How to Get Brilliant Ideas for Top of Funnel (TOFU) Content

If you’re trying to increase the number of leads that your business gets from online channels such as SEO, PPC advertising or Social Media Marketing, you need to consider how well you’re attracting prospects who are top of the funnel. These are people who are part of your target market, but who may not be ready to purchase a product or service at this time. Draw these people in with top of funnel content.

I think it helps to visualize the entire buying process in the shape of a funnel. People at the top of the funnel (often shortened to “TOFU”) are doing general online research related to your industry. Continuing down the funnel, we describe people who are further along in the buying process as being in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) or at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU).

If you visualize the buying (and selling) process as a funnel, top of the funnel visitors, often shortened to TOFU (as opposed to the middle or bottom of the funnel – MOFU and BOFU), are those doing general online research related to your industry.

buyer funnel and search keywords

In a previous post I spoke about buyer keyword strategies, which are designed to catch people at the bottom of the funnel – people who are ready to purchase.

Searchers who are at the buying stage typically use terms like “Nike <shoe model> price” or “discount shoe store.” The goal of attracting people who are in buying mode is to be able to get quicker (and hopefully more) conversions per visit.

But there is also value in creating top of funnel content to target visitors who are not yet purchase-ready, but might be soon.

In this post, I’ll review:

  • How to identify a TOFU searcher
  • How to attract a TOFU searcher
  • How to pick keywords for TOFU content

So who’s a Top of Funnel searcher?

Top of funnel searchers are typically trying to get educated about a particular topic. They may eventually buy, but they’re doing basic research to learn more about the “what, how, why or when” of a subject (I often consider “where” searches to be closer to buying). Compared to active buyers who use phrases including terms such as “buy”, “store” or “discount”, TOFU searchers use phrases like, “how do I <action>” or “why is <some mystery>”.

When creating top of funnel content to attract these searchers, the goals are typically to:

  1. Educate them
  2. Incite them to visit again, and
  3. Establish a more predictable connection with them by getting them to subscribe to a newsletter, join an online course or webinar, download an ebook (in exchange for an email address), and/or get them to connect with your company in social media.

Because TOFU searchers will usually require some time and education before they’re ready to make a purchase, the goal is to stay connected to them, to establish a trusted position with them via education, to stay top of mind, and to be able to communicate with them more proactively (e.g. to provide an offer – a sale or first-purchaser discount, etc.).

How do I attract TOFU searchers?

The short answer: With top of funnel content.

A couple of good ways to attract top of the funnel searchers include:

  • Creating online content that ranks in the search engines for terms that TOFU searchers use
  • 2) Creating interesting and educational online content that gets attention in social media.

Often these two can be done at the same time, but sometimes you might do #1 without particularly focusing on #2, or vice versa.

An example of doing #1 might be creating a very SEO-optimized FAQ page for a topic that searchers care about and can find via the search engines. This might not share well in social media, but it may attract searchers through the search engines, regardless.

How do I find good Top of the Funnel Keywords for my industry?

In order to know what SEO content and/or socially shareable content to create, you have to peer into the minds of searchers who are in your target market. Below I’ll provide you with one easy way to do this in less than 30 minutes. To get started, you’ll need to have a trial of Alexa’s Advanced plan or already have an account. Once you have that, follow these steps.

  • Pick up to 10 sites that represent your industry 

Determine which 10 sites are the most representative of your industry. One good way to do this is to pick one of the most popular and representative sites.

Using our Audience Overlap Tool, I can easily generate a list including 9 other similar websites and create a list and name it.

In my example below, I’m creating a list called “Dog Services Industry” starting with You can see that the tool finds similar sites that represent this industry well.

find similar sites with audience overlap

  • Find search keywords for those sites

From this tool, you can launch a Competitor Keyword Matrix analysis based on this list, which will generate a large list of keywords that drive traffic to these 10 sites. It will include details such as popularity and competitiveness of the keywords, how many sites are ranking for each keyword and which sites are getting more (or less) traffic from them.

find search keywords with competitor keyword matrix

  • Separate out the TOFU searches

On the top right of the Matrix tool, there’s a filter icon. Click this to show the filters. To narrow the list to possible TOFU keyword phrases, enter the following into the “Include terms:” filter: what, how, why, when.

This narrows your list of keywords to only phrases that include those words.

In my example however, I notice that phrases with “chow” (e.g. Puppy Chow) also show up. So I can put in “chow” in the “Exclude terms” filter. You can refine your filters more if you see other unwanted things pop up such as branded terms like Petsmart.

find top of funnel content keywords

4) Pick your target keywords

Once you have filtered your list to a smaller set (I reduced my example list from nearly 47,000 keywords to about 1,300), you can easily go through them and look for interesting phrases that would be good terms to attract your target customer who is doing some broad research.

Looking at my list, puppy owners are a great opportunity. These owners are new to dog-ownership and are looking for educational content – see “how much to feed a puppy” and similar searches below.

Save these interesting opportunities to your Workspace by clicking the star icon. You can also download the filtered set of keywords and email them to your team.

choose top of funnel keywords for content

5) Create TOFU content optimized for search and/or social

Now that you’ve narrowed your keywords quickly and found a great opportunity with new puppy owners, it’s time for you to decide what kind of top of funnel content to produce. This is where a content marketer needs to put on the creative cap. What would I create? Probably more than one type of content. Here are some ideas:

  • A blog post detailing how much to feed a puppy based on age, weight, breed, level of activity, etc.
  • An infographic showing how much to feed based on the same information as above
  • A video tutorial that explains how to make that decision
  • An ebook that is a “New Puppy Owners” manual
  • Some short, visual content with tips for new puppy owners to share on social media
  • A grid that shows volume of food assuming the typical puppy weight by breed type

I hope you can see where I’m going with this. Give it a shot for yourself and let me know how it worked out!

Want to find keywords to create your own TOFU content? Sign up for our Advanced Plan! Your first 7 days are completely free.

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Tom Treanor

Tom Treanor

Tom Treanor is a Senior Product Manager at Alexa Internet and has expertise in the areas of Content Marketing, SEO and Social Media Marketing. He has experience helping startups, small and medium businesses, and large enterprises grow their business and reach new customers.

Tom Treanor

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