Only 3% of buyers trust sales reps.
This data is from 2016, but it’s likely still true today. If you don’t believe it, do a mental check for the last time you contacted a sales rep as the first step in a buying journey.
Best guess: it’s been a long time.
Instead, your typical buying journey probably looks something like this:
- You notice you have a problem
- You start looking for a solution to (or more info about) that problem
- You start looking for solutions and comparing options
- If it’s something relatively expensive, you probably want to talk to a sales rep
- And finally, you make a decision to either buy or not
Your buyers often exhibit the same behavior. They do their research before signing up for your product or reaching out to you, which is why 79% of B2B buyers already fully define their needs before engaging with a sales rep.
And all that research and “Googling” they’re doing creates opportunities for you to attract them and generate leads.
That’s what SEO lead generation is all about: creating the relevant resources (articles, web pages, etc.) your target customers need at every stage of their buying journey, and optimizing those resources to rank so your audience can find them on search engines.
Now, let’s dive into how you can generate leads with SEO.
1. Find topics at each stage of the buying journey
Ideally, the first step in any SEO lead generation process is to understand what potential customers are searching for at every stage of their buying journey.
For example, here are topics a potential Semrush customer would be interested in before signing up for the product:
(Note: if you’re not too familiar with Semrush, it’s a brand that sells SEO software for keyword research, keyword rank tracking, and so on).
- Top of funnel: what is keyword research?
(see more examples below)
- Middle of funnel: how to do keyword research
(see more examples below)
- Bottom of funnel: keyword research tool
(see more examples below)
So, how do you find topics potential customers are interested in across the buying funnel?
You can do it in three simple steps:
- Identify your business’ target customers
- Find questions they’re asking at each stage of their buying journey
- Enter the keywords in a keyword research tool
For this example, let’s assume you’re working for Semrush. Here’s what these steps would look like:
- Semrush’s target customers: SEOs.
- Questions they’re asking at each stage of their buying journey:
Usually, it’s just a matter of putting yourself in the audience’s shoes and figuring out what questions they could be asking. I used this method to come up with the example questions above: what is keyword research, how to do keyword research, keyword research tool, etc.
If you’re not too familiar with the audience, you may have to talk to Semrush’s customer-facing people (salespeople, customer service, etc.) to uncover common pain points that have led customers to adopt Semrush.
- Using a keyword research tool: Entering the topics in a keyword research tool essentially helps you find more search queries to target around your topics and, more importantly, helps you identify keywords you can actually rank for — which is the next step in this process.
2. Find search terms you can ACTUALLY rank for
It’s one thing to find topics your potential customers are interested in at each buying stage, but it’s a whole other ballgame to find keywords you can actually rank for from those topics.
If the search terms you’re targeting are too competitive for your domain to rank for, you’ll have a hard time driving leads from SEO.
Here’s how to find keywords you can more easily rank for:
(Note: I’ll be using Semrush for this because that’s the SEO tool I use and am affiliated with.)
Step #1: Enter a buying-stage-related keyword in Semrush’s Keyword Research tool and click “view all xx keywords” under Keyword Variations on the left side of your screen.
Here’s what it looks like (following my example in step #1 above):
What you’ll see next (as shown in the screenshot above) are thousands of keywords you could potentially rank for. The keywords you’ll see first often have the highest search volumes and difficulty scores.
Here’s how Semrush scores keyword difficulty (KD):
The easier it is to rank for a keyword, the lower the difficulty score — and vice versa. Your goal here is to find keywords that are the easiest to rank for, so you easily drive traffic and leads from search engines.
Step #2: Set the Keywords Explorer to view keywords with a 30 KD score or less.
You’ll now have a list of keywords and search queries related to “keyword research” that’d be easiest for Semrush to rank for. Now it’s just a matter of picking out keywords that can help you drive leads — I’ll address this in a bit.
Step #3: Click Export, which you’ll find near the top right corner, to save and download your filtered keywords as a spreadsheet
Step #4: Repeat steps 1–3 for other buying-stage-related keyword search queries (keywords) that can help you generate leads.
In Semrush’s case, those would be other keywords or phrases like “blogging for business,” “content marketing,” “SEO content,” “how to drive traffic to a website,” and more.
Your next step here is to scan the keywords you’ve exported and pick out the ones that’ll help to achieve your SEO lead generation goals. This leads to my next point below.
