How To 10x Your Affiliate Sales With a Content Marketing Funnel [Detailed Guide]
May 15 2019
16 min read
16 min read
What kind of content do you plan to publish?
..............more product reviews.
And, of course, a few product comparisons that establish the superiority of the product you're promoting against all its competitors.
How do I know?.
Because I keep reading comments, like the one below, in NicheHacks Private Mastermind Group.
Read this screenshot below carefully and tell me if you can see what's fundamentally wrong with this comment...
When you think everything other than product reviews is "a bunch of filler content" you know your content strategy is messed up.
This is a common theme among new affiliate marketers (I can share a dozen more screenshots)
For them, an affiliate site is created to make money (which is true) and the only way to make money, according to them, is by publishing one product review after the other (which is wrong).
Unfortunately, most of these "product-focused" sites don't make much money (unless they spend a fortune on advertising). And even when they do, they leave a lot more on the table that they could've made with a better content strategy.
There are a couple of reasons for this:
You can't convince people to buy from you unless they trust you as a reliable source of advice. You can't do that with product reviews alone.
You'll find it hard to build backlinks and rank for high traffic keywords in your niche if you only publish product-focused sales content because no other websites want to link to your affiliate reviews (they'd prefer to link to their own).
To develop trust, and turn complete strangers into leads, customers, and repeat customers, successful affiliate marketers don't just rely on product reviews and hard sales content.
They build and use content marketing funnels. Not sure what that means? Don't worry...
In this in-depth article, I'll tell you exactly what is a content marketing funnel, why affiliate marketers need it more than ever before, and how you can create one for your site.
Keep reading to find out...
What You'll Learn In This Article
The number one mistake affiliate sites make while developing a content strategy.
Why publishing only product reviews is a failed approach to content marketing.
How to turn a niche site into a long-term affiliate business.
The biggest growth opportunity that only a handful of affiliate marketers are taking advantage of.
The ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu content strategy and why it's the secret to increasing your affiliate commissions.
But First Think About Your Own Purchasing Behaviour
Before explaining the concept of a content marketing funnel, I want you to think about your own purchasing behavior on the internet.
Would you buy something from a typical sleazy salesman who tells you a million features of a $50 product only to make quick cash from you without understanding what you actually need?
I won't and probably you won't either. The stat below explains why, look carefully at this image...
Source: Roadside Marketing
According to DemandGenReport, the average online buyer views 4-5 pieces of content before even thinking to purchase a product.
Because a buyer goes through several stages before actually making the decision to buy something.
HubSpot, a multi-million dollar inbound marketing company, calls this the buyer's journey and describes its three stages as Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
Have a look at the description of these three stages in the image below and tell me if they represent the actual process you go through when buying a product...
As the image shows, the buyer journey starts from the point a buyer becomes aware of a problem or opportunity. Then...
They enter the Consideration Stage where they know the problem and are actively evaluating different ways to solve it.
And finally; it is the "Decision Stage" where the buyer actually starts comparing different products to find the most suitable one.
The product reviews and comparison posts that most affiliate sites publish are useful in the decision stage since they help the buyer choose the right product.
But what about the first two stages?
By publishing content for the decision stage only, you're losing out on other potential customers who're in the Awareness and Consideration stages because you're not publishing any content for them.
Plus, because you're only publishing Decision Stage content, your site would only rank for product-specific and commercial intent keywords that usually have low search volumes.
As a result, you'll potentially miss out on hundreds of leads and thousands of dollars in sales.
To counter this, and to create a content strategy for every stage of the buyer journey, you need to create a content marketing funnel.
Here's how to do it...
Content Marketing Funnel - Content for Every Stage of the Buyer Journey
In marketing terminology, a funnel is a process through which you attract prospects (i.e. potential customers/people interested in your niche) by creating awareness about a problem, turn them into leads by providing them specific knowledge of the possible solutions, and ultimately turn them into customers by offering them the best products to solve their problem.
A content marketing funnel does all of that using content at the different stages of the funnel.
This is how a typical content marketing funnel looks like, check out this image and study it carefully to fully understand...
As you can see, just like the buyer journey, a content marketing funnel also has three main stages with almost the same meaning.
