Episode 15 – Cornerstone Content

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Discussion: What is Cornerstone Content?

One of the key strategies to success in modern content marketing is the idea of Cornerstone Content. These are pages on your site that are the absolute pillars with which your rankings rest on.

Cornerstone content is a topic full of grey area, misunderstanding, and confusion. We attempt to clarify the meanings and strategies based on this idea. 

We also introduce a new content type, the Hero Post. This can be a helpful way to differentiate between Cornerstone, Supporting, and Hero posts in your content strategy. 

For more SEO discussion, join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/fuelyourphotos/

Ready to take your SEO to the next level and get inquiries on autopilot? Take a look at our SEO course: https://www.fuelyourphotos.com/seo-course/

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Corey: Welcome to episode 15 of the SEO for photographers podcast. And today we're going to talk about one of the most important topics to SEO, and it is content specifically cornerstone content or all of the other names that you might call it. So. Yeah, let's get started.

Dylan: Yeah. I, I'm very excited for this episode, but I do want to warn people.

There are a lot of questions about what is cornerstone content, what is not what you should like. Mark is cornerstone and Yoast. And it's full of gray area and confusion. And that goes the same for SEO pros like us, uh, as well as regular, everyday bloggers.

Corey: So if you're looking for like a clear cut answer on exactly what cornerstone content is, not only is this not going to be the place to find that, but there's probably not a place anywhere because there's so many different.

Definitions. There's so much nuance out there, but that's what we're going to talk about today. We're going to talk about what we think about when we think about cornerstone content, about pillar posts, about content silos, what are our thoughts and how we define those things. And hopefully that will give you some context so that you can kind of build your own definitions and structure for how you create content.

Dylan: Yeah. I'm excited. It's going to be fun.

Corey: So what are guess to start off with like a general definition, if we had to, if we're nailed down to like, what is cornerstone content? How would you define it?

Dylan: Yeah. So I think there's two parts to the definition for me first on the contents itself. Uh, I do believe that it needs to be well-researched.

It needs to be thorough. I'm not going to put like a word count, but I mean, you should be thinking in like the thousands. Thousands of words. It's a cornerstone page. Typically in most situations is not going to be like a 200 word post. Uh, so the content side. That's pretty easy. I think people can kind of understand long-form for a short form, but the second half gets kind of difficult.

Uh, and that, I think our current definition is that it should be one of the main topics of your site that is bedrock to your business. Um, and so that this is where the gray area comes in. Uh, it should be something like for a wedding photographer. It should probably be something about your market and your exact specialties.

Um, so for me, one of the cornerstone pages on my site is going to be my Oregon elopement guide, uh, because that's practically my main offering. Right?

Corey: Yeah. That makes sense. I feel like when I'm thinking about cornerstone content, right. I immediately go to thinking about it in, through the lens of keyword cannibalization.

So for me, the whole reason to think about cornerstone content is because you're planning out content on your site with the future in mind and thinking about how you want to rank for a topic and which page can be the primary page. For that topic. So if Google came to you as a person and said, Hey, we know that you're an expert on, uh, elopements in Oregon.

We see that from the domain, from the content, from other things we've collected. But whenever someone does that search elopements in Oregon, we can only show one page from your site. And there's like five or six years that could be candidates. Which one do you want us to show? And if you answered that question to Google, the one that you gave them should probably be your cornerstone content.

Like that's the one you would define as

Dylan: cornerstone. Totally. Um, I think where this gets confusing right off the bat is thinking about which queries are going to show more entity related results. Versus which queries show content heavy results.

Corey: Yeah. That's a good way.

Dylan: So to kind of like talk about the, what I use a lot of big words there.

Um, so, uh, an entity based result is going to be something like if you Google Portland wedding photographers, it's showing homepages and Matt pack locations. And so I might have a cornerstone page that talks about weddings in Portland. But Google does not want to show that type of content for the query.

Uh, and so that's, uh, the kind of topic where a cornerstone page might not be what you want to rank, or you might want it to rank, but it's not like Google showing.

Corey: Right. So in other words, yeah. If you're seeing that Google is mostly shown home pages. In fact, almost always. If you see that they show a map pack, they're looking for entities.

And when, when we say that we're saying they w they want to display businesses that serve that query, and they find that information in different ways than they would. Uh, you know, like analyzing content for a content based query. So they're going to look at, do you have a Google, my business listing, you have citations.

Do you have social profiles? How many reviews do you have? Where are you actually physically located on the map? All of those things are going to go heavily factor into, uh, any kind of term that you see, where you see a map pack, where you see mostly home pages showing, uh, where, whereas. Like there's other terms that you're not going to see them at pack.

And the, the factors that go into ranking are going to be very, very different

Dylan: for sure. I mean, for Portland elopement packages, which is another page that I target, uh, there's no map pack. Um, typically sometimes there is most, most of the time there's not, um, and it's almost always showing internal pages and it just shows that there's a difference, a slight difference in the shown intent.

