First things first, two clarifications for our readers:
- While this article is using the term cornerstone content, there are many other terms used that represent essentially the same thing. Those terms include pillar content, hub pages, flagship content, etc.
- Rivergate Marketing serves industrial automation companies, typically control system integrators, automation suppliers, and OEMs, therefore our examples speak to this audience.
Now that we have that settled, back to cornerstone content. Creating cornerstone content should be a priority for your inbound marketing and SEO strategy to rank in the ever-evolving search engine algorithm race.
What is Cornerstone Content?
A cornerstone content page is a longer, high-value article published on your website that can build brand awareness and organic search traffic by increasing your relevance to searchers. How long are we talking? It depends on which expert you ask, but the consensus of the expert resources we consult is that longer is better with 700 words being a minimum, and 900 – 2,000 words being preferred. It’s called “cornerstone” because it deals with the foundational subject matter that supports your company’s unique contribution to the world of industrial automation and engineering.
Your primary goal is to win the battle for attention when your target audience is doing their research. The content should be free, as in not gated requiring a reader to input their email address to access the content. In terms of a “Buyer’s Journey,” these pages aren’t intended to result in decisions and conversions, they are meant to be a valuable resource for buyers at the top of the sales funnel. Your current customers will also find these pages valuable, but for buyers at the top of the funnel, you are building trust by providing them with comprehensive information on a given topic all conveniently located in one place. The goal is to keep them on your website longer and establish you as an expert authority on the topic they are researching.
For the purpose of being found during the buyer’s research, your cornerstone content must have good content “architecture” to show relevance to search engine algorithms. Today, search engines consider long-form content pages with many internal links to them more relevant. Therefore, the cornerstone page should cover the topic in the broad sense with links to other helpful information on your website that drills deeper into details. It is also good to have one or several outbound links to credible authoritative industry websites supporting your information.
Cornerstone Content Leverages Current Content
If you have been creating content for a while, creating a cornerstone content page is an effective way to leverage all of your hard work. It will be the one single page that is a main location for all your content about a given topic.
Think about it, if all of your knowledge is spread across your website, it’s difficult for visitors to get the full scope of the expertise that you bring to the table. Cornerstone pages will breathe new life into old content on your website that has become buried over time but is still relevant and important for buyers in their research phase. As you are building your cornerstone pages you will also discover gaps in information a prospective customer will need to know. This will help you organize your content calendar accordingly. So where do you start? We have developed four steps to help you!
First Step – Identify the Topics for Each Cornerstone Page
The importance of choosing the right cornerstone content topic can’t be understated. You need to think strategically about your business strategy and goals. Most likely you will want to build two to five cornerstone pages depending on your company’s areas of expertise and strategic goals.
Below are questions to get you thinking about your topics.
- Do you have niche expertise in a specific industry?
- Do you see yourself as a go-to resource for a specific technology?
- Do you have a specific application expertise?
Step 2 – Content Creation
You may already have content to start building your cornerstone pages – if you do, well done! Skip to the next step!
If you are like many of our clients when we start working with them, you have not been updating your website with a regular flow of content via blogging, creating case studies, etc. If you are new to creating fresh content, realistically it may take a year or two of creating and posting meaningful content to have a good base for forming cornerstone pages on your chosen topic. That should not discourage you from creating a long-form cornerstone page. In fact, that is a great starting point. If you put the time and effort into writing a great cornerstone page, it will help you build a content calendar for adding the link structure as you build your deeper dive content.
A good base of meaningful content includes blog posts, case studies, landing pages, trade publication articles and/or videos.
Seven Topic Ideas/examples
- Case studies demonstrating your expertise in a given niche to educate prospective customers on how you have solved a problem for a similar customer.
- Blog post reviews or highlights on a specific technology you have expertise in – Siemens TIA Portal, Rockwell PlantPAx, Mitsubishi Q series PLCs, etc.
- Practical tips blog posts to help customers with technical workarounds.
- Articles/posts on specific application expertise – control system retrofits/upgrades, integrating control systems and robotic cells to automate processes, automating sortation, integrating RFID or RTLS tracking, etc.