Top of the Funnel (ToFu) - Awareness
Middle of the Funnel (MoFu) - Evaluation
Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu) - Conversion
Each stage of the content funnel aligns with the stages of the buyer's journey. Now let me explain why this matters to you as an affiliate...
What's the purpose of this funnel?
To create specific content for each stage of the buyer journey. In easier words...
A content strategy that creates awareness of the problem your (affiliate) product solves, educating your prospects about the possible solutions, and turning them into customers by promoting the best available affiliate products.
The content you publish in every stage of the funnel has a different objective, let me give you an overview...
Top of the Funnel (ToFu) Content
ToFu targets the topics that create awareness and are aligned with the general interests of your audience.
It doesn't directly promote any products or services and primarily aims to provide useful information to your target audience.
For example, if you're in the weight loss niche promoting different fitness products or diet plans, your ToFu content could target topics similar to the ones below
Or something like this
These are informational articles that not only create awareness of the problem your product is solving but also help you rank for high traffic keywords in your niche.
The whole idea of publishing ToFu content is to become a reliable information source for your audience so that they start trusting you.
This is the content that'll drive traffic to your site, help you get backlinks, and acquire subscribers.
But it doesn't directly promote any products (although it does link to MoFu and BoFu content where relevant)
Middle of the Funnel (MoFu) Content
MoFu goes one step further and targets topics that talk about the different solutions of the problems your audience is facing.
The objective of MoFu content is to help your audience understand the different product features and to turn visitors into email subscribers.
At this stage, your content will comprise of case studies, specific product examples, comparisons, downloadable lead magnets.
Here are a few examples of MoFu content topics
This article reads like an informational piece from the outside, but in reality, it shares the details of a specific program that it's promoting for a commission
Here's another similar example
Again, this article follows a similar approach and suggests a number of weight loss programs without actually going into the details of any of them.
Case studies are also a frequently used content type at the MoFu stage of the content funnel
Tell me if the article below would interest you if you were worried about your weight
This writer shares her experience with a very specific diet program without actually promoting it. The focus of her article was still on the problems of the reader instead of making a sale.
She does link to the sales page of the product she's promoting but doesn't really push it in the content.
These are typical examples of MoFu content that is narrower in approach as compared to ToFu content but still doesn't directly promote any products.
It is at this stage that brands convert readers into subscribers so that they can take their communication to the next level.
For example, look at the screenshot below and tell me if you'd be interested in signing up to this email list if you were looking for weight loss advice.
Do you see what's happening here?
ToFu content on this topic created awareness about the problem (obesity/being overweight).
When the readers became familiar with the problem, MoFu content gave them more specific information, shared a few possible solutions, and took the relationship to the next level by turning them into subscribers.
That leads to their BoFu content...
To discover 200+ profitable niche markets click the image below now...
Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu) Content
Their audience is now ready for BoFu content (product reviews/comparisons).
For SaaS companies or other business models, BoFu content comes in the form of webinars, product demonstrations, product descriptions, sales landing page copy, etc.
But for the conventional blog style affiliate marketing businesses, BoFu is mostly product reviews, feature details, product comparisons, coupon codes (many affiliate programs have coupon codes you can give to your audience when they click via your affiliate links), etc.
Like the article below which directly reviews the different aspects of a weight loss program.
Or this article that rates the different features and aspects of a weight loss program along with a detailed review.
As I said earlier, most affiliate sites are limited to this kind of content only.
It's great in converting people into customers, but only when combined with ToFu and MoFu content that creates awareness and builds a relationship with the readers before finally making the sales pitch.
This is how content marketing funnel works.
ToFu content funnels visitors to MoFu, and MoFu funnels prospects to BoFu where they're turned into customers.
The content on every stage of the funnel answers the queries of your audience and moves them closer to the eventual sale.
This is why many successful affiliate sites that don't even rank for high buyer intent commercial keywords still drive more conversions than sites that only publish reviews. Because their ToFu and MoFu content convinces readers to buy and the sale is made through the internal link structure of their site.
Using Content Marketing Funnels for Your Affiliate Marketing Site
To help you understand how this applies to your affiliate marketing business, let me explain the whole thing using a recent experience I had with a client who'd hired me to develop a content marketing strategy for their business.
