What is cornerstone content and how do you write it?

If a new visitor arrives on your website or blog, what do you want them to read first? Suppose they know nothing at all about what you do, which content will tell them all about your business and why you matter to them? Where do you explain the basic concepts your business is built around?

It’s this kind of stuff that will be your cornerstone content.

cornerstone of building

Why is it called cornerstone content?

The term ‘cornerstone’ has come to mean ‘an essential or basic element’, or ‘the foundation upon which something is constructed’.

But in the more traditional sense of the word, a cornerstone is a physical stone placed where two walls of a building meet. It’s usually inscribed with the date that construction commenced and other pertinent facts about the building. Although commemorative rather than architectural, a cornerstone is there to be noticed. It conveys important information to anyone passing by.

Combining all three of these definitions, we can say that cornerstone content should:

  • Be easy to notice
  • Convey essential information about what you do
  • Explain the basic principles behind your work
  • Be the foundation upon which you build your other content

You may also hear people talking about ‘flagship content’ or ‘pillar posts’, but these terms all refer to the same kind of content.

What is cornerstone content for?

All of your website content should be written primarily for your target audience. However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t keep other factors in mind when creating content.

As well as being useful and informative for your readers, cornerstone content serves several other important purposes.

1. It should contribute to your content marketing strategy through keywords

Just writing outstanding content isn’t enough in itself; you need to make people aware of it. You can do this by sharing it on social media and with your email list, but you also want it to reach a new audience through organic search.

To do this, you need a well-planned content marketing strategy which incorporates your target keywords to aid search engine optimisation (SEO).

Each of your main keywords should be incorporated into at least one of your cornerstone articles. You’ll be able to feature many of your long-tail and secondary keywords as well.

2. It should be highly shareable

The more valuable you can make your cornerstone content, the more likely it is your readers will share it.

That means your brand being exposed to a wider audience, which should result in more sales.

Great content will also be picked up on by bloggers and industry influencers. If you can get authority sites linking to your pages, it gives your SEO a big boost. And of course, if they share your content with their followers, you immediately benefit from that extra reach.

To get to this level, your content needs to be better than all the other pieces out there trying to do the same thing (because you can be pretty sure you’re not the first person to write about any given topic).

Check out the competition by searching for the term you’re trying to rank for. Then work out how you can make your article the one that people want to shout about. Consider:

  • Adding extra angles to make it more comprehensive
  • Writing it specifically for your target audience
  • Addressing common questions people have about the topic
  • Using infographics or quoting statistics to make your point
  • Supporting it by linking to other content on your site (see below)
  • Explaining how you or your company can help readers

Finally, don’t forget to have it professionally proofread. Even if you’re not bothered about making sure your entire site contains perfect spelling and grammar, you should at least make the effort with the articles you expect to attract the most traffic. First impressions really do count.

3. It should direct visitors to other parts of your site

What you don’t want is for people to read your article, get the information they want, then move on from your site and never think of you again. There are two reasons for this:

  1. They haven’t done anything to contribute to your business goals
  2. If everyone does this, search engines will think your content isn’t that great

Search engines measure your ‘bounce rate’ – the percentage of visitors to your site who viewed just a single page and then left. A bounce rate of 70%, for example, would mean that only 30% of people clicked further into your site to view more content or take an action.

The lower your bounce rate, the better. High bounce rates are a sign that your content is irrelevant, boring, or poor quality – not good reasons for search engines to send more traffic your way.

You can improve your bounce rate by giving readers plenty of opportunities to click through to other parts of your site. Link to articles that provide additional information or may also be of interest, and write persuasively to encourage readers to explore your site further.

Also think about the actions your visitors can take to stay connected with your brand. It could be following you on social media, signing up to a newsletter, or downloading a free resource. Make it as easy as possible for people to take these actions so they don’t just ‘leave and forget’.

Still, they will only feel compelled to engage further with your brand if your content is valuable in the first place.

4. When linked properly, it shows search engines which pages of your site to prioritise

Every single post you publish on your site should link back to one of your cornerstone articles.

linking cornerstone content

As you build up your portfolio of website content, search engines notice this hierarchy. They are more likely to display your relevant cornerstone articles in search results once they can see the significance of them.

It’s important to keep in mind all of these things when planning and writing cornerstone content.

What is cornerstone content on Yoast?

