I may be wrong but, I think people are a little confused about how and why you need pillar and cornerstone content on your website.
So, today I’m going to help you figure it out.
The thing is, constantly reviewing, updating, and evolving is typical when it comes to your website.
But do you have your anchor pages and content aligned to both deliver your central business message and position your website for digital recognition and results?
Whew. That seems like a lot. What it comes down to is this:
- Is your brand message delivered consistently and with clarity throughout your site, and,
- Does your website perform?
Performance is measured in a lot of different ways, honestly.
And the performance you’re going focus on depends on your unique business and goals.
Build Your Site Framework on Pillar and Cornerstone Content
Still, the foundation of most sites no matter the site’s purpose is pillar content. Like the pillars on a porch, your pillar content is a framework of key subjects or topics, supporting your digital presence as a whole.
Some people think of it as an umbrella, under which all your content falls.
Building out from your pillars, your cornerstone content pieces, then, are like the foundational blocks. Usually, your cornerstones are pages and not posts.
But interestingly, when done right, your cornerstone pages are often the most shared and visited on your site. Linking to these pages from posts often is one way you can give them more juice.
For the most favorable results, I recommend your cornerstone content work is always well-written and well-produced.
I also not only recommend, but urge, you keep your cornerstone pages updated so they always stay current.
So, when you create cornerstone content, keep these tips in mind:
First, #1- if possible, craft cornerstone content from evergreen content topics! What this means is making sure your subject matter and topics for cornerstone pages are always fresh, or currently accurate.
To do this, constantly update these pages for one way to stay evergreen and, #2- the other part is to carefully plan topics.
Pick topics that while significant to your pillar themes, also deliver big relevance to your audience.
Your subject matter, therefore, needs to be the kind of topic that remains relevant over time, while addressing your overarching themes.
With these first two points in mind—staying evergreen and relevant by maintaining audience centricity—my next and biggest tip is this:
Do your due diligence. Like a little research and keyword planning. Play with “Answer the Public”, and swish info you find around in your mind. Give this research phase some thought and intention.
Then, go at it with a set strategy.
How about if I give you all the steps you need—a planning guide, if you will, for creating cornerstone content for your website?
I want to make sure you realize the importance of crafting significant content for cornerstone pages. The reason is, they provide the solid blocks on which your site content is built.
But. In case I didn’t stress it, significant content means epic content.
Or, if you prefer another way to explain what I mean, you’re going for what Brian Dean calls, “Skyscraper Content.”
The stakes are high for this piece of content work so, essentially what Brian tells you to do in producing skyscraper work, is to blow your topic out of the water. Yep, sky high!
Produce the absolute best content anywhere on the web for the topic you are covering.
Traits for Cornerstone Content
Remember, you want cornerstone content pages to always have certain traits.
Carefully select the subject of your page to reflect a pillar topic, key to your business/site, that’s also evergreen and user-centric for the first part.
But, to really get some bang from your cornerstone creation buck, think about the second part.
I’m so pleased to share this because, frankly, I have big news for you.
What, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you…
I’m sharing a plan with you, straight from a free challenge offered a couple of years ago by copyblogger! NEWSFLASH: I still use everything uncovered in participating.For cornerstone #content, cover your topic by blowing it out of the water! Yep.Click To Tweet
Because Smart People Told Me
I love a lot of things about copyblogger but, what I most love, is the super smart and sometimes equally snarky Sonia Simone and guess what?
Yep, you guessed it, she and Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System—both mentioned in posts before—were the top dogs in charge of the challenge and I learned tons!
So, although today I’m sharing this with you, know it comes from folks far wiser in this matter. (And well, I’m kind of a fangirl to both!)
This is also a perfect exercise if you need a new cornerstone content page—I know I do.
Or, to help you review and refresh any pages you already have on your site. Especially if you want to take them up a notch!
Step 1: Guide to Cornerstone Content Creation
Remember, I mentioned due diligence?
Well, that’s Step 1 to planning your page—doing the research. And for digital cornerstone pages, it means this:
What keywords and content categories are you going to focus on?
In this step, Pamela and Sonia suggest you ask yourself this, “When someone searches for your topic, what words or phrases will they type into a search engine?” (Or Ask Siri or Alexa, I might add!)
They suggest you create a list of eight to ten phrases that summarize what your site is about. (You can always change and adjust them over time.) Then, determine the key categories your site will address with the content you create.
The optimal maximum number of categories you want to have for your site is ideally, seven. If you can make it three, that’s even better!
Note: I’m not showing categories on my website sidebar at all anymore. Notice around the web, some newer leaner sites aren’t showing categories, either.