You can map this on your own business and adopt the same approach.
My client wanted to start a site that made money by promoting different recurring commission SaaS programs like ClickFunnels, ActiveCampaign, GetResponse, LeadPages, etc.
Like most other affiliate marketers, they only wanted to publish product reviews and rank for commercial buyer intent keywords.
Thankfully, they consulted me, and together we created a complete 6-month content plan that catered to every stage of the content funnel.
Here's what we did (and how you should do it as well)...
- Create Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu) Content First
BoFu content makes you money.
It is the content that pitches different products to the readers and uses calls to action to drive sales.
Product reviews, comparisons, etc. are examples of BoFu as I've already mentioned.
When creating a content marketing funnel, you'll start by publishing BoFu content first.
This is what we did as well.
Since our goal was to make money by promoting tools such as GetResponse, ActiveCampaign, AWeber, ClickFunnels, etc. we came up with the following titles
GetResponse Review (2019) - Pricing, Features, Pros & Cons
ActiveCampaign Review (2019) - Pricing and Features of Email Marketing Automation
Best Email Marketing Tool Compared (2019) - AWeber vs. GetResponse vs. ActiveCampaign
Here are the key points to remember
All the titles are focused on high buyer intent keywords such as GetResponse Review, GetResponse Pricing, GetResponse Pros & Cons, not the benefits of the broader problem keywords
The articles discuss product features, compare results with other similar tools, have lots of screenshots and testimonials.
They have multiple calls to action (CTAs) encouraging readers to buy.
Start by listing all the products you plan to promote and create review articles for all of them.
BoFu articles are usually small in number since you'll only publish as many reviews as the number of products you're promoting. But they need to be really high-quality posts which means you either need to have niche expertise yourself or hire professional writers to do this for you.
These are your money pages where you'll refer traffic through ToFu and MoFu content. It won't bring you much traffic from search engines, but this is where the sale will happen.
For traffic generation, we'll move to the next step.
- Create Top of the Funnel (ToFu) Content to Target the Broader Problems of Your Audience
What problems are Getreponse, AWeber, and ActiveCampaign solving?
They allow users to run effective email marketing campaigns and set up completely automated online business funnels.
Many people have never heard of any of those tools.
But they're curious how marketers are able to send emails about exactly the things they're looking for.
They're curious how they get emails every day at 9 AM sharp from the same marketer with long and detailed content.
They're curious how marketers get the time to send so many emails, run full-time businesses, and still travel the world all the time.
They're the people who have a problem/need but have no idea how to solve it (many don't even know they have a problem)
ToFu content targets these people.
For the tools my client was promoting, we came up with titles such as
How To Build an Automated Online Business and Travel the World Full-Time
The Step by Step Guide To Living the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
How To Create a Fully Automated Online Course
These are just a few examples.
All of them create awareness about the problem and adopt the problem/need-first approach.
They make readers dream without even mentioning the services we're promoting (email marketing)
Their objective is to drive traffic, create awareness, build trust, and funnel leads to the MoFu stage.
You can publish ToFu content after you've published product reviews and comparisons on your site. You'll also add internal links in these articles to any relevant BoFu content that you already have.
Unlike BoFu content, creating ToFu content is an ongoing process. For every product, you can create as many ToFu articles as you want. Every article will help you target new keywords, generate more traffic, and funnel more leads to the later stages of the content funnel.
Which brings me to the last step of the puzzle.
- Create Middle of the Funnel (MoFu) Content To Share Specific Solutions With Your Readers
MoFu is often a confusing stage for marketers because it lies directly between ToFu and BoFu stages.
It's not as broad as ToFu content but not as specific and sales as BoFu.
So it needs to be created with a balanced approach.
Its objective is to use the trust you've built with ToFu content to introduce the products you're promoting without aggressively selling them.
Both ToFu and MoFu link to BoFu content that you've already published.
