How to Write Cornerstone Content (Featuring an Interview with Yoast)

How To Write Cornerstone Content

by | Dec 19, 2016 | How to Write

I’m here with another installment of our ongoing #howtowrite series, sharing a guide to cornerstone content.

When you started your first blog, did you know about cornerstone content?

I didn’t. As a more informed SEO blogger, I’m now transitioning my digital property to include cornerstone content strategy.

When I started my blog in 2013, I grew it naturally: I wrote about the niche I liked, interacted and promoted in my niche, and enlisted other writers to grow the site. In 2015, I started to clean up and improve my SEO; I also began using the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin. This plugin told me all about cornerstone content and how to more effectively structure my site.

guide on how to write cornerstone content

What is Cornerstone Content?

Cornerstone content is strong, informative content on a keyword or key phrase relating to your site’s niche.

This is the page you want to carefully, naturally, and deliberately rank in SERPs (search engine results pages), and most other content points to it (via links) and relies on it for sustainability.

According to Marieke van de Rakt, Partner & CSO at Yoast:

“Cornerstone content should be the content that is closest to the mission of your website. I think you should take some time to think about what it is you are doing and which posts or pages on your website are the most important. If you are to point three or four texts on your website, which texts would that be? I think you should extend and improve upon those pages and posts and really make the most out of these pages.

Your text and the ideas in your text should be totally unique. Of course, keyword research is essential. You just have to make sure you are using the words that your audience are using.”

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I couldn’t run an effective WordPress blog without the Yoast SEO plugin. When I blog and schedule posts on my site, Yoast frequently suggests choosing a different focus keyword because the one I have selected is already being used as a focus keyword, often for a post that ranks well. Yoast advises me to check out their piece on cornerstone content for more information.

This has caused me to rethink my content strategy – but it’s raised more questions than answers. If I’m going for a comparatively low-competition keyword like “LARP,” should I really diversify my focus keyword selection?

I’ve since started paying more attention, and although I haven’t mapped out a detailed strategy, I’m going for long tail keywords like “LARP tips,” “LARP interviews,” and “LARP costumes” as they apply.

I created my website about women in geek culture before I got serious about my SEO game. I wrote SEO copy well – and naturally – but was using a free WordPress theme with lots of bugs and limited tools. Every week, I spend time writing and revising titles and meta descriptions that the Yoast SEO plugin identifies as nonexistent, weak, or duplicate. Little by little, I improve my SEO.

However, there’s another SEO problem: I didn’t build my site from the ground up with cornerstone content in mind. Yoast SEO encourages me to think about this whenever I use an existing strong keyword on my site. Van de Rakt offers some advice about this situation, since many looking to improve their sites are in a similar situation:

“Cornerstone content is the content you would like to rank the highest with. The content you’re the most proud of. But in order to make sure that it’ll rank the highest you should make sure that the internal linking structure of your site is awesome. We are working really hard to get more features in Yoast SEO which will help people to improve their site structure. In our Yoast SEO 4.0 update, we’ll start with adding such features and we’re planning to do much more. I hope these features will really help people to get their most precious content to rank highest!”

Example of Cornerstone Content and Related Topics

1. Resource Libraries

Keep your keyword strategy in mind as you build out resource libraries. Your on-site resource libraries are excellent inbound marketing strategies, so your on and off-site blog posts on related topics should direct readers to them.

2. Article Series

If you’re like me, you may think that building out a huge content strategy is a little intimidating when you don’t have many resources. However, even a solo act can focus on cornerstone content via an article series.

This #HowtoWrite content series, for example, is written and created by a small team. In the future, we’ll point back to this useful content, hopefully helping the #HowToWrite series pages rank as cornerstone content.

3. Evergreen content

While it’s always best practice to update your content as things change, evergreen cornerstone content is a solid strategy. If you’re going to invest time in pointing search engines towards specific content, you want it to hold value in the long run.

Should You Compete With Your Own Content for a Keyword?

What if your niche is pretty specific? What if you already dominate it? I rank pretty well for specific niche keywords, and the Yoast SEO plugin always tells me to rethink my focus keyword because one of my existing pages already has that focus keyword. I kind of want to be greedy. Why settle for the top search result if I could get more than one on that first SERP? I asked Van de Rakt if it’s better to rank multiple pages in a long tail niche keyword, or expand into ranking a more competitive keyword using cornerstone content.

“I think you should do both. If you are dominating, you could aim to rank for more ‘head terms.’ Long tail niche keywords remain important though,” advises Van de Rakt.

Long Tail or Short Tail for Cornerstone Content?

This depends on your business goal, your content spend, and the amount of competition in your niche. A careful analysis can help, but ultimately, you know your business and field better than anyone.

I aim for 75% analysis, 25% heart – that means most of my strategy is based on hard data about what works, but I leave myself ample room to explore the content and communities I’m passionate about. This is where experimentation and innovation happen – and it’s a great way to bolster less risky cornerstone content with relevant links.

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Do You Need Help With Cornerstone Content?

Express Writers can help at any stage of cornerstone content creation and execution.

Get in touch for a free content strategy consultation and learn more about our keyword research and content strategy services. Now through Christmas, use coupon holidayshop5 to get 5% off your total order.


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