Upper Funnel Marketing: Using The “Demand Creation” Approach To Market To People Who Don’t Know They Need You

upper funnel marketing feature image

One of mine main offerings is producing keyword reports.​

I've been doing these for over 2 years now and it's not uncommon that I sometimes get orders of between 10 and 30 reports per month.

Just this past week I ​delivered a report to a client that is a holistic health coach.

She wanted a report that focussed on stress and in particular compassion therapy.

I was ​immediately intrigued.

Co​mpassion therapy is not a term I hear used that often (but then again I don't work in the health niche).

I was curious as to what the search volume would be so I plugged the term into my keyword research tool of choice Long Tail Pro.​

Long Tail Pro is a desktop keyword research tool that doubles as a rank checker and competitive analysis software.​

I typed in the keyword:​

keyword Long Tail Pro

And found it gets around 260 global monthly searches, which is more than I expected.

I was then curious as to what search results were being returned for this keyword so I looked on Google:

Google search results for a keyword

I wanted to understand how Google interpreted this keyword.

Now one thing you need to know about my reports is that they're designed for blog posts (although clients are free to use the keywords in any way they see fit).​

In other words, I find a mixture of low competition search terms targeting both upper funnel and lower funnel keywords that can be used in blog post titles... and I actually craft the headlines myself. 

So my clients walk away with ready-to-go blog headlines using low competition keywords.

I thought carefully whether I should include the term "compassion therapy" in my client's report.

I did.

Now I want to tell you why.

But First....

About 6 months ago I purchased a Keyword Strategy Implementation Guide from Nick Eubanks of SEO Nick.

In this guide, Nick outlines specific strategies to get traction on money keywords.

Money keywords are keywords that you need to identify as those that will bring the most qualified traffic to your site...not just the most traffic.

In other words, money keywords will help with getting conversions - not random traffic. 

After I read the guide, I emailed Nick to help answer a few questions I had.

I was particularly interested in understanding the difference between identifying keywords for conversion and identifying keywords for traffic...and how to use those keywords.

After a few emails back and forth, Nick provided me with some gems that I want to share with you today, which will help you understand why I decided to include the keyword in this report.

Is It A Money Or Traffic Keyword?

"Compassion therapy" is most definitely a traffic keyword. 

One big clue to this is that the keyword has a zero suggested bid…

suggested bid keyword research

...and no Adwords ads on the first page.

no adword ads

The lack of Adwords action told me that there’s no strong commercial intent behind this keyword.

In other words:

People that search for that keyword aren't looking to buy from you.

What I mean by that is it's a top level informational / investigative keyword, which would probably belong on a homepage or top tier services page.

[Hang on. I thought you said that your reports only focus on keywords for blog posts?!]

You're right. I did. 

But it doesn't stop me from advising clients on how some of these keywords can be used.

A term like "compassion therapy" isn't going to make a business money.

 I don't think there would be many people in the world that woke up this morning thinking:

"I'm feeling extremely stressed so I need compassion therapy today."

Unfortunately when it comes to keyword research there's no software in the world that tells you WHY people search on certain key terms.

If there was, we would all be rich and sipping cocktails in Barbados.

This is where skill, judgment, decision making and a deep insight into your business is essential.

I believe that the people searching for it (and remember it gets 260 monthly searches so someone out there is) ​are probably already familiar with the term and likely to be working in the field or similar fields.

They're not exactly her target market.​

So why would I recommend my client use it and why did I include this search term in her report?

To create awareness.

Let me explain.

People that are feeling stressed and want help with this are not going to type in "compassion therapy" into Google​ as a solution for stress.

But because my client uses compassion therapy as a solution to help people with stress-related problems, then she needs to start educating her potential customers and market that this is something they may need in the future.

Remember, people don't know what they don't know.

The term "compassion therapy" is a broad top level search term ​that sits at the TOP of the marketing funnel.

marketing funnel

In Nick's guide, he explains how he targeted the keyword "master keyword research" for a keyword research guide he sells.

I asked Nick why he went after this keyword because it only has 20 monthly searches ​and zero commercial intent.

Nick explained to me that he was using the "demand creation" approach.

The "demand creation" approach is something that Matt Gratt talks about in this post on keyword research for SaaS.

It's where you're targeting visitors in different stages of the search funnel to:

a) create awareness around a problem (in Nick's case people didn't know they could "master" keyword research)


b) build relevance for a core term that you're targeting (Nick's core term was "keyword research.")

So back to my client.

Using the "demand creation" approach, my client can raise awareness around the concept of "compassion therapy" especially in relation to stress-related issues because that's the actual problem she is helping people overcome.

Because this would be such a new and possibly even an obscure concept for many people, one way she can do this is to write an educational and informative blog post to educate her potential customers and the market in general.

For example, the headline I provided her in the report was:

"The compassion therapy approach to reducing stress."

This will assist Google to associate and link up the concept of compassion therapy (and thus her expertise) to stress as well as her brand so in the long term, Google will start to recognize her as an expert in this field.

As Rand Fishkin said at Search Love in 2014, you need to "become the brand that Google associates with [your topic]."

Another way she can target the keyword is to use it on her homepage OR create a separate page, which may be linked from her services or work with me page.