For the products my client was promoting, here are some of the titles we finalized for the MoFu stage
- 11 Reasons Why Your Business Needs an Email List
- Step by Step Guide to Creating a Sales Funnel With GetResponse
- How To Increase eCommerce Sales by 377% in 30 Days With ActiveCampaign
- 27 Lead Magnet Ideas to SkyRocket the Growth of Your Email Subscribers
As you can see, these titles aren't as broad as ToFu but not as specific as BoFu either.
They'll attract traffic that is actively looking for ways to build and grow an email list or have already heard of GetReponse and want to know what more it can do for them.
Like ToFu, you can create multiple MoFu articles for each product you're promoting. They're great for traffic generation and creating the topical relevance of your site.
Once you have written reviews for all the products you plan to promote, you can keep investing in ToFu and MoFu content as long as you want.
As always, every ToFu and MoFu article will have internal links to the relevant BoFu articles.
This is how you connect the different stages of the funnel and keep attracting new traffic to your product reviews, comparisons, and other BoFu content.
To give you a better idea of how exactly these different types of content help your business, let me quickly share some of the key benefits of a content marketing funnel in the next section.
6 Reasons Affiliate Marketers Need To Use a Content Marketing Funnel
I've already described the whole process of setting up a content marketing funnel and how it works for your affiliate business.
But let me share a few specific reasons why this is the only sustainable way to create a long term content-based affiliate business.
Stay with me.
1. Turns a Temporary Affiliate Site Into a Long-Term Authority Site
What's the conventional affiliate site approach?
Find a product(s) with a good commission structure and create a dedicated 5-10 page site with lots of reviews, comparisons, and long-form content that aims to rank for specific buyer intent keywords for that product.
Look at the screenshot below and tell me if this looks like a typical niche site or not?
The moment you land on this site, TheFunnelClicker, you know it is created for just one purpose - to earn affiliate commissions from ClickFunnels.
It has published thousands of words about the different aspects of ClickFunnels and reviews it from every angle.
But what if ClickFunnels terminates its affiliate program?
This business will die an instant death.
This is the problem with product-specific niche sites created with such a narrow focus.
With a long-term vision, the site owner could've built a sustainable online business that wouldn't have been dependant on just one service or product line.
For example, here's another ClickFunnels review by a different site.
Look closely and tell me why these ones are better than the previous example I shared.
Unlike the previous example I shared, this site is not dependant on any single tool.
It's an authority site that generally covers topics related to online businesses, making money online, digital marketing, etc.
Along with ClickFunnels, they've reviewed tools such as LeadPages, GetResponse, MailChimp, and others.
For every review, they have multiple ToFu and MoFu articles that attract traffic and turn visitors into subscribers.
Because of the wide range of topics, it covers in its ToFu content, it is able to promote other products that are similar to ClickFunnels.
As a result, it is a much more stable business that isn't dependant on any single product for its survival.
Plus it is able to generate much more traffic thanks to its high-quality ToFu and MoFu content.
This is what a content marketing funnel does to your business. It changes it from a risky, short term site to long-term affiliate business.
2. Creates Brand Awareness and Improves Long-Tail SEO
One of the primary benefits of creating a content marketing funnel for your affiliate site is that it helps you target high volume and high traffic long-tail keywords.
When you publish product reviews only, you can only target commercial keywords that are very specific and target an audience that is already familiar with the product you're promoting.
By adding ToFu and MoFu to the mix, however, you can expand your scope and publish long-form content about the broader topics that interest your audience.
For example, SmartBlogger is one of the most popular sites in the Make Money Online, Freelancing, and Blogging niches.
Just look at the number of backlinks and monthly visitors it attracts.
90% of its content is informational, is in the range of 2000+ words, targets broad topics, and helps them rank for long-tail keywords.
This helps them drive traffic to review articles such as the one below that can not attract search traffic on their own.
Here's a different example.
WebsiteSetup.org is one of the most popular sites in the "Start a Blog" niche and makes hundreds of thousands of dollars in affiliate sales by promoting different web hosting services and website builders.
But it's not the reviews or comparison pages that are the main traffic drivers to this site.
It's ToFu articles like the one below that ranks for hundreds of long-tail keywords and drives thousands of visitors every month to this site that ultimately converts into customers.