Uh, by

Corey: Google, right? So if you hear us talking about this, and we're not saying that your homepage should be cornerstone content or that like you should build cornerstone content for your main specialty, like for me, that might be. Uh, you know, Columbia se wedding photographer or something like that. The reason we aren't talking about creating cornerstone content for that is because we generally want to use our homepage to target those entity based searches, especially the most important entity based search to your business.

So you could say it's cornerstone it's even below cornerstone it's bedrock. It's like the foundation that your cornerstones even sit on. Theoretically, but you almost have to use your homepage for those kinds of queries.

Dylan: Yeah. And not to confuse things even further, but you could still build a cornerstone for that main topic, knowing that it's not going to be shown or rank with the theory that that content will help the homepage rank better.

Yep. I've seen it happen. I've seen it work. I don't have. A ton of proof, but, uh,

Corey: yeah, that kind of goes to the idea that Google ranks domains, not just pages and sometimes people SEOs will say the opposite. There'll be like Google ranks pages, not domains. I feel like that's not true. I feel like they definitely look at the domain

Dylan: insert that Trump wrong GIF.

Right? Yeah, exactly.

Corey: Yeah.

Dylan: So, yeah. So now we kind of know what content or what cornerstone content is and. How to kind of tell it different from, from other content. Um,

Corey: let's do a little recap on that for sure. Talk a lot about what it is. That's true.

Dylan: Yeah. What's your short definition of cornerstone?

Corey: I would just say it is, um, it is the one page on your site that you want to rank for a particular topic and that that topic is meaningful to your business.

Yes,

Dylan: I like it. That's great. So. One of the questions we often get is should I Mark a certain page cornerstone? And this is typically referring to Yoast, which has a checkbox where you can, uh, market post is cornerstone. Uh, I guess we could talk a little bit about what that checkbox does. Um, we also could talk about.

If you have really well-researched content, that's not cornerstone. Like what is that? Uh, but first the checkbox that we get the questions about, um, all it does is change the metrics that they are grading your content on in order to get those green stoplights. Um, And so what they're, what they're looking for in a cornerstone post is more subheadings, which is a sign that you have better, like thorough, complete content.

And they want short, concise sentences because they believe that long-form posts need to have shorter sentences to be easily skimmable. Um, they also want to see more internal links to that post and more internal links from that post, which to me that makes sense for cornerstone. They want the word count to be 900 words

Corey: instead of the typical what?

300.

Dylan: Yeah. Yeah. Which I agree with in, in general.

Corey: Um, it's like, they just basically arbitrarily pulling these numbers, but for sure,

Dylan: but it's, I mean, it's, uh, it's 900 is better than 300 in this case, I guess.

Corey: Um,

Dylan: I mean, we've, we've done outlines for cornerstone posts that were 900 words. Um, But that could also be excessive.

It is excessive. Um, and then they want to see outbound links to resources and

Corey: citations basically back. Exactly.

Dylan: Yeah. Yeah. And so I think that that all of those things are good. Um, And I would agree, make a better cornerstone post or are required in general for a cornerstone post.

Corey: So popular opinion time.

All right, let's hear it. Well, I mean, really, probably not that unpopular for, for pro SEO. I don't look at the Yoast suggestions at all anymore. Period. Like I don't even put a focus keyword or phrase in my Yost box anymore. I haven't done it yet. Probably over a year. I just don't like looking at it. I think it's so helpful.

So I think in my earlier days I would have really relied on it a lot more and it was very helpful to, you know, I was forgetting to make sure I include the focus keyword in a subheading or near the end of, or near the beginning of the, um, The paragraph for, at the beginning of the post, whatever, like all of the suggestions, there are somewhat helpful, especially as you're not familiar with like standard on page optimization, but it's like, they're so stiff.

It's not dynamic at all. It's like it's judging very, very specific. Um, Uses of the keyword. Now they have modified it some and like the pro version is even more dynamic with like understanding variations and things like that. But yeah, it's still just pretty, uh, I don't know. It's, it's the very minimum baseline for understanding on page optimization, I would say.

And once you get better at understanding what real. Really good on page optimization looks like you start to kind of cringe at the Yoast suggestions. I think for sure,

Dylan: I would agree. I think that at best looking at their recommendations and then making the judgment call for yourself, um, So many people get hung up on, I have my keyword in the slug, but it's telling me it's not, what am I doing wrong?

That's what I say. Like, you're not wrong. The tool is trash. Like as long as you know that the keywords in a heading or the keywords in the title or the slug or any of those things that are, they can be important on page, uh, optimizations. Uh, don't worry about the stoplight being green, um, because it it's tricked by.

Plural or synonyms

Corey: or you laid out a stop word or what is that weird? I mean, I get it, I get it. It has to be somewhat simple for it to work. And I will say one of the things that I will do sometimes is I'll go back after I've written the post and I'll use that little focus, key phrase box and I'll type in.

