7 Ways to Turn Top of Funnel Visitors into Leads

When does a visitor become a lead?

Ask ten different people and you'll likely get ten different answers. Then there's the whole issue of "qualified leads" and the myriad of ways you can rank, order and value them.

In terms of top of funnel optimization a lead becomes a visitor when they give you permission to contact them.

Fundamentally, it's all about nurturing engagement to the point where a visitor is willing to begin a relationship with you. This can be as simple as following you on social media, subscribing to your newsletter or adding you to their RSS feed.

Improving the effectiveness of the top of your funnel means catering to a range of interests, tastes in content types and different levels of engagement.

Below are seven ways to make your lead capture irresistible to all of your visitors. Well, maybe not all...but definitely a hefty chunk!

1. Cater to different content tastes

It doesn't matter how you're communicating, whether it's through a blog, a landing page, a social media account, via email or any other medium. In all cases, it's vital that you cater to a variety of different content tastes.

Marketers on average use 13 different types of content. That's a lot! And the reason that the practice of diversifying is so widespread is because it works.

Of course, that doesn't mean that you should produce every type of content under the sun. On the contrary, a good strategy involves coming up with a unique mix based on your own data, the feedback of your customers and industry stats.

The Content Marketing Institute, for example, published rankings of the most effective B2B content tactics.

Content Marketing Benchmarks


Ultimately, your message remains the same. What changes is the way you present it. By utilizing a number of different formats you're spreading your net as widely as possible, thus allowing visitors to consume information in their preferred context, whether that's video, visual, written, short-form or long-form.

And the more your visitors consume, the more engaged they become.

Buzzfeed recently published a fascinating article detailing some "newer" content formats that marketers ought to try. Some of the best include:

  • Quizzes
  • Infographics
  • Cartoons
  • Gifs and "animated pictures"
  • Graphs and charts
  • Browser games

Again, the idea here isn't to "do everything". It's about crafting a mix of different entry points to draw visitors in and cultivate engagement.

2. Include low-friction "hooks" in content

Low friction hooks are a great way of netting low-investment visitors. This strategy was explored by Ross Hudgens of Siege Media in his attempt to create an effective Stumbleupon ad campaign, where traffic is incredibly flakey.

Low-friction hooks such as Facebook like boxes and Twitter follow buttons are an effective way of capturing visitors that aren't engaged enough to leave their name and email address.

You can also set up in-content share buttons in such way that readers are encouraged to follow your account after sharing.

3. Include both short and long-form written content

Research by Orbit Media shows that content is getting longer. There are two reasons for this. Longer content tends to be shared more and rank better in Google.

Content Marketing Benchmarks


In-depth guides, in the form of blog posts, eBooks and even video and email courses, are a great way of building trust and engagement over the long-term. But they're not for everybody.

More than ever, people are short on time. This is particularly the case with busy execs and industry leaders. A lot of people simply don't have the time to spend 30 minutes reading through a 4,500 word guide.

You can see from the graph below, based on data collected by Buffer, that longer content gets more shares. The higher share-count is likely indicative of greater engagement.


Content Marketing Benchmarks

What's interesting is that shorter content, in the range of 500 to 1000 word, also gets a weighty amount of shares. This presents an opportunity for those not taking advantage of short-form content to build engagement with visitors that don't have the time or inclination to immerse themselves in longer alternatives.

In fact, shorter content can actually work better. A lot of problems that visitors are seeking solutions for are best solved by quick answers. Concise visual content also lends itself to being shared via social media. Short content is also a quick way of building up authority and trust, which follows on nicely to the next point...

4.Focus on building trust from the get-go

Trust is closely tied with engagement. Fundamentally, an engaged visitor is one that believes in your authority and ability to solve their problems.

Remember the the old notion that you make a judgement about somebody within the first three seconds of meeting them?

Whether or not that's true is open to debate. But there's certainly an aspect of truth to it when you apply it to top of funnel strategies. Authority, and thus trust, is cemented early on in a visitor's mind. If you pay attention to the way you surf the web, you'll probably find that you make immediate snap-judgements about websites' credibility.

Considering that 96% of readers like comments from thought leaders, there's also a strong incentive to include "trust signals" from the perspective of pleasing your visitors.

Some common tools for building trust include:

  • Testimonials from clients
  • Case-studies (especially involving original research)
  • Personal and client stories
  • Industry leader comments

There are lots of ways to use the suggestions above in innovative ways. You can embed tweets from thought-leaders into your posts, for example, or work with data companies to co-sponsor research.

5. Provide a variety of lead magnets

This strategy rests on the same principle of catering to a variety of engagement levels and content tastes. By providing different lead magnets you can speak to a greater number of your site's visitors.

Keep in mind that original and underutilized lead magnets can often perform exceptionally well. In one of our recent case studies Bourbon and Boots netted 35,752 leads by creating quirky quizzes that engaged visitors, using the results as a lead magnet. Quizzes are a great example because they combine the two essentials of top of funnel marketing: engaging content (the quiz) and a compelling lead magnet (the results).

Another key strategy, that brought Brian Dean of Backlinko a 785% increase in conversions, involves creating lead magnets that are specific to the content in which they are offered. He terms these "content upgrades".

If, for example, you write an article about dog training (it seems to be the standard example) you might include a lead magnet titled "One-Page Dog Training Checklist" in exchange for an email address.

You can see a variety of creative lead magnet ideas in our recent blog post on the topic. Some of the best include:

  • Free trials
  • Checklists
  • Blueprints
  • Webinars
  • Free stuff (actual physical products)

As with all these tactics, experimentation and testing is the key. If visitors are genuinely compelled by unusual and intriguing lead magnets they are much more likely to want them.

6. Reduce friction everywhere

Friction is the amount of effort required to follow through on your CTA. Reducing it can dramatically increase the willingness of your visitors to hand over their personal details.

This principle applies to actual content itself in relation to making it digestible, but more importantly it refers to your CTAs. Some examples include:

  • 1-click social share and like buttons
  • Removing the name form from opt-in boxes
  • Allow people to sign up to free trials with with social logins

Top of funnel strategies are about beginning the relationship. It's always possible to gather more personal information later down the line.

7. Keep data at the forefront of your mind

The only way to see consistent improvements to the top of your funnel is by testing new ideas, throwing off those that don't work.

But there's a problem. Measuring engagement is difficult.

According to industry experts, the focus should instead be on conversions and CTAs. If a strategy is getting more people to sign up, it's working. If not, time for the rubbish heap!

By focusing on conversions, you will be able to identify major drop-off points, implementing the strategies above to "seal them up".

Bonus tip: make use of retargeting ads

Ok, one more tactic before concluding!

Just because a visitor has left without handing over their details doesn't mean they're gone forever. A couple of years ago that might have been the case. Now, however, you can take advantage of ad retargeting.

By installing a snippet of code on your website you can enable big advertisers like Facebook and Twitter to retarget prior visitors.

Retargeting technology is an excellent way of pitching new content to potential leads. If they didn't engage the first time, try something different.


The top of your sales funnel is intricately linked with the middle and bottom. Whilst the content you produce will act as the first point of entry for new visitors, it also plays a vital role in furthering the relationship of existing leads, eventually leading them to purchase.

Whilst all of these strategies will help turn visitors into leads, they'll also have a knock-on effect further down your funnel.

Top of funnel strategies are all about increasing engagement and getting visitors to grant you permission to contact them. Underlying these are the twin pillars of good content and effective CTAs.

Finally, it's worth restating the need to test, test and test again! Focus on the important metrics and move forward from there.

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