Just look at some of the long-tail keywords it ranks for
This is a classic example of how setting up a content funnel can drive traffic to your site and turn it into sales. It allows you the freedom to target a wide range of long-tail keywords that are relevant to the products you're promoting and drive traffic from them.
3. Makes It Easier To Acquire High Authority Backlinks
There are more than 200 factors Google uses to determine search rankings.
But content quality and backlinks are still the two most important factors with the biggest impact on your search visibility.
Over the last few years, affiliate sites have started investing a lot of money in creating high-quality content. But since they still mostly publish product-focused content like reviews and comparisons, they struggle to attract backlinks.
Most high authority sites are reluctant to link to reviews because usually, they're promotional pieces with affiliate links.
A study by Dejan Marketing found that people link to content for one of the following reasons.
To provide additional resources to their reader
To add credibility
To share case studies/examples
To reference visuals
To reference data
To build SEO relevance by linking out to other sites
This is where ToFu and MoFu content comes in handy because unlike product-specific content, it gives you more space to create link-worthy content.
You can create content on topics that are of general interest among your audience instead of writing specifically about a product or its features.
One of the biggest mistakes affiliate marketers commit is trying to build backlinks directly to their money pages (product-specific content). Very few high authority websites allow that.
Most of the time, you need to adopt an indirect approach.
Here's how it works.
You create link-worthy ToFu and MoFu content on broader topics that are not directly promoting any products. You then build backlinks to it through outreach and other link building methods that I have discussed in detail in some of my previous posts.
Once you get those backlinks to your ToFu content, you transfer its authority by creating internal links to the BoFu content on your site.
The strategy is simple and can be easily replicated.
Keep publishing link-worthy ToFu content to get backlinks from high authority sites and keep transferring the benefit of those backlinks by creating internal links from ToFu to BoFu content on your site.
4. Helps You Nurture Leads and Build Relationships
Another major reason for adopting the funnel approach is that it allows you to build long-term relationships with your audience and drive repeat sales.
That's very hard to do if your site only has product reviews and other BoFu content.
And repeat sales, by the way, is the secret to any successful business.
The image below shows an eye-opening fact and it boggles my mind why more businesses and marketers don't pay heed to it.
Did you read that?
It's 60-70% easier to sell to someone who has purchased from you before as compared to a new client.
Why don't more affiliates take advantage of this?
Because they only publish BoFu content, have no conversion funnel set up, don't build their email lists, and have a short term approach.
A well-rounded content marketing funnel solves this problem completely.
5. Improves Conversion Rate and Increases Sales
Sales is not an event, it's a process.
A process in which a stranger is introduced to a problem/need then briefed about the possible solutions, and finally offered the best product that solves it for them.
This can't be done in one go.
It takes time and multiple engagements to convince people about the usefulness of a product.
By publishing BoFu content only, you might convert those who're already aware of the product you're promoting but you'll miss out on the thousands of people who're still unaware of its existence.
With a content marketing funnel, you'll be able to add strangers to your sales pipeline and turn them into customers through multiple engagements and tailored content for every stage of the buyer's journey.
As a result, both your conversion rates and sales numbers will increase dramatically.
6. Opens Up Other Monetization Options for Your Site
A site that only publishes product reviews, can only make money through affiliate sales.
There's no other way.
But a site with a more holistic content strategy immediately opens up new monetization possibilities.
Because with a content marketing funnel, you build an audience instead of focusing on one-time sales.
And once you have an audience that trusts you, wants to hear from you, and takes your recommendations seriously you can make money from them in a number of ways
The infographic below shows some of the most profitable monetization methods that you can leverage once you build an audience around your site.
You can diversify your income sources and move away from completely depending on affiliate sales.
This, of course, is not possible if you only think short-term, take the easy way out, and keep on publishing product reviews only.
Are You Ready To Grow Your Affiliate Business?
All it takes is a change in mindset. So...
Move away from the short-term approach and think long-term by creating a well-rounded content marketing funnel that addresses the needs of your audience at every stage of the buyer journey.
It may seem to counterproductive to spend lots of time creating content that doesn't directly earn commissions but you will quickly see that you actually generate more commissions by having the 3 different content (ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu) stages.
Sure, doing so takes time but it's the only sustainable way to build and grow a long-term affiliate marketing business.