Anyone working in content marketing knows that you need to do more than write simple blog posts if you want to generate valuable traffic for your website.
You need to create cornerstone content — these articles are the ones that will help your brand build strong connections with your target audience, and they'll skyrocket your SEO performance.
Keep reading to learn what we mean by cornerstone pages, why it's essential, and how to prioritize it in your content marketing strategy.
What is Cornerstone Content?
Cornerstone content is a type of content that can be instrumental in the organic performance of your website.
Cornerstone pages tend to be long-form informative blog posts or landing pages containing everything you need to know about a particular topic. These will be the most high-value pages on your site.
Cornerstone pages are designed to provide visitors with the most important information on a given topic through a single piece of content. These will form the pillar content of your website. These pages aim to build brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.
Along with piquing the interest of your target audience, these pages also inform search engines about the general theme of your website. So, your cornerstone pages should focus on the most valuable topics to your business and the services you offer. If this article is going to get the attention of Google, it also needs to rank for your most competitive keywords — the ones that have the highest search volume.
Cornerstone content pieces aren't the same as the normal pages or posts you publish on your website. They tend to be more in-depth than a typical blog post and will touch on numerous sub-topics within a particular niche. Your cornerstone articles should also include internal links to related posts and pages where readers can find more information.
Examples of Cornerstone Content
Understanding what a strong cornerstone article looks like is key to writing high-performing pages for your brand.
Let's illustrate this with an example.
A business that sells running shoes might want to rank for the following high-volume search terms:
- Best running shoes - 74,000 monthly searches
- How to run faster - 18,100 monthly searches
- How to run longer - 1,600 monthly searches
You could go after these search terms by writing detailed cornerstone articles that cover everything a reader might want to know about each of those topics. This article shouldn't be focused on selling your product. Instead, the function should be to inform and educate people.
These cornerstone articles should then internally link to related posts or articles that go into more detail on the above topics, spawning a network of sub-topics that strengthens your internal linking structure.
For example, a cornerstone article on "running shoes" could link to sub-topics of:
- How long do running shoes last
- Different types of running shoes
- The history of running shoes
- Finding the perfect size running shoe
Now, let's look at some real-world examples of cornerstone articles.
TimeOut - The 50 best restaurants in NYC right now
Time Out is a global media company that covers events, entertainment, and culture in cities around the world to inspire people to enjoy the best of the places they are exploring.
A cornerstone post on TimeOut may be the article titled "The 50 best restaurants in NYC right now."
This in-depth article could be considered to be the ultimate guide to finding the best restaurants in NYC. It is a detailed review of 50 eateries around New York City with internal links to other relevant pages on the TimeOut website. By keeping this article updated with new restaurants, they can make sure it's evergreen too.
The article is well-formatted with clear subheadings, photographs, and call-to-action buttons. They even have descriptive tags underneath each restaurant listing, such as "Mexican" to note the cuisine or "$$" to reference the price range.
This page ranks for several high-volume keywords, including "restaurants ny," "new york restaurants," and "restaurants in new york." It ticks the boxes for being a cornerstone post for the New York food scene.
HubSpot - What is inbound marketing?
The "What is Inbound Marketing?" page by HubSpot is an excellent example of a cornerstone article in the B2B sector.
HubSpot coined the inbound marketing methodology. So, this cornerstone article allows HubSpot to explain what this term means and direct people towards other resources that they might find helpful.
This post shares everything a reader might want to know about inbound marketing. It is a detailed and authoritative resource that is broken down into an easy-to-digest format. Brilliant!
What are the Benefits of Cornerstone Content?
Creating cornerstone pages is a valuable tactic for increasing brand awareness by creating highly optimized and helpful articles.
This type of content:
- Raises brand awareness
- Drives relevant traffic to your site
- Strengthens your link profile
- Establishes authority and trust
- Moves readers along the customer journey
Done right, cornerstone pages can revolutionize the organic performance of your brand by securing high-ranking positions in search engine result pages (SERPs.) As such, these pages are a valuable tool for SEO and one that all content marketers should have in their arsenal.
Comprehensive content can raise brand awareness by making sure your brand is covering the most crucial topics within your niche. This helps get your brand in front of the right people and improves your ranking potential for these keywords.
Targeting highly relevant and popular search terms can drive relevant traffic to your site. Injecting your writing with internal links, lead magnets, and calls to action will help move these people along the customer journey.
The level of detail in the article helps to position your brand as an authoritative voice in your industry. This can allow you to establish trust with your target audience and bring in a steady stream of website visitors in the long term.
Your cornerstone articles can also strengthen your website's link profile for both internal and external links. The internal links within the page itself can benefit SEO by passing authority between related pages on your site.
You will attract natural links from external sources resharing your article by sharing valuable information. These external links act as 'public votes' in favor of your article.
Better yet, they'll pass link equity to your site, which improves your SEO performance. All of these links help you establish trust and authority within your industry — two more checks in the search engine optimization box.
How to Create Cornerstone Content Step-by-Step
Now that we're familiar with cornerstone content and the ways it can supercharge your performance, let's look at a step-by-step guide to creating cornerstone articles for your website.
Step 1: Choose your topics
Before you begin writing, you need to nail down the best topics for your brand.
This is arguably one of the most critical steps in the process. Choose the wrong topics, and you'll miss the mark in reaching your target audience.
Start by putting yourself in your audience's shoes. Consider their interests and what questions or problems they might have.
From here, think about how you could offer solutions to these problems. Do you have expert knowledge or insights in these areas? Are you able to add value and help them address their questions?
Don't just think about what your audience might be interested in; research it. Dig into your website analytics, speak to your sales and customer service teams, and gather insights and data from your customers. The more data you have behind you, the more experienced you'll be in supporting your audience's needs.
