September 15, 2021

Cornerstone Content Strategy: Worthwhile or a Waste of Time?

In this post you'll learn:

Is cornerstone content strategy worth trying to boost your brand awareness, site traffic, etc.? Learn what it is, its benefits, and how you can create it.

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No matter what business you're in, your marketing goals likely include increasing brand authority and awareness, boosting organic traffic, and generating leads. Cornerstone content is one of the most effective ways to accomplish all of the above. 

But, to benefit from it, you first have to know what cornerstone content is and how to create it. In this post, we'll talk about exactly that.

The definition: what cornerstone content is

Cornerstone content is the foundation of your company's content strategy; the most in-depth, authoritative pieces of content you've created around your main areas of focus. 

It can be anything from educational articles that provide value and build trust with potential customers to FAQ pages. In any case, they provide comprehensive coverage of an essential, foundational topic related to your business and relevant to your target audience. And they are showcased more prominently on your website and in your digital marketing than other pieces you produce.

Your cornerstone pieces are the main attraction and other smaller pieces complement them by discussing further the various subtopics covered in those cornerstones. 

Let’s get into the benefits of approaching content this way.

The benefits of cornerstone content, especially for SEO

Cornerstone content has a lot of advantages. The first and most obvious is that it helps to establish your authority on a specific topic. It increases trust among your target users who are seeking information, which can lead to repeat visits to your website and higher conversion rates.

In addition, cornerstone pages often rank well in search results because they’re typically:

  • Long-form and in-depth
  • Linkworthy and shareworthy
  • Linked to all of your other content, which helps search engines recognize its importance

If it does rank high on the first page of a relevant SERP, it can significantly boost brand awareness and the number of relevant visitors that land on your website. This, in turn, can make it easier to generate qualified leads consistently.

Great cornerstone content could be just the thing your content marketing strategy needs to start producing better and longer-lasting results. Instead of decent results from surface-level content that can easily be outranked or that you have to drive traffic to manually, it allows you to bring in and nurture qualified traffic on autopilot! 

Outstanding examples of cornerstone content done right

Want to see proof that cornerstone content strategy works? Backlinko has a great example in its 2021 Definitive Guide to SEO, which is featured on the website homepage. What makes it so successful? 

Backlinko 2021 SEO Guide - Cornerstone Content Example
Source

This impressive piece of content:

  • Is truly definitive, coming in at nearly 8,000 words and thoroughly covering 9 topics from Core Web Vitals to clickthrough rates
  • Earning more than 24,000 shares on Facebook and Twitter alone and more than 39,000 backlinks
  • Getting Backlinko (likely thousands) of signups to its email list since this article is gated on the website home page

While your content may not rack up tens of thousands of shares and backlinks as this piece has, you can still enjoy a significant increase in brand awareness, traffic, email list signups, and so on. 

Love him or not, Neil Patel also has a good example of cornerstone content with his post What Is SEO? (Learn How to Do It in 5 Minutes). Although covering the same topic as Backlinko’s guide, this nearly 10,000-word post has racked up more than: 

  • 27,000 backlinks
  • 2,700 shares on Facebook alone
  • 1,400 comments 
Neil Patel SEO Guide - Cornerstone Content Example
Source

And thanks to its internal linking structure, it likely also drives thousands of visitors to Neil’s other SEO-related posts each month. This goes to show that even if there’s existing cornerstone content in your niche or industry, you can still get a piece of the pie by creating your own (as long as the quality’s high, of course). 

Last up, let’s look at an example from email marketing giant Mailchimp. The long-form post Email Marketing Strategy and Tips for Successful Campaigns:

  • Covers email marketing thoroughly, including what it is, if it works, how to get an email list, tips for success, and so on
  • Has earned more than 4,000 backlinks and hundreds of social media shares
  • Links to and drives traffic to several of Mailchimp’s other email marketing resources
Mailchimp Email Marketing - Cornerstone Content Example
Source

This beginner’s guide builds the company’s credibility by giving a comprehensive introduction to the topic it’s best known for. And it also directs people to high-value content on relevant subtopics. This is what your cornerstone pages should do as well. Here’s how to make sure that it does. 

How to create effective cornerstone content

Ultimately, the rest of your content strategy is only as strong as your cornerstone articles and pages. And creating solid cornerstones that are more valuable than anything else out there is not easy—time and other resources are required. However, it can be simple

1. Decide on your core topics and do keyword research 

It's easy to make the mistake of going too broad, covering topics that are only loosely related to what your company does. The resulting content, of course, does a lackluster job of reaching the goals most important to your business. 

This is why it's so important to hone in on and cover, at most, a handful of main topics that are aligned with your audience and business goals. Once you have those in mind, it's time for keyword research...but not the kind you usually do. 

It's often hard to rank for competitive search terms like "search engine optimization" because so many authoritative sites have already covered them. Yet, in this case, it’s okay to target your most competitive keywords.

After all, you'll be doing a deep dive on the topic, making the content unique, doing internal linking, and likely building backlinks too. If any content can rank on the first page of the SERP for one of your highest competition keywords, your cornerstone piece should be it. 

As long as you can satisfy the search intent behind the keyword, don't hesitate to go for it. 

2. Generate an outline 

Next up, create an outline for your piece to make sure your topic will be covered thoroughly and in a logical order. You can do this in minutes using Jarvis' Blog Post Outline template.

Jarvis Blog Post Outline Template Example - Input

All you have to do is add your topic (or title) and your desired tone of voice. Jarvis will give you several relevant subtopics to cover and ideas for how to order them so that navigating and understanding the content is as easy as possible for readers.

Jarvis Blog Post Outline Template Example - Output

3. Research and write the content

Do interviews, conduct surveys, and explore other forms of research that will make your cornerstone piece more valuable and in-depth than existing evergreen content on the topic. Once that's done, you can move on to presenting that research and other information in writing.

To speed up the content creation process, you can use Jarvis' Long-Form Assistant. In fact, you can create top-notch, long-form content in half the time it usually takes with Boss Mode. Just enter a brief description of the post, your focus keyword, a title, and an introduction. (You can write your own or have Jarvis create a working title and intro for you—the choice is yours.)

Jarvis Long-Form Assistant Setup Example

You can then tweak your introduction to your liking and move on to the rest of the post. 

For example, you could start by adding a heading to signal to Jarvis that you’re ready to dive into a key topic. Then, by selecting short, medium or long output length and clicking Compose, you can get as little or as much text as you want for that subheading. Edit if necessary for clarity, for better readability, and to capture your brand's distinct voice.  

Jarvis Long-Form Assistant Text Generation Example

Then, add a bit more content—for example, some of your original research—to give Jarvis additional context to work with. Click Compose again or use CTRL + J, and then rinse and repeat until your cornerstone piece is complete! 

After that, all that's left is to add visuals, publish it, promote it, and update it periodically. If the piece is authoritative, relevant to and valuable for your audience,  high-quality, and otherwise optimized for SEO, you should begin seeing results from it within months. Especially as you create and update high-quality supporting pieces of content and link them to your cornerstones. 

Ready to start getting better results from your content strategy including more reach and site traffic, better rankings, and more leads? Give Jarvis a try today to put a dent in your first cornerstone piece!

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