When it comes to defining cornerstone content, Brian Clark said it best:
A cornerstone 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.
Cornerstone content pages can also help you accomplish many of your content marketing goals.
Goals like getting links to your website, finding new readers, attracting subscribers to your email newsletter, ranking well in search engines for competitive keywords, and giving new life to old articles.
Which makes cornerstone pages important for both seasoned bloggers and brand-new websites. And fortunately, these pages aren’t complicated to create.
So, let’s answer nine common questions about cornerstone content.
1. How is cornerstone content different from a blog post?
A blog post is usually a detail-rich, nuanced, and sometimes epic focus on a particular topic — like this article on cornerstone content you are reading right now.
Cornerstone content, on the other hand, is one single page that is a main location for the content about that topic. One “hub” page, if you will.
For example, a cornerstone content page would be a hub for all of our articles (say 10) about cornerstone content.
You could think of cornerstone content as broad and wide, while a blog post goes narrow and deep.
2. Why create cornerstone content? What’s the “big goal?”
First and foremost, cornerstone content is useful and relevant for your website visitors.
But if it’s interesting and all-inclusive, people will want to share and link to it, too.
There is not one “big goal” behind creating cornerstone content. That’s because there are several important reasons for creating cornerstone content:
- Getting links to your website
- Finding new readers
- Attracting subscribers
- Ranking in search engines for competitive keywords
- Highlighting archived material
3. When should I create cornerstone content?
Cornerstone content should be your first priority when launching a website. It will be your foundational content, and all subsequent content you create will support and reinforce it.
Or, you can write five to six blog posts about a particular topic to start, and then create your cornerstone content pages as the foundational material for those articles.
As you continue to build the content on your website, you may notice a certain topic gain popularity and decide to create a cornerstone content page for that topic to capture your audience’s interest.
4. How do I figure out what to write about?
To start, focus on keywords and content categories.
Create a list of eight to ten keywords that summarize what all of your content will be about.
Keep in mind that over time you might think of additional keywords you want to create cornerstone content for.
Andy Crestodina has a nice list of 23 questions to help you get started on what type of content you should create.
5. How long should a cornerstone content page be?
There is no magical word count for the length of a cornerstone content page. Your objective should be to clearly explain the topic to a reader and provide enough content so that search engines can determine what a page is about.
- A 150-to-200-word introduction
- A short description for each link you share on the page (about 200 words total for this section)
- A 100-word conclusion
- Call-to-action copy
As you see, a substantial cornerstone content page could be between 500 and 750 words.
And don’t forget there are two reasons to write a great headline for these pages:
- When you write a compelling headline that answers the exact question someone types into a search engine, that person will more likely click through to your website.
- When you write a compelling headline about a certain topic, people are more likely to link to your content.
6. What types of calls to action should I add to the pages?
Targeted traffic will be sent to these pages, and then you’ll want to convert that traffic into leads.
You can do this with several types of calls to action that encourage visitors to sign up for your email list:
- Offer an email newsletter.
- Give away an ebook.
- Present a short email course that you deliver through an autoresponder series.
7. Should I have a different cornerstone page for each ideal customer I want to reach?
Your cornerstone pages will work better if they all appeal to your general target audience. But if you serve two different groups, it’s okay to create pages for each.
However, if you can determine the common ground between your two different groups of prospects — the common questions they ask, the common problems they share — then you can write one set of cornerstone content pages that answer questions for both groups.
Copyblogger’s cornerstone content pages appeal to different types of professionals who all want to build an audience with content marketing.
8. Should cornerstone content be public or protected behind a membership site?
It should be public because you want the content to rank high in search engines. It doesn’t make sense to hide it behind a password-protected wall.
Remember, this is content you also want people to link to and share.
In addition, these are the pages you will link to when you write a guest post for another site. Cornerstone content is not helpful for your new potential audience members if it’s password-protected.
9. How should I promote my cornerstone content?
Link to your cornerstone content pages within new blog posts or podcasts you publish, include them in your autoresponder series, share them on social media, and so on.
Since they provide an overview of the main topics we teach here at Copyblogger, we highlight our cornerstone pages in our fresh content whenever we see an opportunity.
Cornerstone content: an essential part of content marketing
We hope this article answers your questions and helps you get started creating powerful cornerstone content for your site.
In the next article in this cornerstone content series, we’ll look at the essential ingredients of a cornerstone content page.