A couple of like one word, uh, topics to see if I've covered them. And I'll like, see how it changes the lights and I'll just erase it and type another one, race it and type another one. So like, even for, if we're, if we're optimizing for like Portland wedding venues, I might type in Portland and that box, and then I might erase it.

And my type of venues into that box. And it'll just show me that I use the word venues in the title and the slug and the beginning, like, are these words important? Yes. Sorry. Did I use them throughout the post? Maybe. So that's kind of how I use it. If I use it at all.

Dylan: I really like that.

Corey: Cool. So cornerstone is, is just going to make those, uh, things more strict, but also it does help you to potentially organize your content like your cornerstone.

Very true. It gives you an extra tab in the posts section. That's called cornerstone. You can click over to it and only see the cornerstone posts. So like, for example, if you read a lot of personal things on your blog, or maybe like you do client sessions, And you do resources and you kind of want to weigh in your WordPress admin to just separate them out marketing.

The cornerstone could be a way to, just for you personally, to separate them. And we could also do that with categories, I guess, but, um, just as an admin thing for your own organization, it's another way you could use that.

Dylan: And it, it reminds you to link to them, so,

Corey: Oh, that's right. Yeah.

Dylan: When you're, when you're writing new posts, it'll be like, Hey, link to this cornerstone or something.

So, yeah. Um,

Corey: it's some cool functionality. I mean, it's, it's, it's one of those things. That's just like a really good reminder of things you should do. Exactly.

Dylan: Well, uh, let's talk for a second about the posts that. Are really well-researched, they might be 2000 words long, but we don't Mark them as corner.

And why?

Corey: Yeah. That's an interesting topic. Also maybe rolled into that. W w what are some of the other things that people call cornerstone content and are they different than cornerstone

Dylan: content? Yes. Yeah, totally. I guess. Yeah. While we're there. Um, I always hear about content silos. Um, and so for, for photographers, this might be.

Like content, that's all of the same specialty. Uh, so like all of your allotment content versus all of your engagement, content, or wedding content, uh, or senior portrait content, um, typically on a silo, you might have a cornerstone page that is at the top of that hierarchy where all of the other content in that silo is linking to the cornerstone page.

Um, and so I think that content silos and cornerstone pages are two different theories work together.

Corey: Yeah. I feel like, you know, to really understand what people mean when they say silos, you, you may think about where that term originates from it's grain silos that are used on farms. Right. And the whole purpose of having multiple silos is that the green won't mix.

Right. You need to keep them separate. And so with SEOs, There's it gets really complicated, but some of them will make sure that their topics don't mix. Like they don't link between the silos only within the silos and things like that, which I think is potentially a little bit too obsessive, especially for photographer sites.

Um, but I do think it's, it's cool to think about the fact that a silo can include a cornerstone and supporting pieces. It's basically all of the content around a broad topic.

Dylan: Totally. Um, other people call this stuff like 10 X content or skyscraper posts,

Corey: maybe pillar posts is a

Dylan: popular one. Yeah. Pillar post.

And

Corey: I think pillar posts in my mind, pillar and con and cornerstone or. Essentially exactly the same thing. Like there's two different names, synonyms, because like, if you think about it, we're talking about something that holds up a house. A cornerstone keeps the house level, pillar holds up a building.

We're talking about the things there's, there's a few of them around that are basically touching the foundation and holding up the

Dylan: structure. Yeah, I think that the 10 X content slash skyscraper content is kind of a good segue into the other topic. We mentioned where this might be really well-researched content.

Like I've, I've done a few of these that were like 7,000 words long, but they were just created to drive really meaningful organic traffic. They weren't necessarily. The cornerstones that I would base my business on, they might be supporting topics or just somewhat like tangentially related to my main topic.

Uh, but I just saw, like, I saw massive traffic opportunities that I wanted to leverage. Um, and so I created them. Let's

Corey: talk about some examples of that. And then let's talk about how maybe they're different than what we generally consider cornerstone content. And then maybe we can introduce what we're calling them for now.

Cool. Yeah. So what are some examples for you and your websites?

Dylan: So on my website, I'm trying to think of the best example. Um, on one of the website projects I did, it was a stock photography blog, and the post was called types of photography. And I believe it's now like 80% or 90% of the blog traffic.

That's true. And it's a lot of traffic, but it's really targeting like photographers, trying to figure out like what different types of photography there are. And not really as much like stock photography, clients looking for different types of photography for their site. So it's not. I wouldn't call that cornerstone.

It's not driving revenue. It's just creating a lot of traffic.

Corey: Yeah. And there's benefits to that traffic. What a benefits

Dylan: for sure. On my own site, I'm trying to think of the best example.

Corey: Well, I can give an example real quick. As you're thinking about that, you know, in our blogging course, I came up with a topic that I published on my photography site and it was.

Date night ideas for pregnant couples, right? It's I saw that there's a lot of volume around that topic, uh, that, you know, there there's reason to create that, but at the same time, and I guess it could be, man, it gets tough. I don't even really think that it would be cornerstone for a maternity photographer necessarily.

