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July 18, 2016

Cornerstone Content: The Key of SEO Rankings

When you set out to build a house, there are a few things you need to pay careful attention to.

One of these things is the foundation: it should be solid enough to support the weight of the house.

The other is the framing of the house: it should be open enough to accommodate traffic for years and should provide room for new growth and development. When both of those things are solid, the house itself is bound to be solid and provide safety and shelter for the people inside for many years.

Forgive the lengthy home analogy, but did you know that content works much the same way? When you first start writing content, one of the most important things you can focus on is what’s called “cornerstone content.”

The goal of cornerstone content is to create a useful, relevant network of information that is valuable to your visitors and which remains so throughout the lifespan of your site. In this way, cornerstone content provides an exciting, compelling experience that people are drawn to talk about and share.

To put it another way, cornerstone content sets the stage for the rest of your content creation career and ensures that your business has plenty of room to grow and develop and plenty of fans to help it do just that.

What is Cornerstone Content?

Cornerstone content is the basic, essential content that makes your website run. Think of it this way: you have an important visitor coming to dinner (let’s just say it’s the president, for argument’s sake) and when that visitor shows up, you want everything to sparkle. You pull out your best china, cook a beautiful dinner, and clean the house until it glistens.

That’s what cornerstone content does. Cornerstone content is the crème de la crème of your content universe and it provides the foundation upon which everything else on your site is built.

When that important visitor shows up to your site (it’s Google, in case you didn’t guess), it wants to see the best of what you have to offer and that’s why cornerstone content is so very important: when executed correctly, cornerstone content can be the single most important form of content on your site due to the fact that it tells what visitors need to know about your business and how they can make the best possible use of your service.

What Does Cornerstone Content Do?

Cornerstone content does many things, but one of its most important purposes is to provide a platform for ongoing attention and links. When you develop them correctly, cornerstone pages can be great targets for links and can assist you in producing a healthy list of subscribers.

This is because cornerstone pages are all about developing and reinforcing authority. People don’t reference, bookmark and share crappy copy very often and, as such, it pays to be a niche authority.

That’s why we link to CopyBlogger and Content Marketing Institute (among others) when we write: they’re the niche authorities and people (including us) trust what they have to say. Building an extensive platform of cornerstone pages is a great way to establish yourself as a niche authority and to build confidence from your customers.

Additionally, cornerstone pages are infinitely sharable. This is because they’re often evergreen and because they generally tackle subjects people want to know more about. This means that they have a high likelihood of being linked to again and again throughout their lifespan.

5 Tips for Developing Cornerstone Content That Gets Rankings

If you’re new to cornerstone content, it’s likely that you’re wondering how to write it. Here are five tips to help you get started.

1. Use keywords

Keywords are the holy grail of SEO aren’t they? In every article about good SEO writing or great content marketing, keywords make their appearance, and it’s no coincidence. Keywords are important. Choosing the correct keywords for your site allows you to target your audiences more effectively and link your content with people who are looking for it.

When it comes to deciding which keywords to use for your cornerstone content, consider the following questions: will this answer to that question help my visitors make good use of my site? How many people are asking this question?

These self-queries can help guide you toward effective keyword research, the cornerstone of your cornerstone content.

2. Make good use of title tags 

While the conversation about what works and what doesn’t in the world of SEO ranking rages on like a wildfire, it’s generally agreed upon that using your keyword phrases in your keyword title tag is important. This is because search engine crawlers want to produce relevant results and the presence of a keyword phrase in a title tag is a pretty good indication that a certain piece of content is going to be relevant and useful to a searcher.

With all of that in mind, remember that your title tag is still a headline and it needs to be readable for humans and search engines. That said, it’s important to write your headlines in words that readers would actually use. For example, if your target keyword phrase was “Minneapolis moving company” then your title tag might be “Looking for a Minneapolis moving company? M&P Movers is here to help.” This addresses readers directly and echoes their own words back to them. (“Why, yes, I am looking for a Minneapolis moving company!” they think) It’s likely that this keyword phrase also echoes the exact search phrase the user would have entered, which increases the relevance of your page and provides a great piece of cornerstone content that can help your site gain rankings and searchers for a very long time.