The objective (and reason I’m using categories at all) is they are a way to organize your content and to focus on relevant subjects, without getting off track with content that’s all over the place.
The clearer, more specific, and precise you are in the content you offer, the easier it is for folks to easily navigate. And, to understand what you’re about and why they may care.
Luckily for you, I give you the key—a perfect keyword reference guide. It’s written by Sharon Hurley Hall for OptinMonster and helps you handle the research, step-by-step.
This first step, though, planning and research, takes a minute to do properly but, it’s very important for getting better results.
Step 2: Pick Page and Set Goals
Now, the fun starts. You have to select one page and one page only to focus on, first.
Think about starting with the page you think will give you the biggest results. Consider the topic you expect site visitors most expect, and will look for, on your site.
Once you decide on the first page to create, determine the page’s goals. More than one may apply and that’s okay. Here’s a checklist of goals to select from for this single page:
✅ attract visitors or find new readers
✅ serve as a reference page for upcoming content
✅ get new subscribers to build an email list
✅ highlight archived material or specific resources
✅ rank in search engines for competitive keywords
✅ draw traffic from organic or other sources
Remember, craft cornerstone content for powerful anchor pieces on your website. Keep in mind:
What topic can you make the top diggity dog, best ever for your visitors?For cornerstone #content on your website, first, do your due diligence, then map out the page content.Click To Tweet
Perrin Carrell wrote this comprehensive look, explaining the importance of your site architecture and how to build relevance and authority using Siloing Theory to help you understand how to build out from your cornerstone content pieces. Take a look.
On to Step 3: Map Out Your Page Content
While the goals you identify for your page are best if tied to a measurable result, like unique visits or new list subscribers, there’s one more thing.
One component to content creation that’s somewhat less tangible but, ultimately, most important. This thing is in the back of my mind every time I write content. Of any kind.
Engagement—since it takes place in so many forms and isn’t always measurable—engagement is the double secret backdoor goal to keep in mind when you create or publish anything.
Look, quality content is the minimal standard so, in my mind, I’m always going for engaging. Find engaging and you find the magic.
Now, back to the guide for cornerstone pages and Step 3.
Map out your page by concentrating on important sections.
Your objective is to clearly explain the topic for people; and, to provide enough content for search engines to determine what your page is about.
Your first section to map out for your page is the Headline. If possible, work your keyword phrase into your page headline, for starts.
Don’t be afraid to kiss 25 or more headline frogs to find your charmer. I usually write dozens before I go with my final pick.
Because your headline is the first touch point to attract attention and draw people in, take a little extra time to get it right. I recommend you take note of headline best practices from a multi-layered standpoint.
In this headline writing reference, science and data offer guidelines for you. The post has tools for you to use to test your headlines for things like optimal length and even emotional value.
To address more persuasive headline copy formulas to motivate people to click, I give you my go-to writing source, Henneke, from Enchanting Marketing.
Step 3: Introduction Section
Since she is a top writing coach, I have another resource by Henneke, How to Captivate Your Readers: 3 Ways to Craft Irresistible Opening Lines, to take you right to Step 3’s next section.
Writing an introduction interesting enough to pull the reader further along makes all the difference for getting your content noticed and read.
Hint: If you’re still struggling with your core business message or pillar topics, you may want to include a bit of a competitor analysis at this early point. It will help to showcase how you can stand out, establish instant authority, and build trust over your competition.
At usually around 150 words, smart, snappy, and using short sentences and paragraphs helps the reader delve deeper with ease.
Some people like to start with writing this section, some do it last. Either way, this is the section to shine with sparkling writing and polish with ruthless editing until it feels compelling. And powerful and engaging.
Next, the Main Content Section is the meat of your page, where most of the information you are sharing belongs. If people make it to this point, you now have to work all the more with a goal of bringing them with you further yet.
Give readers the juicy filling they crave in the main section of your content. Fill it with valuable ideas, information, and helpful links. Link to top articles on your site related to the main topic of the page. Use visual content, offer examples, give a new spin to a broad topic, or narrow your subject to a tiny insight or how-to on a specific topic.
Don’t Forget the Link Juice on Your Cornerstone Page
Provide links to reputable outside sources to prove the data you present as well as to help establish solid connections in your industry or field. (Note: Now is a particularly good time to check your site for broken links with the extreme number of sites recently switching to https.)
Powerful links add page juice from your content and help build your page authority as well.
Another hint: Make sure no links are broken on your site by testing them periodically. Make sure any resources you have on your site are current.
Links to nowhere and outdated information makes you look bad like your site is broken down or something. And, it’s not very professional, either.
