[ Updated Jun 14, 2023 ]
A funnel depth audit is one of the most important things you can do for your website. I do them quarterly for my clients. How often you should conduct them depends on your content publishing cadence.
The funnel depth audit informs the makeup of your content. Most often, I’ll classify/tag the content as top, middle, or bottom of funnel.
The goal of a funnel depth audit is to match your business model to your content strategy.
Example: An enterprise software company with 70% top of funnel content = not the best strategy. A better match would be an even mix of top, middle, and bottom of funnel content.
If you want to make sure your content strategy is helping aid in business objectives, and want to have a systematic way of doing an audit time and time again, this is absolutely for you. (Regardless of what industry you are in.)
What is a funnel depth audit?
A funnel depth audit is a manual (can be automated) way of classifying your content by “top”, “middle”, or “bottom”, which refer to the type of content the users are viewing.
Top of funnel
Generally what is thought of as “SEO content” as it relates to awareness with a brand. Most of the time the user doesn’t know your product exists yet and discovers you through this “top of funnel” content piece.
Most often your product or service isn’t mentioned — or is very little. The goal is largely to provide value to the user here through educational content. High traffic potential, low conversion potential.
Middle of funnel
More of the “consideration” users here. If you do it right, you can bring in cold traffic and tie it to more of a use case for the business. This helps get the user to understand problems you/your product could solve and know you are out there. There is more of a chance for conversions here and probably a bit less chance of high traffic.
Bottom of funnel
The primary topic here is related to a product or service. Organic search (unless it’s branded) won’t be how people get to this content (will be from email/pathing through other pages on the site, etc). Conversion potential is highest here, traffic is lowest.
There doesn’t have to just be three parts of the funnel. I’ve found that this works for most all businesses and the definitions (above) make for a complete way to look at this.
Note: This original inspiration came from Jimmy Daly over at SuperPath Pro. A lot of these concepts are originally in his module on Funnel Depth Auditing and I highly encourage you to check that out. This is an expansive way to conduct one faster and represent your work in Google Analytics for better measurement.
Why should I conduct a funnel depth audit?
A funnel depth audit provides visibility for content teams that want to be more data-driven in their content strategy.
Most companies are imbalanced in their funnel depth. Conducting an audit will help you figure out how imbalanced you are and then get back on track to leveling that out.
Ultimately, this will help you drive more leads and sales. After all, isn’t that why we exist as marketers?
What strategic actions come out of most funnel depth audits?
Conducting a funnel depth audit will help you answer these questions:
- Does our content match our business model and to what extent?
- Are my different types of content “doing their job” at moving customers through the funnel? If not, which ones are failing?
- What types of content do we need to create more of/slow down creating/etc.?
- Call to action strategy: are my CTAs doing their job at each stage?
How is this different from a content audit?
I wanted to clear the air here as content audits are talked about a lot (feels like more and more lately) and this isn’t a content audit.
While we are auditing content, I think of content audits as much more comprehensive and a funnel depth audit very well could be part of a content audit.
Content audits usually end up in content pruning, redirecting, refreshing, or retiring content (Some sort of action for all content URLs).
Funnel depth audits are more strategic in nature and they generally inform a content strategy shift vs a lot of immediate actions. They are both very important to do at the very least annually.
How do I run a funnel depth audit?
How to use Screaming Frog to classify your content
The first step of conducting a funnel depth audit is to use Screaming Frog (my crawler of choice — you can use whichever tool you want) to crawl your entire site/sites.
Before you press the “start” button in Screaming Frog, I’m going to share some helpful ways to speed this up for you to conduct this audit in a fraction of the time it would take to do it all manually.
Looking for “Product/Service Mentions” in your content:
Go to Configuration → Custom → Search
Then input some Regex to look for your product/services (this will help the bottom of funnel content stick out more).
Note: By using the .*name here.*|.*second name here.* pattern, you could include all of your product/service names in one search filter.
Connect your Google Search Console to Screaming Frog. This will help us understand what is clearly top of funnel and some middle of funnel, too.
The only part I change in the GSC integration is the date range. I almost always look at least 90 days for anything to do with SEO traffic in these circumstances.
