I work with a lot of podcasters & YouTubers — people who create regular, reliable content. They come to me because they’re tired: “I show up every week (sometimes multiple times a week) and while I’m seeing a rise in downloads & subscribers … I can’t seem to crack the SEO code.”
When you’re on a constant production schedule that’s not based in an SEO strategy, everything you create has the same value. It’s like throwing a deck of cards in the air and looking for the Ace of Diamonds — there are indications of what you’re looking for, but in the moment, most look the same.
So how do you help Google to know the difference between your content — and being new searchers to your Aces instead of your Jokers?
Here’s 4 steps to success:
- Make sure every piece of content has an SEO purpose & mission by assigning it a clear keyword
- Practice on-page optimization (Aka making sure that you put the keyword in the right places on your post, video & show notes)
- Use your category tags correctly to let Google know how posts fit together
- Once you’ve hit a critical mass of content on the same topic (whatever that number means for you, it could by 5 posts or 25), build a piece of cornerstone content
Take my client, MollyAnn Luna. MollyAnn has an amazing program to help health professionals to transition from 1:1 services into group coaching, as well as to write a wellness book that will become a lead generation tool.
To promote her program, MollyAnn has a robust content production plan: She records a YouTube video, strips the audio out and turns into into a podcast, then create a post on her website with the show notes and embeds the video & audio. Every post is a lot of work!
And even though Google indexes each of these show notes pages & can share these posts for the topic … Google prefers to share blog posts with really well-written narratives. But adding a blog post on top of the video/audio production is just not going to fit into MollyAnn’s time limitations!
So here’s what I recommend for my clients who are prolific content creators in really limited time: Create a few cornerstone content pieces for your major categories.
- 1 How does cornerstone content help my SEO?
- 2 Cornerstone guide example: Small Business Boss
- 3 Cornerstone posts for podcasts
- 4 How to plan, structure & create your cornerstone guide
- 4.1 1. Inventory your content assets: What posts, audio & video do you already have?
- 4.2 2. Make an outline: What order makes sense for your reader?
- 4.3 3. Do some keyword research: What are people searching for?
- 4.4 4. Write the damn thing: Create a narrative & include some images
- 4.5 5. Link the hell out of it!
- 4.6 6. Publish & share
- 5 Need help planning your cornerstone content?
What is cornerstone content?
According to Yoast: Cornerstone content 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.
In other words: Cornerstone posts collects the best of what you’ve created on a certain topic, and weaves it together into a long form narrative that allows readers to get a comprehensive understanding of that topic, and also to dive deep into your content archives about that topic and understand the depth of your expertise.
Think of every post, audio or video that you have as a piece of fabric; your cornerstone post turns those related ideas into a beautiful quilt.
Often cornerstone posts have a title like “The Essential Guide to X” or “Everything You Need to Know about Y”.
How does cornerstone content help my SEO?
Expanding that quilt metaphor: Each one of those standalone fabric squares can be found for a low-competition keyword; by sewing them together into a comprehensive post, you can rank for a higher-competition keyword.
Three reasons Google loves cornerstone content:
- Higher word count: Cornerstone posts tend to cover a lot of ground and therefore have a higher word count than regular posts, thus giving Google more text to index and more keywords that it might include
- Internal linking: Because you’re linking to your own post, you’re create a sort of roadmap for Google’s robots to follow as they crawl through your site, and also helping them understand the organization about how different pieces of content work together. Also, Google pays a lot of attention to which pages on your website have the most internal links, so it understands that a post like this is essentially like the center of a spiderweb; all roads lead to
- Backlinks: Because cornerstone posts are well-written, comprehensive guides to specific topics, other websites often share these posts as the definitive source of truth about that topic. Backlinks from authority sites tend to that page’s authority, so the more websites that link to that post, the more Google sees it as an important resource that should be shared.
How is a cornerstone post different than a category page or roundup post?
A category page is a list of all your posts on a certain topic that you’ve tagged, organized automatically by your website. Here’s my category page for SEO Tools.
A roundup post is a list of resources that you create on a topic, often referring to your own content and linking to other experts’ websites. While this is a great way to profile other experts and hopefully get them to share the post, it doesn’t showcase your content as well.
A cornerstone post is a narrative about that topic, that explains how many different ideas can fit together and guides readers through a roadmap.
Cornerstone guide example: Small Business Boss
Maggie at Small Business Boss wrote this incredible cornerstone post, How to Be Successful With a Services Business (The Essential Guide), to weave together her entire Service Business Success Map framework.
Maggie’s Success Map has 5 phases: Engage, Exchange, Experience, Productivity & Money, so she organized her post to follow along with her framework:
Her post’s Table of Content follows her 5-phase framework in a super organized way:
And for each section of the post, she links to posts that she’s written with more specific details about each suggestion that she makes … so in the “Engage” section about finding clients, she has a section about asking for referrals, and links to posts she already has about getting new clients through referrals (a blog post with corresponding YouTube video) and sub-contracting collaborations (rich podcast show notes):
As Maggie creates more blog posts or records relevant podcast interviews, she can continue to build out her cornerstone post to be even more valuable to her readers.