A quick shoutout to all the WordPress users out there who have arrived at this article as a result of seeing this box on their Yoast plugin (and if you don’t use WordPress, don’t worry – this won’t take long).

yoast cornerstone content
Did this leave you wondering “What is cornerstone content?”

What happens when you tick that “This article is cornerstone content” box on Yoast? Well, if you use the basic version of the plugin, not a great deal. You’ll be able to easily filter and view cornerstone articles in your posts overview, but that’s about the only difference you’ll notice.

If you have the Premium version, the plugin will recommend links for each new article you publish. It will prioritise cornerstone content so you never miss an opportunity to link back to those all-important posts.

Even though ticking the box may not do much in terms of functionality, it at least gets you thinking about which pieces on your site are the most important.

How to write cornerstone content

Because cornerstone content is so prominent, it’s not the kind of thing you can just churn out when you have a free hour.

This content should be carefully planned, researched and edited to ensure it’s sending exactly the right message to the people it reaches. Remember it’s on these pages of your website that first-time visitors will most likely land.

The nature of these foundational articles means you shouldn’t need to update them too often. It’s still a good idea to re-visit them from time to time, though. You may find that something in the industry has evolved, or you have shifted your focus as a company and need to re-work your content to reflect this.

Here are answers to some common questions about writing cornerstone content for websites:

How long should cornerstone posts be?

Quite long. Longer than your average blog post, at least. You should never pad your content out for the sake of it, but posts that offer deep insight and value on a particular topic should really be at least 2,000 words long. This article is 2,036 words, to give you an idea (and it’s not even cornerstone content).

How many cornerstone articles do I need?

This will depend on the size of your website and the number of categories you have. As a general rule you should begin with one cornerstone post for each category, and as your website grows in size you can add to those.

What is the best format for cornerstone content?

There’s no reason why you can’t publish these articles as standard blog posts, although you may also choose to create a static page on your website.

They will probably look just like any other posts on your site; mainly text, supported by relevant images, infographics and videos.

Don’t try to be clever with your titles. Give your cornerstone posts headings that clearly explain what the content is about and the questions it will answer. Good examples include:

  • A beginner’s guide to…
  • How to …
  • What is …
  • All you need to know about …
  • …: Your questions answered

Tips for identifying your own cornerstone content

Understanding the concept of cornerstone content is one thing; creating it for your own website is another matter entirely.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own businesses, it’s hard to take a step back and view things from an outsider’s perspective.

Here are a couple of things you can do to identify the things that should be included in your cornerstone content:

Write your elevator pitch

The idea of an elevator pitch is to explain your business, product, or service in the time it takes to travel a few floors in an elevator.

If you only have 30 seconds to convince someone to use your services or buy your products, you have to really focus on the key purpose of your business and the problems it solves.

Whatever is important enough to make it into that condensed sales pitch is important enough to be included in your cornerstone content.

Explain your business to a clueless friend or relative

I use clueless in the nicest possible way, of course, but the point is to find someone who knows almost nothing about your industry, and then explain what you do.

The bits that they seem confused about, or ask questions about, are things you should include in your cornerstone content.

It’s easy for me to say that I’m a writer, but what I really focus on is content marketing services for websites. And it’s hard to explain what content marketing is without first explaining the basic principles of SEO and keywords.

How Stuff With Words can help

In case you’re unfamiliar with what we do at Stuff With Words, here’s a quick outline of how we can help you plan and create your cornerstone content and other elements of your website content.

Keyword research

The first step towards content marketing success is keyword research.

This will show you what the competition is like for the main keywords you’re trying to target so you can be more strategic in your efforts. It also helps identify long-tail keywords and possible blog topics that relate to them.

You may already have a marketing team who are on top of this, which is great. However, if you have a smaller business and need help with keyword research, we can do this and provide you with a report for just $80.

Content strategy

If you’re creating a website from scratch, we can get involved from the beginning and help you craft a content marketing strategy built around several pieces of strong cornerstone content.

Similarly, if you already have a basic site but are just starting to examine the concept of content marketing, now is a great time for us to get involved.

We know how important it is to get your content just right, so we’ll work with you to understand your brand and your target audience.

Writing

Perhaps you already have your content marketing strategy sorted, but still need an SEO content writer to make it all happen. With our content writing services you’ll get a writer who understands SEO and can incorporate your keywords using whatever style of writing you require.

Check out our content writing prices here.

Proofreading

If all you need is a fastidious pair of eyes to look over your article or website copy before it’s published, we can do that too. Read more about our English proofreading services here.