work towards a blended CPA / ROAS / LTV target. We always say non-brand will be expensive to set expectations. @duanebrown

I try to help set the expectations for the client. Bottom of the funnel, they will likely convert, mid funnel we’re gonna try and get them to convert, or we’ll lose them to a competitor, top of the funnel, we try and push them along in the process or exclude them. @JonKagan

Not intuitively, so I focus on educating and setting expectations. 🙂 Occasionally, we will have KPI targets or goals by channel/”funnel position” but more often than not it comes down to aggregate outcomes and averages across channels (which I prefer). 1/2 .@akaEmmaLouise

They should! But in reality it’s difficult. Communication is key. However, they might understand the logic, but they might have a hard time explaining the decreasing ROS/increasing CPA to their superiors. I think that is one of the biggest disconnects.@markpgus

Yes. We try to be very clear as to what the goals are based on the funnel and why those are important. Getting customer buy-ins on display, social is much harder when looking at last click, so we try to get them more multi touch views, new customer acquisition etc..@360vardi

It depends on the client, but they’re fairly cognizant (or have become so) of the expectations of each campaign and the end result. @marccxmedia

This expectation very difficult to manage, but it has to be part of the conversation early on. Even in-house! @ericdfarmer


Q4: What do you find to be the best strategies and tactics to use when targeting TOF type traffic?


Don’t assume you know who will buy from you! Test a broad audience with video. I’ve seen HIGHER view rates going broader. ? @ericdfarmer

I am dropping some knowledge at #BrightonSEO and #HeroConf for 2 prospecting audience we don’t see others in-house / agency teams use so far. They have been our go to for the last 18 months. Be there or be square. @duanebrown

We try to use as much client’s information as we can on their customers to figure out where they hang out virtually and the pain points that could be applicable to customers. @360vardi

Our TOF approach is a mix of branded and high priority non-branded keywords with search ad copy that incorporates said keywords. Display campaigns tend to be based on whether the client has the resources available. @marccxmedia

USE DATA!!! You have so many places to base solid TOFU audiences off of. Segment highest LTV users and create a lookalike. All purchasers lookalike. Add to cart lookalike. Affinity audiences from highest LTV customers. All that without “just taking a guess”. @markpgus

I’m repeating myself but that really depends on the client/niche. I usually do a brainstorm to see what would be possible targeting options in the BOF. But often it is Paid Social or Display in Google Ads. @StephanieErne

Like many others, I like social for awareness building. Focusing on one general piece of content and paying for traffic to it can be good for TOF – Example: pluming client had post on emergency water heater shutoff that we used for this w/ tight geo targeting. @NeptuneMoon


Q5: What do you find to be the best strategies and tactics to use when targeting MOF type traffic?


MOF is where you start to focus on driving traffic and microconversions: engagement with key pages, videos on your site, etc. Start to see how interested the users are. Build remarketing audiences and LALs. @Mel66

We’ve found (for one client, at least) that competitor-branded keywords perform really well as a way of poaching MOF consideration conversions. @marccxmedia

Oversimplification, I find MOF traffic as “users who have demonstrated some interest in your brand, product or service, who are not yet ready to purchase”. Thus, remarketing is crucial here, but not always pushing towards the final purchase… just pushing them on.@PPCKirk

Leveraging channels where people go to read reviews, evaluate products, and gather more information about your products/services. That’s rarely paid social or search. @jdprater

Beyond social, I’ve been getting into layered audiences for search campaigns. It’s a nice blend of audience targeting and intent. Still tweaking the messaging element of that approach, though. Also, LAL and custom intent audiences are consistent favorites.@akaEmmaLouise

For MOF – thinkabout things that you know or have learned about potential users and have strong evidence from TOF tactics – remarketing, lookalikes, similar audiences, etc or consideration types of kws/behavior. @LisaSanner

Mid to long-ish tail keywords, mostly non-brand, short tail keywords with heavy audience segmentation, more product specific copy.. @JonKagan

Totally depends on the client. I don’t like video here. Get them to signal their intent strongly with a click. They need to earn their way into my BOFU audience. @markpgus

This is probably oversimplifying but just making sure we have the appropriate message depending on who they are. Did they get a catalog already, visited specific travel destination, product groups… Help them take that last step. @lchasse

I personally don’t consider any cold traffic mid funnel. For me, MOFU is for longer sales cycles. They were interested in high level content, now let’s educate them with deeper content to get them to the point of purchase! I like testing if MOFU is a necessary step. @markpgus

Branded and more specific search terms in for search ads and retargeting in both display and social is what I tend to do for the MOF people. Help them through the most typical thought process for consideration of your product/service w/ your ads & LPs. @NeptuneMoon

I think video can work really nicely here to develop some relationship/ build trust. @HayleyDeee

RLSA for MOF-keywords to visitors coming from TOF campaigns is one thing I usually include. @StephanieErne


Q6: What do you find to be the best strategies and tactics to use when targeting BOF type traffic?


Watch your frequency, especially across channels. More than likely you’re overwhelming and turning people off with high frequencies. I also like to use UGC here to help with social proof and FOMO. Emotion drives sells. @jdprater

Branded search campaigns for sure in search. Adding in terms you target for non-branded that include “buy” “location” and such that indicate a readiness to purchase from someone. @NeptuneMoon

“Near me” and related location keywords have performed decently for one client as a BOF approach. @marccxmedia

Branded search! Also, occasionally, lead gen ads on FB or LinkedIn. @amaliaefowler

Main focus is being present as much as we can on the keywords that count. but always checking ROAS of course. @StephanieErne

Do not limit branded search, for one. Let it spead its wings and fly! @ericdfarmer


Q7: Do you find the concept of “The Funnel” to be problematic? If so, how? If not, why not?


