How to Improve Your Search Engine Ranking by Using Cornerstone Content

Throughout our recent series on SEO, we’ve talked about ways to improve your ranking in the search engines for certain keywords, but there’s one strategy we haven’t really touched on yet.

It’s crazy, I know, there are so many options and methods that the whole topic of SEO can seem a bit overwhelming and confusing, but fear not – this is one strategy that will actually make your life a little easier and your website a little more organized.

I’m talking about cornerstone content.

green-typewriter-300x300You may be wondering – what exactly is cornerstone content? Essentially, cornerstone content is an in-depth, super informative, extremely useful piece of mega-content centered on a single keyword or phrase that is very important to your website.

Let me back up a little bit. When you’re in the early process of developing a content marketing plan or SEO strategy for your website, one of the most important things you can do is keyword research. You need to find out which terms and phrases are regularly searched for within your niche or industry, and more importantly, you need to try and rank for those keywords yourself.

For example, let’s say you have a website that is all about baking. And then let’s say you do a bit of keyword research, and you find out that one of the most searched for phrases within the baking industry is “how to bake the perfect cake.” Now in all honesty, there’s probably going to be a lot of competition from other websites to rank for a term like that, but let’s say you decide to go ahead and try to rank it anyway (knowing full well that it will NOT happen overnight – just had to get that out there. Ranking for anything, especially competitive terms, takes time and patience.)

Anyways, so how do you go about ranking for that specific term? By creating informative, useful and in-depth content on the topic, that’s how. But not just any content. Keep in mind here that pages or posts are what cause you to rank – not your website as a whole. Your URL – maybe in this instance – won’t be what ranks for your keywords; the pages and posts that you create within the website are what will do the ranking. So you need to have different pages targeting different terms. It won’t work to try and cram a dozen keywords onto one page – that will just be confusing and you’ll wind up not ranking for anything. On the other hand, it also won’t help to create 50 blog posts about the same topic or phrase – unless you have one, singular piece of mega-content to link all those posts to. If you don’t, the search engines will see all 50 posts but will have no idea which one to use in the rankings. It’s confusing, and your job is to make things as simple and easy to understand as possible.

And that is where cornerstone content comes into play.

When correctly implemented, cornerstone content serves as a more permanent, in-depth resource within your website for those topics that you deem to be most important.

You’ll want to make this piece of content as awesome as possible, because when you continually link to it from other related posts within your website, the search engines are going to realize that it’s important, causing that page to be the one that ranks for that particular keyword in the search results. Going back to our example, that’s what people are going to see when they search for “how to bake the perfect cake” and wind up on your website – so spend some time on it, and make it shine!

Then, whenever you talk about cake making elsewhere on your website, include a link back to that main piece of cornerstone content on the topic. The more links, the better. And this way, you won’t be trying to rank for the same keyword 50 times – you’ll have one piece of solid content (with lots of links pointed at it) that you can feel proud of; something you actually want people to find, read and see.

You can apply this principle to any topic on any website. Just do your keyword research, figure out the most important terms, and start creating awesome pieces of content. And if you’ve already been blogging for some time, that’s ok – it’s not too late to go back and create cornerstone content out of what you’ve already written. Look for certain keywords that appear frequently throughout your blog posts. Once you’ve found those, think about combining the key elements from the individual blog posts onto one page (one for each keyword). Then, going forward, whenever you blog about that topic again, be sure to link back to your newly created cornerstone content.

One more thing – when you do create your cornerstone content pieces, think about turning those pieces into actual static pages that live within the framework of your website instead of just simply leaving them as blog posts. Pages are easier to find and are also easily navigated to within a click or two from the home page. Consider possibly adding a “Resources” tab to your primary navigation menu, with a drop down menu linking to the various pieces of content. Or you could place links to the content within the main sidebar of your website. Make sure that it’s visible and easily accessible – this will only help your chances of it being read and shared by those who visit your website.

So, in a nutshell, cornerstone content pieces are just really informative articles about topics that are extremely relevant to your niche or industry. They are the pieces of content that will be ranked by the search engines, and the pieces of content that potential readers and clients will most likely stumble across while searching for things they need online. They are the most important pieces of content on your website, and as such should be easily accessible, highly visible and frequently linked to.

Have you tried using cornerstone content within your own website? I’m just starting to implement it here on JSL – I’ll let you know when I start seeing results! As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below!

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