It's just a topic that drives a lot of traffic that can attract backlinks that. Um, fits well with the client that I'm trying to attract. They wouldn't be the one searching for it, but it's not necessarily going to be one of the big topics of my site. So while I'm saying that also kind of given the example of our affiliate photos site.

So on that site, cornerstone content would be our. Ultimate SEO guide for photographers, right? That's one of the big topics that is meant to be a long-term cornerstone. Also, uh, I made a post on the best WordPress themes for photographers. I consider that to be a cornerstone post because websites and WordPress are a big, big piece of what.

Fuel your photos is all about, um, even breaking it down into something like the show at SEO guide on fuel, your photos. I could say, you could say that's like supporting for the main SEO guide, but I would almost call that a separate piece of cornerstone content because there's a whole audience of show it users who want to learn about SEO.

And so it's a big part of what supports

Dylan: the business a hundred percent agree. Yeah. And so I think what we're going to call these are hero posts.

Corey: Yep. And that's not a new term. I've heard some other people calling posts, hero posts, maybe they have different definitions. But when we say that we're basically talking about posts that are meant to drive traffic and attract backlinks, but aren't necessarily.

Part of what your business is built on.

Dylan: Exactly. So you can build a lot of traffic, uh, have some SEO success and these, but the SEO success you see from these posts can lift your entire site. Like for sure we have seen that happen. So it it's definitely helpful, but it's not your main

Corey: specialty. Yep. That makes sense.

Dylan: Let's look at, I guess, when to create cornerstone versus when to create a supporting content.

Corey: Yeah. Even back that up, like what, why would you need supporting content for your cornerstone content? If cornerstone content is what supports your site in the beginning? Like the pillar, the cornerstone, those are like supporting words already.

Right? So I almost feel like it's. It's inverted here because right. Um, what we said earlier about the homepage being kind of the bedrock, there's only one, one Columbia se wedding photographers. Like I'm not going to like, that's the bedrock for, for a wedding photography site here, but then there's the topics that sit on it that are still.

Uh, critical for my business engagement session locations in Columbia wedding venues in Columbia, like these things that are where I am an expert, and I can speak to that and I can track traffic. That's meaningful. That is what my business is built around. Those are cornerstones, but then what, what. Is like the next tier up I'm feeling we're building an upside down pyramid here completely.

It's not even really supporting the cornerstone as much as like stemming off of the cornerstone, but anyway, that's getting kind of out there.

Dylan: So my whole theory here is that you're going to come across different topics where just including the topic inside a 2000 word, cornerstone is going to be a poor user experience.

So you can, like, you can create a simple, maybe sub 500 word post that quickly answers a user's question and is really targeted to that one topic. And obviously I think this is going to have to be a lower competition query, uh, and probably lower volume, but that's how I would make the case for spinning off some.

Topics onto their own smaller supporting post role. Um, and I'm trying to think of great examples.

Corey: I'll have one in my head here that it comes from your site actually, where you did the thing about wedding dresses. Yes. So a cornerstone post potentially, or maybe a hero post. I don't know. It depends on how you want to divvy it up, but let's say that someone is searching for, um, Short black wedding dresses.

Well, your long form post about wedding dress styles probably talks about short black wedding dresses. Yep. Or let's just say there's, they're searching for black wedding dresses, right? So yes, you have black wedding dresses in that post. But if someone searches for black wedding dresses specifically, and they're not searching for a wedding dress style and they, they like, they don't want to compare all the styles.

They just want to find black wedding dresses. Well, they could come to that cornerstone post and like go to your, uh, table of contents and find black wedding dresses and go down to it. And maybe it's got some good information there, but you have the opportunity to create a completely separate piece of content that goes into.

Black wedding dresses for your reception, short black wedding dresses versus long black wedding dresses, black wedding dresses with diamonds, like whatever can kind of go on a completely separate piece that targets the black wedding dresses, uh, topic. Yeah.

Dylan: I mean, that's a great, great example. Uh, and we've yeah, I mean, we've seen these smaller posts drive a decent amount of traffic.

Um, and I do think that, like you said, it's all about. Getting people to that answer quickly, uh, is it's typically going to give you better rankings and better user metrics. Um,

Corey: let's go, let's go to a common example or question that we get around this with elopements where it's like, should I create a separate page for where to elope in Portland versus how to elope in Portland versus, uh, Oregon elopement guide?

Like, are these all completely separate? How, how do you decide which ones deserve their own content versus which when it should be combined?

Dylan: For sure. So on almost all of the sites that I've looked at and the data that I've seen combining these topics into one guide is typically going to rank best. And most of the reasons that, or how I come up with that is that.

Google is often confused by which URL or which page to show for these different queries. Uh, you can have a Oregon ultimate locations post and an Oregon elopement guide. And. You can do a query for Oregon elopement locations. And the guide sometimes shows that locations sometimes show it's not queen is classic QR

Corey: cannibalization, basically

Dylan: like in the most pure case.

