In this unit, we’re going to be talking about the idea of cornerstone content, and how you might use it to attract more of the right people and engage with them on a more meaningful level than perhaps we’ve done before with traditional websites.
As I mentioned in the first part of this module, when I talked about the new game of photography marketing, gone are the days when you can just create a basic website that talks about your services and products from a business-centered viewpoint in the hope that people will just show up and hire you.
Remember, it’s no longer a “hey, look at me” world, but a “here’s looking at you” world.
The old game was all about self-promotion, and telling people how great we are at what we do.
That’s no longer enough.
The new game is more about creating conversations and talking about the subjects of mutual interest to you and your ideal clients.
The new game is all about getting people to know you, like you, and trust you – before they’ll be willing to pay your fees to hire you for an assignment.
What Is Cornerstone Content?
The idea of cornerstone content is that it creates a foundation that you can build the rest of your website upon. Sometimes, you might see it referred to as keystone content or, as I often call it, resource pages.
Resource pages are created as WordPress pages, rather than posts, because they’re intended to be evergreen – they have a long shelf life and remain relevant to your audience long after you publish them.
You can link to your resource pages frequently throughout your other content, such as blog posts, and they will usually be centered around a focused topic and created to target a specific keyword phrase.
You can also use them as destination pages in email autoresponder messages that get sent automatically to people who sign up for your email list.
The value of resource pages for you and your website cannot be understated, yet so many photographers are not taking advantage of them, either because they’re not aware of them or they imagine they’ll take too much time and effort.
Being unaware of resource pages can be forgiven, but I really don’t believe there’s any excuse for not creating them simply because it’s just too much work.
In fact, the amount of work that goes into creating a blog post can add up to much more than that for a resource page when you factor in the life of the page and how many views it gets.
The Page That Never Quits
In the graph above, you can see a representation of how the views of a blog post compare to those for a resource page over time.
Both resource pages and posts will see an initial number of views after publication, but the views of a post will soon start to decline as the post ages and gets buried in the list of other posts on your blog as you publish new content.
Without additional effort to promote your individual blog posts over time they can become stale and dated.
Resource pages on the other hand, by virtue of being evergreen and enjoying the benefits of both SEO and links from other pages and posts on the site, can easily see a steady growth in views over time.
Posts and resource pages all require effort to create, but the work needed for resource pages seems to enjoy a better return on your investment of time and effort in the long run.
So, with that in mind, you might want to reconsider creating resource pages for your blog if you previously regarded them as too much hard work.
Resource Page Ideas
So what types of topics might you create resource pages for? One of the biggest complaints I hear on this subject is, “I don’t know what to write about!” so let’s address that before we go any further.
The key to great resource page content is to look for topics that will help your ideal client solve a challenge, overcome a possible objection, or educate them on why your differentiating factors are of great benefit to them.
- Case studies of ideal client projects…
- How-to guides…
- Lists of indispensable resources…
- “Before and after” images for photography that involves a transformation…
- Explanatory guides…
- Highlight recent weddings and document the entire process from start to finish.
- How-to guide for brides who want to plan the perfect wedding.
- How-to guide for new moms on how to get the best from their baby portrait sessions.
- Resources for expectant moms on preparing the home for their new arrival.
- Proposal stories and ideas for guys getting ready to pop the question.
- Case studies of commercial projects, documented from start to finish.
- A guide to using wall décor to create atmosphere and mood in the home or office.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
The best way to get even more ideas like these is to talk with and listen to your ideal clients. It’s been said a million times that knowing who your target client is, in as much detail as possible, is one of the secrets of creating great marketing that works – and it’s 100% true.
This is another reason, by the way, why not specializing in one major genre of photography can be a big mistake, because it leaves you having to cover so much ground that you don’t have the time or the energy to cover it all efficiently.
Not to mention that it also makes SEO almost impossible if you’re trying to target a bunch of different genres at once.
Talking of SEO, we should probably take a moment to talk about the SEO considerations of our resource pages, so you can get the best out of them.
Remember in module 2 I talked about the benefits of internal linking, and how we can create mini-hubs within the website that are focused on a specific topic?
As it happens, the mini-hub concept is perfect for optimizing resource pages.
In the diagram above, you can see we have an index page that lists and links to each of the 4 sub-pages on a topic.
Because each of the 4 sub-pages has 1 incoming link, but the index page has 4, Google will assign a higher relative importance on the index page, and that is the page you should focus your SEO efforts on for the keywords appropriate to the topic. The index page is also the one you should link to most often.
Making Use Of Parent And Child Pages
In the section on SEO, I also mentioned the benefit of including your keywords in the URL of a post or page, and you can take this idea a step further for your resource pages by using the WordPress system of parent/child pages.
You’ll want to start out by creating your index page. It doesn’t have to include any actual content as yet, you can go back and edit that later on. Make sure you include the topic keyword in the URL for the page.
Next, create your sub-pages, starting with page 1.
This time, direct your attention to a section on your page editor screen called “Page Attributes”. In there, you’ll see an option with a drop-down list called “Parent”.
You can then select the index page you created earlier from the drop-down list and define that as the parent page for your sub-page. If the order of the pages is important to you (when viewed in the list of pages in your WordPress admin dashboard) you can also specify a page order level from 1 to however many you have.
Also, you might want to include a link back to your index page at the end of each sub-page.
Repeat this process for each of your sub-pages.
When you’re done, you can go back to the index page and create a simple bulleted list of links to your sub-pages, together with some supporting text to help boost the SEO for the index page.
Here are some examples of what the URLs for your new resource pages might look like:
- … etc.
Notice how the “index-page-keyword” part of the URL appears in all them because the pages have the parent/child relationship set up.
The final point I want to make on resource pages is to be sure to promote them within your own website and blog – don’t simply rely on people happening across them at random!
Here are a few tips to bear in mind:
- If you have a sidebar, that would be a good place to have links (graphical or textual) pointing to your resource index pages.
- Whenever you write a blog post, and you mention something related to the topic of one of your resource pages, be sure to create a link to its index page.
- If you have a static home page, which I recommend, then include links to your resource index pages there too.
- You can also include links in the signature section of your emails.
- Social media profiles are another good place to have links to these kinds of resources.
With that, you should be in a great position now to start thinking about how you can create rich cornerstone content on your website and blog that your target audience will find invaluable.