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Conversion Funnel And User Journey Optimization: A Complete Guide

Conversion funnel & user journey
A conversion funnel is positioning the right content in the right stages to attract the right kind of audience to convert.

For any business, having quality content and a regular influx of visitors is imperative – and in most cases, the majority will settle for that.

But it’s only through positioning the said content, dividing it into compelling stages of user journey and defining goals for the audience that lets you guide visitors towards the desired goal and measure ROI.

How do you do it?

Enter: conversion funnel!

This content strategy has worked for multiple companies and businesses: 90% of organizations use content in their strategies to convert users into loyal customers.

Let’s dive right into conversion funnels and learn how they do it!

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Conversion Funnel 101: What It Is And What Are Its Stages And Goals

A conversion funnel is a content marketing step-by-step guidance of site visitors from the landing page to the page where conversion (a purchase, subscription etc.) is completed.

Its purpose is to engage a visitor with compelling, relevant and valuable content, presented in several stages that all have specific purposes and are well-related and connected.

The reason why it’s called a funnel is that it resembles its shape – the pool of potential customers is largest at the top (the beginning of their journey at the landing page, usually home page). The amount of potential customers shrinks as they progress to the next stages.

conversion-funnel-and-its-stages
The conversion funnel usually has four key stages that represent a part of the user journey.

Why?

Because the number of people who become aware of your brand is naturally the maximum amount of people – much fewer people will remain interested in your offerings and consider converting. Even a good deal of those who end up at the final stage – the checkout or subscribe page – will decide not to convert.

CEP research shows that buyers are typically 57% of the way to a buying decision before actively engaging with sales. This underscores the importance for marketing to pave the path at every step of the journey for consumers to learn about and engage with your brand.

It is therefore essential to understand what is expected of your business to present at every stage of user’s journey towards the desired conversion.

Stage 1: Top Of The Conversion Funnel – Discovery

9 out of 10 B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions.

At the top of the conversion funnel, your objective is making the potential customers who have come into contact with your brand for the first time aware of what it stands for.

In a word – this is a time for raising brand awareness!

The Situation: A potential customer has arrived to your website for the first time OR has been around before but only superficially, without ever exploring further than homepage. This is what SEMRush refers to as “indirect customer acquisition” – you are not close to converting a customer into, say, making a purchase…

…BUT, if you play your cards right in terms of content, they may be hooked and interested to come back for more – gradually inching towards conversion.

Your Goal: Raising brand awareness and educating users/visitors in the purpose of turning them into a loyal visitor and, eventually, convertee.

Strategy: Making your potential customers interested in a brand by pointing out the values and benefits it has for their needs and problems. This makes top of the conversion funnel primarily:

  • Educational (talk about topics that interest your customer and educate them – convey the image of authority on the given subject)
  • Talking about the customer and your understanding for their needs – NOT about yourself or the product

The reasoning behind this is simple: the better they are educated (by you) on a subject that matters to them, the more likely they will be to convert.

Pro Tip: Useful types of content in this phase would be

  • Blog posts (especially long-form content)
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Big content like comprehensive guides, parallax scrollers…

Also, in order to give them the most valuable info, try and find out what questions the audience is asking at this awareness stage of conversion funnel/user journey.

Look at related searches on Google, LSI Graphs, Answer the Public, Reddit, Quora etc.

Stage 2 (The Critical Point): Middle Of The Conversion Funnel – Consideration And Evaluation

Using videos on landing pages can increase conversion rates by 86%

At this stage of the conversion funnel, your brand is being increasingly associated with the solution you offer.

Ideally – thanks to the previous educational content at the top of the funnel – the solution you provide has been identified by the user as the exact type of solution they need!

The Situation: This is the time where you need to stop speaking in general terms and to communicate directly to the user(s) that your product or service can help.

This is the stage at which a potential customer is evaluating your brand and its offerings.

Why is this stage critical? Because, in it, the user is making a decision – a decision that will determine which solution is to be used (purchased): yours or somebody else’s.

Your Goal: Customer acquisition by letting the user know how you can help them.

Strategy: The above goal is achieved by providing enough informative content so that the user can make an informed decision when making a final decision whether or not to buy a product from you.

How to do this? Unleash use cases!

These can be:

  • Case studies
  • Demo videos
  • Data sheets and in-depth product descriptions
  • Tutorials and how-to content
  • Stories and testimonials by satisfied users of your products or services

Pro Tip: In order to get ideas for top-notch content listed in bullet points above, look for related content within the good-ranking resources, FAQ pages from successful companies that provide similar solutions, analyze similar content that ranks the best and establish the main takeaways provided there.

