One of the best ways to attract new customers to your website is to provide them with high-quality content that answers their questions or solves their problems.
“Cornerstone content” (sometimes called “pillar content”) forms the foundation of your blog. These posts are ones that will be especially useful for your readers; usually, they’ll be substantial pieces of content that stay relevant for a long period of time.
There are some great examples of cornerstone content on Copyblogger’s blog: if you take a look at the right-hand sidebar, you’ll see a number of tutorials. Each of these links leads to a page that links to a number of articles on that particular topic.
Why your site needs cornerstone content
If most of your blog posts are short updates about your company, or brief pieces aimed at bringing in SEO traffic, then cornerstone content is crucially important.
It serves two purposes:
It attracts and impresses new readers. A post about your company’s new product may not be all that interesting or exciting to people who’ve never heard of you before … but a post that teaches them how to perform a particular task may get widely shared.
It demonstrates your authority within your industry. Your peers, as well as your potential customers, will pay attention to your long, in-depth posts.
How to create great cornerstone content
Some business owners find the idea of creating cornerstone content a little daunting. If you normally write short blog posts (or if your blog is new, or has been neglected for a while), then you might struggle to know where to begin.
Here’s a simple four-step plan that you can use:
Step #1: Come up with a strong idea
Your cornerstone content might consist of stand-alone pieces or a linked series of posts (like the Copyblogger tutorials, mentioned above).
To come up with good ideas, try:
Considering the questions that new prospects typically ask. Could you take one of these (or several related questions) and write a blog post about them?
Thinking back to when you were new to your industry. What questions did you have? What information did you struggle to find?
Looking at posts on your blog that have had a good reaction – perhaps lots of comments or social media shares. Could you expand on these topics?
Step #2: Write it well
As with any blog post you produce, your writing matters. If you’re not a confident writer, or if most of your experience of writing has been in a corporate or academic context, you might struggle. It’s a good idea to:
Have a clear structure. Your introduction should get the reader’s attention, and give them a clear idea what the post is about. The main body of your post should be logically ordered and split into sections. If you’re struggling, read How to Plan and Structure Great Blog Posts, Every Time.
Write in a fairly informal, accessible way. Try to avoid jargon, and overly complex words. For instance, “pay” is better than “remuneration”.
Edit your post carefully, looking out for missing or badly ordered information, as well as spelling mistakes and typos. If you can, get a colleague to look over it and offer feedback.
Step #3: Format your post
Good formatting makes your content easy for readers to engage with. If your post consists of long paragraphs of text, it will look instantly unattractive – even if the information it contains is top-notch.
Use subheadings and bullet points to make your post easy to scan. Your readers won’t necessarily read every word: they may be looking for specific pieces of information.
Use bold text to pull out key sentences or ideas. If possible, use this consistently (e.g. for the first sentence of bullet points, as in this post).
Add images that will enhance your writing. This might mean putting an eye-catching image at the top of your post (especially if it helps set the tone) – or adding screenshots or diagrams to help readers understand your advice or instructions.
Step #4: Add a call to action
Hopefully, your cornerstone content will be read by lots of readers – both those who’re familiar with your blog and those visiting for the first time. Don’t waste the opportunity to get them to take action!
At the end of your post, you can:
Encourage readers to leave a comment. As well as potentially providing useful feedback for you, this helps build the community on your blog. It also gives the reader a greater sense of engagement with your content.
Prompt readers to subscribe to your blog or newsletter. It might take weeks or months before a reader is ready to buy from you – but the more of your content they read, the more likely they are to become a paying customer.
Point readers towards your products or services. Even if they’ve been visiting your blog for a while, they might not realise what you have available. Ideally, you’ll want the topic of your post to relate to the product or service that you promote at the end.
Making the most of your cornerstone content
Creating cornerstone content takes time, energy and perhaps even money – and you want to get a good return on your investment. It’s important, then, to ensure that your cornerstone content actually gets read.
Two good ways to promote your cornerstone content are to:
Highlight it on your site, ideally in the sidebar. That way, readers can see links to your best content, whatever post they initially land on. You can simply put textual links, or you could create small banners that link to your posts, or add brief descriptions.
Link to it from your guest posts. If you’re writing for another website, you’ll get a “bio” at the end of your post where you can link to your site. Instead of linking to your homepage or one of your products, try linking to a blog post: you’ll usually find that many more readers click through to your site, as you’re offering something immediately useful to them.
If you’ve not experimented with cornerstone content yet, make a plan today for a piece that you could create. If you’ve already written some high-quality, in-depth posts for your blog, look at ways you could polish them up even further and promote them to both new and existing readers.