What the fuck is cornerstone content? And why does it matter?

Since the Google Helpful Content Update, you may have heard a bunch of talk about cornerstone content. Especially from me. Why? Because when it’s done well, it is the pinnacle of what the helpful content update is looking for.

So now we know why it’s so important, let’s take a deep dive into what it is, where it lives, how it works, and what we can do with it. This is what I’m going to cover:

  • What does good cornerstone content look like?
  • Why does Google like it?
  • How can we create it often enough without burning out?

What does good cornerstone content look like?

So first things first, cornerstone content is basically like a big fuck off blog. But with more research, more links, more graphics, and more content.

Here’s a checklist I use as a basis for what the best pieces of cornerstone content contain:

  • All of the things you need for good blog content (more on that below)
  • 3,000 – 5,000 words (a guideline, not a strict rule, by 3k+ is what Google considers to be long-form content)
  • Research and visual statistics (always hyperlink to the original source)
  • Links to relevant product/service pages (with clear anchor text)
  • Link to as many relevant blogs, ebook landing pages, webinar recordings, and other resources as possible
  • Keyword and brand name in meta title
  • Keyword in meta description
  • Links to high quality external sources or authorities on the topic
  • Opportunity to include lead magnets (low commitment ones like checklists, templates. Something that only needs a small form on-page)
  • Quick links at the top of the page that allow people to scroll down automatically

I totally get that it seems like a lot. If you’re not used to writing SEO content it can feel super intimidating. But, now you have the tools. You know where to start. You got this.

I also made this checklist into a PDF for you to download

Why does Google like this stuff?

Cornerstone content is like blogs on steroids. This shit, when well-written and well-researched, will tick all of the boxes the helpful content update is looking for.

Think of it like this.

When you go to Google, it’s because you’re looking for information. Chances are, either:

  • You are fact-checking something: Making a Murderer season 1 air date
  • You’re looking to answer a low-stakes question: How many documentaries are on Netflix?
  • You’re looking for the cause of a problem: Why isn’t my Netflix account working?
  • Or, you’re looking for a solution to a problem: Which streaming service is the best value for money?

Of course, this doesn’t cover every type of Google search, but it’s a good place to start.

So the Google Helpful Content Update specifies that content needs to help your readers accomplish the goal of their search, or get one step closer to it.

Cornerstone content should focus on the ’cause of the problem’ or the ‘solution to the problem’ searches. Or perhaps both.

Cornerstone content is robust, helpful, clear, insightful, well-researched, and (critically), written by people for people. Your goal here shouldn’t just be “land on the first page of Google”.

Your priority with cornerstone content is to show your readers exactly why you are the solution to their problem.

How do you write all of this content without burning the fuck out?

Burnout isn’t your friend. And I totally get that this cornerstone business sounds like a lot.

Critically, you need to create content in the reverse order that people will find it.

If your cornerstone content is properly optimised, that’s where people will land on your website for your target term(s).

You need to write the other blogs, eBooks, webinars, etc. first. You’ll be linking to them in your cornerstone piece, so they need to exist first. Cornerstone content is the final piece of the puzzle for your topic cluster.

Need some support with planning and/or writing a topic cluster of your own in 2023? Get in touch so we can chat all things marketing over a cuppa.

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