Using cornerstone content to make your site rank

Without doubt the most common question we are asked is: “how do I make my site rank for keyword X?”. What most people don’t realize is that they’re asking the wrong question. You see, sites don’t rank: pages rank. If you want to rank for a particular keyword, you’ll need to determine which page you want to rank for that particular keyword.

Adding that keyword to the title of every page is not helpful. Nor is writing 200 articles about it without one central article linking them all together. You need one single page that is the center of the content about that topic – a “hub” page, if you will.

That page will need to be 100% awesome in every way. Brian Clark of Copyblogger calls this type of content “cornerstone content” and has written an awesome article about it (it’s several years old but still relevant). In fact, go and read Brian’s article – right now – as he explains it way better than I can. I’ll wait…

You’re back? Ok, read on:


Position that new cornerstone content within your site

That article said a lot, right? It told you about keyword research, title tags and headlines, content and why your content needs to be awesome and more. Now let’s talk about where, within your site, to place that content. In my opinion, really important content deserves a page within your core site structure, not a news item or blog post. It should be easily found in a few clicks.

So, now go ahead and create that page within your site. Take some time over it, this is going to be the content that’s going to make you rank, but not just that, it’s going to be the content that ranks. Which means real people are going to read it too and you need to convert those people. So think about search engines by all means, but think even more about the visitors who will end up reading that page – and give them something valuable.

This also means you’re not going to create other pages within your site that target the exact same keyword! And you really don’t have to, as there are many ways to use keyword variations for these other pages and use these in your site structure. Our Content SEO training gives more insights into that.

Now, once you have that cornerstone page, it’s time to create internal links pointing to your article. You do this by figuring out which pages Google already thinks are relevant for your targeted keyword or key phrase. The easiest way to figure out which pages Google thinks are relevant for that keyword is by doing a “site:” search in Google. So if I were to try and find the most important page for our “local seo plugin” within, I’d search for: local seo plugin

You will probably find quite a few pages within your site. Go into each of those pages and add a link to your new cornerstone content. If possible, use the keyword you’re targeting as the anchor text for that link, but most importantly, link from within the content. Don’t just add some site-wide sidebar/footer links. The reason for this is simple: links from within content are way more valuable than links from sidebars.

Going forward, when you’re writing more content for your site and touch on a topic related to your cornerstone content, don’t forget to link it up! The Yoast SEO text link counter can help you keep track of how many internal links your pages have pointing to them. Furthermore, if you use Yoast SEO Premium, the internal linking tool will find relevant articles for you to link to, listing your cornerstone articles at the top.

Now on to the final step:

Promote your cornerstone content

If well-written, your cornerstone content should be something to be proud of, something that others will willingly share and so also something that will attract links. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people who have written about related topics: show them what you have created and that it might be worthwhile for their visitors to see. You might even want to offer to write a guest post for them on the topic, linking back to your article.

If you want to learn more about cornerstone content and setting up your site structure, we recommend:

Read more: 10 tips to write an awesome and SEO friendly article »

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56 Responses to Using cornerstone content to make your site rank

  1. Hooker
    Hooker  • 7 years ago

    I learn something new every day about SEO. Today, this is it. Gotta go make more changes lol. Thanks!

  2. Meribeth
    Meribeth  • 7 years ago

    Thanks for the useful tips – and plugin!

  3. Bill and Robin
    Bill and Robin  • 7 years ago

    I just started my 2nd WordPress blog and installed Yoast. I’m looking forward to learning about your software and it looks like it will really help me getting my website ranked better. I hope to make it to the first page of Google with Yoast help. I’ll let you know when that happens and hit the donate button.

    I am an old FP2003 user and the html is old and out of date. Changing to WP was hard for me to do after using Frontpage for over 12 years. Thanks for your Yoast plugin and information. I’ll be a regular user and I need to slowly convert my over 100 old style websites over to the new world of WordPress.

