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What You Need to Know About Cornerstone Content

Cornerstone
courtesy: iStock

An architectural design by Irish Immigrant James Hoban was selected for the original White House in October of 1792.

The design was selected as part of a contest and the prize was worth a whopping $500. The notoriety of designing the White House, ultimately, may have been greater than the prize money.

It seems, however, the cornerstone is a mystery. The story says that the freemasons, upon their post-construction celebration, forgot just where they placed the cornerstone.where they placed the cornerstone.

Thus, the cornerstone has never been officially located.

Cornerstone content, however, should never be a secret. That kind of content represents the most important information your blog has. It is known as the cornerstone content page.

Cornerstone Content and Pillar Content

There are a couple of terms used for a cornerstone content page, each showing a unique variation of the technique. The term cornerstone content originated with Copyblogger’s Brian Clark. Clark first used the term in January 2007.

For Clark, a cornerstone content page is where you put the flagship content of your website, the most important information.

Clark says:

“A cornerstone is something that is basic, essential, indispensable, and the chief foundation upon which something is constructed or developed. It’s what people need to know to make use of your website and do business with you.”

Pillar is another word that is often used for a cornerstone content page. This approach is similar to the cornerstone content page approach as it refers, specifically, to content that holds authority and will be linked to often.

Darren Rowse of Problogger says:

“pillar content – most topics have topics in them that could function as a pillar type article for your blog. By this, I mean topics that are central to your overall topic that will contain solid advice that you’ll be linking to again and again. “

In conclusion, there are a couple of terms that have been used for these type of pages, cornerstone content and pillar content pages. Each term is a different way to say the same thing.

From this point forward, we are going to use the term cornerstone content.

Reasons to use Cornerstone Content

There are four reasons using cornerstone content pages are a good idea.

Usability

The first reason that a cornerstone content page is a good idea is usability. It will also help a user know which pages are important and what kinds of content are important to your website.

Susanna Perkins says on the American Writers & Artists, Inc. website:

“The first rule of website design is to make it easy for your readers to find what they’re looking for — ideally in three clicks or fewer.”

In essence, it helps organize content so that you can find the most important content easier.

SEO

Believe it or not, a cornerstone content will also help you with Search Engine Optimization practices. This works in a couple of ways.

First, it becomes a page that that is linked to regularly giving your page validation in terms of backlinks.

Second, it helps in terms of keyword authority. According to SEO Plugin developer, Joost de Valk:

“You need one single page that is the center of the content about that topic. One “hub” page, if you will.”

Joost even references Clark’s Cornerstone Content article at Copyblogger. How’s that for authority? (more on that later)

As the page serves as a hub for content in one category, for one keyword, it becomes a place to link all articles based on the same keyword giving it internal link authority.

Shareable

Cornerstone content pages are usually epic posts or pages for one keyword or category of content. For instance, if you write a cornerstone content page for “content marketing,” it will serve as an authoritative content piece that attracts links from other writers.

Readers will do one of two things with a piece of content like a cornerstone page. They will share the content via social media, email, etc., or they will use it in a blog post. This makes the page a very shareable piece of content.

Positions you as an authority

Copyblogger dominates the term cornerstone content. Take a look at the search from BuzzSumo. You will see the top four entries are from Copyblogger by writers Pamela Wilson and Demian Farnworth. Also, take a look at the shares.

Cornerstone Content Shares
Screenshot: Cornerstone Content Shares, BuzzSumo

Copyblogger has set a legacy for the term cornerstone content and it started with Clark’s article in 2007.

Need more info on the whys of cornerstone content?  Check out http://www.copyblogger.com/cornerstone-pages/

Characteristics of a cornerstone content page

What are characteristics of a cornerstone content page?  Below are nine characteristics that a cornerstone content page includes.

A page, not a post

A cornerstone content should be a page, not a blog post – When creating your cornerstone content page, use the page content type in your WordPress website.

Foundational

It is foundational, indispensable – Your blog will be built on the foundation of your cornerstone content pages

Keyword rich

An ingredient that is essential is the keyword it will rank for.  As a rule, you will use one keyword per page. The keyword can be related to your product or services or the keyword category the page is about.

SEO Optimized

Just like any other page on your website, you will want to use the best practices for Search Engine Optimization. Make sure to optimize your title, your meta description and highlight the page with content about your keyword.

Enticing headline

As with any other page, your cornerstone content page will need to have an enticing headline. Make sure to use best practices for headlines.

