Why cornerstone content? Imagine your ideal prospect has a problem they desperately need to solve. They're looking for a cure, but they don't know who to turn to.
So they open up a browser and type their question into Google or Bing if you'd prefer. The search engine then presents your target audience with a list of sites they believe are best positioned to handle your potential customer's request. And it could be your site if you had a great piece of content.
Now, this lead doesn't need to know who you are. By ranking in the top three positions in search engines, you're immediately positioned as a trusted authority—the ideal choice. No amount of advertising is as valuable or powerful.
That's why I’m going to show you how to research, write, and optimize great cornerstone content that drives high-value traffic to your website and helps you convert leads to customers more often. But first, let's tackle the definition of cornerstone content.
Cornerstone content is a free piece of content that you're famous for. For me, it's my book and 1-Page Marketing Plan framework. For you, it could be a report, how-to guide, software, eBook, landing page, blog posts, whatever.
Your content cornerstone is a compelling article or content piece that gets a high-value lead (your ideal customer) to raise their hand and say, hey, I'm vaguely interested in what your business has to offer. And to get their hands on it, they're willing to barter their email address or phone number.
Remember that a great cornerstone informs, educates, and delivers a result in advance. It's not about selling. It's about establishing a great first impression.
Well, think about this. Your prospects have two questions on their mind when shopping for a solution to their problem.
Everyone wants to buy from an expert and a trusted authority. Nobody wants to buy from a stranger. Unless you're a well-known brand like Apple or Garmin, you have minimal credibility. You're essentially starting in negative territory. So you need something essential, indispensable, and life-changing for you and your customer, and that's great cornerstone content.
Remember, a content cornerstone positions you as an educator and an expert authority, giving you instant credibility. It's the next best thing to a word-of-mouth referral. It also demonstrates that you can help your prospect by creating value or giving them a result in advance.
It sets the tone for a lifelong customer relationship.
I've mentioned some of the benefits of writing a cornerstone piece, but to recap, here are six ways it impacts your business.
If you're reading this, you're probably an entrepreneur, coach, or consultant looking to scale your business. Adding a cornerstone article to your content strategy will help you achieve just that.
But how do you identify cornerstone ideas?
There are several ways I like to generate ideas for cornerstone content. Remember, this is a pivotal part of your content strategy, so you want to ensure that any content you create covers topics your target audience is interested in.
These are my five go-to channels for generating cornerstone ideas.
Often when I'm speaking at an event, I'll allow time for a Q&A session, or there's a chance to mingle with event-goers. I get a lot of content ideas from these events. And the same applies to virtual events. I'll always leave 10 or 15 minutes for Q&As. I'll note down thought-starters in Key Notes and then feed these content ideas into my content strategy. It's a great way to devise cornerstone content.
What are your customers’ frequently asked questions? Do you know? A lot of entrepreneurs and business owners assume they know their customers. You might be guilty of this. I know I have been. We think because we built it, we are our audience, we know what makes them buy, and often that's simply not true.
It's why I encourage my clients to spend a day manning their Helpdesk or engaging with customers on the floor to gain insight into their questions. They're telling you what cornerstone content they need, so pay attention to the questions your customers are raising and craft relevant content pieces.
What keyword or keywords are your customers typing into Google? Take a look at your web analytics. What are your top-performing blog posts? These are the content articles that receive the most traffic on your site? Which keywords do you rank for?
Each keyword is an indication of customer interest and intent. That's the cornerstone you should be writing. Note it down. Then brainstorm possible related content pieces.
For example, suppose I wrote a blog post on How to Start a Coaching Business from Scratch. In that case, sub-topics could include Scaling your Coaching Business, 5 Ways To Generate $50K a month in Coaching Revenue, Group Coaching vs. 1:1 Coaching: What is the Difference? You get the idea.
This is known as cornerstone cluster content. You’ll add internal links from each article to the pillar topic because each link shows Google, which is your high-priority content piece. It also helps website visitors to get the answers they need. And it becomes a lot easier to rank on search engines.
Now, if you're stuck on what to write and can't afford search engine optimization (SEO) software like AHREFS or SEMRush, Google is a wealth of information. You can use the People Also Ask section to see related content ideas or, if you scroll down to the end of the page, you'll find the See more section. It'll offer a host of other long-tail keywords and content ideas that your readers are searching for.
So it makes sense to use this information to build out your content marketing strategy.
Again, check out your blog and social pages to see what comments your website visitors and social media communities raise? You'll find that your readers are opinionated.
They may agree with certain statements, but they may also challenge you or ask you what you think about something else. Look out for recurring themes, and don't be afraid to start creating cornerstone content blog posts and social media posts that use your readers’ exact words.
Survey your readers via email or online. Market research is vital in understanding your target audience and search intent. It's the foundation for all your marketing activities, every blog article written, every campaign launched, every product's landing pages built, the keywords you target, and the cornerstone content you create.
Ask structured and unstructured questions. I like to ask open-ended questions because it gives you the chance to capture your customer's feedback. Mine this data and make sure you use their thoughts and words in your marketing and when writing an article or blog page landing page, email sequence, whatever.