    You all have a Happy New Year and I wish you much success!
    Bill and Robin fron New Orleans, LA

  4. Surbma
    Surbma  • 7 years ago

    A really useful article… again! Thank you! Now, I have to make some changes on my site. :)

  5. Bruno Pérez
    Bruno Pérez  • 7 years ago

    Thanks for this article Joost, i loved it! The tip for creating apropriate internal links is great :)

    Our team is always reading carefully your articles, we wish you the best and good continuation!

  6. Reginald Jackson
    Reginald Jackson  • 7 years ago

    Thank you for that very useful article. It appears that what googles feels is relevant on my site are posts instead of a page. Will that work?

  7. Mike Johnson
    Mike Johnson  • 7 years ago

    I have been teaching this to my site members for over 2 years and it is still the hardest point to get across to them. I haven’t use the Google trick for finding what posts “Google Thinks” are related to your Target Page, but it makes so much sense that I sitting here kicking myself for not thinking of it before.

    Nonetheless I am adding that to my current tutorials to add to the ease of use for doing it. I have always simply focused on the Keywords for inner linking to my site’s best performing pages, but linking to those pages from Posts/Pages that Google thinks are the most related is even a better idea.

    Thanks for the light bulb moment.


  8. Greg
    Greg  • 7 years ago

    Gr eat and informative post
    I like the cornerstone post idea.I gather you choose only a few and promote these
    Got some work to do

  9. Miguel Montoya
    Miguel Montoya  • 7 years ago

    And, when you get some visits from unknown keywords? what about your real keywords? what to do for avoid those wrong keyword that often open 404 error page?

  10. Calum
    Calum  • 7 years ago

    Rather unfortunate article title… Making something “rank” (foul or offensive-smelling) isn’t generally something to be encouraged :)

  11. Katie Blackman
    Katie Blackman  • 7 years ago

    Very useful article and something to consider when first constructing the sitemap of your website. Thanks!

  12. Larry Levenson
    Larry Levenson  • 7 years ago

    Great idea, Joost! I’ve been looking at my blog analytics and not sure what action to take to give a group of posts a boost. Now I know! Thanks!

  13. Jenni
    Jenni  • 7 years ago

    I’m intrigued if you have any studies/sources for your comment that links from within content are better than sidebar/footer links. I’ve seen the comment thrown around a lot (and comments from people assuming it’s the case) but never found it to be true in my experience.

  14. Sunil Govind
    Sunil Govind  • 7 years ago

    Thank you very much all of this valuable information. Sometimes you need a refresher like this.

  15. charl hoffman
    charl hoffman  • 7 years ago

    Dang, been using this method for the past 2 years on clients sites and with great effect! So cat out of the bag so to speak. If you really think about it its plain common sense! its just part of good information architecture and design.

  16. Kevin
    Kevin  • 7 years ago

    Thanks for the article. I’m just starting out learning the world of SEO. Quick question, my WP theme provides shortcode for buttons. At the end of my article, I always add this button pointing to my “Cornerstone” page. Does this accomplish the goal of creating internal links?

  17. spencer
    spencer  • 7 years ago

    Hi using the website review operator,

    if I have around 50 results in google for my keyword should I link from every one of those 50 posts?

    Or just the posts on the first page in google?

    • Joost de Valk

      On every page that you think is appropriate :)

  18. Paula Wallem
    Paula Wallem  • 7 years ago

    AWESOME tips!!! I didn´t know that internal links were so important. I´ll start implementing right away

  19. Graham Stoney
    Graham Stoney  • 7 years ago

    Reading this article, I realized I’d implemented a cornerstone content without knowing it. Mind you, I follow your blog pretty religiously so maybe we’re starting to think alike… scary! Thanks Joost.

  20. Kasi
    Kasi  • 7 years ago

    Really insightful post Joost de Valk. Getting a clear understanding goes along way.

  21. Bart
    Bart  • 7 years ago

    Really cool post. Specifically the part of internal linking with your Cornerstone Content.