Regular Blogging elements

Typical blogging elements, as well as articles, include an introduction, the body of the blog post and a conclusion. It can be tempting to forgo any of these elements, but make sure to keep the reader on pace by using these elements.

Call to Action

A call to action can be a forgotten technique on a cornerstone content page. Do you have a content upgrade you can offer? What about encouraging readers to sign up for your email newsletter? You also might use this page as a door to contacting you for services. Take advantage of your call to action.

Scannable

As with any blog, you want to make sure that your page is scannable. Use plenty of white space, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Keep your page easy for readers to scan.

Shareable

Finally, you will want to make sure that the page can be easily shared. The easiest way to do this is to have share buttons on your page so that readers can share with one click of the mouse. Additionally, make sure that the page makes use of open graph tags so that when users share your content on social media there will be nice featured images and a good description for each post.

Sources:

http://www.copyblogger.com/cornerstone-content-ingredients/

http://eylercreative.com/cornerstone-content-help/

Types of Cornerstone Content

Here are four types of cornerstone content pages that you can use today for your own blog. Keep in mind, these pages often include epic content and thus, they are not created in a short amount of time.

The Ultimate Guide + Keyword

This has been employed by Neil Patel at QuickSprout. No doubt, Neil churned out some great, authoritative content to produce these guides.

In some cases, the guides not only contain the content, an ultimate guide, but some fancy graphics, various media types, and the opportunity to download it as a pdf.

Example:

Here is an example of one of Neil’s Cornerstone content ultimate guides

https://www.quicksprout.com/the-definitive-guide-to-growth-hacking/

This Growth Hacking guide was number two and three in the organic results for “growth hacking” in Google.

QuickSprout ranks high for Growth Hacking in Google

The Getting Started/Start Here Page

Kristi Hines pointed this page out to me for Social Media Examiner. It is their “Getting Started” page. The point of this page isn’t necessarily to rank high in the search engines but to give the reader a place to start on your blog.

Example: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/getting-started/

You will introduce the reader to the resources you have, social media channels, podcasts, other guides you have created, a place to subscribe to your newsletter, and some of your flagship content.

Start Here Example: Michael Hyatt has a Start Here page

Start Here

The Flagship Content Page

Copyblogger used this technique to build its blog. They  built several pages, each one around a topic, and then they added their best posts for the category.

Each link has a short synopsis of the content and the page has an introduction, the body of the page — the articles listed — and then a conclusion.

Below are two cornerstone pages for content marketing on Copyblogger.

Example:

http://www.copyblogger.com/content-marketing-codex/

http://www.copyblogger.com/copywriting-101/

Ultimate Resource List

This last type of content blurs the line between a page and a post. The fact is, you may have this kind of content on your blog now, but it may be a post.

Some bloggers will of take a piece of epic content and turn it into a page and, therefore, a cornerstone content page. This works the same way.

Some people are terrific at curating the best pieces of content. It’s a gift really.

They have the ability to cut through the noise and find the best content that is available for a particular topic. Once they list all of the best pieces of content on a page, it becomes an authoritative piece of content that can be linked, bookmarked and shared by lots of people.

This is ripe for a cornerstone content page.

Each link should have a synopsis of the content, an introduction, and a conclusion. A great call to action can be to have the user bookmark the page, share it on social media or provide a pdf version for a content upgrade.

These types of posts really work well when talking about tools.

Example:

https://ninjaoutreach.com/best-content-marketing-tools/

http://nichehacks.com/best-content-marketing-tools/

Conclusion

Cornerstone content can really help your website rise to the next level.

Some of the reasons for using cornerstone content include Usability, SEO, Shareable, and Authority.

There are nine characteristics of a cornerstone content including it is a page content type; becomes foundational for your website; it is keyword rich; is SEO optimized; uses an enticing headline; includes basic article elements – Intro, Body, & Conclusion; has a call to action; it is scannable; and it is shareable.

We reviewed at least four types of cornerstone content pages.  Those types include The Ultimate Guide + Keyword, The Getting Started/Start Here Page, The Flagship Content Page, and the Ultimate Resource List.

Which one of these cornerstone content page types have you used? Which one are you wanting to use?

Why wait?

Go and produce content!

By Todd E. Jones

Todd E. Jones is a freelance writer who specializes in startups, entrepreneurs, WordPress and inbound marketing topics. Each month we post Entrepreneur Stories at grafixCat media, a chance to learn more from the successes of others.