Step 2: Carry out keyword research
Once you've got your topics, you're ready to do keyword research.
Search volume is a sign that your chosen topics are in demand. So, run keywords relating to your topic through some keyword tools to determine their popularity.
When doing this, you're going to want to strike a balance between finding terms that have a high search volume and an achievable keyword difficulty. Going after keywords that have over 10,000 monthly searches and a high difficulty rating might look tempting. Still, they'll be hard to capture unless your site already has a strong domain authority. So, be realistic when choosing which keywords you’re going to pursue.
While it isn’t essential to use a keyword research tool, Wordstream’s free keyword tool can help speed up this part of the process. You can, however, use any research tool or technique that you prefer.
Make a note of any keywords relating to your topics that have a high search volume and low-to-medium keyword difficulty. These are the search terms that could work perfectly for a cornerstone piece.
Step 3: Find the best format
Now that you have your list of potential keywords, you need to find the best format for your content.
To do this, you need to see what happens when you Google your keywords. Analyze the SERPs. Do the results seem relevant to your business? And what types of content appear on the first page? More importantly, how can you create something better than the current top results?
When you Google your keywords, the search results should also give you an indication of intent.
Search intent refers to the reason why someone is searching for something online. There are four types of search intent:
When deciding which pages should appear on the first page of search results, Google wants to prioritize the pages that best fit the search term and the intent behind it.
For example, if you search "beard oil," the results show a mixture of pages that have commercial intent (e.g., product category pages) and pages that have informational intent (e.g., beard oil buying guides). This suggests that people searching for this term are looking to buy beard oil, or they want to know more about it.
For cornerstone pages, you'll want to write with informational intent. But, this doesn't mean just having to stick to writing "how-to" guides.
You can add pizzazz to your article with videos, images, data visualizations, or interactive features like an online calculator. Use the format that best meets the needs of your audience concerning this particular topic. The key here is to create something that adds value to the conversation.
Step 4: Plan your content
The planning phase is crucial for mapping out the necessary elements of your cornerstone page.
During this stage, you'll want to map out:
- The primary keyword for your content
- Any secondary keywords and topics
- Subheadings to break up the article
- Internal links you need to include
- Media files
- Anything else you should include
Your primary keyword will be the main focal point of your article. Meanwhile, secondary keywords and topics should add further context to your primary keyword. These help extend the reach of your initial keywords, getting your page in front of even more people.
For instance, if you were writing a cornerstone article about bikes, some secondary keywords may include terms such as "mountain," "gravel," or "carbon fiber."
Subheadings will then help break up your article into digestible chunks of information. Subheadings are also great for SEO as they let your readers and search engines know the critical points of your page.
Make a note of any internal links that will boost the value of your page. You might already have existing pages or articles relevant to your topic. Alternatively, you might need to create more pages or articles to support your cornerstone pages.
Nobody wants to read a wall of text. Break text up with media files such as images, videos, or infographics. You could also embed social media posts and use bullet points or standalone quotes to enhance your article further.
Step 5: Content creation
Now that you have a plan in place, it's time to get writing.
Keep your plan close at hand when writing. You will want to refer to this plan throughout the content creation process to make sure you're staying on track.
The keywords you uncovered during the research stage should occur naturally throughout your article. Where suitable, you should also include related questions and search queries that appeared in the "People Also Ask" box of search results.
Quality is critical. Whatever you produce needs to be accurate, visually appealing, and easy to read. It should also be easy for readers to navigate to other areas of your site where they can find further guidance.
Matching search intent is equally as important. Make sure you write something that really adds value to the broader conversation. It should solve the problem raised and satisfy the search needs of your audience. Remember, your objective here is to help your audience, not to sell to them.
Step 6: Optimize content
Once you have written your article, it needs to be optimized for search engines. If your article isn't reaching the right people, it's redundant. Learning how to write for SEO will make sure your articles connect with the right people.
To optimize for SEO, you'll first need to check those keywords. Be careful not to stuff your keywords into the article. Simply make sure your primary keyword appears naturally throughout the piece. Ideally, your keyword will appear in the page title, URL, throughout the article's main body, in the alt text of images, and in subheadings where suitable.
Optimize the linking structure of your article too. Your article should span a network of internal links to distribute authority throughout your site. The internal links pointing to and from your article should be on related topics to help define your website architecture and hierarchy.
Where you can, acquiring external backlinks from high-quality sources will help enhance the organic performance of your page. So, be sure to do some backlink acquisition work.
Images or videos in your article can be optimized for SEO by using relevant terms in the file name, using alt text, and making sure media files are light and fast-loading.
There's a lot more you can do to optimize the SEO of your cornerstone articles. But the above suggestions should provide a great foundation to get you started.
Step 7: Distribute content and keep it fresh
The work doesn't stop once your article is written. You need to push it out there for the world to see.
Distribute your article across your other channels through organic and paid social media, email marketing, and any other marketing channels you own. Be targeted in your distribution, and make sure your promotional posts connect with your audience and get them clicking through to the article.
As time goes by, your article runs the risk of becoming outdated. So, you'll need to nurture it over time.
Keep your content fresh by updating links, data, and information. Update old statistics with new ones and refresh any outdated examples. Keep checking those keywords too, and re-optimize your page if organic traffic starts to drop.
It’s Time to Write!
That's everything you need to know about cornerstone content in a nutshell. Now that you are fully refreshed on what a cornerstone article is and how to write killer pieces, you're ready to put those learnings into action.
Writing cornerstone pieces is no easy feat, but it sure is rewarding. So, what are you waiting for? This is your sign to get writing. And watch as your site performance skyrockets.
Still have questions about cornerstone content? Drop a comment below; we'd love to hear from you!