  22. Scott Miller
    Scott Miller  • 7 years ago

    This is great information that I will definately use for my new site. Thanks!

  23. Scriptster
    Scriptster  • 7 years ago

    if I were to try and find the most important page for “website review” within …
    This statement make quite a bit of an assumption that Google does not feed you back one of these:
    * a personalized result
    * result based on your geo position
    * dayparted result
    and so on. Especially when your site has a lot of pages. These days it is really hard to pinpoint Google’s definition of “most important page” for a query. It could simply be a page that you have already linked to most.

    I think looking at what other people are linking to and, most importantly, are visiting can give you a better idea of your own cornerstone content (which, by the way, is a concept I completely agree with). But that would require digging through at least a few months worth of one’s server logs.

    In other words, a cheap and quick way out – just do a Google search – will get you what you paid for: not much.

    But, once again, I absolutely agree with the concept of Cornerstone Content – it’s a great advice. I think people should always keep it on the back of their mind creating new content.

    • Joost de Valk

      Scriptster, don’t be a wise ass. For the purpose in this post, a search like that is just fine.

  24. John Garrett
    John Garrett  • 7 years ago

    Some really great tips here. A lot of the time I’m so worried about getting links from other places that I forget about linking from within my own darn site!

  25. Paul Butler
    Paul Butler  • 7 years ago

    Great article Joost,
    I am going to send my team to this article. We all need the most link juice for our articles we can get :)
    Paul Butler

  26. Lev Pershin
    Lev Pershin  • 7 years ago

    Thanks for this article.I`m going to try this right away on some of my sites.
    Best Regards,

  27. Ejaz Siddiqui
    Ejaz Siddiqui  • 7 years ago

    Thanks Joost, for writing such a simple and great article.
    Thank You

  28. Rajesh Namase
    Rajesh Namase  • 7 years ago

    Thanks for this great article on SEO.

  29. Narender
    Narender  • 7 years ago

    I knew of the site:URL trick, but I’ve never thought that we can search for keywords with that too.
    And, Nice Article Joost. I cannot miss your articles now. You’re the SEO king :)

  30. ezra
    ezra  • 7 years ago

    great article! i gotta try this in my site!

  31. Mags
    Mags  • 7 years ago

    Thank you, didn’t know about the site:domain keyword trick!

  32. Rhonda
    Rhonda  • 7 years ago

    Hi Joost,

    As always I learn something new involving SEO.thanks

  33. Peter Vledder
    Peter Vledder  • 7 years ago

    Hi Joost,

    Thanks for this article.. didn`t know that internal linking has this much impact on overall ranking. I`m going to try this right away on some of my sites.

    Thanks Again,

    Peter Vledder

  34. Steven TRACY
    Steven TRACY  • 7 years ago


    A good resume about how to structure a website to create comerstone content.

    I’ve been doing this for the past few months after reading an article on site structure and, after a little bit of hard work, discovered that it really does work.

    If you search for “formation référencement SEO” in France (where I work) wich means SEO training my website is on the first page of Google.

    Searching for “formation référencement e-commerce” wich of course means e-commerce SEO training my site is on the second page of Google serps and going up.

    Searching for “exemples référencement” my website is on the first line of Google.

    I succeded in these very competetive keywords by creating comerstone content with articles linking back to those pages.

    The main problem with SEO is that it takes a lot of work to create good and interesting content to rank for that people will be interested in.

  35. Aaron
    Aaron  • 7 years ago

    I’ve been doing SEO for a little while now, and was beginning to get a sneaking suspicion that this sort of strategy was a good approach. So this article and the one you referenced about cornerstone content were quite an epiphany for me. Very cool stuff. :-) Joost, thank you for producing such helpful content and tools. You are awesome.


  36. Vikram
    Vikram  • 7 years ago

    Thank you for such a informative article on seo, i just grasped a good new trick which i was unaware.

