When it comes to developing content for your site, you don’t want to throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Rather, you want to thoughtfully develop a content marketing strategy that helps your site rank in SERPs.
Arguably, cornerstone content is the most important part of your content marketing strategy. Cornerstone content consists of the best articles and pages on your site, those that you want search engines to see and consider. And when it comes to user experience, cornerstone content is the mechanism for “flattening” your site by creating pillars, clusters or hubs that make it easy for readers to find information and related content.
As an online marketer, you already know you need to pay special attention to the pages that you want to rank, especially as these are the ones that help you coax users down the marketing funnel. These are the pages that are most likely to convert your audience, resulting in tangible ROI for your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
So, how do you ensure your cornerstone content is working as hard as possible? We asked 10 content experts for their top tips for getting the most out of cornerstone content.
10 Content Experts Give Top Tips for Getting the Most Out of Cornerstone Content
1. Optimize for Readers First
“For us, our cornerstone content answers the basic questions of our customers. We’ve optimized based on keywords, not only how we answer the questions but also based on the questions themselves.
“The best page on our website has always been our ‘What is Content Marketing?’ page. Our cornerstone content was written, and then it was optimized for SEO and keywords. By writing for the customer and not for search engines, many of the keywords happened naturally.”
– Cathy McPhillips, VP of Marketing at Content Marketing Institute
2. Avoid content overload
“The main challenge for producing cornerstone content is to know when to stop adding more and more content under the same umbrella. It’s important to regularly update these pieces with new content, but we run the risk of ruining the viewer’s experience with the content if a cornerstone piece ends up being content overload. The last thing any marketer wants is for someone to bounce once they hit your page because they can’t find what they’re looking for.
“My tip for overcoming this issue is to be really intentional about what you incorporate into any given cornerstone piece. It’s so easy to go off on a tangent or to go a little too deep into a specific niche within a topic, so I would recommend being very deliberate about what you want to incorporate and being liberal with cutting if the post’s subtopics within feel too tangential.”
– Jenny Mudarri, Wistia
3. Consider outsourcing
“Because cornerstone content is so important for your site, producing it takes a lot of time and energy. It requires lots of keyword research and competitive analysis as well as a ton of writing. If you’re a small team, that can be a major time-suck, and it pulls your in-house team members away from other activities.
“That’s why it’s wise to outsource the execution of these pieces to freelance writers who are subject matter experts on the topics. This frees up time and staff resources and allows you to tap into an expert’s existing knowledge base (rather than spending hours researching and writing on your own). It makes scaling up this content a lot more realistic.”
– Kaleigh Moore, SaaS Marketer
4. Prioritize site navigation and internal linking
“It’s easy to publish a massive article, but it’s hard to build it into your site structure in an optimal way. Content creation is just one step — make sure you leave time, energy and budget to build internal links and tweak your design and navigation as needed.”
– Jimmy Daly, Marketing Director, Animalz
5. Find high-volume search terms within a topic area
“It all starts with identifying what people you want to attract are actually searching for. Understanding what people search for on Google is like reading people’s minds.
“Once you’ve identified what keywords people search for, which ones are relevant to your business (are they bringing signups or purchases?), how many people search for those, and how difficult it is to rank for them, you should have a prioritized list of topics you need to cover.
“A cornerstone content strategy would then take into consideration the overall topics you need to cover and, in particular, the core page you need to build that would be the centerpiece of a particular topic. This page, or cornerstone content, is usually the keyword with the highest volume and the highest difficulty to rank.”
– Louis Grenier, Content Lead, Hotjar
Related: How to Find Low Competition Keywords
6. Make sure the content is evergreen
“An evergreen content strategy is what I like to refer to instead of calling it a cornerstone content strategy. Evergreen because the strategy requires that you create timeless content. It amounts to creating a set of long, informative and engaging pages on your website that are related to topics and keywords that you want your website to rank for.”
– Hiten Shah, Co-founder of FYI
7. Create supporting content
“There are two key parts to a cornerstone content strategy (I personally prefer calling it topic clusters). First is the cornerstone content itself, and second is the supporting content.
“The cornerstone content should cover the breadth of the topic, while the supporting content should go deep into the sub-topics. The combination of the two ensures that you have comprehensive information about that topic on your blog.
“This will help you to rank well for both the main topic and the sub-topics (i.e., competitive short-tail keyword and less competitive long-tail keywords).”
– Alfred Lua, Growth Editor, Buffer
8. Don’t worry about the buzzwords
“There are so many buzzwords floating around in the content marketing space that I even get confused on what they mean — and I live and breathe this stuff day in and day out.
“I think what’s most important is to write content that helps your audience solve a problem, get an answer to a question, or that your audience finds interesting/useful. If you just follow that rule of thumb, you’ll be on the right track.”
– Benji Hyam, Co-founder, Grow & Convert
9. Take it step-by-step
According to Larry Kim, CEO at MobileMonkey, you can make the most of your strategy by following a three-step process. Here’s what Larry recommends:
“Step 1: Establish the pages that will be your cornerstones. You’ll want one page for each major theme. They should be the very best page on the web covering that theme.
“Step 2: Publish more content on different variations of the theme.
“Step 3: Link to cornerstone content from your supporting content using your target keyword as anchor text.”
10. Look Beyond Blog Articles
“A cornerstone content strategy is fundamentally a card-sorting exercise, a review of your site’s information architecture. The goal is to ensure readers — and Google! — can easily find related pages for a given topic and navigate between them.
“When grouping pages, make sure you consider all the pages on your site, including product landing pages, not just blog articles. Similarly, when creating pages for different facets of a topic, don’t simply default to blog articles: understand how Google is interpreting the search intent of different keywords — and the content it requires for different query syntax — to determine the types of pages you should create.”
– Fiona Lee, Intercom
Getting the Most Out of Cornerstone Content
Although experts have different perspectives on how to start creating and improving cornerstone content, all agree that you should prioritize your audience. You need to consider how they will find your content, how that content relates and links to other pieces on your site, as well as what the cornerstone content will help them do.
A good content marketing strategy builds trust, helping to escort prospects down the funnel so that they can become happy customers. But the content you create won’t be useful unless people can get to it. That’s why you need cornerstone content as the pillars of your strategy.