How to apply a funnel strategy in Search Marketing

by Tatiana Napoli Ament*

The funnel strategy is one of the most fundamental marketing concepts for comprehension of the customer journey— and the AIDA model is one of the main tools for it. Search Marketing usually does not come to mind on funnel discussions, but the steps that lead to conversion on the AIDA model can be used as a roadmap for SEM. While no two customers have the same journey when it comes to search, the AIDA model offers a way to structure your paid search campaign. Following the funnel structure means you can apply different strategies and KPIs to be relevant during all the steps of your customer’s search.

Top of the funnel: create awareness

The top of the funnel represents the awareness phase of the customer journey. Users at this point are searching at the most general level, which means the top of the funnel is the level with broader possibilities in terms of keywords. With so many options, you should handpick the most relevant keywords to your business as an anchor for your search marketing strategy.

Users at the top of the funnel do not show a clear search intention in their keywords. They are not searching for your specific brand or product and are not clear about their expected outcome. For that reason, the exact match type is the best option to make the campaign cost-efficient. If you deliver healthy meal kits in Miami, [meal delivery service] is your main broad keyword. Always remember to manage your negative keywords appropriately (like “recipes” in this example).

These keywords should represent a smaller portion of your Google Ads budget. Set the bids manually to low values, as your cost per conversion will probably be much higher. Create specific ads for broader keywords showing the value of your service and use CTAs that are more focused on “learn more” than on “buy now.” Keep track of metrics like average CPC, bounce rate per keyword, and session duration to guarantee the efficiency of your top of the funnel strategy.

Middle of the funnel: create interest

The middle of the tunnel is where the customer shows interest in your product or service. In terms of keywords, they can be more specific to your business, such as “healthy meal kit delivery” and “best meal kit delivery service”.

Remarketing campaigns, such as display ads, are strategies to reach the middle of the funnel too. Define your remarketing by targeting in-market audiences — people in the market for a service or product— and using search intent similar to your focus so you spend your budget smartly.

Allocate more budget and keywords to the middle of the funnel than to the top of the funnel. Diversify the match type for your keywords strategy and add close variants, but don’t bid on every keyword idea: test them first, analyze the ones bringing you more traffic and focus on the ones bringing more qualified traffic. Some important KPIs to keep in mind are pages per session, average position, conversion rate, and CPA. You can also use the Drafts and Experiments tab in Google ads to test copy and bids.

Bottom of the funnel: create desire that leads to action

The bottom of the funnel represents the customer desire and has higher chances of leading to action — it should be your primary focus for Search Marketing. Create a campaign only for the bottom of the funnel, with keywords and copy that illustrate the context of the search intention. Think of your keyword strategy as a path to your most qualified traffic. Use branded terms, long-tail keywords, and craft specific copy for each ad group. Prefer broad match modifiers type — with appropriate negative keywords.

This group should concentrate most of your keyword mix and your budget, as this is where most of your conversions will be. Dedicate your time to creating a Single Theme Ad Group with creative dedicated to your most relevant bottom of the funnel keywords. In the healthy meal kits business, one example would be +home +delivery +healthy +meal +kits +Miami. Set your location to your area of business and add keywords with “near me”, “in my area”, “in [neighborhood name].” Create CTAs that are more focused on the final conversion.

Keep tracking metrics like keyword impression share to make sure you are not underbidding or building your strategy around keywords with low search volume. Keywords with clear transactional intention tend to have higher competition, so make sure you have a good quality score on them. This will be fundamental for your winning bids with lower CPC. Other important KPIs are impressions, conversions and calls from ads.

Just the tip of the iceberg

The AIDA model should work as a guideline for your campaign structure. From ad groups to keywords, use the funnel to understand your audience and what message and landing page to show them. This will make it easier for you to identify what success looks like and what your challenging points are. Be sure to link your Analytics and Google Ads account to get more insightful data.

*Tatiana Napoli Ament is a content strategist and SEO and SEM expert based in Miami, Florida


  1. I enjoyed your healthy meal kit example for the application of the AIDA model. It was a clear example to apply a lower budget to specific campaigns with broad keywords in the awareness stage. In the middle of the funnel, you added additional keywords to your example after testing them. Finally, you recommended long-tail keywords and continued to use the same model to get your point across. I can apply this to real estate as well to distribute my marketing dollars efficiently. It is a useful guide to creating my next Google AdWords campaign.
    Thanks, Tatiana!

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