And so in almost every situation that I've seen this combining them into one guide that has the ultimate like locations, the pricing, uh, the information on permits and laws, regulations, timeline, all of those things. Is going to be best. Um, I

Corey: feel like we're gonna have, so people who have been, who are going to be like, but you told me to do it the other way, like for sure, it's tough because there's not a definite answer here.

Like this is always going to be better. Yeah.

Dylan: There's always nuance and yeah, it's, it's hard, but G mass generalization, um, I think combining those as well,

Corey: you know, it's interesting too, because I think about how I, the reason I've been going back and forth on this and Google is changing how they. Serve, uh, results, especially recently with us seeing that they're talking about indexing passages instead of whole articles and the ability to like.

For them to treat a section of a long form guide as if it were a separate page. And when someone clicks it, they scroll to it automatically. That's that's saying something like that gives you a clue that combining things into longer form guides might be better for that type of technology. But then we also see featured snippets that are like pulled because the topic is very specific, you know?

Dylan: Exactly. I think in general, Yeah, it's hard. I think that it's easier for most people to do these, uh, single page guides and concentrate on internal link building to the single guide and external link building and getting that one title right. And only having one guy gets rid of cannibalization being even a factor.

Um, when you start breaking up the content into multiple guides, you have to worry about them competing against each other. You have five times as many titles to write and optimize. Uh, you have five times as many targets for internal links. You have to remember and think about, uh, and you're not doing link building for all five of those guides to the same extent.

So I think. In my opinion, simplifying the process to a singular guide is just really making it a much cleaner solution. Yeah, that makes sense.

Corey: And I was just thinking, as you were saying that about. Uh, kind of another way, like a litmus test or whatever to see if you should make it a separate supporting piece or put it all into one guide.

I was thinking back to the, you know, our example, I feel your photos of the SEO guide in the show at SEO. Yeah. And. As I'm thinking about it, you know, the show, the, the SEO guide itself is like 10,000 words. It's already ridiculously long. Right. And in there we might mention show it. Um, we might even talk about like with a bullet point list, a few of the things you want to think about on show it.

Uh, but the thing is. Show it, SEO is a big, big topic. It's a whole 5,000 word guide on its own. I wouldn't want to take that 500,000 words and put it into a 10,000 word guide and make it 15,000 words. It's just too much. It's overwhelming. Whenever people come to the site who aren't on, show it, like if they're looking at that SEO guide, it's there to have to skim through way too much to get to what they're looking for.

It's kind of like if you have. Multiple sub points that, you know, you could add for one of your H twos, like if you're gonna have. 10 H threes on this thing, maybe it's time to put that into its own guide, like with the black wedding dresses, right? If, if black wedding dresses at an H H two on a wedding dress style guide, but you know that you've got short black wedding dresses and all this other things that I said earlier, that's like five or six different bullets.

Now it's starting to get to the point where it's 10 paragraphs about black wedding dresses. You're saying, Oh, is this disproportionate. To the rest of the guide, like is this way too long. And if so you can still have one paragraph about black wedding dresses in your wedding, your style guide, and then link over to you the supporting piece.

Dylan: Exactly. Yep. Yeah. I mean, when all else fails, just think about that user experience and what you're asking people to do when they clicked here, a result from Google. Cool.

Corey: So what about on the illuminate situation that we're talking about here? Let's say that, you know, we're talking about a guide to eloping in Portland.

Do. So one of the big things is going to be locations. Right. And we talked about, could that be a separate post places to open or Oregon or, or in Portland? Yes. That could be separate. What would you say about if we had a Portland elopement guide page? And for the locations, let's add 37 locations and each one has five photos and four paragraph, let's say I was just being excessive for sure.

Is that like the kind of situation where you would say break it out because it's so much, or does it need to be on that? Yeah, Portland guide.

Dylan: I mean, I think in that case, if you have overwhelming content and. You really believe that the quality of that location content is going to be enough to rank for the term.

Then I would feel comfortable breaking it out because you're right. You can definitely come up with 30 different locations, include a lot of information about each one, have multiple photos to reference. And that's just going to be excessive inside of a guy that also has to cover legalities and pricing and all of those other things.

Right. Um, but I would only consider it if the. Competition you're going up against is somewhat low because you're going to be, uh, kind of splitting your efforts.

Corey: Hmm. Like earlier night you have more things to focus on. You're not doing the same level of link-building each one, et cetera, et cetera.

Dylan: Exactly.

And if their content isn't extremely well-researched. Um, I think one of the benefits of keeping it together is that you're showing Google that. Your content is just extremely well researched by showing all of the legalities of eloping in Portland on the same page, on the same page that you're talking about different locations at different times of year and the weather and all of those different factors.

Um, and so the, the quality of, of that big guide. Is going to make it so much easier to rank. Uh, if you strip that away and split it off, you have to make sure that the quality is still at that level with the location guide

Corey: trusting too, because there's, there's, there's multiple ways you could split this up, you know, you could also have a locations page or have a main eloping guide.