In B2B or industries with long sales cycles, it’s not really a funnel. More of a hamster wheel as someone else said, or a winding, backtracking road. @Mel66

It’s good for simplicity and makes for a good visual. However, the buyer’s journey just isn’t that linear anymore. @jdprater

Talking about the funnel feels a little old school, but it makes tactics understandable for most marketers. I think analytics have opened people’s eyes to get beyond their assumptions that it’s not a straight path and has so many iterations. @LisaSanner

Yes and no. It’s helpful to organize our approach and at least try to customize messaging and media to what we know about users, but it’s clearly far from perfect. As was mentioned early on, PPC doesn’t exist in a vacuum so we just do the best with what data we have.@akaEmmaLouise

What I find hard as well is when a client is in such a niche that the potential volume is so low you can not really use (segmented) remarketing. You want to create this great funnel strategy but.. ah wel.@StephanieErne

The funnel concept is bad when your advertising actions ONLY support it. I believe all warm audiences need to be “nurtured”. It’s the reason organic FB was so important before. It was relationship building. It gave them a wider knowledge of your offering/brand.@markpgus

Like anything else in our industry I find that it is used with a lack of consistency as to definition or practical application the problematic part. Every agency will explain it and use it differently, which doesn’t help clients, or consumers. @amaliaefowler

I think the funnel concept is at least somewhat problematic. It kind of only really considers things from the seller’s point of view, masquerading as the buyer’s POV a lot of the time too. It is also not a realistic depiction of how most ppl search & decide. @NeptuneMoon

The funnel is fine, so long as it’s not the only way you’re trying to understand the customer’s journey. @ferkungamaboobo

It’s a little more like a Cycle than a Funnel, based on our background, and not every client or industry is going to have the same successes with conversions and related business metrics. @marccxmedia

I think it makes it easier to create a strategy. Hardest part is (as always) making the client understand the value of using the funnel and understanding the KPI’s for every part of the funnel and why they are different. @StephanieErne


Q8: If you could change one thing about how clients perceive any aspect of “The Funnel” what would it be?


Value. Top. Of. Funnel. More. Build a brand, don’t just try to survive. @PPCKirk

That every step of the funnel means ??? @ericdfarmer

That perfect attribution simply does not exist (yet?). We have a lot of data, and can do a lot with the data we have, but even “data-driven attribution” has flaws. Particularly with ToFu/MoFu, attributing conversions may not actually be the most important thing. @akaEmmaLouise

Not every step in the funnel is going to show direct ROI – stop expecting it to. ALL businesses need general marketing. Awareness and brand building via digital is the way we accomplish this most basic and essential taks today vs. traditional media historically.@NeptuneMoon

Stop focusing on the bottom of the funnel. it’s the most competitive and most expensive way to grow. @jdprater

Understand Scale!!!!! So many clients are used to thinking purely about efficiency. That’s cool I can do that easily. Let’s talk about scale and becoming less efficient… but with much larger volume. What’s that balance for your company? @markpgus

To remember that digital doesn’t exist in a vacuum, there are other factors at play, and to not force people down the funnel. Also to have different KPIs at different stages. @amaliaefowler

Maybe not the funnel as much as they should not expect to spend a $100 this week and get back $100 tomorrow or next week each and every time. @duanebrown

That one stage is inherently “better” or “worse” than others. it’s so important to understand the value of the entire journey and how to reach people throughout the whole process rather than isolating your strategy. @jlash_digital

The funnel is not the sale, it is the sale process, understand a consumer has to go end to end to convert. @JonKagan

Taking the audience as the start of creating a funnel and focus more on creating your brand. But that requires you have a brand. Some clients just lack a vision and overall strategy in their business.@StephanieErne

I think clients often have very random ways of segmenting their budgets by funnel tactics, rather than allowing it to somewhat organically move between funnel tactics based on performance and TOF fueling BOF. @LisaSanner

Value. Top. Of. Funnel. More. Build a brand, don’t just try to survive. @PPCKirk


Q9: Is there a better model than “The Funnel” that you wish was more widely known and/or adopted?


I like the Flywheel concept too. Here is a piece from Hubspot explaining it: @NeptuneMoon

This slide I made last year for a presentation works… ?. @PPCKirk

I like to call it “The Funnel Cake” model. Everytime someone converts I eat cake. ? @ericdfarmer

I like the flywheel concert I mentioned earlier. Sure data supports that when people display certain actions, certain results occur. Keep doing that. But be aware of those that aren’t acting. Help give them other things to be interested in. @markpgus

I vote for hamster wheel since I clearly messed up @markpgus flywheel concept 😀 @Mel66

@BryanGaynor12 introduced us to the framework of R.A.D. (reach, attract, decide), which I like because it is more focused on the specific actions you want a user to take based on their interaction, rather than trying to align those actions into a linear structure. @akaEmmaLouise

In essence they are all the same I think. Traditionally people have an issue with the funnel kind of ‘ending at the bottom’ but that is just how you perceive the funnel (visually) and explain it, because it is never really ending.. @StephanieErne

I like the “Patient Journey” in pharma slightly better. @JonKagan


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