Content isn’t what it used to be.
Time was when you could create a simple blog with keyword research and build search visibility easily. It’s not that simple anymore.
As SEO has gotten more competitive, the number of channels you can use to generate visibility has grown. Cornerstone content comes in a lot more formats today— it’s not just blogs anymore.
The Cornerstones of Content Marketing
Cornerstone content can also be referred to as “pillar” or “evergreen” content.
Evergreen content is also known as cornerstone content. The idea behind this content is that it is “evergreen” (always fresh or valuable to readers) and establishes the core message (the cornerstone or foundation) for the site. As importantly, this content establishes the message framework that all other content on the site will build upon.
All true. And there’s more. These days cornerstone content isn’t just the center of everything on your own site. It’s a resource that can be mined for content elsewhere — especially on social media.
You need to understand the three types of cornerstone content — and harness them for your brand. Which is best for you?
The granddaddy of all cornerstone content is your website.
Today, website content is more than just your blog. It’s your about page, your home page, all your landing pages. It’s the whitepapers. All of these work together.
Keywords are still useful. Blogs still matter for SEO. You can still generate higher click-through rates by optimizing content for keywords that you want to rank for. But it isn’t a slam dunk. Instead of writing mainly for Google, you’re now trying harder to generate content that’s useful elsewhere.
For example, Eddie Schleyner of Very Good Copy has built an audience over the last couple of years — and it’s been through his blog. In his case much of it comes through social media, particularly LinkedIn. His micro-articles provide the cornerstone for everything else.
Cole Schafer’s Honey Copy relies on blogging as well. Cole’s email newsletter goes to over 17,000 people (though he’s currently somewhat on hiatus). Social media and email have helped him build his audience.
Those two don’t compare to the titans of blogging — Seth Godin, Brain Clark, etc. The original bloggers’ audiences are still bigger. Their SEO is stronger. That’s the issue with jumping in right now. If you’re coming to the game late, you’re a sapling growing in the shadow of an oak forest. There’s not as much sunlight and water to go around.
- SEO value: Still useful if you optimize for keywords, particularly when you’re already within striking distance of a good position.
- You own it: As useful as social media is, you don’t own the content you post. You need a home to own, not rent.
- Useful for audiences that like reading: Depending on your audience, blogging can still be very effective — for example, the blogs I just mentioned are all run by content marketers, for content marketers.
- Least labor-intensive cornerstone content option: A blog is cheap, isn’t resource-intensive, and doesn’t require a ton of specialized editing skill and time.
- Text is in decline: Most people don’t read. Some audiences still do, but as a general rule you’re dealing with a smaller group.
- SEO benefits are getting smaller every day: The people who are sucking up the bulk of organic SEO benefits started a long time ago. You’re at a massive structural disadvantage if you started late.
- Important, but not difference-maker: You need a blog — but the benefits are slow to arrive and slimmer than they used to be. You’re using it to maintain your position and create content for use elsewhere (email/social), not to get to the top of the SERP.
Many content creators don’t place the same importance on the blog these days. It’s still critical for your long-term SEO. But with the rise of audio and video content, the cornerstone isn’t just text-based any more.
I probably watch more YouTube than TV. Granted, I think I’m a bit of an anomaly there. But channels like Internet Shaquille, Bon Appetit and Good Mythical Morning have carved out an audience with high-quality, attention-grabbing, personable content. Long-form video essays from creators like Super Eyepatch Wolf and emplemon have built a robust following for themselves too.
- Visual medium: A visual medium just works better for some types of content, and many more people are likely to engage with it these days than they would text. It allows you to communicate not just a thought, but voice, inflection and body language. You can build rapport more easily when people can see and hear you.
- Timeless and timely: You can build content that’s both current and evergreen with video. There’s a sense of immediacy to it.
- Constantly evolving: Text is a fairly static medium; most of the innovation has already happened. Video platforms are constantly evolving new formats and options — look at Instagram Stories, TikTok and YouTube Shorts.
- Easily repurposed: Video generates a tremendous amount of content you can repurpose — perhaps more than any other medium. Audio clips, short video clips, transcripts. There’s plenty there to act as breadcrumbs to lead back to the original piece.
- High learning curve: Video takes a lot of time and effort to figure out and get right. Once you know what you’re doing and your rig is set up, it can be easier. But it’s not easy.
- Takes up a lot of storage space/resources: This especially matters if you’re hosting on your own site. Video files are massive, and depending on your hosting plan it can be a problem.
- Not everyone is comfortable with video: If you’re not comfortable as a presenter it doesn’t matter how good video is as a medium.
- Not easily multitasked: Video content more or less requires full engagement. Audio in particular is better for this.
Many video content creators also have podcasts, and a lot of them create both a video and an audio-only podcast version to take advantage of both audiences. Cornerstone content can take advantage of both.
In 2006, only around 22% of the U.S. population was aware of podcasts. 78% are aware now. 57% have listened to a podcast. Now there are an estimated 120 million people listening to podcasts in the U.S. alone.
They’ve hit the mainstream.
They’re highly useful pieces of media, and much of it is because of how accessible they are. You can listen to a podcast anywhere on a smartphone (which most people own). They’re usually free.
Look at Joe Rogan, now hosting one of the most influential shows on the planet. Or smaller pods like This American Life from NPR or the Giant Bombcast. All have carved out space for themselves; all have multiple other content pieces associated with them (shorts, social media clips, and more). They’re cornerstones for their brands.
- Ease of engagement: Podcasts are portable. You’re not locked to watching the screen of a device. You can do other things.
- Easy repurposing: Podcasts can be turned into transcripts and text easily.
- Differentiation: The proliferation of podcasts means you have to really have something unique to say — this matters with all cornerstone content, but it particularly matters with pods. You’re having a personal conversation with somebody.
- Audio quality matters: Especially if you’re doing an interview show, you never know what kind of mic quality someone will have. Your own setup matters too, and quality editing can make a huge difference. There’s some investment of time and resources.
- Sameness: The interview podcast is probably the most common type, but choosing good, interesting guests in your niche that can speak well on a subject can be a challenge. And when you’re trying to put out podcasts as frequently as most do, subjects can start to feel repetitive.
Cornerstone content, whatever the format, is key to your business. And these three are the main types for you to use.
How to Decide Which Cornerstone to Use
Cornerstone content is at the core of our content marketing philosophy. It’s a resource your audience can keep coming back to. You need it — but you have a choice to make.
Which format is best for your business? Ask these questions and look at the pros and cons of each choice:
- What does my audience want/need?
- What’s happening in my industry? Are there trends or tendencies to jump on or react against?
- What format is best for my type of content? Does it need visuals? Is it best listened to? Is it jargon-heavy?
- How much do I have in the way of resources? Do I have the time, skills or money to make my preferred format work?
Find what works for you. And if you need a hand with your content strategy, feel free to reach out. We’re here to help.
Rainmaker Digital Services