3. Write content people want to find

While it’s all well and good to have great headlines, title tags and keywords, you’re never going to get anywhere if your content isn’t worthy of drooling over. When it is well-written and relevant, even a 500-word article can rank competitively. This is because a great deal of the factors that determine page rank rely on page and website authority. While it’s tough to have website authority when you’re just getting started, each page you write has the potential to provide some credibility for your site, thus creating a trustworthy website that will rank authoritatively in the SERPs.

One of the best ways to make sure your pages are credible is to link to other credible sources. This means that your research and claims should link back to industry leaders and that your content should be high-quality and in-depth.

A great way to begin developing cornerstone content is to dedicate yourself to creating an extensive, multi-part tutorial or how-to on a subject you know a lot about. This helps your customers match with relevant content and, as they share and interact with that content, your page gains relevance and authority in its niche. Although it doesn’t happen overnight, developing content like this is a surefire way to produce cornerstone content that helps you stand out as an industry leader and draw new leads to your page.

4. Create a landing page

A landing page does exactly what it claims to – it gives people a place to land and provides them with a clear overview of exactly what your page is doing the moment they find it. The importance of this can’t be expounded on enough. In addition to offering a clear view of your website, a landing page serves the following purposes:

  • It’s bookmarkable: Your landing page is a great place for people to bookmark you. This is likely to happen if you manage to create a page that offers useful but not overwhelming content. In today’s world of thousands of web pages and hundreds of pieces of content, bookmarking a page can be a powerful way for customers to stay close to your business. What’s more, when a bunch of people start bookmarking your site all at once, you’re facing a high possibility of going viral. To put it another way: establishing a landing page is one of the best ways to grab bookmarks and drive traffic.
  • It aids in customer retention: When you establish a quality landing page, it can assist in boosting your customer retention numbers. This is because a landing page offers a platform where readers can find convenient helpful information all in one place. This lessens their likelihood of hitting the “back” button and ensures that you keep more customers on your page – where they should be.
  • The landing page is linkable: Whether you’re using your landing page to host contest rules or launch a new product, the landing page is a great place to earn links. This means that you can easily appear in another blogger’s site or on social media. The landing page is unique in that it’s tough to make such an instant impression anywhere else in a website. The landing page offers everything visitors love in one convenient location: design, content, and information, and if you can make a great first impression with your landing page, you’re very likely to get the links you deserve.
  • Landing pages can be optimized for SEO: One of the foremost reasons that a landing page is the ideal form of cornerstone content is that it can easily be optimized for SEO. This ensures that as you tweak your on-page copy, you can continue to boost your rankings and attract more customers.

5. Write related content

Once you’ve established your cornerstone content, one of the most important things you can do is build a Web of internal links to related content within your site. You don’t want to go overboard by referencing everything you’ve ever done in every post you’ve ever written, but it is wise to cross-reference your cornerstone content to earn continued links, exposure, and engagement.

In addition to providing more traffic, this also ensures that your readers are never left in the dark wondering what a key topic is all about or how they’re supposed to know this fact or that reference. By writing related content that links back to your cornerstone content, you provide an immersive reader experience and ensure that your readers always have plenty of information wherever they look on your site.


While it can be difficult to get started as a blogger, establishing a healthy network of cornerstone content is by far the best way to give yourself a boost. In addition to providing an important platform for visibility, sharing, and links, creating ample cornerstone content is one of the best ways to establish yourself as an authority in your industry.

While cornerstone content doesn’t happen overnight, bloggers who dedicate themselves to conducting good keyword research, writing quality copy, getting good at title tags and headers, and building an effective internal linking structure will certainly find success with their cornerstone content.

To refer back to the presidential dinner example: you want to make sure that you express your best when those search engine crawlers come to dinner and creating outstanding and relevant cornerstone content is one of the most reliable ways to do this.

Whether you’re an eCommerce company or a blogger that specializes in content marketing, cornerstone copy is an important part of ensuring that your business reaches its goals and outshines the competition.


Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.