Think of cornerstone or flagship content as extremely well-written articles that are of higher importance than others and contain insights from various other articles in your site.
Cornerstone content are given just as much priority as the home, about us and contact us pages of a site. Therefore, search engines tend to rank them higher than ordinary articles.
We are always being told by SEO specialists to target long-tail keywords since they are easier to rank for. While this is true, we can’t turn our backs on the main keywords forever. If you don’t step up, someone else will. Simple as that.
One effective way to tackle those competitive terms and get more traffic to your site is by writing cornerstone content.
The motive here is to write well-written detailed content that can help establish your site’s authority, thereby making your cornerstone articles rank higher in SERPs for even the most competitive keywords.
The time, money and effort you put into writing cornerstones will be well-rewarded with the high volume of potential traffic that you are likely to receive.
To save time, you may feel like writing short-form content while still focusing on competitive keywords but trust me, that won’t work.
Search engines, especially Google, aim to direct people to authoritative and comprehensive pages that are more likely to contain the information visitors want. Search engines don’t care about short keyword-stuffed content, at least not anymore.
Cornerstone content not only helps you rank for high traffic-generating keywords but also increases the rank of every article that links to and from them.
If high-quality pillar articles rank better in Google, why can’t we treat all content as cornerstones? Why only 4 – 5? To understand why, you must first understand how search engines work.
They use tools known as web crawlers to crawl and index the pages of your site. They open and crawl each link you insert to your articles so, the more times crawlers are led to your cornerstones, the more authoritative and complete they are in Google’s eyes.
Once they find your cornerstone content, they will inspect things such as the focus keyword, frequency of the keyword, how relevant the content is to the keywords used and etc, and will rank those articles higher in search results, even for the most competitive keywords, resulting in higher traffic.
And when you are being ranked for competitive terms, all topic-relevant articles will also receive a boost in rankings. That’s how it works.
Most webmasters have no clue as to what their cornerstone articles are or how to identify them. That’s one of the main reasons why people give up on the cornerstone approach to SEO.
Pick 4 – 5 well-written comprehensive articles that you would want new and recurring visitors to read. They should cover the key concepts of your niche and spark numerous sub-topics that you are able to write as individual articles. Also, make sure they target the main keywords related to your site.
But what if your site has no such articles? No worries, just find 4 – 5 highly competitive keywords that you want your site to rank for and then write one cornerstone article for each of them.
Let’s look at an example. The main keywords of Selfgrasp.com are; Business, Marketing, Finance and SEO. Let’s say the site has 12 business articles that are related to one another but all of them are targeting long-tail keywords, which are much more easier to rank for than main keywords.
Now, to create cornerstone content, the webmaster will have to write an article, combining insights from all 12 related articles and focusing on the keyword “business”.
Don’t write an article if it doesn’t relate to any of your cornerstone content. Instead, focus on writing related articles that you can use to link to your cornerstone content.
Let’s take the same base-example as before where the main keywords were;
Once you have identified the main keywords, come up with some titles of your cornerstone articles. Choose titles that spark numerous sub-topics such as;
You then need to write several articles on sub-topics that are related to cornerstone content. Make sure they are not focusing on the main keywords, and instead, on long-tail keywords.
The next step is to combine all of them and write your cornerstones under the titles that were previously agreed upon.
Finally, you have to link to the cornerstone articles from the related articles.
As mentioned earlier, cornerstone content must target the head terms you want your site to rank for. They must be highly competitive and receive a large volume of traffic every month.
The best way to identify your site’s head terms is by answering “What are the key concepts visitors need to know about your niche?”. This works most of the time but if it doesn’t, try doing keyword research using free tools such as SemRush and Ubersuggest.
Your primary objective should be writing related articles that you can use to link to the cornerstone article under the same topic.
If you already have articles that relate to one another, you can start writing the cornerstone article right away. But what if you have no clue as to which articles are related to a certain topic?
Simple! Just Google “site:example.com keyword”. Replace “example.com” with your own domain and “keyword” with the focus keyword you were going to use for the cornerstone article. Google will then list out all the pages that are related to the keyword.
To better understand things, imagine a pyramid hierarchy. The top-most part represents the home, about us and contact us pages while the section just below that represents the cornerstone content.
Ideally, visitors should have direct access to your cornerstones from the home page or even from the navigation menu.
Writing a really in-depth article focusing on a highly competitive keyword and featuring it on your home page isn’t enough. You need to build links to it from related articles and vice versa.
Continue to write more articles to cover new angels of the topic and link out to the relevant cornerstone article. This will, over time, increase your rankings for both competitive and long-tail keywords.
You don’t need any special tool or plugin to mark content as cornerstone. Any well-written comprehensive article that focuses on a competitive keyword and receives links from other relevant articles are automatically considered as such.
That said, I recommend using the Yoast SEO Premium WordPress plugin to better optimize your cornerstones.
Don’t think your job is done after you hit the publish button. Google prefer fresh content so if you want the cornerstones to be ranked higher or at least maintain its current rank, you have to update them regularly.
I hope this guide helped you understand what cornerstone content is, how it works and what benefits it brings to your site.
This SEO strategy is by no mean a quick one. Cornerstone content takes a lot of time and effort to be written.
Maintaining it is the most difficult part. Your cornerstones must always be relevant and up-to-date.
Be sure to promote them more than your regular content. After all, you are putting a lot of time and effort into creating them.
Send out emails to your subscribers and let them know about the amazing piece of content you wrote.
This cornerstone approach helps you build a solid internal linking structure for your site, thereby allowing search engines and visitors to navigate and find the most authoritative content easily.
What ideas do you have for cornerstone content? Let me know in the comments below.