Brian Clark of Copyblogger describes Cornerstone Content as:
A cornerstone is something that is basic, essential, indispensable, and the chief foundation upon which something is constructed or developed. It’s what people need to know to make use of your website and do business with you.
When approached in a strategic fashion, this content can rank very well in the search engines. The key is creating compelling content that’s worth linking to, and then finding a way to get the word out.
I disagree that cornerstone content necessarily needs to be ‘what people need to know to make use of your website and do business with you’. I say this since cornerstone content could be any content that attracts a quality audience to you based on searchers with search terms to suggest they may have intent to buy your products and services. You then use recommended links to other content types to encourage conversion.
Cornerstone content usually needs to be Loooooooooong. This makes it immersive, meaning that visitors stay longer (a ranking signal in Google) and more importantly, it can gain links and shares since it appears authoritative. This classic study of top 10 search results for over 20,000 keywords showed a pattern.