For example, your audience doesn't necessarily use your terminology. I recently bought an electric bike. That's what I googled. But the correct terminology is pedal electric bike. Google can match search intent with keywords, but those SEO articles also allow customer terminology. That's why you need to be using their words.
So I encourage you to explore using these strategies to generate cornerstone ideas. The next phase of your content marketing strategy is to create cornerstone content. I'm going to show you how.
To create cornerstones people actually want to read, follow these eight steps.
The first step in creating a cornerstone article is to start with research.
Ideally, you want to use a combination of keyword research and market research.
I use my social pages, Google analytics, webinars, and client surveys to drive cornerstone ideas.
As long as you've spent time engaging with your readers, you'll know which content topics to tackle.
Note these ideas down in an excel spreadsheet.
Then use a tool like AHREFS to do competitive research and determine keyword difficulty. You want to know:
For example, there's a ton of advice online about building a marketing plan, and finding a unique spin on it might not be possible. You’re also going to be competing against brands with high domain authority. That’s not easy.
Instead, create cornerstone content focused on long-tail keywords because they're easier to rank for. Or try to win a featured snippet.
This is a brief description that Google extracts and shows to users to answer their questions quickly. It’s a great way to get eyes on your content.
Think of your cornerstone content strategy like a travel plan. There is a destination or intended purpose and then the journey to reaching that goal. Your content strategy is the journey you take your readers on. The goal is the outcome you’d like to achieve.
To start, decide what is needed to make the reader's journey worthwhile?
The reader's goal is to get answers. To find out more information about a topic of interest. Your strategy needs to include their questions and anything else relevant.
Review your content plan and identify the related articles you'll link to. Remember, your goal is to keep website visitors on your site for as long as possible.
Will your cornerstone article include a content upgrade?
This is a worksheet or template that they can download for free and use in their business to build out their social media strategy, or craft a well-written blog, hire a marketing coach, whatever.
It needs to deliver value.
Will you push them to a sales page or webinar?
The goal isn't just to get eyes on your content, to educate and inform. Ultimately you want your prospects to take action. Whether that's opting into your newsletter, filling in a form, downloading a free guide, arranging a call, or purchasing a product depends entirely on you.
Who will write the post?
Do you have time to research, write, edit, design images and publish your article? If not, you need to hire a content marketer. This is someone who knows how to write a compelling piece of content, optimize it for search engines, and upload it.
Put together a standard operating procedure for this person to follow. It makes automating content creation easier.
Now that you've identified the cornerstone topic you want to write about and the information you need to cover, you need to decide how you’ll present it.
You could do an:
Much of what you produce will be dictated by your target audience. What media do they prefer to engage with? Is there merit in mixing media, adding video to a long-form article. Or giving users the choice of watching a webinar instead of reading the article?
Don’t be afraid to shake things up. You may be surprised by the results you get.
It’s time to build out your cornerstone content. I like to use an SEO tool like PageOptimizer Pro as a guide. I know roughly how many words I need to write, the questions I need to cover, how many images, keywords to include, and where.
But if you don’t have this tool, you can do research using Google. Check out the People Also Ask and Related Searches section.
Look at the top four ranking articles and note down the questions they cover, the words they frequently use, the average number of images on all, their title tags, and meta descriptions.
Use this information as a guide, but be sure to bring something new to your article. Search engines won’t rank your post if it just regurgitates the same kind of information.
The entire point of your cornerstone content is to attract new leads to your site. These are potential customers that might, otherwise, as a result of reading your blog, opt in to your newsletter, or purchase a product.
For example, 8 out of 10 of my most trafficked web pages are blog articles (non-branded keywords). That’s users typing a question into Google.
But they won’t find you if your content isn’t optimized for organic search.
You’ve spent all this time and energy writing a world-class article. Now you need to promote it.
When you create cornerstone content, you need to pay attention to the internal linking structure of your website. Internal linking means adding a hyperlink from related content to your cornerstone article. You can link a particular keyword or phrase.
Internal linking is vital to your SEO strategy. It can keep readers on your site longer, but it also says to Google which are the most important pieces of content on your website.
So add at least ten internal links to your cornerstone article.
Finally, the thing about content marketing, it's never done. It's an ongoing journey. You want to give your article a month or so to see how it’s performing. After that, you may need to add new ideas or tweak the headers.
I’ve had blog posts which with time, have slipped from the top three spots to eighth or ninth, and it’s because they are valuable keywords that other brands want to rank for. So competition creeps in, and it’s up to you to ensure your content is up-to-date.
Be willing to refresh your content, and when you do make changes, update the published date. Many web visitors won’t read a blog written three years ago.
So track your content’s performance and enhance where necessary.
Now that you know how to write great cornerstone content let’s look at a few examples.
Crafting search engine optimized cornerstone articles is vital in this day and age. Every day your ideal prospects are looking for advice or guidance on how to do something better, what it is, where to find more information. You want to create pillar content, basically in-depth blog posts that answer your readers’ questions.
Think of these cornerstone pieces of content as mini-guides and, or long-form articles on a particular keyword topic.
