What is Cornerstone Content?

A cornerstone in masonry is the first stone set during construction. It is the initial foundation of the rest of the building, and what the rest of the stones rely on.

Cornerstone content is the foundation for the rest of your content. This is the core of your website, and consists of the best and most important articles on your site. This is often the pages or posts that rank highest in the search engines. The purpose isn’t to content dump in your field and overload your readers, but to define your brand and become an authority. The length of an article shouldn’t be dragged out for no reason, and it is especially true for cornerstone pieces. The function should be the focus so you can build your voice off of it.

Follow the steps below to help your cornerstone content stand strong.

  1. Optimize for your readers.
    • Make sure your keywords are optimized. This will get your readers to you.
    • Answer the questions your readers will have. If your page is about your book, give them the information on your target audience, book length, genre, and the blurb.
  2. Don’t content dump your market.
    • You want to be an authority, not a know it all. Don’t overdo it, aim for 3-5 solid pieces that you can spin off of.
    • It’s easy to run away with your topics, so make sure you’re only adding the important pieces.
  3. Organize your site navigation.
    • Internal links to your supporting content cut down on tangents, and you should use them. But again, don’t overdo it. If your articles are 50% internal links, you need to edit some things.
    • Make sure your site navigation is functional and simple for your audience. If you have to click here to click there and find the subheading, that’s too much. You’ll lose your audience.
  4. Do your research.
    • Know your market, and what is popular. Find out what people are searching in your niche, what are the most frequently searched terms? Use them!
    • Break your market down into the main topics and the subcategories that naturally come up. This is how you plan your content.
  5. Map your support.
    • Your main topics should be your cornerstone content. This should cover the general idea briefly.
    • The depth of your knowledge should come in the form of your support. If your page has “Publishing”, your posts on the page should be “Traditional”, “Self Publishing”, and anything that you need to do at this stage of your novel.

There are many different perspectives on cornerstone or “evergreen” content, but once you understand what it is used for, and what it is made of, you’re on a good path. Your priority? Your audience. How do they find you? Can they trust your content? Is it easy to find and navigate? Your cornerstone content is the pillar of your website, and should stand on the supporting information you create.

Any questions? Leave a comment below!

Book Review: Ready Player One

IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within the world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win – and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

-Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (Goodreads)

Ready Player One captures the challenges that emerge from new and ubiquitous technology and is an exciting work of science fiction — it gives us a peek into the future of current technologies but also is heavily influenced by our past pop culture. While the novel’s context is a dystopian world — for me, it is a challenge to us to hopefully create a better structure for deploying future technologies — one that truly uplifts the human condition instead of just allowing us to escape our real challenging realities.

Though Wade Watts and his motley crew wins against the evil corporation IOI in the end, thereby, taking control of the Oasis and the company behind it— serious questions remain — can their young team truly manage this global online meta-verse and hopefully help humanity rebuild the physical world? Or will they become victims of their own success, amassing wealth at the expense of continuing a legacy of helping humans escape reality using VR technology?

Halliday’s Easter egg isn’t the only symbol of ultimate power in the novel either. Halliday also built an exit button into the code of the OASIS that would wipe the game completely at his will. The handing over of so much power to his successor is a potentially life altering action for everyone in the year 2044. The game is a commonly used escape from the crumbling world they all live in that allows anyone to do and be anything. Better education, entertainment with zero gravity, and quests for those who wish to be heroes balance on the button being ignored. The exit button is glimpsed, but it’s never said whether Wade has decided to use it or not.

But the fact that the button was built, means that Halliday himself was unsure of the value of the game. Does this reflect the uncertainty of technology? Or just how addictive the game could become? It did make him a virtual god (see what I did there?) in the game and in real life. Perhaps Halliday was provoked by the absolute power, and the desire not to abuse it, to create such a button.