Stage 3: Bottom Of The Conversion Funnel – Conversion

63% of consumers need to hear a company’s claims 3–5 times before they actually believe them.

Finally, the user has reached the desired outcome – conversion! The very reason for the funnel’s existence.

This signifies they have decided to go from an interested potential user to a valued customer. This is the narrowest part of the funnel, which means the amount of people who have reached the point of transaction is less than in the previous part of it and significantly less than at the top of the funnel.

The Situation: The visitor has turned into a customer – or is just about to. What is wildly important at this point is how you make the final sales pitch and turn the user’s interest (which is at its peak) into a final decision to commit.

Your Goal: Making the user click that buy (or subscribe/order/submit etc.) button.

Strategy: Emphasize the value of the product/service that answers user’s needs. Propose all the main benefits and don’t be afraid to go in detail with data sheets, comparison charts and in-depth product/service clarifications.
The marketing content at this phase resembles sales material and can be one of the following or all of them at once:

  • Reviews and testimonials
  • Detailed product description

Post-Goal Stage: Beyond The Conversion Funnel – Retention And Adoption

STAT: Retaining current customers is 6–7 times less costly than acquiring new ones.

Converting visitors into customers is effective only if you manage to keep them coming again and again. In other words, having a user as a one-time buyer doesn’t bring much value to any business.

Depending on the model of a business – whether users purchase products or subscribe for services – the very essence of customer retention is ensuring that their conversion is not a one-time thing and that they purchase products or use services again.

The Situation: The customer is made – the task now is to make them stay loyal to the brand and, ideally – convert their friends, family members and close members of the community into your users by advocating your business.

Your Goal: Maintaining the loyalty of users that are advocating your product/service after converting.

Strategy: At this stage, customer care is the name of the game. Once a visitor has turned into a buyer or user of services, they should be offered loyalty discounts, specialized newsletters and offers, exclusive insight into new or future products or services etc.

In short, outreach and content methods to be used are

  • Email and newsletter content
  • Insider info and exclusive how-to content
  • Special offers
  • Customer support
  • Friend referral discounts

What Is User Journey (And How To Guide Customers Through It)?

User journey (or buyer journey, if the goal of conversion is making a purchase) is an integral part of every stage of the conversion funnel.

In fact, if you look at the visual graph of a user journey below, you may find it remarkably similar to the conversion funnel.

So – what is the difference between a user journey and a conversion funnel?

Basically – conversion funnel helps a provider of the service comprehend at what point of their journey the user is in and how to keep him engaged.

The user journey is a more broad phenomenon – it’s used to define how a visitor behaves before they learn about the brand and its product/solution (how they find out about a product or a service, how they decide to get to know it better etc) and even after the conversion takes place. It’s a map that encompasses a longer period of time and a wider range of user activity.

A simple definition of a user journey would be:

A full path the user takes to reach the goal on a certain website or conversion funnel. And that included the post-conversion behavior (retention, advocating, word of mouth impressions and so on).

User journey is closely related to the concept of user experience – it illustrates the way user currently interacts with a product or a service (or a brand thereof) and the way they COULD interact. The latter is a job for conversion optimization – a subject to which we’ll get to in a few minutes.

Mapping User Journey Steps

Out of the above four stages of the user journey, a keen conversion funnel designer can devise a series of steps that the user will take.

The end goal? Getting them to convert!

The UX Review recognizes these steps contained in a user journey:

  • Step 1 – Context: Here, the user journey designer thinks in terms of the user’s whereabouts. Where they are both on site and offline and what may be preventing them to take the next step.
  • Step 2 – User Journey’s Progress: How can a current step be optimized to make them proceed to the next without fail?
  • Step 3 – Functionality: Depending on the device the user is accessing the site with, what functionalities are they expecting and how are they experiencing them?
  • Step 4 – Emotional State: As they progress through the funnel, what are they feeling at every step of the way? Are they annoyed, bored, intrigued, engaged?

Benefits Of Mapping User Journeys

Apart from being a part of a wider conversion funnel narrative, user journeys have certain advantages that may not appear that obvious at first. And not all of them are conversion/sales-related.