Last thing before you press start, make sure you are aware of where your content lives. If it’s on a subdomain, you’re going to need to check this box:
Enough with Screaming Frog — as you may already know, it’s a very powerful and complex tool. I think content marketers should be able to use this and not have to rely solely on technical marketers for this (unless it’s real technical stuff, this isn’t too bad)
Export your finished URLs from the internal tab:
(You can also connect your Google Account and export directly into a Google Sheet now)
Get them into a Google Sheet and start tagging/classifying!
After importing your CSV into a Google Sheet, it’s time to set up the sheet for working efficiency.
Make sure you are hiding (or deleting, but I like to hide in case I ever need them — or duplicate a sheet) columns that you don’t need.
Here are the columns I keep visible:
- Product mentions (this is what we used with Custom Search using the Regex. This column name will be whatever you named it in Screaming Frog)
- Clicks (from Google Search Console)
- Impressions (GSC)
- Word count (this can help filter out any non-content quickly)
I also find the Text Ratio to be quite helpful in letting me know what the pages are that aren’t content. Sometimes high word count pages aren’t actually content pages. The text ratio is the number of non-HTML characters found in the HTML body tag on a page (the text), divided by the total number of characters the HTML page is made up of, and displayed as a percentage.
There is no “right” way to start, but I generally start with top of funnel (most companies have the most of this, anyway) and I will sort the impressions (descending) to quickly assess what is more than likely top of funnel content.
Another way to do this is to get an idea of what your “average” impressions are for all of your content, set a filter to be greater than that, then you can sort a-z in your URLs (this is often more helpful than you’d imagine) to spot consistencies/groups and to tag in a more “bulk” fashion.
Here is an example of how you might be able to tag in a more bulk fashion:
Here I am moving the Product Mentions column to be right by the Funnel Depth column for an easier workflow. For this section, that seems to be more helpful than the GSC Impressions column, as there aren’t many outliers there.
It’s important to remember accuracy > speed here.
When in doubt, open up the URL and check it for yourself. These tips are merely meant to speed up confident analysis, not as a substitute.
If you are having a difficult time with either thousands of URLs and/or it’s taking you longer to classify/tag the content, I’d look at bringing in more metrics. For example, you could look at Ahrefs # of keywords (also in the top 10 vs top 100) or take it one step further by extracting the “top keyword” from the top pages report in Ahrefs, then using a VLOOKUP to join on the URL. This is how that would look:
As you can see, I more than likely classified this content piece wrong as “top” when it should at the very least be “middle” — judging by the “blog writing services” keyword.
Hopefully, I’ve given enough tips on the spreadsheet workflows for you to spend 2-3 hours here, tops.
If it’s taking you longer than that, feel free to reach out for help and a more streamlined workflow (if this gets too big, I would use BigQuery and more NLP methods next for KW/sentiment analysis)
P.S. You just did a lot of work, so make a quick pie chart for visual analysis of your funnel types!
Too much top of the funnel content? (You’re probably not alone.)
How to use a GTM lookup table to tag your content
Good news, the hard part is done 🙂
What you should have now is a spreadsheet of URLs along with your “funnel depth” classification column. You should have all of your content URLs classified at this point and will need to in order to move on here.
I typically will just duplicate the sheet I was working on and then delete the columns I don’t need, to just get this:
Think of this as your Input and Output in your Google Tag Manager lookup table. Here is how it will look:
As you can see in the screenshot, you’ll need to go to variables → User-Defined Variables → Lookup Table.
You’ll want to choose the Page URL variable as the key to look up the values off of.
Thanks to Supermetrics’ Da Vinci Chrome Extension, you can copy the URLs and Funnel Depth (from your Google Sheet) in your clipboard and paste them into the lookup table in GTM. And, voilà!
Here’s what that looks like:
If you have your Google Analytics page view deployed through GTM, you’ll need to add in your custom dimensions through GTM.
I mention it would be wise to set this up as both a session and user-scoped custom dimension. The user-scoped custom dimension will tie the first piece of content to a device for whatever cookie expiration settings you have with Google Analytics (helps answer “What was the original piece of content they came in on” – helps especially if your user journeys are complicated and long).
The session-scoped custom dimension will do a better job of showing the full story of “how many bottom of funnel pieces did they read before they converted?”. You could also create a hit-scoped one, which would be helpful in creating a full log of all the content funnel pieces they viewed prior to conversion.
