When someone asks you to describe yourself, what do you tell them? You probably list some of your inherent, best qualities, right? The things you want people to know about you.
In marketing and advertising, your cornerstones are based upon the same principle and are just as important. You tell people what you want them to know about your business (what they need to know, or should know), by creating great cornerstone content.
What is cornerstone content?
Cornerstone content is the most important part of your brand or website – the highest value, most foundational content pieces for increasing traffic and brand awareness. It’s meant to reflect your business, create a positive first impression, clearly communicate your value, and help establish authority in your industry.
However, cornerstone content is usually found at the top of your funnel, so it doesn’t need to be gated, and you shouldn’t expect everyone who visits to buy something or otherwise convert. Keep in mind that the primary goal is to create a positive, lasting first impression, so when people are ready to convert, they’re much more likely to turn to your brand.
There are several benefits to creating cornerstones, including:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Creating a positive first impression
- Driving relevant website traffic
- Building natural links
- Establishing authority and trust
- Feeding your funnel
- Repurposing it into other formats
Cornerstone content examples
Years ago, HubSpot popularized the inbound marketing concept. Now, with a Google search for “inbound marketing”, their article ranks #1:
By turning this article into a cornerstone, and ranking high for the “inbound marketing” keyword phrase, HubSpot is seen as the industry thought leader for the topic.
Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a cornerstone piece that’s highly optimized for search, ranking #1 with a general search for “SEO:”
The guide is also one of the resources Moz promotes right on their homepage for additional engagement:
And while these content pieces happen to be text-based, foundational materials like these do not have to be limited to text. Other forms of content beyond articles and guides should be considered too.
WordStream, for example, uses their Free Keyword Tool as a cornerstone:
It has become one of the top five most trafficked pages on their website, one of the most frequently linked to, and therefore, drives a ton of engagement for the company.
How to create cornerstone content that Google loves
As any digital marketer knows, it can be difficult to rank high for popular search terms, but cornerstone content can help with this. It plays a significant role in any SEO strategy, as long as you follow these best practices:
After extensive keyword research, ensure the primary keyword appears in both the title tag and in the URL. The title tag is also your headline so it still needs to be appealing and intriguing to users.
Keywords should also appear in the body of the content. With a long-form guide, for example, they should fit naturally into section headers. This allows both search engines and readers to see the relevance of your cornerstone content.
Foundational content should sit towards the top of your site’s pyramid. In other words, visitors should be able to click straight through from your homepage to the material.
It should also be periodically cross-referenced in other similar posts for continued exposure and linked back to frequently. Search engines favor this type of internal linking structure, as well as link authority in general.
The content itself
Cornerstones are typically longer, more in-depth pieces that provide highly-informative material. That’s not to say that shorter content can’t rank well for competitive search terms, but cornerstone pieces must be impressive in both quality and scope. They must be well thought-out and developed, comprehensive and inspirational, and worth linking to.
It should also be noted that cornerstone content is top-of-funnel and shouldn’t aggressively go for the sale. The goal is not necessarily to convince someone to buy but to solve a problem in an educational, trustworthy way.
After you’ve finished creating and publishing, your job still isn’t complete. It’s critical to keep content fresh and up-to-date at all times, with new features, new trends, relevant products, accurate prices, UX improvements, etc. Every one of these shows search engines that the content is newer than before and can help with organic search rank.
Even if the content itself remains the same, you don’t want the page to look outdated, so consider revamping it with an updated style (layouts, fonts, images, etc.).
How can the Yoast cornerstone content SEO plugin help?
Cornerstone pieces are so integral to a marketing strategy that many advertisers leverage the Yoast SEO plugin to perfect their content. First, it includes an option to select whether or not an article is a cornerstone.
Here’s how the Yoast SEO plugin appears in WordPress:
Yoast SEO offers three useful tools to optimize cornerstone content:
1. Text link counter
This feature allows you to clearly see how many links are included in your post, and how many external links point to it:
The text link counter is extremely useful because you can quickly see if your cornerstone content has enough links from other, related posts. This impacts how Google crawls your site (posts and pages that are linked to more often are crawled more frequently), as well as the amount of traffic to your site (posts and pages that are linked to more often are visited more frequently).
2. Cornerstone analysis
Yoast’s analysis specifically looks at:
- Content length
- Keyword placement and density
- Meta description length
- Title width
- Inbound and outbound links
Yoast also provides two readability checks. To score a green bullet, you should write in short sentences and include enough subheadings. Since cornerstone articles are usually longer than others, short sentences and subheadings help visitors read and navigate through the content.
3. Internal linking suggestions
This feature ensures your cornerstone content gets priority over other content. The Yoast Insights tool identifies the most prominent words in the piece, and then the internal linking tool uses this data to find the highest-relating, best-fitting posts to link to:
Once your article is analyzed, and relevant links are displayed (in order of relevance), you can select which links you want to include and copy them into your content. You can also drag and drop the link if your browser supports it.
Start creating great cornerstone content
Cornerstone content helps define your brand. It shares your most valuable information with prospects and tells search engines what you believe in and what your website wants to share. Most importantly, cornerstones are the absolute best way to focus all of your content marketing efforts on something that will drive compounding value for your company.
Once you’ve identified a content piece as a cornerstone, make sure to provide a CTA that sends visitors to related content where they can engage further. That way they understand that your brand is not only a thought leader but also offers additional related material.
To generate leads throughout this process, be sure to send visitors to personalized and relevant landing pages optimized with 35 high-converting landing page techniques.