These benefits are

  • Understanding user behavior: user journey provides insight into habits, routines and workings of a significant part of your target audience known as personas (more on them in the next segment). This insight can be used for figuring out what they expect from the system they interact with.
  • Demonstration of your vision: your business partners may get a very clear picture of your brand’s values and mission through your user journey optimization.
  • Identification of possible functionalities: by understanding the processes and steps the users would like to take on their way to conversion, a business decision-maker or a user journey developer can realize the shortcomings of and potentials for functionalities and functional requirements that would make the journey possible.
  • Definition of messaging and the interface: once the users’ expectations have been understood, a clearer idea of what sort of interface and messaging should be put in place should emerge.

Understanding Personas

The elementary part of user experience, user journey and, therefore, conversion funnel, is knowing your personas.

What is a persona?

The UX Reviewer defines it as a “representation of a particular audience segment for a product or service.” Personas encompass the very essence of these individuals.

In order to understand personas, conversion funnel designer should consider these:

  • User’s goals
  • Their motivations
  • Their current pain points
  • Their overall character
  • The main tasks they want to achieve

Conversion Funnel And User Journey Optimization: How Content Marketing Can Reach People At Any Stage

65% of marketers are not nurturing leads.

When trying to figure out the perfect conversion funnel design for your website, one thing you should always have in mind is: your audience.

The first step is to identify the right target audience for the content that will answer to their needs.

Try answering these questions about your audience:

  • What are the issues they are facing that your products or services can help solve?
  • What are the most common questions they are asking?
  • How can you make your products or services a part of their routine and daily lives?

Next up, it’s asking the right questions about the conversion funnel itself:

1. Do I have the right question at every stage?

The first frame of reference for a successful conversion funnel is the force of the value proposition, as Meclabs managing director Flint McGlaughlin suggests.

The potential customer will make a positive decision about your product or service at every stage of the conversion funnel if they are certain the value they are offered exceeds the cost they have to pay.

To make sure they provide these small “yes’s” en route to the major “yes” that is the conversion, be wary of the things that can cause them to say a one single “no” that will make them drop out of the funnel:

  • Is your content directed to the wrong persona?
  • Does your content have enough value force?
  • Does it have too much cost force?
  • Does a part of your content come in too early and should it belong in a later stage of the funnel?
  • Are you delaying the most important point?

2. Is the content at every stage at its most valuable?

This outlines the importance of content relevancy. In the case of the conversion funnel, the relevancy is two-fold:

  • Relevant messages need to be sent to niche audiences
  • Customers will engage in conversation with you when it’s relevant to them (when a need for that arises)

Having the most valuable content doesn’t only mean that it caters to the needs of the user.

It also means being deployed at the exact right moment with the most helpful piece of information.

3. If the funnel is not working, where to look for the “leak” and how to fix it?

Before launching the funnel, test the weakest links in it.

At the first stage of the conversion funnel, one should always make an amazing offer.

But the mistake most people make, is they focus on the landing page and the checkout page only – the very top and bottom of the funnel, leaving the middle stages unoptimized.

Brian Dean suggests that what conversion funnel makers should instead focus on is – fixing the bottlenecks. He suggests this to be done by:

  • Outlining every stage of conversion funnel
  • Measure the conversion rate of every step using analytics tools
  • Focus on those with the lowest conversion rate where people abandon the user journey

Optimizing Conversion Funnel Content For Every Stage

1. Top of the conversion funnel

Since this stage of the conversion funnel is used to reach the widest audience possible to make potential converters of, it’s all about getting their attention.

In that regard, the types of content that can optimize the conversion rates are:

  • Social media content curation: enable easy sharing of your content on social media to extend the reach of your content
  • Blog posts: insightful articles that are full of expert advice provide a lot of value to your potential customers who have come looking for help for their issues AND are a mighty SEO resource
  • Infographics: pretty much a summary of every blog post can be presented in a visually stunning infographic packed with stats and data
  • Videos: a type of content with the most powerful conversion abilities

2. Middle of the conversion funnel

At the second stage of the funnel, a business begins to nurture the relationship with the potential client and the education on your offering intensifies.

Creating shareable content with great learning potential is what optimizes the funnel even further.

  • Case studies: very heavily infused with data, this type of content gathers and collects stats and other info that give a specific view into the workings of your product or service
  • eBook guides: a more in-depth version of how-to blog posts that help customers solve their problems
  • White papers: sheets with proven, statistical data that provide scientific proof of your product’s effectiveness.

3. Bottom of the conversion funnel

As outlined in the Conversion Funnel 101 section of the article, at this stage it’s time to get personal with the user who is on the verge of converting.

The key to optimizing the content at this stage is to bridge the gap between the free value given and the product/service.

