Cornerstone content is a major element of link building that will help your website rank higher in search results. Creating and publishing cornerstone articles that function as the foundation of the rest of your site’s content is just one facet of a pro-level approach to SEO. A strong SEO keyword strategy is multi-pronged, and it requires a lot of work on the front end if you want to rank later.
Interested in how cornerstone content fits into that? Read on.
What is Cornerstone Content?
Cornerstone content consists of content on your website that serves as a focal point for site visitors. It’s the content whose keywords you want to rank for above all else. Essentially, it’s what you want to be known for.
For example, pieces of cornerstone content could be high-value blog posts that offer readers a wealth of information. These blog posts act as “pillars” whose main idea branches out into multiple related posts. Related posts are then linked back to the cornerstone piece.
Building out these strong internal backlinks helps to establish pieces of cornerstone content. When properly mapped and strategized, they’re part of a clear hierarchy in your website. Visitors whose Google search sends them to your cornerstone article can then follow the links in your post to learn more about the topic.
When you develop and designate cornerstone content, you want to make sure it’s evergreen. This is content that is always relevant, both to your business and your audience. You’ll often revisit cornerstone articles, updating them to ensure they’re always up-to-speed with current market trends. That way, you’re more likely to stay ahead of the game and on top of the SERPs.
Why is Cornerstone Content Important to SEO?
Cornerstone content is important to SEO because it helps to further build your brand authority in the SERPs, as well as with your audience. When you build a content cluster based on a single cornerstone piece, that article contains internal backlinks that point to all related articles. In turn, related articles link back to the main post.
When you link multiple relevant posts back to one piece of cornerstone content, you’re communicating to Google (and other search engines) that you want to rank for these topics. Because your related articles link back to the cornerstone articles multiple times, Google will begin to pick up on this pattern as it crawls your URLs.
For example, our Ultimate Guide to Simple HTTP Errors is a cornerstone piece that links to individual articles within that subject area, ad then those articles link back to the Ultimate Guide.
Following a well-structured SEO keyword strategy will help you stay organized, too, and not just Googlebot. And, as Google gets to know your site better, you may begin to see that topics related to a particular piece of cornerstone content appear in a hierarchy beneath the main post in SERPs.
Developing cornerstone content means you’re focused on ranking for particular keyword groups. This helps you to narrow your focus to only the most relevant topics when you build out your content strategy. Staying laser-focused will help you to conduct more intentional keyword research, and give you a solid direction to go with your content.
Like most aspects of SEO strategy, building cornerstone articles is part of a long game. You won’t necessarily see ranking results overnight, but you will equip your site with a range of targeted keywords and phrases, including long-tail keywords, that will build your site’s authority over time. On top of that authority, you can also build trust with users and search engines alike.
How to Identify Cornerstone Content
To get started identifying existing cornerstone articles, take a look at the existing content on your website. You’ll want to go over all the articles you’ve published and identify which ones best embody your brand. Then you can go through these to better optimize for searches.
Think about it like this: Have you already published articles that focus on the main idea behind your brand or business? Is there a handful of articles that articulate the main ideas you’re trying to communicate to your visitors? If so, those are starting points for cornerstone content.
If not, maybe go through the process of mapping out keywords that do articulate those, and then work on outlining the content that would match it.
Also, if you have blog posts that consistently perform well, those posts might work well as cornerstone articles. Dig into your website analytics — whether you use a native tool or Google Analytics. This data will give you a good idea of where you need to focus, based on which content performs the strongest on your site.
Depending on what kind of website you run, you’ll want to conduct SEO keyword research that supports your brand’s mission, purpose, and values. Whether you’re starting from scratch or revamping your keywords after an SEO audit, research will help you drill down what your cornerstone articles should focus on.
Once you have an idea of your brand’s identity, message, and existing top content, it’s time to put together the content for that cornerstone to hold up.
Any relevant topic that you can use to spin off multiple other articles is fair game. For example, let’s say that you have an article with the keyword WordPress websites. This article might be an in-depth overview of everything a reader needs to know about building a website in WordPress. This is your cornerstone article. Or will be.
From there, you can conduct SEO keyword research to find a list of relevant keywords and phrases you can use to build out your other articles. I ran a quick keyword search in SEMRush, where I like to take a look at related keywords, phrases, and questions. Here are some related topics I found:
- famous WordPress websites
- what does WordPress do
- what is WordPress
- basic WordPress site
- how to use WordPress
- is WordPress easy to use
- DIY WordPress
- why WordPress
Next, I can use this cluster of topics to create related blog posts. (If you’re interested in keyword research tools, take a look at SEMRush, Moz, or Ahrefs. We have also published an article about SEO keyword mapping tools to help you determine which tools are best for you.)
If you want to add content you’ve already published to a cornerstone content cluster, Google can help. Open a new browser tab, then enter this phrase into the search bar: site:yourwebsite.com keyphrase
wanted to know which of our Elegant Themes articles fit into an SEO content cluster, so here’s how I searched for that: site:elegantthemes.com seo
Google immediately yielded a list of articles published to the Elegant Themes website, all about SEO. This is a great strategy for finding and capturing as many links for your content cluster as possible. Then, you can link them all in your cornerstone articles.
Also, don’t forget to come back to your cornerstone content from time to time and add new links to your key posts. You want to keep them as up-to-date as possible because they’re out there representing your site more than much other content.
Now that you understand what cornerstone content is, there are some important next steps you need to take. Identifying your cornerstone articles is only the first step in a long-term process that you’ll need to invest some time in if you want to get it right. SEO strategies are complex and can take a long time to implement. But with the idea of cornerstone articles in mind right now, we have some good jumping-off points for you as you prepare them:
- If you’re new to SEO and need a primer, start here.
- Find out what essential SEO skills you need for your site to succeed.
- Learn the basics of keyword mapping–an especially important strategy alongside cornerstone content.
- Explore keyword mapping tools to make your research much easier.
- Analyze areas of your SEO strategy you need to strengthen through keyword gap analysis.
- See why sitemaps are important for your SEO (you’ll need one for keyword mapping!).
- Learn more about internal backlinks and why they’re so important to your SEO strategy.
- Get more link-building tips.
- Learn the optimal word count for SEO-optimized blog posts before you publish new content.
- Explore how to optimize your cornerstone content for better ranking in the SERPs.
- Use our handy on-page SEO checklist to ensure you’re covering your bases.
- See how to use WordPress categories and tags to your advantage when optimizing your content.
- Find out why it’s so important to avoid keyword cannibalization.
- Learn one important rule: the one thing you should never do when it comes to your SEO focus keyword.
- Get more information on SEO techniques as you get a handle on your basic strategy.
- Explore SEO best practices, otherwise known as SEO white hat techniques.
- Take your SEO knowledge to expert level.
As always, keep in mind that when you’re creating content, it should always be high-quality and of high value to the reader. Cornerstone content is a great way to keep your site up-to-date and provide highly relevant content to your users. And unlike many things, cornerstone articles have withstood the changing of Google’s algorithm, which is only getting smarter. Stick with white hat techniques like this (and maybe even a few other grey hat ones here and there), but don’t try to game the system with workarounds like black hat SEO tactics.
Now that you understand what cornerstone content is, will you incorporate it into your content strategy? Why or why not? Leave us a comment to let us know what you think.
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