2018 is the year we say YES TO SEO. In this article we are going to discuss cornerstone content and why your website needs it.
Think of your website as the solid power girl band of the 90s – the Spice Girls. Let’s take a closer look at the fab five. What do we see? Five strong, individual characters who stuck to their brand for nearly a decade. The Spice Girls are a marketer’s dream. So what does 90s girl power have to do with cornerstone content?
What is cornerstone content?
The Spice Girls would not have had this success without their high kicking, girl-power brand. Their look, power stance, speeches, and songs are all entwined in this brand and their niche. If we take a look at their successful hits – Wannabe (zig a zig ah), Mama, 2 Become 1, etc we can see that they define the band and the brand. These number 1 chart songs are the Spice Girls’ cornerstone content. They are instantly recognisable. Your site should have around 3-5 cornerstone articles which are based on the main themes of your website, instantly recognisable as your brand. Think of cornerstone content as an umbrella post or a hub article which links out to lots of other articles on your site.
Finding your own cornerstone content
Members of our Make Traffic Happen Newsletter now have a copy of the cornerstone content spreadsheet (which everyone else can access here). You can use this spreadsheet to map your cornerstone articles to the related articles on your site.
Take a blank piece of paper and write the name of your website in the middle of a mind map/spider diagram. Now open your spreadsheet of articles (if you don’t have one I recommend creating this now, super useful for when you start to seriously kick your SEO game up a notch and also for when you start to introduce affiliates to your website). Next, study your articles and answer these questions:
- What are the main themes?
- At a party, a new friend asks what your site is about – what are the main 3-5 topics you cover?
- What do you want users to take away from your website?
Basically, which posts most define your brand?
On the paper, draw an arrow from your website title and identify the first topic (like Laura’s topic of food). Do the same for all of your main topics. For each topic, identify which articles have already written, what you need to do to improve them, and which articles you still need to create.
Now, identify which keywords you are attempting to rank for in each cornerstone article. If you have not begun your search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy yet, feel free to skip this section, but we highly recommend that you don’t put off SEO any longer. Your competitors are already seeing success. Don’t get left behind. Don’t believe us? Check out this thread in our Make Traffic Happen Facebook support group (it’s free to join!)
In Laura’s example of Best Foodie Destinations Around the World, she has created a large, broad article on those destinations. Within this post she links to other articles that she has on her website already which are related to this cornerstone article. Examples of articles she links to are
- Thai Cooking Classes
- Peruvian Food
- Copenhagen Food Tour
- Borough Market in London
- And many many more (you can read the cornerstone article here)
Cornerstone content – internal links
What are internal links?
Internal linking is when you highlight anchor text and add a ‘do follow‘ link (URL) to that text. It has to be ‘do follow’ to allow the link juice to flow between the posts. The link already exists on your website, it is old content, which you have already published – this makes it an internal link.
Now that you’ve identified your cornerstone content, you need to make it work for you. You want internally link to articles that exist on your website already (like Laura did linking to the Thai Cooking Class) and also link back to that cornerstone article. In Laura’s case, she would link to Thai Cooking Classes from Best Foodie Destinations then link back from Best Foodie Destinations to Thai Cooking Classes.
Find your related articles
Task 3 – There are three ways to do this:
- Look at your spreadsheet of articles and identify which articles discuss similar content. In Laura’s example, she may include links to content about food tours, best recipes, and where to eat posts. Add this information to the corresponding cornerstone article of your mind map.
- Go to All Posts in WordPress and select a related category (e.g Scotland,). Note that this only works if you use categories. This is my preferred method.
- The final way is Laura’s preferred method, which is just to use the search option of your site and type in a theme or topic, then sort through what your search pulls up.
Whatever way you go for, add the related posts to the cornerstone article in your mind map. Do this for every cornerstone post.
Put in the internal links. You want to link to your cornerstone post from each of these similar articles and also link back from your cornerstone.
Task 5 (optional)
Why not make them stand out with clear Call to Actions (CTAs) using coloured boxes? Click here for easy instructions on how to do this without using a plugin.
Let Yoast help you organise
Yoast is a great guidance (it is not God), and free, plugin for SEO (you can read here why we don’t believe in making every light green). One section we particularly like is the option to tick if a specific post is a cornerstone article. This will help you identify which posts you feel most identify your brand and niche.
Task 6: Add to your homepage
Think of your website as a mountain, the peak is your homepage and it is survival of the fittest to reach that summit! Only the very best, your cornerstone in this instance, will make it to the top.
Add your cornerstone to your homepage via a text link or image link. You will need a static homepage to do this (you can access more information about this step here). By adding it to the homepage not only is there a chance more readers will see it but it also tells Google that it is an important article in the hierarchy of your website. The link juice flows from the article at the top (homepage) all the way to the articles that it links to.
Hurry the process up
It can take Google a while to crawl your website and update its database, so why not help move things along a bit quicker? You can do this by submitting a full sitemap to Google Console or adding your cornerstone post to this link (you can submit up to 500 links in 30 days). We can’t promise that it works 100% of the time and don’t actually use this process often but others do.
If you used the mapping method, you can now add your cornerstone articles (and the articles you have linked to) to your spreadsheet! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in our Facebook group, Make Traffic Happen.
Common questions about cornerstone posts
- Does it matter if the cornerstone is a page or post?
No, it can be either. The difference is that a page will not show up in your blogroll if you have a blog page or in RSS if that is switched on and linked to the newsletter. Pages can rank on Google(appear on the first page of Google) like posts do.
- Can I use the same keywords for my cornerstone as I do an article that is already on my site?
This is not advised because you want to try and rank for both posts.
- One of my themes is low-calorie recipes – I write about low-calorie recipes does this mean every single one of my articles are my cornerstone posts?
No, this is not the case. You need to identify your foundation posts, expect to have around 3-5 cornerstones.
- Is my homepage my cornerstone article?
Since your homepage most likely links out to lots of different articles and there is probably a limited amount of text on it, your homepage is not an example of a cornerstone article.
Cornerstone content is what defines your brand and website. It tells new users and search engines what you believe in and what your website wants to share. Do not panic if you are feeling overwhelmed by cornerstone content, it is just one tiny area of the YES to SEO challenge and we want to help you make 2018 be your best year yet. Remember to update the next page of your spreadsheet (which you can find here or in your inbox) and ask any questions to our link-minded Make Traffic Happen family in our Facebook group.
Please leave any questions, comments or compliments below.