Okay. So play or loop in Portland. Right. And then you could have, let's say you had 37 locations on there. You could take away the five photos and the four paragraphs and make it two sentences in one photo. And then you could have a separate page on your site for every one of the locations individually, those almost would never compete with the overall guide.

Uh, and it would also potentially add, you know, it gives you an opportunity to add more, uh, context, again, supporting content internal, linking, um, quality content across your domain. That could be a good way to do it. For sure. I

Dylan: always feel better about that. Yeah. Um, yeah, the locations themselves, aren't going to be cannibalizing.

Anything else on your site? Hopefully.

Corey: Right. So we've talked about cannibalization and like clear cases of keyword cannibalization. One of the things we haven't really talked about much is search console and how we use it to determine these things. Yeah. Probably hard to describe over a podcast without visual, but we can talk about it a little bit.

Dylan: So performance report. And then I like to look up, uh, individual queries.

Corey: So using query filter

Dylan: potentially. Yep. And so I would either use a query is exactly, or query includes and have it say like Portland elopement. And then you go to the pages tab at the bottom and it shows every URL that ranked for that query over the timeline that you've specified.

And I like to look over three months or so. And best case is you see just one URL show up, right.

Corey: Google knew exactly what page to show whenever someone searched, typed in anything to do with eloping in Portland. Yup.

Dylan: And then quite often you'll see one PID show up. With 99% of the impressions and then a few other pages show up with like single digit impressions.

I don't typically worry about that. I that's typically like a fluke error or like the site links

Corey: sometimes.

Dylan: Yeah. Um, and the site links are the third case where you're going to see pages with the little, uh, pound sign in the URLs typically, or. On some queries it'll it'll build site links. Typically homepage will show, uh, the main pages on your site, like the menu pages or whatever in the site links.

So the homepage might be ranking for Portland elopement photographer, but it shows my contact and my about, and my blog.

Corey: Right. Impressions, all the same number of impressions. That's the biggest clue to know their site links. When you see like three or four pages that shouldn't be ranking there and they all have the exact same number of impressions.

Dylan: Yeah. And it's typically extremely low click through rate. Like you'll see a 6,000 impressions in a month and. Two clicks or something, right. Not, not much to worry about.

Corey: I know it's all kind of confusing. We cover this a lot more in our course and talking about keyword, cannibalization, but just know that whenever you go into search console, you should be able to narrow down to a query and then see what pages are ranking for that query.

And if, if it's like 50, 50, the clicks, then you know that they're competing. The Google doesn't know which one to show for that query. If it's like one is dominating 90 plus percent of the clicks, there may be some small. Other, you know, things that are showing up, but that's probably fine. You're probably not having access keyword cannibalization.

One thing to note though, is just because you don't have active keyword, cannibalization doesn't mean that you told you to clean it up because sometimes Google will just have an algorithm update or just change their mood or whatever. And suddenly you will have active keyword cannibalization because that content does exist on your site.

We will crawl it and index it and they could change their mind on what to show based on an algorithm change.

Dylan: Yep. And if you do have cannibalization, it can also be interesting to look at average ranking. Um, you might see that one page ranks position 12 when Google is showing it. And the other page ranks position 25.

Uh, those are really interesting. Factors to keep in mind when you decide which pages do I want to keep it

Corey: for that grade? Yup. I want to talk a little bit about, um, an exercise I did earlier this year for my personal site. Uh, I have an article it's two buddy versus VQ. They're two Chrome extensions that help you optimize your YouTube videos.

And I wanted to build out more content. Um, these, these are driving a decent amount of traffic that the one post that I have the two buddy versus, but IQ, it drives, drives decent traffic. I don't necessarily consider it a cornerstone post. Although right now it's one of my most popular pages. It could be considered a cornerstone post, but just knowing the future vision of my site.

Uh, cornerstone would be like YouTube SEO. Whereas this would be a hero post it's like driving traffic. It's got meaningful search volume. Uh, it's a way for me to get links, but it's not necessarily cornerstone. It's not fundamental to what I'll do with my business. However, I wanted to build it out. I wanted to take that one piece of content and I wanted to make maybe a few pieces of content out of it or find out can I really milk this?

Am I really getting all of the traffic that's possible for the topics surrounding? Comparing to buddy to that IQ. And what I did was I opened up search console and I looked at all the queries for that particular page. And I started trying to group them into topics. And I started trying to think about, is this post covering that topic?

Well, is that topic deserving of its own post? Uh, could I write a different page or could I add something to this? Posts that would help me rank better for that topic. That's kind of what's going on in my mind. And I came up with several categories of things that I could do with the things that I was finding in search console.

The first one was new articles to write. So I found a topic, uh, to buddy alternatives. It's not necessarily just looking at that IQ, but there's a couple of other ones one's called morning fame. And there's another couple of other ones that have come out of the market. And so maybe you're looking at. All of the different alternatives for optimizing your YouTube channel.