However, if she was to do that, she needs to be aware of another important issue:

Keyword cannabilization.

Why You Need To ​Avoid Keyword Cannabilization

Nick said one of the most important considerations for optimizing individual pages for specific keywords or keyword set is to stay hyper aware of cannabilization, so you're not competing with yourself for relevancy.

Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple subpages are (heavily) targeting one and the same key term.

A common mistake many companies make is putting their target keywords in ALL of their page titles, and when Google is not sure which page to assign a relevancy score for a term, both pages suffer.

As Ann Smarty explains in this Search Engine Land article, many people intentionally optimize several pages for the same key term “to strengthen” the effect: 

They think the more a keyword is used throughout the site, the more important it seems for a search engine.​

This is not the case and keyword cannibalization is an issue not to be taken lightly.

So what should you do?​

It's best to optimize for a single search term on one page and one page only and NOT use the same keyword on multiple pages on the same domain.

Nick says to use other pages on your site to target other tangential and semantically related keywords but NOT that the same one.

The location of the page within the architecture is going to depend entirely on the rest of the content and the other target keywords.

So in my client's case, she shouldn't target "compassion therapy" on multiple pages on her site. She should target it either in a blog post OR create an individual page on her domain that explains and promotes this concept.

For example, she could target "compassion therapy" in a blog post using the headline I suggested above...

...AND find another relevant and related keyword to target on an individual page that promotes this service.

E.g. "compassion-focussed therapy."

What's The Key Takeaway From All Of This?

The key takeaway is that my client wouldn't be targeting a keyword that will directly result in leads or sales for her business.

Instead, the purpose is to target the keyword to create brand awareness around a problem that many people suffer from every day ​(stress) with a solution (compassion therapy) that most aren't even aware is available or can help them.

Here's The Next Step...

How do you raise awareness about problems or solutions in your business that most people don't know about?

How do you market to people who don't know they need you?

Please share ​it in the comments section below. Someone else might benefit from your tips.

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  1. Shae, this post was jam-packed with helpful information! Thanks so much for making sense of a complex topic!

  2. wow, shae – such valuable information here. i’m going to go back and study it piece by piece. thank you!

  3. Shae, you are the only SEO expert who makes this complex subject understandable. I really found it fascinating, especially the idea of a target keyword resulting in sales or leas awareness. As to your question how do I raise awareness about problems or solutions in my business for people who don’t know about it…I find 9 out of 10 people are aware of how organizing is so important for a calmer and productive life, but they often don’t realize their are profession, such as myself, a professional organizer, that can help them have less stress in their daily lives. I emphasize my differentiator, that I wasn’t born organized so I totally “get” how and why they feel as they do. My solutions are very personal and customized.

  4. Your blog posts always inspire me and teach me so much. I’d never thought of the difference between money and traffic keywords before, let alone considered how best to use them.

    As for marketing to people who don’t know they need me, that happens a lot with my Pet Bereavement Support work. Many people, especially here in Ireland, don’t even know that’s an option for them, to get support as they face the pain of grief after the death of a beloved pet. Yet, they may look for articles on how to remember their pets or articles about pet loss. When they read one of my articles they discover how they can get my personal support.

  5. Very interesting article, especially in regards to keyword cannabilization which is something I never thought about. Now, I’ll better go make sure I’m not doing it on my own blog!

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

  6. Echoing what the other commenters are saying… it’s such a complicated topic that drives a lot of people (errr me) away. Thanks for simplifying it. Lots to think about on my end.

  7. Wow, I leave your site a much more informed blogger. Way to break it down. The keyword-cannibalization effect was gold to me, and I’m going to rework one of my upcoming posts right now!

    And I was wondering why YOAST SEO admonished me for using the same focus keyword twice…

    Andrew McDonald

  8. Excellent post. The “demand creation” approach is something that I haven’t come across before – I imagine it could be applied in many other industries. You’ve packed so much detail into this post, I’m going back to give it another read. Thanks for the great read 🙂

  9. Shae, I’m sorry but I love your posts. SEO bamboozles me but by reading your stuff I am learning so much. You now have me thinking about keyword cannibalisation within my own blog posts – i’ll stop being lazy and think bigger. BUt, a question, with keyword cannibalisation, is that relevant with longtail eg if i use ‘advantages of sex education’ one week and then ‘sex education’ next time? Am i going to have to look at minimising my use of ‘sex education’?

    • Hey Cath. It depends on the goal or intention of the post. If you wrote a post about the advantages of sex education and then another post on benefits and disadvantages of sex education, that’s not wise. You’re better off consolidating into just one pillar post. As long as the intent or goal of the post is about a very specific topic, that’s ok. Google does not want to see people optimising around similar long tail keywords. E.g. “chocolate donut recipe” is one post and then you write another optimising around “recipe for chocolate donut.” It’s the same topic. So don’t do stuff like that because Google can penalize you. Google will think you’re trying to game them by creating different pages on similar long tail phrases. All the more reasons to focus on Power Pages really and let one Power Page drive multiple long tail traffic to your site.

  10. Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have Keep up the good work you are doing here.Well, got a good knowledge.


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