This is a guest post written by Chris Milton.
Cornerstone content contributes to authenticating your brand and generating traffic. Those two things alone (believe me, I know) bloggers spend years trying to accomplish. If cornerstone pieces of content are a shortcut to accomplishing that, why are they missing from so many websites?
Let’s start by breaking down what a cornerstone content piece is, then I’ll give a few helpful tips to start creating it on your own website.
What is Cornerstone Content?
Our websites are made up of various types of content: blog posts, home page, about page, contact page, product pages, sales pages, landing pages, etc. The cornerstone pieces of content are considered pillars that create the foundation for everything else on your website to exist.
Why does it matter? Why is it missing from so many sites?
These pieces of content establish your authority and show your expertise on a topic. To build your authority, you’re going to have a very limited number of cornerstone pieces (on purpose) because you can’t be an expert about everything.
Choosing the pillars of your brand is crucial to the direction of your brand, both for the products or services you offer and what you consistently blog about.
I find most websites are missing cornerstone content for two reasons.
First, each piece of content requires more research, writing, and polish than your typical post or page. Allocating that amount of time isn’t always an option. You’re not going to be publishing this in a day or two. It takes time. A lot more time than your typical post. Writing in this way takes planning and discipline to produce the best possible content.
Second, some people who have published content at this level are not up to current standards or need a refresh. Think about how quickly content can become dated in a niche like SEO. You need to have the latest insights to hold your authority. Or there isn’t enough substance and you’ve left your audiences wanting more (good job!), but they are going somewhere else to get it.
I hope that brief introduction shows you the need of cornerstone content, now let’s cover the how. It’s more straightforward and less intimidating than it sounds. You need to leverage your skills and expertise so you can craft something that your audience can appreciate. You also want to make it easy to consume, so consider repurposing your content in multiple formats.
How to create awesome Cornerstone Content
Leverage your expertise
Your ability to speak in your own words is what draws most people to your blogging. Yes, you! Your expertise allows you to make comparisons and give perspective that no one else can. By leveraging your expertise and using your skills, you can differentiate yourself from a research paper on your subject that any college student could put together. Be unique and don’t hold back the way you see things. Use the research to back up your opinions with facts.
One of my professors told me in school, “We learn to research and gather facts, but you’ll get paid to give insights.”
Give your audience insights with your cornerstone content:
- What is your topic of choice? Why?
- What is the thing you know the most about?
- How can you share this knowledge in a way that your audience can benefit?
- Why should they trust you to be their expert on the subject?
- How much detail can you give that otherwise isn’t easily available?
- Your insight into any topic will be fascinating to your readers. However, it’s your job to stay focused on your main topic of interest so you are delivering on your value propositions.
Match your blog categories and tags with your frequent hashtags on social media
When the search engine bots are crawling your site, you want to have aligned categories for all your inbound links when possible. If you are writing about “content marketing” then it should also appear as a frequent hashtag or topic you engage with and post about on your social channels.
Thinking about this in reverse, if someone was looking at your Pinterest boards and sees they can click through to your website, they are expecting to see more of the same topics. Keep this level of consistency for SEO and for an improved user experience (UX).
Make it timeless
Since this piece of content is not supposed to fade, it needs to be evergreen or timeless. No matter when it is being read in the future, it should have the same value-add that it did the day you published it. To accomplish this, remove all dates, references to things happening in the world, trendy language/phrases, and images that have products that naturally date themselves. (Like a picture of a person texting on a blackberry or flip phone … Hello circa 2002 – 2009!)
Get deep into the subject
The length is certainly a giveaway of how much content you’ll cover, but the depth is also a factor. Just increasing your word count could be done by sharing the opinions of multiple experts on the same topic. Gaining depth requires a beginning, middle and end.
- Beginning: creating demand, ensuring your audience keeps reading because they understand why they want what you’re talking about.
- Middle: tell a story to add relevance, social proof and give pearls of wisdom with context or examples. Create a clear objective and desirable outcome.
- End: action plan to accomplish your plan.
Extract shareable quotes from the article(s)
We all love quotes. They are quick to read, make us think and create lots of impact. Throughout your writing, you’ll find sentences or phrases that are quote-worthy. Layer them on top of an image on Canva or Pablo and you’ve got a professional quote that’s ready for social sharing!
Create ideal content for each relevant social platform
Distribution is often overlooked. What many successful blogs do is create the best possible images and shareable content for each social platform.
Ever run into a Facebook post, pin or tweet with an image cut off? It happens all the time because the image was generic, not platform specific.
Insert different images in your posts to be platform specific so the right images can be used. It’s an easy problem to fix by when you choose the right image sizes and design your content in a way that is popular on each platform.
My top favorites are:
- Pinterest infographic
- Instagram quote cards
- Facebook posts
- Summary videos YouTube
Each of these will take more time, but will guarantee your content shines on each social platform. Not all your audience is everywhere on social media – you want to look your best wherever they are active.
Add a content upgrade
If your cornerstone content is a hit with your audience, they will be surely looking for more of your knowledge. You can leverage this interest by offering the next logical step for your topic.
- Ebook – when there is more depth to your topic that isn’t suitable for the web or will make the blog post much too long.
- Workbook – when you have actionable steps for your audience to take, but to accomplish the intended outcome it’ll take adding their circumstances to your process.
- Checklist – when you give a systematic or step-by-step process that can be repeated without additional input or changes.
- Email course – when you have a bigger task or challenge that needs to be broken into bite-size chunks or done in specific time intervals.
- Webinar – when you want to present your information live, ask Q&A or create a bridge to the sale of an info product like an online course.
Create an email sequence to follow
- With all content upgrades, you need to offer accountability for your audience. Checking in with them is a great way to remind them you’re available to help and there’s a reason to keep in touch.
- Being based on a certain topic, your emails will be welcomed, rather than being “just another promotion” or “just another newsletter.”
- You can fully automate this step to create a rocking sales funnel!
Pick your winning formula! Keep in mind that you can add or change these tactics to see what works best. Your cornerstone content will be evergreen and over time, become one of the top performing pieces of content on your website. It will be worth the investment to create it.
A great unexpected outcome from creating top-quality articles is that you’ll create a new benchmark for your typical posts. This isn’t to say you’ll only create on the level of a cornerstone article, but I found different ways to format posts, content upgrades and writing tactics that made all my blog posts better.
I hope you have learned something and have the confidence to go upgrade the content on your site! Thanks for reading.
This post is written by Chris Milton. A marketing guy who loves building brands. Cornerstone content is a big part of what he does for people through his online course for content marketing and client consulting. He focuses on increasing top line revenue with optimized sales training and funnels.