For example, I rank for the keywords and long-tail phrases business systems, direct response marketing, lead nurturing email sequences, marketing coach, reactivation campaign, etc.
Sometimes this content pushes a lead to a landing or product page. Other times I offer a free download or content upgrade. This is a template, worksheet, infographic, or guide that they can use in their business.
The goal is it attracts organic traffic. High-value leads. Business systems alone bring in over 700 leads a month. Social media posts don’t get nearly the same traction as cornerstone blogs, so make sure it forms part of your strategy.
Data is such a powerful piece of cornerstone content. Data works well in most industries because numbers are compelling. Journalists want to be the first to publish it. People like to use it as a guide for making decisions. So if you can put out a report or some form of data, do it.
Use data to attract your niche target audience.
For example, if I'm buying or selling a house, I want to know what the area is like, what I am going to pay, and what I will get for that amount?
Having some report or price range or guide that will help me understand what my house is going to be worth is very powerful.
This example is from Mornington, my local suburb. There are some things they did well, but they could have taken it a step further.
They should have segmented the guide into the beach, forest, inner-city, and countryside areas. Looking at it, I know what sale price I can expect to get in my area and what I can expect to pay for an inner-city property and what you get for that. Because you pay for a view, you pay for convenience, which often comes at a price: smaller properties, less land but easy access to bars, shops, offices.
So anywhere where you have some kind of cornerstone data that can be updated regularly, maybe monthly or quarterly, is very powerful.
Industry research reports are great for B2B as your target audience wants to know what’s happening in their industry and how that affects their business.
Every quarter Akamai releases a report called The State of the Internet Report. Inside the technology industry, Akamai is a powerhouse. Their data and research are used a lot in news publications.
For example, whenever you see a report ranking broadband speeds across the world that's based on the research by Akamai. They're tracking different threats, emerging trends, and the business implications for those trends are. It also contains commentary from the editor and leaders in the industry, so it’s massively powerful.
It gets released every quarter and generates press and relevant traffic to their site. It enhances their credibility and authority in the industry. So, their cornerstone content has helped position them as a thought leader.
A great report contains lots of data, stats, graphs, diagrams, and content.
As a consumer, anytime I purchase a product, particularly something of value, I look for product reviews. I like to use a mix of professional reviews and customer sentiment.
I also like to watch YouTube reviews because you get a sense of how it works and what you’re getting into.
The best example of product reviews on Youtube is Gary Vaynerchuck. He started with a channel called Wine Library TV. All he did was review different wines, the flavor, texture, taste, and what might pair well with them.
Wine lovers would have subscribed to his channel, and they’d buy from him and his family's business. So it’s a smart way to grow your business. You can embed those videos on your website and push them to product landing pages.
So product reviews are fantastic cornerstone content for eCommerce.
How-to guides are great for identifying your niche audience. For example, Qualaroo sells software that helps you survey your customers. They've created a guide called The Marketers Guide to Surveying Users. This cornerstone content tells you exactly who it's for and what it will help you do.
It's what I like to call a tripwire. If someone downloads it, you can assume it will be a marketer, and there is a high probability that they're looking for a tool or software to help them survey their clients.
This piece of cornerstone content allows you to enter the conversation taking place in your prospects’ minds. You can capture their email address and keep in touch with them. You can provide nurturing content, deliver value, and perhaps give them a result in advance.
How-to guides work especially well for companies selling software, so start building yours.
Can you write a book, template, or framework that changes your and your customers’ lives? I did, and I know of many other business coaches who’ve done the same.
My book is the cornerstone content I am most famous for. Sure, if you Google my name, you'll come up with blog articles, and I get a lot of traffic through my blog. The 1-Page Marketing Plan is the cornerstone content I am most famous for. Sure, if you Google my name, you'll come up with blog articles, and I get a lot of traffic through my blog.
But my book is my key piece of cornerstone content. Anyone who purchases it can find a link to my 1PMP framework. They have to opt-in to my sales funnel to acquire it.
So think about what piece of cornerstone content you can create that solves a problem.
85% of all internet users watch videos. So you must consider creating video content.
For me, River Pools and Spas nailed video cornerstones. In 2008 they were hit hard by the recession and were on the verge of closing shop. They had to get creative fast. So, Marcus, the CEO, started blogging. He wrote content and filmed videos answering their customers’ questions.
These were then loaded onto his retail website. They went from almost going out of business to being one of the top fiberglass pool manufacturers in North America, which is incredible.
People from all over the world contact them even though they're only based in the US because their cornerstone content is world-class. It generates a ton of traffic.
It's an incredibly powerful strategy because you're working with Google. You're creating search engine optimized content that answers what they want, and you're catering to your customers' questions.
Google wants your audience to find the most relevant content. So think about how you can use videos as part of your cornerstone strategy.
Now that you know what a cornerstone article is and how to create it, you need to create your own lead-generating masterpiece. Something that's going to bring high-value leads straight to your inbox.
If you don’t have the time, hire a writer who can interview you and get as much information as they need to write it. Then get a designer to craft something eye-catching. Or a videographer to film it.
Once you’re satisfied with the end result, publish it, and monitor its performance. Good luck.
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