We will have to read Ready Player Two to be sure what happens with Wade in charge. But in the meantime, this is a great read. Personally it is one of my favorites. The movie is also one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen from page to screen. I first read the book in 2014, so the dystopian theme was at it’s height. Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner. So when RPO was announced, and finally released as a movie in 2018, I was stoked. I loved this book. I’m pretty sure I only sat down to open the book three times before I finished it. I re-read it for this blog, and in preparation for Ready Player Two, and I still love this book. If you haven’t experienced the world created by Ernest Cline, you need to find it now. Or, whenever you have time.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline / 384 pages / YA / Science Fiction / Dystopian 

How To Complete A Content Audit

When you have a blog, or a writing website of any kind, and you come back from sabbatical, one of the first things you need to do is complete a content audit. In order to complete a content audit, you’ll need to understand it. What this idea boils down to is going through the process of evaluating content elements.

Now I know what you’re thinking, audits are horrible, but I promise that this isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Besides, it’s all your own creation right? If you can’t enjoy reading your own posts, you shouldn’t post it for someone else to read. But reading every post you have to find the less than decent ones would be extremely time consuming, not to mention hard to organize.

So here’s my method of tackling this huge, yet crucial, task.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you know what your website is about. If you have a business, you already know. If like me you just have a website for a blog, think about your theme. I started my blog originally for creative writing, but after a year off for a new job, I realized I could be putting my site to better use with the knowledge I have that could be helping others. For me, I added a page and a category that will separate my more professional writing from my creative outlet.

Secondly, you need to do a thorough check of your content stats. There are a few steps to the second checklist. The key factors you should look for are the following:

  1. Run traffic stats for each post. But what is website traffic? Website traffic just tells you how many visitors your pages are getting. Thankfully WordPress has tools to show you this kind of information. It even tells you where in the world your visitors are coming from! I have yet to find a use for that information, but it’s really cool to see where my page is popping up. These stats will let you know which topics are doing well and which aren’t so hot.
  2. Reevaluate target keywords where needed. Your keywords are the very words that bring people to your website from places like Google, and Bing. This factor falls under the SEM umbrella. The definition of Search Engine Marketing has evolved over the years, so it really depends on how you want to view things, or how your hired marketing agency views things. Most of the things I’ve found seem to lump in paid search and organic search into the same SEM group. So figure out which keywords are drawing people in more, and maybe edit the ones that aren’t.
  3. How much engagement does each post have? You can check the number of visitors on each post, but you can also look at your stats and see how many people have liked, commented, or shared your post. During this process you want to make sure you have social share buttons on each of your posts. If you’re not getting a lot of interaction and you have all your sharing features turned on, you need to take a closer look at the content on that page.

Ok, now what? I know which posts and pages are ranking better than others, what do I do with that? Simple, you move to the third stage of the audit and put it them in categories. It’s just like cleaning out your closet. There’s things you keep, things that can’t be saved, and things that someone else could use. Your content is the same. Can you keep it, improve it, or does it just need to go? This is also where you have to keep your website theme in mind, is there something that’s so left field it doesn’t fit? Probably time to trash it. Or start a new blog?

The forth stage of the audit is to inspect your media. Do you have any old images or videos that need to be switched out? Have you used the same image multiple times? Do all of your images seem to be of the same style? How many pictures of laptops do you have? People on their cell phones? Yeah, I’m guilty of it too. This could be the time to update your photos too. How old is that picture of you? Do you need to update it? Yeah, me too.

And the last thing to do for the content audit is by far the most tedious. The URL dump. WordPress has a business level for their site subscriptions that seem to have a feature to do this for you, but if you’re like me, you have to opt for manual. Take every link to ever page, post, or reference to your website, and stick it in a Google doc.

