Cornerstone content is a term that has been popping up in content marketing and SEO circles a lot recently but the term is not new.
Don’t believe me?
Copyblogger Brian Clark wrote a post about it 11 years ago! Like a fine wine, the term has had time to age a bit and has been recently adopted as a content marketing best practice.
Let’s take a deeper look at what the term ‘cornerstone content’ really means and why people are so invested in its creation:
What is Cornerstone Content?
There are several dictionary definitions for the word ‘cornerstone’. If you’re looking for synonyms, try: basic, indispensable and essential. Another definition states that a cornerstone is a stone that forms a part of a corner or angle in a wall, somewhat like a foundation.
When applied to content marketing, cornerstone content refers to a high-value piece of content that provides a foundation for your website. The creation of cornerstone content gives your business an opportunity to educate your audience about what your website is all about.
Think of cornerstone content as something longer and more in-depth than a blog post. For example, if you normally write listicles, use cornerstone content as your excuse to provide complete guides on topics of interest to your audience. Because creating this type of content is inevitably more time-consuming and effort intensive than the average blog post, you’ll want to build up your content calendar accordingly.
Aim to have at least two pieces of cornerstone content live on your website at launch and add more as you can—quarterly is a great goal for expanding your published cornerstone content up to about five content pieces (compared to blog posts, which you’ll ideally be publishing at least once a month).
Cornerstone content must support your other content as you build out the rest of your website. This is because of how Google makes sense of the niche audience you serve—you want all content to be related (and easy to link to internally!). Consider cornerstone content as some of the most important pages of your website, alongside top-level pages including your home page, services, and about page.
Before you get stuck in the mindset of cornerstone content being limited to just a written format, know that it’s not limited to the written word. For example, Wordstream offers a free keyword research tool, which continues to bring in over half a million visitors to their website each year.
Cornerstone Content versus Evergreen Content
You may have also heard of the term ‘evergreen content’, which isn’t too much different than the concept of cornerstone content. In fact, both:
- Are high-value
- Are informative
- Can/must be frequently updated to be relevant
- Have SEO benefits
What makes cornerstone content different from evergreen content is that it is the content that really defines your website. Cornerstone content makes up your company’s first few web pages that you want visitors to your site to see when they visit your website for the first time.
The Goals of Cornerstone Content
According to Copyblogger Brian Clark, there are two main goals for cornerstone content:
- Cornerstone content aims to create a positive first impression to site visitors by providing relevant and useful content. With Google moving toward their mission “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”, they are pushing for search results that are relevant. Thus, cornerstone content also results in SEO benefits.
- Creating compelling content that people will link to without question. After all, linking is part of a good SEO strategy and being able to demonstrate authority/build trust is essential for success.
Why Add Cornerstone Content to Your Content Marketing Strategy?
Content marketing and SEO, which go hand in hand, are becoming increasingly competitive fields online: over 90% of marketers use content marketing and only 3% of content marketers see SEO and content marketing as separate entities. Clearly, it’s becoming a crowded space!
To set yourself apart from other websites in your niche, SEO experts advise websites to invest in creating more longform content to appear more authoritative. Here’s why:
- 51% of website traffic comes from organic search results.
- The average length of content on the first page of a search engine result is 1890 words.
- More than 50% of search queries are more than four words, meaning that when people search, they’re looking for something specific.
The Benefits of Cornerstone Content
Though this article has already touched on a few benefits of cornerstone content, here’s a more complete list:
- Can help you start building traffic and brand awareness.
- Establishes authority.
- Builds natural links.
- Aids in lead generation. A good piece of cornerstone content defines what the website is about so it attracts interested prospects and leads. The content must be at the top of the funnel to bring in more leads. By top of the funnel, this means that it’s not hidden behind a paywall or registration form.
- Makes other content accessible by bringing traffic to other pages, providing fodder for your internal linking strategy.
- Helps you come up with other blog topic ideas.
Guide to Creating Cornerstone Content
Ok, so you’re convinced that cornerstone content is a worthy venture for your company. How do you do it right? Let’s dig right in:
1. Choose the keywords you want your website to rank for.
Before you start creating your cornerstone content, you’ll want to find 3-5 target keywords that you want your website to rank for. For example, let’s pretend that you have a business that helps set people up with virtual assistants and you want to create content for the blog.
Do some keyword research using WP SEO Hub or free tools like Google Keyword Planner or keywordtool.io (or other paid tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs, which provide more useful data).
Some keywords that come up when you type ‘virtual assistant’ are:
“Virtual assistant jobs”
‘Virtual assistant jobs from home”
“Become a virtual assistant”
“Find a virtual assistant”
Use Google’s suggested keywords to inspire your cornerstone content creation.
2. Choose your topic and format.
As mentioned previously, cornerstone content doesn’t have to be primarily text-based. At this point in your efforts, decide on the exact format your cornerstone content will take: long-form written content, a useful tool, or something else entirely.
Next, think about your niche. When it’s time to think about topics, create the kind of content you think first-time visitors would gravitate to when they visit your website. Or, advises Wordstream, “The ideal topic for a cornerstone content piece is something that people are commonly searching for, without getting satisfying results”.
If your blog does not have much blog content yet, that’s not a problem—you can build your strategy from scratch. Many SEOs recommend creating new articles from your cornerstone content versus just fitting the cornerstone articles in.
If you use the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin, make sure to click on the ‘This article is cornerstone content’ box. Cornerstone content is optimized differently and Yoast will make the necessary adjustments in directing you with regards to onsite SEO.
3. Create well-written longform content.
Once you’ve decided on your topics, it’s time to work on the finer details of creating your cornerstone content.
Good cornerstone content is ideally:
- Long. Recall that the average length of content in the first page of a search engine result is 1890 words).
- Located on your website: not on Facebook, Youtube, etc.
An easy way to create cornerstone content? Updating or upgrading an existing post. It’s been shown that just a simple content update/upgrade can increase organic traffic by 111%.
Another thing to remember when writing cornerstone content is to match your topic choice with the intent of the searcher.
4. Connect related posts to cornerstone content.
When you think of topics for regular blog posts, try to relate them back to your cornerstone content pieces.
Cornerstone content should rank for short keywords, while related content should rank for longer keywords. Link to your cornerstone pages from your homepage and from as many pages on the website as possible (within reason!). Some websites have a “Start here” tab on the home page that acts as a repository for their most important content, in an effort to guide new visitors.
Examples of Cornerstone Content
Still stumped on where to start? Consider these excellent examples:
Moz created a Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Moz is an SEO software company, so this piece helps establish their authority in this field. The post gets a lot of traffic and downloads (it is also available as a PDF), so they make sure to constantly update it.
Neil Patel’s Growth Hacking Made Simple: A Step-by-step Guide is the perfect cornerstone content for his website. He is a marketing consultant who has helped many companies grow their revenue through digital marketing.
Final Thoughts: The Definitive Guide to Cornerstone Content
Cornerstone content can help search engines crawl your site more effectively by providing a solid foundation of what your website is all about.
Basic steps to consider when it comes to cornerstone content include creating a list of keywords you want to rank for, then coming up with a few long, comprehensive guides, and creating internal links back your related posts.