Oh, and by the way, keep track of links for your posts on a spreadsheet or Tello board or somewhere, in case you need them. Trust me, this will come in handy sooner or later!Cornerstone #content pages effectively anchor your site by providing deep information around core, or pillar, topics for your business. Click To Tweet
Finally, Final Step 4: Plan Your Call-to-Action!
If you make your cornerstone content page a hot diggity dog top page on your topic and on your site, the next challenge and opportunity are to ask people to take a next action.
People are more likely to take an action if you ask. So give them a CTA or call-to-action, clearly and directly, and let them know what to do next.
Well, maybe not! But, since the aim for this page is higher traffic than most, why not capitalize on the extra attention? And, since you’re blowing people away with knowledge and priceless information, an opportunity exists to connect further.
Readers are already liking you so, why not ask for a next action? You know, while they’re still in a good mood—like now…
So, along with my usual invitation to comment, today I’m throwing another request at you!
How about signing up below for fun and insightful updates from yours truly? Don’t worry, I’m not an email sharer, and I won’t bug you too often…
Navin Rao says
Great views on the Cornerstone content Sue-Ann.
Really now it’s only about the content which speaks louder and solves all the issue of the readers. All bunch of information around the focus keyword in one article is the way to go.
It has several benefits, people would love to stick to your site for longer, of course only when it is informative and presented well. And, doesn’t matter what time it would take to create the content, Sky scrapper technique works like a charm. Focusing on a few things always works.
Sue-Ann Bubacz says
Haywood Hemley says
Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!
Sue-Ann Bubacz says
So pleased you find the posts helpful. Thanks for taking a look.
Ryan Biddulph says
Totally gotta go evergreen with these topics Sue-Anne. Here’s why; it needs to be lasting to be cornerstone. As I read and comment on billions of blogs LOL I see folks re-publishing content for years ago. Why? They can. Still timely. I do the same with my blog, and my eBooks too. I re-released my flagship eBook this week on my blog, written in 2014. 4 years later, almost to the day, it is just as relevant. Gotta be evergreen to be cornerstone worthy.
Fab post my friend!
Signing off from New Zealand.
Sue-Ann Bubacz says
You ARE good, Ryan!
I’m so excited to hear from you from wow wee New Zealand. Hope you guys are having fun and safe travels:)
I think EVERGREEN as a must, rather than a maybe, is an exceptional point. It makes me stop and think a minute right now as I am working on expanding my Cornerstone Content base around here. Some of the topics I am considering are fast moving and changing so I’m thinking I need to go BIG in the universal and evergreen kind of information I try to produce in the pieces. But, instead of NOT doing these topics as cornerstone posts or pages, I think keeping them up-to-date likely will be ongoing to pull it off.
Great to have you visit (YAY!!) here and I really appreciate you adding to the post with this valuable comment! Take care, Ryan and thank you, Sue-Ann
Moss Clement says
I actually shared this post on social media and bookmarked it for later reading. With the constant changes in search engine algorithms, low quality contents don’t rank on SERP. Google now considers many factors for higher search rankings, which includes cornerstone content. These are the type of content you’re so proud, because it has value to add to your readers.
I love the idea of using calls-to-action and also crafting an irresistible intro. An intro is typically the action of your content that will tell the reader to continue reading and read the entire article.
Without a remarkable intro, readers will just skip through your post. However, an irresistible intro also comes handy with a compelling headline, because it is the headline that will attract clicks.
Thank you for sharing!
Sue-Ann Bubacz says
So nice to see you here and thanks as always for your generous content sharing. We seem to travel in the same circles! I love that we are both in search of finding the compelling words and best practices for digital marketing and content crafting.
One thing I can add to your comment is the understanding that some consumers of your content are “scanners” and it’s wise to create for that kind of consumption as well. Headline and SubHeads meaningfully conveyed are one way. Repurposing content is another example. The idea is your audience can consume your quality content in a way that suits them best so, keep the interest going by using techniques so scanners still want to scan to the bottom and still gain value.
Thanks again, Moss, and take care,
Anil Agarwal says
Writing cornerstone content is very important for the success of any content site.
Gone are the days when you just have to create any shitty content and it’ll go viral. Today, your content must be really epic and insightful for it to gain all the attention you need.
Like Corbett Barr of Fizzle will say focus on creating “epic shit.”
Sue-Ann Bubacz says
Hello again! I was missing for a day and so I apologize for just getting to your comments til now but, I think it’s awesome that you took time to check out more of the site and add to it. Thank you. I don’t know about you but, call it what you will, I want top quality hot diggity dog work with anything I put out there. So you and me, visitors to a site and Google themselves are pretty much all in agreement. Right?
Thanks again and take care, Sue-Ann