  1. How many links do you have that point away from your site? Do you need this link? If it’s a reference to avoid plagiarism or stealing of any kind, definitely keep it. But maybe add it as a footnote for those who are interested? Can any be replaced to route to another of your own articles? This is how you keep people on your site, by leading them to your site.
  2. How many links do you have that keep your users internal? Any time you can point back to your own website, do it. You don’t want your whole page to be covered in hyperlinks, but if you have another article that would support what you’re saying, you could link it!
  3. Are all of your links functional? If you have broken links, they need to be replaced or deleted. That drives me crazy when I go to a website and I click on a link and get that 404 error, website not found message. On the same wave length, do your links lead where they are supposed to? If I click a link that says I’m going to get redirected to a page with character profile worksheets and really get directed to a page that has a long post about this tv show I’ve never heard of, I’ll be mad. I will be far less likely to come back to that site in the future.

So there you have it. A content audit in a nutshell. Questions? Concerns? Wanna chat more about this? Need a hand? Subscribe, or like, or fill out the contact form here. And good luck!

What Does SERP Mean?

Nothing frustrates me more than acronyms. You can make them up whenever you want to, and they can stand for anything and you’d never know. IHTP. What does that even mean? I have to pee? Igloos have terrible posture? Infamous hummingbirds take precedent? See? Could be anything I want it to be. That’s what I felt like when I first started working with content and SEO.

  1. What the heck is SEO? Search Engine Optimization.
  2. What is SERP? And why does it keep coming up?

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Pages, and to a business, that is the most important page on the internet. Other than their own website of course. The search engine results pages are the pages of results that you get after typing in a search phrase on a search engine, like Google or Bing. Pfft. I got that, I know what that is. Why is that so difficult? Well, when you’re a business or you have a website of any kind, you want to be at the top of that page right? You want anyone searching in your niche to come to you for advice. But how do you get to the top of that page? That…is a whole different thing.

How do SERP’s work?

Well, as stated, this is the results page that web users receive upon searching keywords or phrases into the search engine. Your listing may not show up for someone in Arizona if your business is based in Maine. This is because the artificial intelligence behind all search engines tailor the SERP’s for users based on different things. There are some factors that you can’t change such as physical location, or the user’s browser history, or the social settings surrounding the user. As the “a.i.” behind the engine changes, the factors for the SERP’s change. That means your keywords may make you appear further down or even higher up on the page. So you need to do regular check ins.

Types of Results

Yes, that never ending supply of suggestions based off your two word Google search has more than one kind of result. It’s not a right or a wrong. It’s more a question of how did they get there? Was it natural? Or did someone pay somebody for a favor? No, seriously. There is an option to pay for that prime real estate at the top of the results page. If you have the budget for it, it doesn’t hurt.

Organic searches are totally free! This involves a lot of SEO to optimize the visibility of your site on that search results page. But it’s not always foolproof. You could have the best SEO team member your company has ever seen, but that competitor of yours hired someone to do their SEO professionally and keeps coming in above you. If you’re really tired of playing cat and mouse in these organic searches, you can pay to win. Your call.

Types of Searches

There’s just one right? Type in the keyword and and get results. Well, that’s the process, but the different types of searches drastically change the types of results that a user will get.

Informational searches are just that. A search for information. Say you wanted to search for information on a historical writer: Shakespeare. It wouldn’t do a company much good to pay to have ads on this SERP, “William Shakespeare” isn’t usually a search that will provoke much commercial follow through. It isn’t intended to be a search to buy anything, the search is only looking for information.

Navigational searches aren’t necessarily related to location, though it does work somewhat like a compass. This is the search that we all know well. You remember seeing that one book somewhere, but you can’t remember who wrote it, and you don’t remember where you saw it. Was it something you saw on the local bookstore page? No, it didn’t show up on their website search, time to go to Google (or whatever search engine you prefer). “Undercurrent book” That type of search will pull up a ton of results right? (I tried, there are a ton of results.) But where is that one website that jogs your memory? There it is! The one result the user couldn’t think of without a little help from the all knowing SERP.

