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Cornerstone Content: Definition, Strategy and Tactics

Cornerstone content

Cornerstone content is a concept in SEO strategy that identifies and focuses on the most important pages of a website.

They are the ones with the highest-quality content as well as the ones that ideally will rank highest in search engine results.

They reflect the site’s brand and content marketing strategy and should get the most attention with publishers who practice search engine optimization. But for various reasons, they may not get the attention they deserve.

A cornerstone content strategy for SEO means the publisher makes an extra effort to optimize the page for search engines. After all, if a page is one of the highest quality on a site, it benefits the publisher and site to make it excel in search engine rankings.

Cornerstone content also is a concept that Yoast promotes in its WordPress plugin for search engine optimization.

“Cornerstone content is the core of your website.” Yoast says. “It consists of the best, most important articles on your site; the pages or posts you want to rank highest in the search engines.”

Cornerstone Content Strategy

A cornerstone content strategy first calls for identifying the most important pages on the website.

Large websites that have thousands of pages of content may struggle with where to begin.

The simplest place to begin is a review of site analytics. The 10 most popular pages on the site over the previous 12 months fit the definition of cornerstone content.

The next best place to begin is a review of word counts for existing pages. The length of an article also signifies whether it is cornerstone content.

An article with more than 1,000 words is usually a good candidate. If that article has at least one image and especially two or more, all the better.

Fortunately, some content management systems such as WordPress have word count plugins that will help publishers identify cornerstone content.

Unfortunately, other content systems do not. In those cases, it’s possible to use some free or paid online tools that count the words for each page on a site.

Cornerstone Content Tactics

Existing cornerstone pages may benefit from three basic enhancements: engagement, linking and promotion.

Engagement begins with the quality and quantity of content. If the page already exists, writers or editors should assess the quality for:

  • Grammar
  • Structure
  • Conciseness
  • Visual presentation
  • Interactivity

They also should assess any other features that will encourage more attention from visitors.

Quantity also matters in search engine optimization. Various sources confirm that the length of the article is a factor in establishing authority and engagement with search engines. That 1,000 word article may have the potential to grow to 1,500 words. But quantity without quality is a mistake because visitors may exit early in the article.

Internal and external linking will make it easier for both people and search engines to find, consume and share the cornerstone content. If the links exist on important pages, they signal the importance of the landing pages to search engines.

Although linking is a form of promotion, there are many other ways to promote cornerstone content for the sake of increasing its visibility with people and search engines. They include advertising, social media posts and email newsletters.

All of these efforts signal the importance of key pages to search engines. The results may impact search rankings, but there is also the risk that too much competition from other sources will limit any improvements in ranks.

Perceptions Versus Search Engines

Publishers have perceptions about their sites’ content that may not match how search engines view them. Webmaster tools such as analytics and “search consoles” from Bing and Google will show which pages are getting the highest rankings and most visits over a period of time.

But are those pages the most important pages for a publisher? In some cases, they are not. So publishers first need to find which pages they think are most important regardless of how well they rank in search engines.

The size of the site is a factor in identifying cornerstone content. A small site with 50 pages may have only five that are worth the cornerstone label. A site with 100,000 pages may realistically have only 20 cornerstone pages because chasing after 1,000 is simply not realistic.

So publishers of sites of any size should start with a realistic target of possibly five or 10 pages. Once the first group has received proper attention, publishers of larger sites can move on to more of them.

Finally, cornerstone content should represent the site brand. A news media site with an emphasis on politics better have strong content and rankings for articles about politics rather than crime or government news.

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