Branding & Inbound Marketing Blog

Why High-Quality Content Matters: Improve Your Search Visibility With Cornerstone Content

December 5, 2012 at 10:44 AM

cornerstoneA big part of SEO article marketing is publishing content on websites other than your own. By writing guest blog posts, distributing your content to article directories, and repurposing it for social media, you can build lots of links back to your site. You get in front of new readers that trust the sites where your content is published. Those links improve your rankings in Google and the other engines for your target keywords and those readers driven from trusted sites can become loyal fans.

But today, we're going to set that stuff aside and approach content marketing from another direction. I'm going to focus on how creating "cornerstone" content - material that's superior to everything else in your space - on your website can help you dominate the top search positions. This is powerful stuff; you can see evidence of it working in countless niches (I'll provide an example to drive the point home).

One quick point before we get started: the following strategy is not a replacement for your current SEO article marketing. Rather, it's yet another tool you can use to attract more eyeballs and traffic, and generate more leads and sales.

How Top-Notch Content Improves Your Search Rankings

Think about Google's mission (besides making a lot of money for their shareholders). They want their users to have the most positive search experience possible. In order to make that happen, they need to rank useful and query-relevant pages higher and less useful, less-relevant pages lower. The purpose of their algorithm is to automate that process.

Google's algorithm usually gets oversimplified. Most people think of it in term of using the right keywords and building lots of backlinks. But there's much more to it under the surface, including a couple details that can help you trump your competition.

Years ago, two friends named Larry and Sergey wrote a paper while attending Stanford University. They gave it the yawn-inspiring title "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine." It described the process by which online information could be organized and ranked. That paper became the blueprint for Google.

In this infamous Larry and Sergey explained that their search engine would identify high-quality content by the links that point to it. Each link would vary in strength based on the links that pointed to the pages from which they originated (essentially, PageRank). For example, a link from CNN.com would be stronger than a link from an unknown blog.

Now, suppose you create "cornerstone" content for your site. This type of content goes much further than a "fluffy" 400-word article. It's usually longer and more informative. People walk away from the content with a solution to a problem they had, and ideally the step-by-step knowledge to fix that problem. As a result, people naturally want to link to your content as a resource when they are writing about the topic. This organically builds a greater number of high-quality (stronger) links over time. These links push your content to the top positions for your target keyword.

Here's an example: Google "history of search engines." At the time of writing, there are nearly half a billion entries in Google's index. The first position is taken by searchenginehistory.com, a one-page site that has dominated that position for years. Not even Wikipedia can beat it. Notice how deep the information on that site goes. Again, it is nothing more than a single page of "cornerstone" content.

Quality Content Helps Your Rankings "Stick"

One of the challenges of "normal" SEO article marketing is that your rankings can slip, and even disappear, with each tweak of Google's algorithm. They might come back several months down the road, or not return at all. This is the reason it's a good idea to make content marketing an ongoing effort. If some of your past articles slip in the rankings, new ones will take their place.

"Cornerstone" content tends to stick. Searchenginehistory.com is a good example. Google seems to ignore the site with every algo change, leaving it cemented in the top position. In five years, it will probably still be there (driving the Wikipedia folks crazy).

Additional Benefits Of Creating First-Class Content

When your content controls the top positions for your main keywords, the rankings help your business grow in a number of ways. The obvious benefit is more traffic. The more people who see your listing in Google, the more visitors your site will receive. This in turn means more people will see your landing pages, read your blog, and join your email list. Some will follow you on Twitter while others will spread the word about your content on Facebook. If you have a YouTube channel, expect more people to view your videos, and encourage others to do the same.

These things increase the level of trust customers have in you. That trust plays a key role in their decision to buy your products and services.

To repeat, you should definitely be publishing off-site content that links back to your site -- such as article marketing, guest posting, press release publishing, etc. These are proven strategy for building links and increasing traffic to your site. But think about adding "cornerstone" content to your site, as well. It takes more time to create, but can help you lock down the top search positions with rankings that stick.

Getting Started: Action Item Check List!

If you're feeling overwhelmed right now at the thought of creating a foundation of quality cornerstone -- that's completely normal! With the right strategy and a clear plan of action, you can build a library of contnet that positions you as an expert in your industry and drives traffic and prospects for years to come.

  • Make a list of 5 key topic areas on which you can speak.
  • Create an outline for each of these topics -- list subheadings and beneath those, bullet-pointed talking points.
  • Use a keyword tool like Google Keyword Tool to conduct keyword research, identify which exact keyword phrases people are using when they are looking for information on each topic.
  • List your target keywords and related keywords at the top of each of your outlines
  • Set a goal to complete x number of outlines per x time period.
  • When you sit down to start typing, make a goal to write the content just one subheading at a time.
  • Naturally work the keywords on your list into your content. Be sure to use keywords in your titles and subtitles.
  • Identify at least 5 places in your content where you can link to content from others where readers can go deeper into a subject. 
  • Repeat!

Don't get overwhelmed! By breaking the process down into small steps and focusing on each mini goals listed above, creating a foundation of cornerstone content will be easier faster than you might think!

Christine OKelly is a self-admitted content marketing and search engine optimzation nerd. Christine is the founder of the SEO copywriting firm SEO Content Solutions and cofounders with Tara Geissinger of the online press release syndication service, Online PR Media.
photo credit: CORNERSTONES of NY via photopin cc

Topics: SEO, Internet marketing tips, Content Marketing

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Meet Remington Begg

Remington is the CEO and Inbound Marketing Strategist for Impulse Creative, An Internet Marketing Agency in Fort Myers, Florida. You can connect with him using the following social networks.

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