Cornerstone posts for podcasts
If you’ve been cranking out a weekly podcast, you know how time-consuming it can be to get all the assets together. You want to make sure that those podcasts not only get found by new listeners, but also bring you new clients! So how can you balance Google’s desire with your time limitations? **Create infrequent but amazing cornerstone posts for your key podcast categories.
This can not only help you show up in Google, but also let your readers & listeners go down the rabbit hole of your amazing podcast archives. Here’s what I mean:
Sarah Cottrell’s Former Lawyer podcast talks to attorneys who left the legal profession about what they’re doing after leaving the law. After Sarah had interviewed dozens of former lawyers, she put her takeaways into a cornerstone post, Alternative Careers for Lawyers: What To Do When You Want To Quit Law, which included a list of 40 alternative career choices, each of which linked to at least one blog post on the topic:
Because Sarah had so much content to work with, she looked like a total expert on the topic …. and because she proved the depth of her knowledge to Google, she skyrocketed to the top of the search results for “alternative career for lawyers” a month after she published the post:
How to plan, structure & create your cornerstone guide
1. Inventory your content assets: What posts, audio & video do you already have?
If you’ve done a video series or monthly podcast theme, the topic for your cornerstone post might be really simple to gather. If you’re more reliant on guest interviews or your content plan is a bit more spaghetti-on-wall than strategic, you may need a bit more time to decide on your topic.
Make a list of every possible content that you already have to be able to leverage. Think of each piece of content that you already have as a brick, and the cornerstone content is using those bricks to build a wall.
(Hint: If you categorize your blog posts, check out the category list for some ideas of where to start!)
2. Make an outline: What order makes sense for your reader?
If you have a framework or process that you’re explaining in the post, then follow that with your outline, and assign your existing content into the proper order.
If you don’t already have the process defined, then this step might need to happen on post-it notes that you can move around to create a narrative structure.
As you’re planning the order, ask yourself: “How would I explain this topic to a person who had no idea what it is?” (Pro tip: This usually means to start with “What is ABC?” in your intro, and to explain why somebody would want to know about this topic.)
The cool thing about creating an outline is that the hierarchy you create can provide structure for your post. Your title is your H1, the key topics are your H2 tags, the sub-topics are your H3 tags, etc.
Here’s what my outline for this post you’re reading looked like when I was planning …
Title: Turn your amazing podcasts & videos into SEO gold with cornerstone posts
- What is cornerstone content?
- How is it different that round-up post/category page?
- How does cornerstone content help my SEO?
- Word count
- Internal linking
- Cornerstone post examples
- Cornerstone structure
- Keyword research
- Conclusion/Call to action
3. Do some keyword research: What are people searching for?
Once you have your structure in place, do some keyword research to identify key phrases people are using about your topic (which you can sprinkle throughout the document) and discover gaps in your content (which you can fill out in time & update).
For example, when I was researching for this blog post I started with the phrase “cornerstone content,” but discovered that more people are actually looking for “cornerstone guide,” to I adjusted my SEO title & a few H2 sub-headings to incorporate the words that people are actually searching for.
(Hint: Because this post is meant to be more in-depth and definitive than many of your other posts, you can aim a little higher with your target keywords … so don’t be afraid of higher keyword difficulty for cornerstone content, these posts are designed to rank better!)
4. Write the damn thing: Create a narrative & include some images
Blog posts are way more interesting when they have stories and are actually fun to read, so don’t be afraid, to include some examples from your clients and images of exactly what you’re talking about.
Remember that this isn’t just a list of resources … it’s a way to explain a topic in-depth while showcasing your expertise. So take all those content assets you have and write 2-3 sentences about each of them, then have a thread that ties them all together.
5. Link the hell out of it!
Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn here! You’ve spent a lot of time creating your content, it’s time to showcase it! Your existing content are the bricks that hold this piece together, so don’t hesitate to link to your heart’s content.
Pro tip: Use strong, native anchor text to explain what each post is about. Instead of writing sentences like “To read more about how I work with clients to decrease their anxiety, click here,” use the context of a sentence to link the relevant text: “When I help my clients decrease anxiety, we find that …”
Google’s robots actually pay a lot of attention to the linking text as an indicator of what that post is about — and the phrase you use to link can actually help that post rank for a specific term — so feel free to get descriptive & use keywords in your links.
Also, when it’s relevant, go back into the existing blog posts that you’re linking and cross-link those older posts so that people who visit that post will be able to go check out your cornerstone guide.
Writing cornerstone guides can be really effing time-consuming, so when you’re done, you’ve gotta celebrate!
There’s no word count minimum for this content type, but given their depth of knowledge, they do tend to run longer than less ambitious posts, so give yourself a huge pat on the back, eat an entire bar of chocolate, and share your victory all over the internet!
Need help planning your cornerstone content?
If this entire process is overwhelming you, no worries! Check out my Attract & Activate program, where we learn keyword research for a content production system.