The Importance of Cornerstone Content

May 14, 2020

What is cornerstone content?

Cornerstone content is the heart of your website. A strong cornerstone content article structure is the map around which the rest of your articles, blog posts, and sales pages are placed. 

Without a cornerstone content structure your website will lack focus, but get the structure right, and the search engines will love you for it. No content marketing strategy should be without a robust cornerstone content approach!

Image by Davecito via Flickr
A good cornerstone content structure acts as a map around your website

Cornerstone articles have a few common characteristics:

  • Reasonably long, maybe 1500 or 2000 words
  • High-quality content, giving accurate and useful information and a comprehensive overview of your services
  • Future-proofed to stay relevant over time
  • Written with search engines in mind so that readers find them first 

Keep a good cornerstone content article up to date, and it can serve as one of the foundation stones of your website for years to come.

What makes a great cornerstone content article?

These are the articles that people can trust. A cornerstone article should give a solid and clear overview of a topic. That could mean a run-down of a product or service or an explanation about something in your industry. 

Don’t try and use cornerstone content articles to make sales; that’s not what they’re there for. Instead, focus on giving value to the reader to make them want to stick around and learn more from you. 

This is your chance to provide thought leadership and share your knowledge and expertise. These articles are usually pretty fun to write, because you’re the expert, after all!

Image from ‘Thought Leadership to Make You Stand Out’ by Propel Marketing Group
Cornerstone content ticks some of the thought leadership boxes

Why should you bother with cornerstone content?

If you want your readers to get the most out of your website, then you should help them find what they’re looking for. Makes sense, right?

You want to make it easy for your readers.

Human attention spans are notoriously short. There’s plenty of debate about exactly how short, and goldfish often get dragged into it, but suffice to say that you might not have long to grab your readers’ attention. 

Think about what would happen if you made a list of every page on your site. What would it look like? You’d probably end up with a big long list of articles, pages, and blog posts, with no order and no ranking of importance.

How would someone know where to start reading? How could they identify the most important pages in amongst all the rest?

Graphic from research by Statistic Brain
Assume everyone is a goldfish and make it easy for them!

You want to provide some sort of guide, and a network of cornerstone content articles is the way to do it. Link to cornerstone articles from the homepage menu, so that potential customers find them first, and make sure they’re a good shop window for your business. Forget keyword stuffing; this has to be valuable and useful stuff! 

Why does Google need your cornerstone content?

In a world where there are more than a billion websites active at any one time, many of them covering the same topics, search engines need all the help they can get. 

Typing a search term into Google and pressing ‘Go’ sounds easy, but how does Google decide which results to show you? How can it pick through the weird, illegal, incorrect, and downright bizarre content out there to show you only the most useful, relevant, and factual? 

This is where search engine optimization, or SEO, comes in.

Definition by Ahrefs, (Hardwick, 2020)

You could write books about what this simple statement means, but what’s the connection to cornerstone content?

Well, you don’t want to compete with yourself when it comes to page rankings. If you have lots of good content on your website then great, but you really only want the search engines to look at the key articles…the most important and useful pieces of writing…the ‘cornerstones.’ 

A solid cornerstone content structure with sensible internal linking means that you’re pointing the search engines at the best and most useful articles on your site. 

Better search engine rankings – it’s the online dream!

How to create cornerstone content

If you want to introduce some cornerstone content onto your website but don’t know where to start, then we’ve got your back. 

We’ve put together a handy step-by-step guide to help you make cornerstone content the new hero of your website: 

  

Step 1: Choose some existing articles to become cornerstone content, or write some new ones

As we’ve already discussed, your cornerstone content articles need to be well-researched, well-written, engaging, and informative. They need to deal with a topic in some depth and remain relevant past their publication date. Yes, you might need to tweak them as time goes on, but broadly speaking they should stand the test of time.

Image by Engin Akyurt via Pixabay
It’s time to let your inner author out

If you run a car showroom, then maybe your cornerstone articles could be a comparison of different car brands or the importance of safety when choosing a car. If you run a bar, then maybe you could write about how to make various cocktails or the health benefits of different drinks.

Look through your website to see if you already have any content that fits the bill. If you do then great, you’ve saved time. If the answer is no, then you’re about to put pen to paper! 

Alternatively, you could get someone else to write these articles for you. There are pros and cons of letting someone else write your content for you, and we’ve looked at both the value of outsourcing and the pitfalls of outsourcing in the past. The bottom line is that if your time is too stretched to put the time into writing new cornerstone articles, then outsourcing is an option you could consider.

Step 2: Make sure your cornerstone articles hit the right keywords

We’ve talked about the importance of these articles being useful and not stuffed full of irrelevant keywords, but that’s not to say that you should ignore the concept of keywords altogether.

Using keywords to tell search engines what’s on a page is one of the basics of SEO, and you want to make sure that the words that you want to rank for are featured in all the right places.

Image by Wokandapix via Pixabay
Keywords are an essential part of every cornerstone content article

The Moz.com Beginners Guide to SEO is a great place to start if you want to read up on the best way to approach keywords. 

Chapter 3 is all about keyword research because you need to know what people are searching for in order to make sure you can answer their questions. Chapter 4 tells you how to apply what you’ve learned on your own website, including the use of titles and headers.

Get this part right, and you’ll be a long way towards improving your search engine rankings.  

Step 3: Format your articles properly

We’ve mentioned the importance of things like headers and titles, but you should also be thinking about how your articles read more generally.

Break large chunks of text up with images and graphics. This makes an article easier to read and keeps your audience engaged, as well as offering up more opportunities for good SEO. Yep, even images can help you to rank on google if you label and name them correctly! 

Image by Karen Arnold via Pixabay

You can fit any image into an article if you try hard enough!

Check out this useful guide from Yoast on how to optimize your images for search engines. It all helps to increase the power of your cornerstone content. 

Make sure your article is a least 1500 words long and is separated into easy-to-understand sections so that the reader can follow your train of thought.   

Step 4: Link, link, link

Earlier on, we mentioned one of the major benefits of a cornerstone content approach: it tells search engines about the structure of your website.

How does this work in practice?

Internal linking. 

You need to flag up the primary articles on your site to the search engines. You do this by linking to your cornerstone articles from all your other content. These links then act as signposts that guide search engines (and readers) in the right direction. 

This might mean going through your old content and doing quite a lot of editing, but it’s worth it. The cornerstone articles will end up acting as the ‘hubs’ in your website wheels, with the links acting as the ‘spokes’ which branch into the center from lots of related content.    

Image by Sole Bicycles via Unsplash
Keywords are an essential part of every cornerstone content article

Step 5: Sort your menu structure

Our final tip for how to implement killer cornerstone content on your website is to tighten up your menu structure.

We already know that your cornerstone articles are going to be the best and most informative articles on your site. Doesn’t it therefore make sense to position them as your landing pages, and to link to them directly from your main menu and your homepage?

Readers will find them easily, and search engines will understand their purpose. 

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Give the people what they want: use a clear, simple menu structure

This isn’t the time to try any unusual tricks or gimmicks. Visitors to your website want to find what they want with the minimum of fuss. A good menu helps them get there as quickly as possible. 

  

And that’s a wrap! The secrets of cornerstone content have been revealed.

Cornerstone content is the foundation of your website. It’s long-form, informative, useful, and acts as the focus around which everything else rotates.

It can be either a post or a page, it doesn’t really matter as long as readers can find it easily and it provides them with value. Are you excited at the prospect of a shiny new cornerstone strategy?

You should be!

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