A Complete Guide on How to Write Cornerstone Content to Drive SEO Backlinks

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If you build a content marketing plan that is focused on driving conversions, then traffic will (eventually) follow. Creating good cornerstone content is tricky and there are a lot of things to consider, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed right now there’s no need to worry. Our comprehensive, “cornerstone content how-to” is designed to help answer any questions you may have.


As you probably know, these initials stand for “too long, didn’t read” --- a popular online saying that seems to summarize our content consumption as much as our culture. We skim long articles, skip long videos and generally don’t consume content that doesn’t cater to our ever-shortening attention spans.

Stats show that we now have shorter attention spans than the average goldfish (eight seconds, versus the nine-second attention span of goldfishes!) So it makes sense that the content we create and consume has become shorter as well.

Or...does it?

In reality, value trumps brevity. We already know that people love reading relevant, informative content like blog posts, and these aren’t always short. So if you build a content marketing plan that is focused on driving conversions, then traffic will (eventually) follow.

This is what cornerstone content is all about: creating high value and building authority through problem solving content that provides meaningful value to people.

Your cornerstone content is your “brand ambassador”. And you definitely don’t have to keep it short — in fact, the opposite is often the case.

Creating good cornerstone content is tricky and there are a lot of things to consider, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed right now there’s no need to worry.  Our comprehensive, “cornerstone content how-to” is designed to help answer any questions you may have.

How is cornerstone content different from your other content?

Cornerstone content, also known as evergreen content or pillar content, is your most crucial piece of content and SEO strategy. But how does it differ from all the other content pieces you produce?

Think about your whole content structure as a pyramid: at the very top, you have your latest offer/lead magnet/blog post --- your “what’s happening right now” content which aims to drive sales, conversions and increase audience engagement.

At the bottom of the pyramid, there’s your homepage and your About Us page --- your “who we are” content which communicates your identity and what your company/brand is all about.

Your cornerstone content would then be right above, on the second row. It’s more specific and specialized than “who we are” content, but more evergreen and thorough than “what’s happening right now” content.

The purpose of this type of content is to provide high value to your readers and establish you as an authority in your niche — it’s not about offering free products or services, or about driving sales. That’s why your cornerstone content needs to be thorough, immersive and still relevant six months or three years from now.

But the most important thing is that your cornerstone content is there to help you drive SEO backlinks and improve your Google rankings.

Here’s what you need to know about SEO, Google rankings and cornerstone content backlinks

The data is clear: the more inbound links (or backlinks) and indexed pages you have, the more of an increase you’ll see in your website traffic (potentially up to 236%!) But while quantity is great, quality is even better — and your cornerstone content is a testament to that.

See, the way cornerstone content helps improve your ratings is three-fold: first, it allows you to build natural links throughout your site. Then, it helps Google crawl your content (we’ll get back to that). And finally, it allows new people to find your website through backlinks.

For the first part, natural link building (think cornerstone content as your true North) is the place where all (or most) of your other content leads back to. Cornerstone content also works as a funnel and points readers to other less detailed but more timely pieces of content you’ve produced. As we’ll get to, the way this happens depends on how your cornerstone content will actually be structured (i.e. as more of an index page versus as a full, long-form piece of content).

But for now, simply think: cornerstone content = very detailed and useful content that people actually find value in reading, a wealth of natural links to link forth and back to = better Google rankings.

Creating thoughtful content establishes yourself and your brand as an authority in your niche, which, as we’ve seen, drives website traffic.

But that doesn’t just happen magically!

It takes careful keyword research on your end; you need to make sure that your cornerstone content is rich (but not stuffed) with all the right keywords, the keywords related to your product/brand that people are actually searching for.

This is where internal linking also helps because if, for example, Google sees that you have 21 pieces of content and 20 of them link back to the other one, it will add this page in more keyword entries when indexing your site, thus increasing your chances of ranking higher.

Now, it’s a no-brainer that ranking higher in Google for relevant keywords is a surefire way to get more people to discover your brand online. But cornerstone content takes things one step further: it makes sure the right people discover your brand online. You know, the people who are likely to share your content to their followers, creating traction and bringing in those valuable backlinks.

So… how is cornerstone content going to do all that for you?

Glad you asked.

Your starter guide to cornerstone content

Think of this section as “cornerstone content for dummies”.

The first thing you need to think about is what your cornerstone content will look like. What need will it solve? While that will significantly depend on the type of your business and what your brand’s all about, when it comes to structure, cornerstone content can be roughly one of two things (depending on how much existing content you already have):

  1. a long-format, powerhouse piece of content that includes different media (text, images, infographics, video, audio/podcast) and different sources of information (quotes from authority figures, data charts, links to internal and some external content, social media and user generated content)
  1. an index-like page which mostly links to all your other relevant content and offerings

While b is definitely a great option if you already have a ton of content (and can still include multimedia elements and different sources), most companies have to start with the first option. Creating this massive piece of content before anything else also gets you  thinking about your content strategy in the bigger picture and how your future blog posts can actually complement and link back to your cornerstone content.

So, once you’ve figured out what your cornerstone content is about and how it’ll look, you need to consider the technicalities. As a rule, SEO experts don't recommend that you use the same blog post template you used on the rest of your website for your cornerstone content.

Three reasons for that:

- it needs to be more flexible than the rest of your content (to include more types of media, as we’ve seen)

- it needs to be easy to access even after a long time (whereas old blog posts get buried under newer content)

- it needs to feel special and add massive value to your readers

Your cornerstone content can then be formatted as a page, an e-book, a pdf guide or, better yet, all three. Something your audience will love to consume, share and link back to you!

A brief note on keywords for cornerstone content

This cornerstone content how-to wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about keywords a bit more.

As we’ve already seen, using the right keywords helps Google with crawling your website. So when you consider creating cornerstone content to help drive SEO backlinks, and even afterward to keep that content relevant, keyword strategy should be a big part of your work.

You can use free keyword tools like Wordstream to help identify exactly what people search for within your niche. Then, you should identify your primary keyword (the one with the most hits but also the one that feels most relevant to what your brand is about, and that you actually have a chance to rank for) and make sure it appears both on the title and the URL of your cornerstone content. You can use secondary keywords to populate headlines or link to other content in your site.

So, to recap:

  1. Figure out the problem you want to solve
  2. identify the structure that works best
  3. Do your keyword strategy homework
  4. Get cracking on creating your cornerstone content

Once you’ve completed all these steps, you can bask in the glory of your great cornerstone content, right? Well, not exactly.

You still need to think about promoting your content, both on social media and sending it directly to people who can help make it viral.

You also need to keep tabs on it, to update it as needed (both content-wise and keyword-wise as the market changes). But writing it, and writing it masterfully, will definitely be the bulk of your work. Which brings us to our next point...

Need a hand with your cornerstone content game?

Congratulations, you now have all the knowledge you need to create a kick-ass and relevant piece of content that can help establish you as an authority and improve your Google rankings.

How do you feel? Excited? Exhausted?

Truth is, creating your cornerstone content will be hard work. It may take days, even weeks for you to do all the research, collect the data and reach out to influencers in your industry for quotes… and that’s even before you get down to the actual writing! (Spoiler alert: you also have a business to run in the meantime!)

So let us do the heavy lifting for you. Our team of talented, professional writers can work their magic on your cornerstone content and give your brand the proper “building block” it needs while you get busy building your empire.

Want to take advantage of Scribly’s unlimited copywriting service and our competitive prices?

Send us a message, we’d love to hear from you!

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