I also found vid IQ plan comparison as a topic. There was lots of, should I get this plan or that plan? What's the difference? And what do they include? And if I really dug into that, it would go outside the scope of the IQ versus two buddy article, which is really comparing the two directly, not comparing all the plans of each and getting into that.

The nitty gritty of that. So I felt like that could be a new article. I could write that targeted a lot of, um, traffic around the VQ plan, comparison stuff. Uh, I also found, I already talked about like, uh, long-term cornerstone for my channel or my blog being YouTube SEO. I found a don't write category, which I found some topics where I was like, Oh, look, there's lots of volume here.

And then I went and did the competitive analysis and I'm like, Ooh, that's going to be a major uphill battle, tons and tons of effort for very little payoff, probably don't even want to approach that. Um, and then I also found finally, a featured snippets to target with the current article. So when I did this research, one of the big questions I had in my mind was.

Can a single post rank, can it get featured snippets for what I would call unrelated queries so I can totally see a post getting five or six featured snippets that are all kind of around the same. General idea. So this post might get a featured snippet for two buddy versus VQ, but also vid IQ versus two buddy, but also for, uh, which is better to buddy or vid IQ.

Like all of those terms are basically the same thing, right. So I can totally get featured snippets for all of those, but could I get a featured snippet for a term? That's. Somewhat different than all of those, like is two buddy worth it. It's a very different query in my opinion. And, uh, I wondered could the same article that's already getting featured snippets for one topic or category, get featured snippets for other topics.

And I did a lot of research on this and looked at different sites and what they were getting feature snippets for and whether one article could get random, different featured snippets. And I found the answer was. It does happen sometimes it's somewhat rare, but it can totally happen. Um, so anyway, one of the things I put on my list was to write new pieces of this article that were, um, is to buddy worth it, to try to get a separate featured snippet for that particular query, because it didn't deserve a whole new article to really give a two sentence answer.

Sure. Sorry. That was a lot of talking about that one example.

Dylan: No, it's great. I think it really illustrates the difference between cornerstone and hero posts and how this is most useful. When thinking about your overall long-term content

Corey: strategy for yourself. Yeah. One of the things I don't think we talked about much in the beginning of this episode was.

W w what are the benefits of doing this in the first place? Like, why am I even thinking about cornerstone content? We've kind of mentioned them here and there, but we want to give a little bit more context to that.

Dylan: So like, yeah, in, in general, uh, uh, uh, cornerstone page is going to outrank more authoritative competition by leveraging both the content itself, uh, how well you cover the topics you're heading structure, um, all of those things on page factors, and then it's going to make it so that your.

Always thinking about linking to this post from other posts and pages on your site. Uh, and so that internal linking is going to also boost, uh, its ability to rank. And then the third factor would be external or links from external websites. Uh, so you, you always like when I have a site, I always have a handful of cornerstone posts.

That are my go-to. Whenever I'm trying to build links to that site, I'm trying to build specific links to those internal pages, uh, because they're so important to my business. And because they're like such great content, I know that the links are going to be most beneficial when pointing to those pages.

So that's kind of my theory.

Corey: Now, maybe even dig a little deeper. I know you've already said this. We kind of just restating things. Why should a photographer think about building what we are calling cornerstone content that isn't necessarily related to their main services or locations. So when you talk about.

Wedding venues in Portland or, um, you know, something along those lines that the engagement session locations in Colombia, uh, see like location specifically, not just talking about engagement sessions, but where to do them. Why would I write that content if it's not necessarily going to drive direct traffic, or if let's say that that decision for finding a wedding venue or a location ID or engagement session happens far before.

Hiring a wedding photographer. What's the benefit of me creating that kind of content.

Dylan: Yeah. So first I would say that it's extremely cheap traffic in your direct, like audience that you're, you should be marketing towards, uh, these, these people are planning weddings in your area or they're planning, uh, senior portraits or, uh, engagement shoots or whatever.

Um, and so these are topics that in my opinion are extremely valuable. Um, if, I mean, if you compare it to how much you're going to pay to get the single click from a Facebook ad from that exact audience, I think it's just, it's a crazy

Corey: value. Um, but which like, yeah, you're going to also be able to pixel this traffic to these and buy Facebook ads for way cheaper or exactly interests are different way cheaper or whatever,

Dylan: a hundred percent, um, But more so you're showing authority, like it's your chance to step in and say, I photographed a hundred plus venues in this area, or I've photographed quite a few venues in this area and these are my favorites.

Or even if they're not my favorites, here's an example of this venue. Here's. What time of day, I think is best for portraits. Here's the locations I thought were awesome.

Corey: Plus you have photos, like it's really resource that they're dying to find. No one else has it, but for the photographers and maybe the venues.

But

Dylan: yeah, I just, I don't know why you wouldn't want to be in front of this audience, especially if it's relatively low effort, comparatively. Like it might take you eight hours of work to build a, an awesome venue guide. Um, I think it's just a no brainer, but that's just me.

