Getting authority status online is hard.
Thousands of content-creators are competing to attract an audience who will trust them.
But only a few actually create content that grabs the attention of new visitors.
Imagine for a moment that an important visitor is visiting your site. By important, I mean that they could be a loyal client who makes your business some serious money.
If they were to call you, what would you tell them? Basically, you’d go over the essentials of how you can help them. Simply put, that’s what you should do with your content to build your authority online.
You need to create cornerstone content, also called “pillar content,” that shows your readers the essentials of your topics and makes them trust you.
That’s how you prove your authority online.
What is Cornerstone Content?
A cornerstone is something essential and basic that forms the foundation upon which something is built.
So, likewise, cornerstone content is basic and essential content that is considered as the foundation upon which your blog is built.
Basically, it’s what people need to know about your topic to trust you and do business with you.
It could come in many different forms. It could be an eBook, like Danny Iny’s Naked Marketing Manifesto, or Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks, or a post like Kevin’s How to Write a Blog Post: The Definitive 8,317-word Guide Your Mom will Understand.
But what I prefer is a series of posts about the main topic you’re covering.
Brian Clark did this best when he started off his blog by creating a series of posts called copywriting 101. Then he created another series of posts called blog triggers.
And these are the types of pages and content you need to create in your posts.
Note: Throughout this post, I’ll be talking more about the series-of-posts type of content simply because it’s the best application of this concept.
Why Should You Create Cornerstone Content?
If you don’t have cornerstone content, your blogging is missing a big piece of the puzzle.
Here are 4 reasons why you need to have cornerstone content:
- They attract links/shares: People love linking to the best of the best. If your content really dives deep into the essentials, people will love to link to it and share it with their readers. This will mean more contacts without extra effort.
- Google loves these articles: When people link to and share your post, Google will be more likely to give you higher rankings. After all, they want to give people the best results about the topic they’re searching for.
- Cornerstone Pages help you get more subscribers: When you create a landing page that shares your cornerstone content “the way Derek does,” you can add a subscription box into that page where people can subscribe to get more great content, and they’ll happily do so, if they find value in your content.
- More loyal readers: This content is great to help you turn new readers into loyal readers.
How to Create Cornerstone Content that Google Loves and Generates a Lot of Traffic for You
Now we came to the meat of this post: the how.
Creating cornerstone content is no different than your usual content creation strategy. You just need to add a few extra ingredients to make it more effective.
Here are the exact steps you need to follow:
1. Come up with a solid idea
You need to find an idea that can be considered the basis of your blog.
For Brian Clark, it was copywriting, magnetic headlines, content marketing, and SEO, to name just a few. For Darren Rowse, it was blogging for beginners. For Derek Halpern it was increasing online sales. For Moz, it was SEO basics.
Sometimes it’s the main topic your blog covers or a subtopic of that topic, if it’s a very broad topic.
Before you start, you need to do a keyword search to know if your keyword makes sense and that there are a lot of people who are searching for it.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about keyword research here, but you could check out Brian Dean’s guide. It’s cornerstone content that I can’t resist linking to whenever I talk about keyword research.
After you have a solid idea of the keyword you want to target, continue on to the next step.
2. Break the topic into subtopics and write compelling posts
Start to find out what different subjects you need to talk about to give people the essentials about that topic you’re covering.
Let’s take Moz’s SEO basics cornerstone page as an example. They broke down the topic into 10 different parts.
- How Search Engines works
- How people interact with search engines
- Why search engine marketing is essential
- The basics of search-engine-friendly designs
- Keyword research
- How usability, experience, and content affect rankings
- Growing popularity and links
- Search engine tools and services
- Myths and misconceptions about search engines
- Measuring and tracking success
If you’re new to SEO, after reading these 10 articles, you’ll be better informed than 95% of all online marketers.
This is how you need to think about your outline. Talk about the what, why, and how, and break that into different compelling pieces of content.
Make sure to check other examples of cornerstone content I linked to above for a better idea on how to structure your outline.
After you’ve created your content, you’ll need to edit it and format it well for readers to grasp the information in the post.
3. Create your cornerstone page
Once you’ve created your cornerstone content, you’ve nearly finished your job.
Now create a page which you could link to whenever you talk about that topic. People will follow the link, and you’ll get more visitors.
Here’s what to include on that page:
- Start with a compelling headline that grabs people’s attention. Read Jon morrow’s Headline Hacks for ideas on how to create attractive headlines.
- Start with an intro about your topic.
- Share a list of posts you created.
- Add a subscription box for your email newsletter to get more subscribers.
This is a simple layout for how your page could look. You can modify it, if you want, but make sure to add a subscription box for people who want to learn more from you.
4. Get the most out of your cornerstone page
After you’ve created that awesome piece of content that google loves, you need to spread the word about it.
Here are few things you could do:
- Link to it from your sidebar: Give people an option to know more about the main topic
- Link to it from your navbar
- Link to it in your posts whenever you mention your main topic. Like when Brian Clark mentions Copywriting, he links to his cornerstone page about copywriting. It’s better for his audience when they know more about that topic and he don’t need to explain it every time he mentions it for new readers.
- Do guest posts and link to it from your bio or in the post: Most bloggers are hesitant to link to your blog inside a post, but this situation is different. You’ve compiled a great resources page about that topic that’s hugely beneficial for their readers. They’ll actually love to link to it. Also, make sure to link to it in your bio.
Simply put, whenever there’s a situation where you mention that main topic, link to that page. It’s far better than explaining it over and over again, so just link to that page.
If you’ve been blogging for a while, here’s an even better solution
This is the best part.
If you’re starting out as a blogger, plan your cornerstone content, and publish your first 7-8 articles with the intention of linking back to them later.
But what if you’ve been blogging for a while now? I’m sure you have the content you need to compile about your topic already created in your archives.
You just need to dig into your archives, find 5-10 articles that makes people understand the essentials about a topic, and create a cornerstone page that contain links to them.
The most time-consuming step in this process is the posts creation part, but you can save yourself a lot of time by following this simple tip if you already have an existing blog.
Create Your First Cornerstone Content
Put the above steps into action and start the process of creating your first cornerstone content. If you already have a blog, skip the posts creation part and link to posts from your archive.
The most important thing is to take action.
And don’t just create one piece of cornerstone content, keep creating cornerstone content over time as your blogging strategy evolves.
It’s the best way to get more links and shares and also to increase the engagement of your audience further down the line.
Now tell us in the comments below, do you have cornerstone content on your blog? Do you know other great examples that are worth mentioning?