It should be backed with calls to action (CTAs) as well as invites for demo and trial versions of the product you’re offering, as well as:

  • Webinars and classes: A way to increase a wish to convert as well as foster trust is by giving events and classes for your audience.
  • Free discount codes: an offer that is valid for a limited time creates a sense of urgency and a famous FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) technique for engaging customers
  • Customer testimonials: The reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers can be displayed either on site, at the funnel’s last stage, or can be turned into a series of newsletters and emails. They should contain the story about how these customers’ dealt prior to purchasing your product and how their conversion changed their life for the better

4 Conversion Funnel Examples

There’s nothing quite like learning about conversion funnels from brands and businesses that have been very successful at them.

It is time to look at five exceptional and wildly influential types of conversion funnels by some of the most esteemed companies in their niche.

1. Netflix

Landing on Netflix’s home page, a user is met with a wonderfully enticing offer of getting the entire streaming service’s content free for 30 days!

A cool extra here is the option to cancel your trial at any time and not have to pay (the so-called risk reversal).

Right from the get-go, the conversion funnel grabs the attention of a user.

The iconic video service had 73 million monthly users in the summer of 2018.

The conversion goal on Netflix is to sign up for the service. The extremely simple and user-friendly layout of the site helps in that regard, as visitors follow the single-page content and to-the-point copy.

At the bottom of the page is the Frequently Asked Questions section as a valuable piece of learning content that gives more knowledge on what the user is exactly getting – followed by a CTA button.

Netflix is a world-renowned brand and its reputation works in its favor – but that’s exactly why they keep their conversion funnel extremely easy to navigate, with the bare minimum of info needed to convince users to convert.

Find the entire Netflix sales funnel procedure and template at this page!

2. Mailchimp

One of the most widely used e-mail marketing utilities, Mailchimp, made it easier for their services to go viral when they added “Powered by MailChimp” at the end of every email, which helped spread the word of their services.

The home page conversion funnel follows all the basic steps covered in this article. First, there’s the information of a web-site building novelty service, followed by musings backed with social proof on why MailChip is THE solution for eCommerce, startups and mobile and web apps.

What comes next is a selection of blog posts, case studies and tips to provide knowledge value to users.

The conversion funnel wrap-up is completed with a very effective CTA promising two things: ease of use and service free of charge.

The interactive pricing page for calculating a prospect’s price is awesome. I think it’s definitely unique. When you put in how many subscribers you have, it will instantly quote you the exact price. The simplicity of the pricing is also good. It’s really based on how many email subscribers you have.

The aspirational marketing stands out on the homepage. MailChimp really doesn’t talk at all about sending emails. It’s more about getting you in the door to use the product. They actually barely mention the fact that email marketing with their services can grow your business. They don’t focus on results like getting more sales or leads.

3. Travelzoo

Global tourism and traveling service, TravelZoo, has a three-step conversion (sales) funnel consisting of a lead page, sign up page and a zip code page.

What is immediately noticeable at the top of their home page are two social proofs of their success: 28 million members worldwide and 3.5 million likes on their Facebook page.

Also, there is a neat RVSP button for responding to current deals and another one that immediately calls on to join for free.

After scrolling down through some neatly arranged travel arrangements and offers, a user reaches the CTA that promises exclusive content to those who sign up.

Before signing up, a user is once again reminded that they’ll get the best travel exclusives completely free of charge.

Also, once a user signs up, they are asked for their ZIP code so that offers they receive to their email address are custom-tailored.

Have a look at the structure of Travelzoo’s conversion funnel here!

4. CrazyEgg

CrazyEgg provides deeper insight into how visitors engage with your website and what they are clicking the most through A/B testing and heatmaps.

Their conversion funnel consists of a lead magnet page, sign up page, pricing plan page and order form page.

A catchy headline of “Make your website better. Instantly.” makes two promises and gives two values to users: to improve their website (a possible source of income) and to do it immediately.

Then comes the social proof with a mention of the amount of websites using CrazyEgg.

Another conversion incentive is made on the landing page: a 30 day trial period that can be canceled anytime.

When you enter your domain, you are taken to a Create Your Account page complemented by a client testimonial.

The pricing page lists out a five-tier package with different functionalities – including a custom-tailored plan option.

Scrolling down on the same page a user discovers the list of brands using CrazyEgg and illustrated examples of what this tool does.

Lastly, the final stage of the conversion funnel – the order page – insists that it’s a no-risk procedure.

Visit this page to take a look at the exact structure of CrazyEgg’s conversion funnel.

Need to optimize your conversion funnel for better sales?Let’s talk