This post explains everything you need to know about cornerstone content – or evergreen content, as it’s also known. You’ll learn what it is, why it’s important for SEO, how to write this kind of content and how you should link from your posts to your cornerstone articles.
What is cornerstone content?
Cornerstone content is the core of your website. 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 articles are usually relatively long, informative articles, combining insights from different blog posts and covering everything that’s important about a certain topic.
Their focus is to provide the best and most complete information on a particular topic, rather than to sell products. Still, they should reflect your business or communicate your mission perfectly.
Cornerstone content can be either a blog post or a page. But whichever they are, you should make sure they’re very well written, update them often, and aim to get them to rank for your most competitive keywords.
Why are cornerstone articles so important for SEO?
Cornerstone content plays a significant role in any SEO strategy. It can be hard to rank for search terms that are very popular, but a cornerstone approach can help you tackle those competitive search terms. If you write a lot of pages on similar subjects, you need to tell Google which of them is the most important. If you don’t, you’ll be eating away your own chances to rank well in the search results. Providing the correct internal link structure between your posts tells Google which article is the most important.
Link structure for cornerstones
Cornerstone articles should have a prominent place on your website. Ideally, someone should be able to click straight from your homepage to your cornerstone articles. Also, all your other posts about similar topics should link back to their corresponding cornerstone article, so its importance is clear from your site structure. As your site develops, you will write tons of new blog posts approaching that topic from other angles, each one linking back to your cornerstone article. This internal linking structure will increase the chance of your cornerstone content pages ranking in Google searches.
The following metaphor might help you understand this principle: imagine you’re looking at a map of a state or country. Small towns and big cities will all be interconnected somehow. But the big cities will have many more roads leading towards them than the small towns. Those cities are your cornerstones, receiving the most links. The small towns are your posts on more specific topics. There are some roads (links) leading to them, but not as many as to the big cities.
A more concrete example: at Yoast, we write a lot of different posts about SEO copywriting, each looking at a different aspect of SEO copywriting. The cornerstone article for this topic is the ultimate guide to SEO Copywriting, and whenever we write a new post on SEO copywriting, we add a link to that cornerstone article. In doing so, I’ll make clear to Google that the ultimate guide is the most important article about SEO Copywriting on our site, thereby increasing its chances to rank.
Which articles are my cornerstones?
Choose your cornerstones carefully. Think of the four or five pages you would like someone to read when they first visit your website. These articles should be the cornerstones of your site. Which articles are most important to you? Which are the most complete and authoritative? Do these target the keywords you most want to rank for?
It might be tempting to think of your homepage as a cornerstone article, but that’s not really what your homepage does. Although it does have lots of links leading back to it, content-wise it doesn’t really do what a cornerstone should do. A cornerstone article should target a specific topic, with lots of in-depth content talking about that topic. Your homepage will be much more general than this, so it doesn’t give you the same opportunity to rank for your target keywords. That being said, of course, it is important to spend time optimizing your homepage.
If your website is enormous, you’ll have more cornerstones than if your website is small. You’ll probably write about more than one topic, so be sure to choose a cornerstone article from each category.
Give your cornerstones extra attention
The concept of cornerstone content is so important, that our Yoast SEO for WordPress plugins and Yoast SEO for Shopify app include an option to indicate whether or not a page is cornerstone content. If you mark pages as cornerstone content, Yoast SEO helps you write kick-ass content and build a solid internal linking structure.
Marking your cornerstone articles means you can create a list of them in your post overview, so you can easily work on improving them. And, most importantly, the link suggestion tool in Yoast SEO Premium will give priority to the articles that you mark as cornerstone content, so you’ll never forget to link to your best article on a certain topic if you write about something related.
Optimizing your cornerstones with Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO offers a specific cornerstone content analysis that helps you optimize your cornerstone content. Yoast SEO for WordPress also includes a text link counter, and – in Premium – even internal linking suggestions, in which cornerstone articles get priority over other posts.
If you really want to make your cornerstone articles great, you need specific content analysis for cornerstones. Content marked as cornerstone will be judged more strictly than usual on SEO and readability in the content analysis, as you want this article to be longer, have excellent content, keep the reader’s attention and rank high. Read how this analysis helps you optimize your cornerstones in Yoast SEO for WordPress and Yoast SEO for Shopify.
Text link counter
With Yoast SEO for WordPress you can filter your cornerstone articles in the post overview to see how many internal links a post has pointing to it and how many posts it links to. This text link counter is extremely useful because you can see at a glance if your cornerstone content has enough links from other, related posts:
Internal linking suggestions
Yoast SEO Premium has an internal linking feature. We analyze what you write and use the most prominent words in your text to determine which articles are related – and therefore which you should link to. Cornerstone articles are treated differently in our calculation of internal linking suggestions because they are more important and have a higher value. To give these articles more prominence, we place the cornerstone articles at the top of the list of the internal linking suggestions. That makes it much easier for you to link to your critical articles.
5 steps to a killer cornerstone approach
Ideally, you should do extensive keyword research, which will help you to produce really awesome, long, informative and beautifully written cornerstone articles. But what if you don’t have that much time? And what if you’ve already written tons of articles? Follow these five steps to make killer cornerstone content.
Step 1: Think about your keywords
You have to decide on the essential keywords you want to rank for. Your cornerstone articles should be optimized for the ‘head’ or most competitive keywords, so be sure to carry out some keyword research.
Step 2: Choose the best post
Go through the posts that are optimized for keywords surrounding the most important keywords. Which post do you think is the best? That’ll be your cornerstone from now on!
Step 3: Rewrite it
Rewrite your cornerstone article. Make it awesome and SEO-friendly. As cornerstone articles are usually lengthy, pay extra attention to readability. Make sure you use plenty of headings. An index at the beginning of a long cornerstone article is also a great idea. Expand your article and make sure it’s totally up to date. And don’t forget to rewrite and update that article regularly.
Step 4: Optimize your other posts on long tail variants
The other blog posts about similar topics as your cornerstone article should be optimized for long tail variants of the ‘head’ keyword you’re attacking in your cornerstone article.
Step 5: Linking from tail to head
You have to tell Google that your new cornerstone article is the most important article on that topic on your site. Don’t forget to link from all the long tail articles to your cornerstone article!
In real life, perhaps you do not have the time to develop such an elaborate structure. Still, writing an article about a specific topic often leads to inspiration to write an article about a similar topic. You should then try to optimize this second post for a slightly different focus keyword and link these posts internally.
Every time you write a post, you should think about similar posts you have written and link to these. Do you already have an important article about this, even though it is not entirely awesome yet? If you use Yoast SEO Premium, keep an eye on the internal linking tool to see what comes up.
Also, make sure you set up the right linking structure. This does not take a lot of your time and could really help to rank your most important article. Take a look at all the posts on the topic you have already written about and add links to your most important article from all of your (less awesome) posts about that specific topic. You can use the Yoast text link counter to regularly check if there are enough internal links to your important articles.
Do our SEO workout: the cornerstone content approach
Want to build a fantastic cornerstone content strategy in WordPress? Do our SEO workout: the cornerstone content approach to quickly power up your internal linking. With the workout, you’ll get all the guidance you need to make sure that your most important articles have enough internal links pointing to them. You can find the tools you need right there in the workout — all you need to do is follow the steps. Give it a go!
Yoast’s plans for cornerstone content
Site structure is important for SEO. Having a solid site structure means both search engines and visitors can easily navigate your site to find what they want. To help you achieve this, we are continually working on many more features in Yoast SEO that’ll improve the structure of your website.
Keep reading: SEO Copywriting: the complete guide »