Last Updated in April 2021 by Lukasz Zelezny
What is and How to Create Cornerstone Content for Your Website
Cornerstone content is essential to your website's performance. Without it, you'll experience less traffic, fewer inbound links and lower search rankings.
The culmination of these effects will likely result in fewer online conversions.
Unfortunately, many webmasters have never even heard of cornerstone content, let alone know how to create it. Whether you're familiar with this digital marketing tactic or not, though, you can create highly effective cornerstone content by following these tips.
What Is Cornerstone Content?
Cornerstone content is any page of long-form, high-quality content on a website that serves as the foundation for other pages of content on the same website.
In masonry, a cornerstone is the first stone that's set in a foundation project. After the cornerstone has been set, the other stones are attached to it.
While cornerstone content doesn't involve bricks or stones, the concept is the same: Each page of cornerstone content acts as a foundation by supporting other pages of content.
When you create cornerstone content, you can link to other pages of related content on your website.
Visitors to the cornerstone content page can then click these links to check out the related content.
Go Long with your cornerstone content
In August 2019, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller revealed in a Reddit post that Google does not use word count as a ranking factor. For cornerstone content, though, you'll experience better results using a long format rather than a short format.
The level of detail in a piece of online content is heavily influenced by its word count. A 1,500-word article, for example, will almost certainly be more detailed than a 200- or 300-word article.
There's only so much information you can convey in 200 or 300 words, making it a poor format for cornerstone content.
How long should you make your website's cornerstone content exactly? There's no universal length that works for all pieces of cornerstone content.
Certain topics require more words than others.
With that said, cornerstone content should be noticeably longer than the related pages to which it's linked. If most of your website's pages have 600 words, aim for at least 800 or 1,000 words when creating cornerstone content.
Target Your Main Keywords with your Cornerstone Content
Cornerstone content offers an opportunity to target your website's main keywords. In other words, don't optimize pages of cornerstone content for secondary, long-tail keywords.
Instead, optimize them for primary, short-tail keywords.
Because they are longer and more detailed than other pages, cornerstone content pages are somewhat time-consuming to produce. Therefore, you should maximize their value by optimizing them for your website's main keywords.
If you target secondary keywords, search engines may reward your cornerstone content pages with high rankings, but those rankings may fail to generate any meaningful amount of traffic. Your cornerstone content will attract more traffic if you optimize it for your website's main keywords.
Choose an Evergreen Topic for cornerstone content
When creating cornerstone content, choose an evergreen topic. Evergreen topics are characterized by long-term relevance.
They don't focus or revolve around time-sensitive information.
As a result, they don't lose relevancy as quickly as news stories and other forms of time-sensitive content. A news story may only stay relevant for a few months, whereas evergreen content often stays relevant for at least several years.
Each piece of cornerstone content should focus on a single evergreen topic that's related to your website's niche or market.
Time-sensitive topics don't work for cornerstone content. They may perform well initially -- when the topic is still relevant -- only to experience a sharp decline in traffic and rankings thereafter.
Place cornerstone content in the Root Directory
You should place pages of cornerstone content in your website's root directory. Search engines typically assign more authority, as well as ranking value, to pages located in the root directory than a lower-level directory.
By placing cornerstone content in the root directory, search engines will recognize it as being more important than other pages on your website.
Placing cornerstone content in the root directory of your website also allows you to place related pages under it, such as example.com/cornerstone-content-page/first-related-page-of-content and example.com/cornerstone-content-page/second-related-page-of-content.
A structured hierarchy such as this helps search engines connect the dots between your website's cornerstone content and the related pages to which it links.
Cornerstone content and Internal Links
No piece of cornerstone content is complete without internal links. After all, cornerstone content is the foundation on which other pages of content are built.
If your website's cornerstone content lacks internal links, it won't be able to guide visitors to the related pages of content.
When adding internal links to cornerstone content, use descriptive anchor text. Avoid using naked links consisting of the cornerstone content page's URL, as well as nondescript anchor text like "visit this page."
Instead, use descriptive anchor text for internal links in your website's cornerstone content. Visitors should be able to tell what the linked page is about simply by reading the anchor text.
Add and Optimize Images for your cornerstone content
In addition to internal links, you should include images in cornerstone content. Images offer more than just aesthetic value; they complement the adjacent text to offer clarity and additional information.
Visitors can reference the images to gain a better understanding of the conveyed topic.
You should optimize images used in your website's cornerstone content by giving them relevant alt text. Alt text is an HTML snippet that describes an image.
It's displayed when a visitor's web browser fails to render the image. Search engines, however, use alt text as a ranking signal.
Optimizing images with alt text encourages search engines to rank your website's cornerstone content higher.
Prioritize cornerstone content in Navigation
Don't forget to prioritize cornerstone content in your website's navigation. Visitors should be able to easily to find your website's cornerstone content.
If it's buried under several upper-level category pages, it will attract less traffic.
The fewer clicks it takes visitors to access your website's cornerstone content, the better. Therefore, you should prioritize it in your website's navigation.
If you use a similar format for all your website's cornerstone content, perhaps you can create a separate navigation menu for it. Regardless, it should be given priority over other pages.
Not all pages on your website are of equal importance. Cornerstone content pages are arguably the most important because they connect to other pages while simultaneously serving as a source of valuable information to visitors.
With the right cornerstone content, your website will attract more traffic, inbound links and higher search rankings.