Cornerstone content can often be key in a winning marketing strategy, but it’s easy to approach it as an afterthought.
However, when prioritized, cornerstone content can be a game-changer for everything from your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to your demand generation approach.
Your cornerstone content consists of your website's most valuable, authoritative pages or articles. And given their role, these specific pages and articles are critical in pushing prospects to become customers.
Sounds like an easy win, right?
Not so fast. Your competitors will also want to rank for the same keywords—and the winner is often the one who has the best strategy when it comes to their cornerstone content.
Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about cornerstone content to create valuable pages that consistently rank well and deliver results for your marketing goals and beyond.
What is cornerstone content?
In short, cornerstone content is made up of the essential, defining pieces of your website. It's the pages or articles that are the pillars of your entire content strategy and contain your site’s most comprehensive, informative, and valuable information.
Think of your content marketing strategy like a pyramid:
- Capstone: The tip-top of your pyramid is likely your home page, pricing page, and product pages. These are the end-goal destinations for your audience where they ultimately make a purchase.
- Top (cornerstone content): Right below your capstone is your cornerstone content. These are informative, compelling, and highly competitive pages that drive traffic to the decision-making pages above.
- Middle: Your mid-level content comprises supporting long-form guides and articles that drive SEO juice to your cornerstone content. They're made up of related topics that drive traffic to the cornerstone content for a more comprehensive deep dive.
- Bottom: General blog posts and articles targeted long-tail keywords make up the bottom of your pyramid. These are foundational to your website and marketing strategy but don't do much long-term good if there's no cornerstone content to point to.
Unlike other pieces of marketing content, your cornerstone content is typically longer, richly detailed, and impeccably researched. It offers insight and expertise that establishes your brand as a thought leader in your field. It aligns with your audience's needs, answers their biggest questions, and solves their most pressing problems.
How cornerstone content impacts SEO
Cornerstone content provides plenty of benefits for your website and marketing strategy, but its most valuable contribution comes from SEO results. Here's how:
- Serves as a hub for keyword strategy: Cornerstone content targets your most important (and likely competitive) keywords, and it's often comprehensive enough to win various related secondary and tertiary terms and phrases.
- Boosts website's authority: Search engines favor websites that provide thorough, authoritative information on a topic. Cornerstone content (with its depth and quality) signals to search engines that your site is a credible source.
- Improves internal linking: Your cornerstone content sits at the center of your internal linking web and links all of your content pages to the top of the pyramid. By linking back to your cornerstone content from other pages and posts — search engines are able to understand and prioritize these key pages.
- Enhances user experience: High-quality cornerstone content tends to engage readers longer, reducing bounce rates and increasing time spent on your site. This shows search engines your content is valuable and relevant.
- Increases backlink potential: Top-notch cornerstone content is likelier to earn backlinks from other websites, boosting your site's authority and rankings in search.
- Wins rich and featured snippets: The detailed and structured nature of cornerstone content increases the likelihood your content will be selected for rich snippets or featured snippets in search results.
- Drives consistent traffic: Cornerstone content is often evergreen, driving consistent, high-quality traffic you can count on month after month.
How to create cornerstone content
Creating cornerstone content is easier said than done. It's not something you'll want to whip together on a Friday afternoon. You'll need to collaborate across teams and departments to understand your audience (and their intent) and identify core topics relevant to them.
Many marketing teams throw darts at the board and see what sticks. However, this often results in a loss of valuable time, money, and resources. The best way to get started is to kick off with a comprehensive strategy and a content pyramid (as illustrated above) — with the caveat being that it'll involve more upfront research and planning.
Here's a step-by-step guide to making it happen:
1. Find cornerstone topics
Pinpoint the core topics central to your brand that resonate with your audience. These should be broad enough to cover a range of subtopics but specific to your expertise and industry.Use keyword research and audience surveys to understand what your audience is searching for and what they value most.
For example, a bank might find cornerstone topics around financial literacy, investment strategies for different life stages, or insights into saving for major life events. Then, they could create an extensive guide on personal financial planning featuring expert advice on budgeting, saving, and investing.
2. Research keywords
Once you've identified your core topics, it's time to dig up all the relevant keywords. Don't be shy. Here's where you can compete with the high-traffic, high-competition keywords, so don't cross any off your list yet.
Start building clusters around these keywords. Bundle together keywords relevant to each other. Your largest bundles (and the ones with the highest monthly search volume) will likely be the foundation for your cornerstone content pieces, while the rest will be supporting content in the middle and bottom of your content pyramid.
3. Plan content pyramid
Use your keyword bundles to develop comprehensive topic ideas and insert where each piece of content fits in your pyramid. There's no specific number of pages you should have for cornerstone content nor a number for supporting content—it'll all depend on what you found while conducting your topic and keyword research.
4. Outline cornerstone content
Outline your content to ensure it covers every aspect of your topic and touches on all the keywords you've targeted. Determine your layout, heading, subheadings, and bullet points to increase readability and navigation.
Think about the journey you want your readers to take and the actions you want them to complete after reading your content. This will be a heavy-duty piece, so you'll probably want a table of contents and jump links to help your audience find what they want.
5. Write a world-class piece
Now, it's time to bring your outlines to life. Write engaging, informative content that resonates with your audience. Remember, the goal of cornerstone content isn't just to inform but also to engage. You want your audience to do something after reading your content.
6. Promote cornerstone content
Creating your cornerstone content is only a tiny portion of the battle. Now, it's time to focus on promotion, and that'll include supporting blog posts, infographics, social media posts, newsletters, and paid advertisements.
Approach your cornerstone content with the 80/20 rule. 20% of your time and resources should be spent creating the content, while 80% should be spent promoting the content.
7. Update and maintain regularly
Your cornerstone content isn't a one-and-done project. You'll need to monitor its progress and regularly make updates to keep it fresh, relevant, and up-to-date. Monitor industry changes, update statistics, and refresh examples to guarantee your content continues to be a valuable evergreen resource over time.
Tips and best practices to follow
Here are a few additional tips and best practices to help you get the most out of your cornerstone content:
- Use data and research: Incorporate relevant data, statistics, and research into your content. This adds credibility to your information and gives readers a reason to link back to your post in their own content.
- Include quotes: Partner with industry experts or influencers to add credibility and a fresh perspective to your content. Partnerships help expand your reach and depth, and they also provide another backlink-building opportunity.
- Leverage storytelling: Weave storytelling into your content to make complex topics more relatable and engaging. Share customer stories, case studies, or your brand's journey to illustrate key points.
- Keep it evergreen: Create content with a long shelf-life. Focus on timeless topics that will remain relevant and useful for your audience over time, requiring only minor updates. Evergreen content continues to attract traffic and provide value long after it's published.
- Focus on quality over quantity: Invest time and resources to create informative, engaging, and thought-provoking content. It should offer something unique that can't be found elsewhere.
- Prioritize the user experience: Make your content easy to read and navigate. Use clear headings, short paragraphs, and bullet points.
- Add multimedia elements: Add images, videos, infographics, and interactive content to make your cornerstone pieces more engaging. These elements can break up text, illustrate complex ideas, and cater to different learning styles—plus, they'll keep readers on your page longer, contributing to better SEO rankings.
- Measure and adapt: Check your content regularly to see how it performs. You might find that it's ranking for some high-value keywords on page 2, and adding a new section to your cornerstone content might give it the relevance it needs to win those keywords.
Build out your content strategy
Cornerstone content is just the beginning to an effective marketing strategy. To learn more about the ins and outs of marketing strategy, collaboration, insights, and more — check out our marketing strategy blogposts.