3. Pick out keywords from the list that’ll help you generate leads
Once you’ve saved all the easiest keywords to rank for, start picking out keywords that can help you generate not only search traffic but also leads.
A common misconception here is that only bottom-of-funnel keywords generate leads. You know, keywords like, “buy XYZ,” “how much is XYZ,” “alternatives to [an XYZ competitor],” etc.
But that’s not true.
Truth is, people can convert into leads from almost any stage of the funnel.
For example, from the screenshot above, one search query that can generate leads for Semrush is “how to do keyword research for YouTube” — because the product has a feature that helps users do exactly that.
From here, all the Semrush team will need to do is:
- create content about how to do keyword research for YouTube
- include the YouTube keyword research feature in the post (more on this in #5 below)
- get the article to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) for that keyword and related search terms
This way, Semrush will not just be driving organic traffic with this keyphrase, they’ll be generating leads too.
On the other hand, here’s an example of a keyword that will hardly generate any leads for them: “fiverr keyword research.”
Even though this keyphrase is related to keyword research (and SEO in general), and drives over 1,000 searches per month, it’ll hardly drive any leads for Semrush. The people searching for this are either:
- freelancers looking for how to make their profiles and gigs more visible on Fiverr (a marketplace where freelancers meet clients), or
- people looking for SEO experts on Fiverr.
In any case, both audiences aren’t looking for a product like Semrush to solve their SEO problem.
So, you need to adopt a lead-generation-first mindset (if this is your primary goal for doing SEO). No matter how easy it seems to rank for a particular keyword, remove it from your list if it won’t help you generate leads.
4. Deliver the content you promise in your headlines
Once you’ve picked out all the keywords that can help you generate leads, it’s time to start building content.
But nothing turns website visitors off more than when your content doesn’t fulfill the promise you made in your headlines. There’s even a technical term for luring people in with your headline but not delivering the content you promised: clickbait.
Even if you’ve perfectly selected keywords that are easy to rank for and will drive leads, they won’t actually generate interest (let alone leads) if your content doesn’t fulfill the promise in your headline. It might drive traffic, but your content relevance and quality are the elements that really convert visitors to inbound leads.
So you want to make sure your content satisfies the intent for which your visitors are reading it. For example, if you’ve titled an article, “How to Ask for a Raise,” you need to make sure that article shows readers proven steps they can use to ask for a raise — including any other relevant information under the topic.
Case in point: Indeed has an article on this exact topic and they did a fantastic job with it.
The article starts off with a video of an Indeed staff member explaining how to confidently ask for a raise in six steps. The rest of the article covers the six steps for visitors who prefer to consume the content in text form.
Delivering on the promise you make in your headline really isn’t rocket science. If your headline says you’ll share “how to do ABC,” do just that. Make sure you’re sharing stuff that really works, and your content will convert readers to leads.
What often happens, though, is marketers get distracted during the content creation process and just focus on ranking on Google and driving traffic. They try to cover all the so-called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords surrounding a topic they’re trying to rank for, but readers soon realize their content is off-topic.
Why? Because those “definitions” aren’t the reason they clicked to read the article.
This is why you need to focus on delivering the content you promise in your headlines. And in many (if not most) cases, doing so takes a great deal of discipline — because it’s super easy to get distracted when creating content on most topics. When you get distracted, you start veering off from the topic you intended to write about in the first place.
And if you publish a piece like that, it won’t hold the attention of your readers — let alone turn them into customers.
So, whether you’re creating your own content or have a team doing it, you want to make sure that any content coming from your brand fulfills the promises they make.
Now, let’s look at some strategies you can use to drive conversions from your content.
5. Use tactics that drive leads via content
When using SEO for lead generation, you need a few tactics up your sleeves to drive sales from your content. Here are three tactics you can use to achieve this goal:
Tactic 1: Product trial CTAs after 30% scroll
Canva and Zapier are two businesses that do this well.
