• Scott Herring

What Is Cornerstone Content?

As you may have surmised from reading my past posts, I'm an SEO geek. I've built lots of traffic for lots of sites using my arsenal of page ranking tricks. And I'm not talking about the BS those Russian bots offer in your email inbox. I'm talking long-haul traffic based on proven search engine optimization. And one of those proven techniques is using cornerstone content. I'm not sure who coined the term, but it is pretty obvious what it means: articles based on your anchor topics. If you're writing a blog about food, you probably have an angle on food, whether it's delicious 30-minute recipes (sign me up!), the latest trends in spicy food (sign me up!), or the best restaurants where you can feed your family for under $30 (definitely sign me up!). Understanding cornerstone content gives you some guideposts for your blog, so let's see how it works.

Cornerstone Content Strategy Definition

One of the SEO tools I use with WordPress is Yoast, which even allows highlighting cornerstone content. Their definition is:

Cornerstone content is the core of your website. It consists of the best, most important articles on your site; the pages or posts you want to rank highest in the search engines. Cornerstone articles are usually relatively long, informative articles, combining insights from different blog posts and covering everything that’s important about a certain topic.

Your cornerstones should strongly reflect your brand. They're not salesy, they should get way-above average traffic, and they stand along nicely. Some examples from my past:

On a student productivity blog for a note-taking app, I wrote about the Cornell Method. First, it's a widely emphasized method for college students, and as such, it gets searched often. Second, I got that page to rank on first page, so it started getting traffic. And third, the more traffic we got, the more traffic that cornerstone got, creating a virtuous cycle. As I've written previously, this particular blog relied on evergreen content, which still works today. Cornell is still a factor.

On a technology blog for a cloud hosting company, I wrote about elasticity versus scalability. Those terms come up often, and although they're similar, apparently people want to know the difference. I had gathered the idea doing some keyword research, and sure enough, it's one of the most trafficked pages on that site every week.

On a blog for a sales software company, I wrote about drip email campaigns, providing a recipe for success (drip emails are timed and tailored to a visitor's interest). It was long-form content that dovetailed with the product we sold, but I wasn't promoting our software, just the technique. That post drew a great deal of traffic (and probably still does years later).

Implementing a Cornerstone Content Strategy

So let's turn our examples back into a checklist you can use for using cornerstone ideas.

Do Keyword Research

Think up some topics someone might be searching for in your space. Plug those keywords into Keyword Planner (or Moz.com if you have access) to collect data about terms that people actually search. Make a list for your backlog.

Consider Your Brand

From your list of keywords, what resonates most with you and your space? How can you take that idea and make it truly fit your brand (and make it interesting)? Brand alignment is key.

Write Something Epic

Look back at Yoast's definition. Cornerstone content is stout, not thin. It's meaningful, not simple. Take your time building something good. Keep adding until you can tell it's your best stuff. Publish.

Optimize Like Mad

SEO your SEO. Make sure your content is fully search engine optimized. You want this stuff to rank. Make it look good, sound good, index good...

Feed the Beast

Drive your own traffic to the page. Home page link? Email campaign? Social media posts? Yes, please, all the above. Generate as much of your own traffic as you can to indicate it's a cornerstone.

Keep Feeding the Beast

Feature cornerstone posts in perpetuity. Reference them in other posts. Include them in "best of" posts. Link to them regularly. Remember, this stuff is the foundation of your organic traffic. Getting more traction for it pays big dividends over time.

Your Cornerstone Content Strategy

Have you been using a cornerstone content strategy? If not, take a crack at it. If you have, are you working the system to maximize your return? And it starts with one post, but you can add more stones -- just make sure they're distinct, fit your brand, draw traffic from your niche, and can be nurtured as evergreen posts. Your cornerstones add up to a winning long-term strategy. Do it!


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