Transactional search, sounds promising right? That’s because if you’re a business trying to do online business, this is the type of search you need to focus on. Yes, organic searches will pop up on the results page, but paid results will also do great here. These are the searches that have commercial intent, aka, intent to buy. (Buy being a strong keyword in this branch of SERP.)

With me so far? This is a lot to take in, so let’s take a quick break and answer some questions.

  1. What does SERP mean? – It means Search Engine Results Page. You know, the one that links anything remotely close to what you searched.
  2. Does one time SEO last forever? – NO. You have to keep doing it. Over and over. Until your niche either stops changing, or becomes obsolete.
  3. Are you an organic result? Or can you drop some coin to get that penthouse results spot?
  4. What type of search are you? 411, Compass, or the Dolla Dolla Bill?

Questions? Ask me through the contact page. Want more info on the SERP’s? Join me on Sunday, February 28th, at 10:00 am EST to find out HOW all of this determines the order of the results.

Free Google Keywords Planner Walkthrough

Google Keywords Planner

  • Search for “Google AdWords”
  • Select Start Now when prompted
  • You’ll get to a screen that asks “What’s your main advertising goal?” – At this point, you can opt to create an account and pay for the actual ad, OR, you can scroll to the bottom and select “Switch to Expert Mode”
  • You’ll unlock the Google Ads campaign screen and you can do all kinds of things from there, but for today’s discussion you’ll want to select the small link beneath the main options once again, “Create an account without a campaign”
  • You’ll be asked to confirm your business information and should hit submit. Worry not, no credit cards will be asked for.
  • Click Explore Your Account
  • Select the Tools/Settings and Switch to Expert Mode. This allows you to continue without making a paid account.
  • The Keyword Planner is also located in the Tools menu.

How to Use Google Keywords Planner

  • You have two choices when beginning the Keywords Planner. Find keywords or Get search volume and forecasts. Both paths lead to the Keyword Plan, but they will be a teensy bit different.
    • Find Keywords: This is where you should look to get an idea of what keywords you should be picking for your website.
      • Enter the products or services related to your business or website when prompted, along with your URL.
      • Depending on the items you entered, you’ll get a general report showing you the average monthly searches, competition rate, prices to get to the top of the SERP’s (search engine results page) and some suggestions on other keywords.

Fiddle around with these suggestions as much as you like, and when you have the list of words you want to use, move to the search volume and forecasts.

  • Get search volume and forecasts: If you already have your list of keywords to research results on, you can come straight here. If you’ve used this after the “Find Keywords” tool, that’s fine too. This is where you get reports and stats.
    • Here you add all your desired keywords to get an idea of how well your ad would do with such keywords attached.
    • You’ll see how much it will cost per click, how many clicks you could get, projections for impressions (how many times your digital ad appears on a web user’s screen), and CTRs (click through rates: measures how many clicks your advertisements get based on the impressions).
    • If you’re just trying to find the best AdWords to use, you’ll also want to click on the Historical Metrics tab. This shows you the range of searches from the last year.

Now if you’re like me, you’ll see these ranges of 1K-10K or 10K-100K and be very very annoyed. That doesn’t tell you much does it? For example, one of my keywords was content. Why? I produce it! Well that range was 100K-1M. Well which is it? There’s a 900,000 difference! You can find other programs out there that will give you exact numbers (or at least closer), but they won’t be free.

Another way to get ideas for your keywords is to check out your competitors. Now, you don’t want to do this for your content, as that’s a cheap way to steal, but definitely look at their keywords. They may have a better insight to your niche than you do. Especially if you’re like me these days and trying to find those free tools that don’t really exist. Do some research into your area or your products. Maybe there’s something you’re missing altogether. Maybe you’re just advertising the wrong way. Are you aiming your keywords too broad or too narrow? It will all depend on your niche and your audience, so you’ll need to know those too.

As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment. Want to have a more detailed discussion? Check out the contact form and drop me a line!

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