Corey: Yep. There's a lot of, a lot of benefits to that for sure.

Um, what else we have? What else we want to talk about here? As far as cornerstone content, I feel like most of the questions that we've gotten about cornerstone content really came down to either a, I don't understand the difference between cornerstone content and. Something complete, like, you know, just a regular piece of content, like what we were calling hero post or what someone else might call a silo or B they don't know when to combine things versus make them separate or supporting or whatever.

I feel like we've talked about some of that stuff, but I don't, I don't know that there's any hard rules that are going to always apply in every situation. But do you have any more insight just to clarify that even more?

Dylan: I think. The one thing that I don't know if we spent enough time on would just be, not only do these need to be somewhat competitive, like if you're doing cornerstone, you're doing it because there is competition, but it also needs to have volume.

Like, uh, one thing I want to warn people is that. Sometimes there are topics that have a lot of competition in the photography world that don't have enough volume to really justify it. The effort,

Corey: like I think immediately of like destination, wedding photographer. Exactly.

Dylan: Yeah. Uh, so don't, don't spend your time creating this well-researched content and, and building out links and trying to get it featured and all of these things, if it's possibly going to drive.

A handful of clicks per month and maybe an inquiry a year. Uh, look for the topics that are in your area that might drive a couple hundred clicks per month or multiple hundreds of clicks per month, and could actually get you meaningful traffic that converts. Um, I think that that, that, that volume is often overlooked.

Corey: Yup. I mean, if it does, if no one's searching for it, it's basically pointless to, to write it.

Dylan: Yep.

Corey: Sometimes most of the time. Yeah.

Dylan: Most of the time.

Corey: Yeah. Cool. I don't feel like I have a whole lot more to say about cornerstone content. I'm sure there's going to be more questions. And, um, I know we cover it even more in our course, we talk about cornerstone content and keyword cannibalization, and like, thinking about mapping out.

Uh, topics to pages and things like that. I think that's the key here. Like you need, you need to have some sort of plan or vision for your website in order for you to be able to understand what is or isn't cornerstone concept. I think you need to be willing to. Make some mistakes and to have some things that compete, you can't be afraid of trying something because you're like, I don't know if it's going to compete or not.

Sometimes you just have to do it and go look at search console and look at analytics and see why make some theories about why it's working better or worse. Or why is Google confused about these or really delve into the intent behind the keyword by looking at the. Other searches that it's also getting impressions for in search console.

There's so much that you're going to learn by just like getting in there and doing it. But if you don't have a vision, if you don't have an idea for like, for me, for my personal website, knowing. I want to do YouTube SEO, YouTube SEO will be a cornerstone. Also, I want to do some things about making passive income with your blog.

That's a cornerstone. So I have some topics that are planned, like, um, you know, how much do you tubers make? That's going to probably be something I would consider a cornerstone post or maybe the same thing for bloggers. And I just know in the future. I want to cover these particular topics for fewer photos.

We know it's SEO for photographers, it's WordPress for photographers. You know, there's probably a few other things that it includes. Marketing ideas for photographers could be a potential cornerstone there. And we know like these broad stroke topics that we're going to build our business around. Right.

Those are the cornerstones. And we kind of already can figure out where did the supporting pieces fall? What are the other topics that go into this? And as we write them down and brainstorm them, we can start to categorize it. We can say, well, all of these fit really well together on one big cornerstone post, all of these are probably separate.

Like they could fit into their own smaller post supporting post or hero posts or whatever. Um, I think you just have to have some vision. You have to give it some time. You have to give yourself some Headspace. Do some brainstorming, write a whole bunch of things down at once and then start to group it in ways that are logical to you.

And it might not be perfect. It might not be the way we would group it. It might not be the way that someone else is going to group it, but you've got to try it first and then you can always adjust.

Dylan: Yeah. I think that's key. You can always change. Like I'm always making these same mistakes just to see like, is it gonna work better?

And then you're always a redirect away from fixing that and, uh, It's it's easy to fix. So

Corey: for the most part, I mean, I have had a few situations where I would go in and like one time I tried ride to see if I could get tag archives to work as my cornerstones for venues. And for some reason, Google just didn't love it.

They wouldn't rank my fricking tag archive. Yeah. And I tried everything to get rid of it. I deleted it. I redirected it. I built a whole new thing. It took months, I mean, six to nine months for Google to start to drop out that tag archive and start ranking the new piece. It worked eventually. But no, sometimes there's going to be battles like that, but you know what that's, that was part of the learning process.

I couldn't have known that without trying that.

Dylan: Awesome. Well, if, if you have any questions about these cornerstone pages and everything we talked about today, definitely join the failure photos, Facebook group, and leave a comment on this podcast page. We would love to continue the discussion

Corey: there.

Sounds good. All right, we'll see you next episode.

Dylan: Awesome. See ya.

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