If you’ve read any piece of content on Zapier’s or Canva’s blog, you’d see that when you scroll about 30% into it, the first of at least four trial sign-up buttons shows up:
The four trial sign-up CTAs are all unobstructive, so they don’t spoil user experience for readers. Case in point: the fourth CTA slides in from the bottom right corner, along with a testimonial from a happy Zapier user:
Canva is another company that shows a trial sign-up CTA once readers scroll about 30% into any piece of blog content:
The “Create a design in Canva” shows up in an unobstructive manner. And the wording of this CTA makes a lot of sense for Canva because their articles attract people who are usually looking for:
- Graphic design templates
- Graphic design inspiration, how-tos, or ideas
- Everything related to graphic design
So when these design-enthusiastic readers see “Create a design in Canva,” they might want to check it out.
Tactic 2: Use your product or business as examples in your content
Many marketers fear that using their own product or business in their content will appear too promotional and turn readers off. But while that’s true sometimes, it’s not always the case.
You can feature your business or product in content without annoying readers, and I’ve already cited some examples on how to do it in this article.
Semrush does this really well too. For example, in their guide about keyword research, they shared how to do keyword research in six steps and only included information on Semrush where it was relevant.
Through this method, they’re giving the readers the info they’re looking for — how to find keywords — while also showing readers how Semrush can help them with what they’re looking for without coming across as overly promotional.
I like to describe this type of content as being “T-shaped,” with one side of the “T” helping your audience and the other helping Semrush as a business:
With content like this, annoying readers is out of the question because you’re showing them how to find what they’re looking for, and how your business just happens to be able to help them in the process.
Tactic 3: Create a thank-you page for lead generation or trial sign-ups
When readers sign up for your email list or any resource on your site, you can take advantage of your thank-you landing pages to get them to sign up for a product trial (or become a lead).
The team over at Sumo does this well. When you land on their article about power words, you’ll see a link at the top of the piece offering a PDF version of the post. And once you click that, an opt-in lead magnet form will pop up, asking to send the resource to your email.
Once you submit your email, you get redirected to a thank you page that tells you that the resource you signed up for has been sent to your email. But that’s not all. They also quickly introduce their product, ask you to sign up for free, and show you some social proof — over 800k websites use their product.
Readers who sign up for the pdf get to know about their product and can decide whether they want to sign up, need to check back later — or are simply not interested. But in any case, if they weren’t aware Sumo sells an email list-building tool, they will now, thanks to the thank you page (pun intended:)).
Bonus tactic: Use multilingual content to increase leads
There are over 7000 languages in the world today, so three major advantages you get with multilingual content are that it allows you to:
- reach a wider audience,
- tap into new markets, and
- expand your lead gen opportunities.
For instance, where the term “search engine optimization” might be driving 20,000 searches per month, its Spanish version — “optimización de motores de búsqueda” — could get an extra 3000 searches.
And that’s because not everyone uses the search engine the same way.
How do you get started? I’ll need to write another article for that — but start with one language. For instance, if you already have your content in English, start translating it into Spanish or French (or any other language your audience speaks).
And you can use a tool like Weglot or a translator marketplace like Gengo to translate all your content. But for better consistency, get an editor in the language you’re translating into. Hope this helps.
SEO lead generation FAQs
Let’s go over a few questions you may have about creating and executing an SEO lead generation strategy:
Which SEO lead generation tools do I need?
There are a few tools you need here; for starters, you’ll need a keyword research tool, I use Semrush and am happy with it — so that’s what I often recommend.
Other alternatives include Ahrefs and SE Ranking; these tools mostly perform the same functions, so feel free to pick the one that works best for you.
If you’re a B2B business, you can use a tool like Leadfeeder to identify the companies visiting your site so you can reach out to the ones that seem like they have the intent to buy.
Do I need to hire an SEO or content marketer?
It depends. If you feel you have the expertise to do this well and you have the time for trial and error, I’d say give it a shot.
But if not, hire a consultant with a verifiable track record. You can reach out to yours truly, I’m happy to help.
What else do I need to pull this off?
You’ll need a content strategy, an SEO strategy, and content writing skills (or hire a writer). As you can tell from this guide, much of your SEO and lead generation process relies on content.
And while it may seem easy on the surface to create content — like this one you’re reading — it takes experience to craft something that holds your prospect’s attention and drives conversions.
Most buyers don’t want you to pitch them
They want to discover your business, engage with your content, and then reach out all on their own.
They want to control their purchase journey and talk to you only when they’re ready. Your best bet to turn these people into leads is to place your brand where they’ll find it using the types of content they’re looking for.
Thankfully, you now have this article at your disposal. You can always come back to it anytime and use the strategies and ideas I’ve shared!