- Articles/posts highlighting specific industry expertise – life sciences, automotive, water & waste water, food & beverage, wire & cable, aerospace, etc.
- Industry trends and new technologies customers are interested in such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), building smart apps utilizing cloud platforms, etc.
- Landing page for frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Company culture blog posts to humanize your company to customers and attract prospective new talent – company outing or holiday party, employee promotion, employee spotlight, etc.
Step 3 – Build Cornerstone Content Pages
Once you have put in the time and effort into creating your foundation of meaningful content, it is time to take it to the next level. Again, if you do not have much content created yet, you can still form the pages and add the link architecture as you go.
Ten Best Practices to Generate Powerful Cornerstone Content Pages
- Choose the right keywords – If the correct keywords your target audience searches on are not in your text, you will not be found, and your time and effort will not be well spent. Do your keyword research and keep in mind that longtail keywords or phrases are best. Use these words or phrases throughout the page.
- Quality can’t be understated – Choose your topic and cover it thoroughly. This needs to be the ultimate resource to educate your readers on every question they may have on the topic. Cover the most important things that your audience should know. Better yet, also let them know what they should be asking. Do not make it salesy. It needs to educate your readers; they will be turned off if it is all about why you’re the best. They want to know how they can solve a problem, not be sold to.
- Don’t fall prey to the Curse of Knowledge – This is very common among our engineering clients. You understand your topic inside out and you may inadvertently tend to think other individuals you are communicating with have the same background to understand. This is a resource for buyers doing research. They do not know what you know. You are the expert. Remember this and be sure to write your content with that in mind.
- Speak to your buyer persona – Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and align your voice with them. Craft your text in language that will resonate with them and make sure the content is speaking to their pain points and how you solve problems that they’re facing. If you are not familiar with buyer personas, Hubspot offers free tools to define your buyer personas.
- Stay focused on the overall topic; don’t go off into the weeds – This should be a broad overview on your topic. Meaning it should not go into miniscule details on specific technologies, the fine details of specific applications, etc. Keep it high level and include links to relevant blog post, case studies, etc. where they can be redirected to the more detailed information.
- Longer is better – Currently, the ever-evolving search engines favor longer form content. there are varying opinions among the experts as to just how long your cornerstone page needs to be. The range appears to be at least 700 words, some experts put that minimum at 900+ words.
- Make it easy to read – Break the content up so it is easy to skim. Add subheads, pictures, videos, white space etc. to break it up into a palatable format.
- Optimize for SEO – Good content architecture is needed to show relevance to search engine algorithms. Make sure your cornerstone content contains lots of internal links. Search engines consider pages with many internal links to them more important. However, do keep in mind that it is good to have one or several outbound links to credible authoritative websites supporting your information.
- Keep it as evergreen as possible – Evergreen is timeless; it continues to be relevant over time. This requires you do a regular review and maintenance to keep it up to date with the latest developments. Add and delete sections when appropriate. Outdated or erroneous information is worse than no information at all!
- Add a download button – At the footer of your cornerstone page, offer a downloadable PDF file for them the take and read later or view in PDF form on their computer. The PDF should include the same links as the web version. You want them to be able to pull the PDF back up on their computer or phone and still be able to navigate to your more detailed content.
Step 4 – You’re Ready for Prime Time – Chat it Up!
Now that the hard work of writing a well-organized thoughtful high-value cornerstone content page is behind you, shout it from the mountaintops! In other words, promote it everywhere you can! Promote your new cornerstone pages regularly via social media channels, email, etc. Make sure to feature links to your cornerstone content prominently in your home page navigation and throughout your website.
Are You Kidding Me? This is ALL Too Overwhelming!
If this process sounds a bit daunting and overwhelming, you may want to hire a marketing expert. If you are like many of our clients, you are too busy doing what you do best – solving your customers’ problems and running your business. If that is the case, finding an expert that is already familiar with your industry and work can be your best route to building the cornerstone pages you need to be found and noticed when your future customers are doing their research!
If you are a control system integrator, automation supplier, or OEM – we can do cornerstone content pages for you! Let’s talk- schedule your free consultation now!