  37. Dana Duncan
    Dana Duncan  • 7 years ago

    You make some great points in this article Joost. Creating cornerstone content is one of the most overlooked (or maybe ignored because it takes so much work to create) aspects of SEO. When you take the time to create valuable content on a single page its only natural that people will link to it if they find it useful. Of course, like you also mentioned, this content needs to be targeted to one page since Google can only return results for specific pages.

    Let me throw out one more suggestion to expand on your page idea. One trick that I’ve used successfully on several sites is to build cornerstone content on the category pages and get those to rank. In other words, instead of just having the latest articles in that category show up, add some useful content and links to other pieces of cornerstone content BEFORE displaying the recent posts for that category. This turns your category page into a useful resource that will attract links itself if you do it right. Plus, if you use the “strip the category base” option in my favorite WordPress SEO plugin, you know the one I’m talking about ;), the category permalinks look good and are even easier to share!

    • Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson
      Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson  • 7 years ago

      That is a fantastic idea Dana. While reading the article I was thinking of making a page and having it pull in a list of posts in the same category.

      Do you have a plugin to accomplish this?

      Another variation would be to create a custom post type for the cornerstone pages. Then you could have a template that pulls in the related articles based on category or tag or even a custom taxonomy.

      • Jonathan
        Jonathan  • 7 years ago

        Hey Bill,

        I think this plugin would create the thing you want –

        It allows you to add a list of posts into a page from a specific category.

        • Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson
          Bill (LoneWolf) Nickerson  • 7 years ago

          Thanks Jonathan. I’ll check that out.

  38. ColinJ
    ColinJ  • 7 years ago

    Oh, and I’m assuming that your site is based in the Netherlands which should be on CET but the time of my previous comment seems to be an hour ahead of that!

    • Joost de Valk

      Heh, true, let me see if that’s easily fixed :)

      • ColinJ
        ColinJ  • 7 years ago

        Just checking the time!

  39. ColinJ
    ColinJ  • 7 years ago

    Hi Joost.

    I like the content of this article and the Copyblogger article that you linked to.

    I just thought that you’d like to know that the link to the Cornerstone article isn’t working for me in Opera 11.52. It works if I right click and then click Open in New Tab. It looks like the javascript in the link and Opera don’t get on!

  40. Dinar Emas
    Dinar Emas  • 7 years ago

    Hi Joost,

    I like the idea to have a cornerstone article on our blog. Do we need to make it sticky so it appear on the homepage?


  41. Mike Key
    Mike Key  • 7 years ago

    Yoast, I was given the impression by several other blogs that after Google’s Panda update that sites do in fact rank now, and overall rank is more important than individual page rank. Can you put this into perspective?

    • Joost de Valk

      Your entire site has impact on your rankings, of course, but in search results, only individual URLs (can ever) show up :)

  42. Andy
    Andy  • 7 years ago

    One modification you could do for the Google operator is to use intext:”website reviews” – this will then only return pages that have the content in the text, which of course are the pages you want for contextual linking.

    As always – a good tip and useful article.

  43. Ray Vellest
    Ray Vellest  • 7 years ago

    Very well written and practical knowledge article. I already had a good idea on how to use internal links to increase page rank, but just learned one more trick today. Thanks for sharing!

  44. Jan
    Jan  • 7 years ago

    Very concise and easy to understand article. You are the master of SEO, Yoast!

  45. Nick
    Nick  • 7 years ago

    Call me cruel but I was hoping the keyword trick would be kept relatively quiet :D Such a great method for internal linking and one that I have had huge success with, great post as usual Joost.

    • Geoff Simon
      Geoff Simon  • 7 years ago

      So we shouldn’t tell anyone about the find:sitestolinktomysite operator either?

    • Dan
      Dan  • 7 years ago

      Thanks to yoast post I can now apply this technique to all of my own sites :)

    • Michiel Heijmans
      Michiel Heijmans  • 7 years ago

      Hahaha, another illusion down the drain ;)