Cornerstone Content Guide: What Is It And How To Boost Your Website’s SEO (2021)

Brandon LazovicApril 6, 2021

Optimized content is one of the most important factors for ranking well on search engines like Google and Bing. 

If your site is lacking in content, it’s nearly impossible to rank effectively compared to that of your competitors. 

Having a strong content strategy in place is essential - one way to ensure that you’re hitting the right breadth and depth of pages is through the use of cornerstone content. 

Read our guide to learn more about cornerstone content, what it is, and how to create it for your website.

What Is Cornerstone Content?

Cornerstone content (otherwise known as pillar pages) are the best and most important articles on your website. 

These types of pages are typically longform (2,000+ words) and serve as comprehensive guides  on a specific topic that can answer many of the questions / pain points a visitor might have when reading your cornerstone content. 

Good cornerstone content is usually in the form of an article, but it can also be in the form of a page, slide show, image, video, audio clip, other forms of media, or other online documents. 

It usually fits somewhere on your website, and is usually a logical part of the design, page layout and design flow. 

Why Is Cornerstone Content Important For SEO? 

Cornerstone articles helps your website rank more prominently in search engines. 

To get the highest rankings for your website, you must be one of the top sites for your industry. 

Google and other search engines often rank sites using the number of relevant articles that a particular site has written about in a specific topic or niche. 

If you are not ranking well for your industry’s search terms, the algorithm may be weighing the relevance of your website to those search queries in favor of sites with more comprehensive content. However, this ranking is also affected by the authority of your site. 

Google does not just look at your keywords; they look at your relevance to your readers, your industry, and your authority in the field. 

By having a large swath of content in a specific topic cluster, you’re able to prove to Google that you’re an expert in your niche, and it will help your site rank more effectively. 

Cornerstone content pieces helps with this, because it’s focused on offering visitors a comprehensive guide on a given topic. It also drives users and search engines to other related articles in your industry, showing that your website offers both breadth and depth in a specific topic cluster. 

Below are some of the other benefits to having cornerstone content: 

  • Establishes your website as an authority in your industry
  • Helps to build natural backlinks as a comprehensive guide 
  • Passed authority to other related articles in your topic cluster, allowing them to rank more effectively in the search results
  • Ensures that you’re targeting the right content for your content cluster

Internal Linking Strategy For Cornerstone Content

As you create and identify your cornerstone content, you want to optimize your internal linking structure by ensuring that your related posts link back to that cornerstone content and vice versa. This helps to evenly distribute the SEO value across your site pages, allowing them to rank effectively. 

When internal linking, make sure that the target keyword for your pages is used in the anchor text, toward the top of your article pages, for the most value. 

Identifying Your Website’s Cornerstone Content

So how do you identify your website’s cornerstone content? Consider the top pages you'd want visitors to discover when they first arrive on your website. These pages can serve as the foundation for your website. 

What are the most interesting articles to you? The ones that are the most thorough and reliable? Are these the pages targeting keywords you want to rank for the most? Do these pages espouse everything a visitor might want to know about a given topic? 

The pages that fit the above considerations are what you would consider to be your cornerstone content. 

How To Create Cornerstone Content

Below we’ll walk through how to create cornerstone content. 

Target The Right Keywords

First, you’ll want to make sure you’re targeting the right keywords. 

Most cornerstone content (or pillar pages) aim to target high volume, short-tail keywords that capture informational search intent about a given topic / niche. 

You can identify your target keywords using a keyword research tool like Keysearch, or SEMRush, to identify which phrases have search volume that you want your website to rank for. 

Choose Your Topic Cluster 

Next, you’ll want to identify your topic cluster. What topic do you want your website to provide information for? 

For example, if you’re a mortgage website, a topic cluster would be “first time home buyers” or “refinance” content. 

From there, you can narrow it down to specific categories that you can target within each topic cluster. So for “first time home buyers”, you could create a “first time home buyer’s guide” or for “refinance”, you could create a “how to refinance your home” guide. 

Create Longform Content (2500+ Words)

Now that you’ve picked your topic cluster / category, now it’s time to write your content. 

You want to ensure that your content is comprehensive and long (more than 2500+ words). A good measure is to look at your competitor’s cornerstone content in the search results. Is your page better and more informative than theirs is? 

You can either create new content, or update old articles for SEO that can serve the purpose of cornerstone content for your website. 

Add Internal Links To & From Your Related Posts

After writing out your longform content, your next step is to add internal links to and from your related blog posts within that topic cluster. 

Like I mentioned earlier, make sure your anchor text is optimized for your target keywords and that all posts interlink with one another to pass SEO value. This will ensure your cornerstone content ranks well, and that your related posts also rank well. 

Flesh Out Your Topic Cluster

After interlinking, take a look at your cornerstone content. What opportunities are there to create more related content that you can interlink with in your topic cluster? 

Jot down those opportunities and incorporate them into your content calendar to further flesh out your topic cluster. 

This will help improve your website’s relevance to Google for that topic space, and allow you to rank for more long-tail keywords on topics that round out your cornerstone content. 

Examples Of Cornerstone Content

Below are examples of cornerstone content. 

Beginner’s Guide To Search Engine Optimization Basics

I created this pillar page to flesh out my website and round out the amount of content I have in the search engine optimization space. 

Right now I have about 50 articles dedicated to various SEO strategy / How To guides, that interlink with this existing cornerstone content page. 

Moz SEO Beginner’s Guide

Another example is from Moz, where they have their own dedicated SEO guide that’s broken out into various chapters, or mini-clusters, for SEO best practices. 

 Definitive Guide To Linkbuilding

Lastly, Backlinko created a comprehensive linkbuilding guide that walks through everything you need to know about linkbuilding best practices (it’s a monster of an article at over 5,000 words long). 

This piece is great because it’s a highly engaging page that answers nearly every question a user might have about linkbuilding, and it’s a stronger page than most competitors that are targeting the same content.

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