How to setup the funnel depth custom dimensions in Google Analytics
Here is how your custom dimension(s) should look, and be matched up, in GTM <> GA.
How to completely automate tagging your traffic for funnel depth classification
At this point you might be seeing this as pretty helpful and cool ? — but not wanting to manually do this every quarter (if you publish a lot of content).
A way to “automate” this would be to talk with your developers and have them put in some meta tag in your content page’s HTML. Think of it as a hidden field on a form that is collecting more data upon a lead submission. That’s essentially what this would do.
It would be the job of the content team to classify the content at the time of publishing (which would simply be a 5-second step if they just finished writing it).
Here is how to extract schema & metadata with GTM from Bounteous (older, but still relevant) if you wanted to automate this. Then you would probably want to use a Regex table, look for the meta tag you just created, and when it doesn’t return “undefined” (which is the default for a null field in GTM) then it will populate that custom dimension in GA (as long as you tag your content, you will have an automated system now). If you get that far, you’re pretty savvy with GTM. ??
What tactical actions can come from setting up Google Analytics goals based on funnel depth
So, why did we do this again? Oh yeah, it was to be more data-driven.
What that actually means here is setting up goals for different parts of your content funnel. Have you ever heard someone on your team say “How is our content performing?” It’s a very important question to ask. However, it rarely gets the attention to detail it deserves.
Most of the time all content is grouped together with the same goals. “This content isn’t getting traffic” — well, that’s because it’s bottom of the funnel and isn’t designed to generate a lot of awareness, etc.
Here is an example of how you might think about setting up your Google Analytics goals based on your types content:
- Impressions. (A GSC metric, but bring this into Google Data Studio with Supermetrics for GDS and blend the data together on the funnel depth custom dimension for faster insights.
- Clicks/Users/Sessions/Pageviews. I added them all here as they are all a different version of various questions you want to answer. I generally use more user-centric metrics the most.
- Leads. You can start to think about this here. Top of funnel content can often break the rules at times and do a great job of generating leads (and customers) at times. I would take a closer look at leads, but don’t have unrealistic expectations either. Try and keep your bounce rate under 80% — but don’t freak out if it’s higher — most times this is organic traffic coming in, the blog answering the question, and the user not necessarily needing anything else.
- Engagement. Start to look at things like scroll depth and time on page. Those two together will help tell a more useful truth of how your content is performing.
- Leads. This should start to be looked at under a closer watch here. If your lead magnets/free trials/etc aren’t converting at acceptable rates, you should start testing out CTA theories (that is, if your content itself is getting good engagement)
- Sales. Depending on your business type, middle of the funnel content can, and should, do a great job of taking product agnostic contact entitled to a specific use case/solution your business offers. (This is also why I feel you could probably never create “too much” middle of the funnel content.)
- Rates. Opt-in rate, conversion rate, and if your funnel is complicated, start to track different steps to see if your users are progressing. Example: Bottom of funnel content → About us page → Pricing page
- Qualitative feedback. Use a tool, like HotJar, to capture feedback users may have about your blog. Oftentimes, 10 responses is worth 10,000 pageviews from an actionability standpoint.
Also, ask your sales team to take a casual (but proactive) approach by asking prospects, or customers (if in an MRR business), what content they found helpful on your site? (Also helps inform new content ideas.)
Using Supermetrics to automate this in Google Data Studio
I have been using Supermetrics now for almost 5 years. (That feels like 30 in Marketer years — there needs to be a formula for this like dogs have…)
Using the Google Data Studio connector here will make life so much easier (just like their Da Vinci Chrome Extension did for the Lookup Table in GTM).
I would use this for a few reasons:
- To avoid sampling
- To bring in multi-channel funnel reporting (different API than regular GA connector)
As mentioned earlier, I would be looking at the impressions (a GSC metric), and the GSC built-in connector compared to Supermetrics is like night and day difference of available metrics and dimensions.
Funnel depth audit recap
Hopefully, this has been helpful for understanding what a funnel depth audit is, why you should conduct one, how to actually do it, connect it to GTM/GA, and seriously level up your content marketing strategy.
Here’s the custom report in GA:
If you have questions about the strategic or tactical side of this, I’m happy to answer those via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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