How to Create a Silo Structure on Your Website (An Illustrated Guide)

A well defined silo structure will help establish topical authority for your website.

And that will improve your SEO and make it easier to rank your keywords on Page #1 of Google.

In this article I explain:

  • what content silos are
  • why they help with SEO
  • how to create them

Are you ready?

Let's dive in:

website silo structure

1. What is Silo Structure on a Website?

Silo structure on a website is a way of grouping web pages together based on theme.

Many websites have no silo structure and are simply flat:

website structure

In a silo structure, each content silo contains pages that deal with a category or sub-category.

For example, a website that deals with tennis might have three categories: 1) Tennis Champions, 2) Tennis Championships, 3) Tennis Rackets.

The first category might contain a page about Roger Federer, a page about Rafael Nadal, and a page about Serena Williams

The second category might contain a page about Wimbledon, a page about Roland Garros, and a page about the US Open.

The third category might contain a page about Wilson rackets, a page about Head rackets, and a page about Slazenger rackets. 

how to organize content on a website

Here’s another example.

A travel site dedicated to Paris might have three categories:

  1. Paris Hotels
  2. Paris Restaurants
  3. Paris Attractions:
how to organize content on a website

Websites that have inventories of products usually have a silo structure.

Here’s a silo structure from Amazon’s website:

content-silo-amazon

‘Pet Supplies’ is a content silo and it contains some further content silos, including ‘Dogs’, ‘Cats’, ‘Fish & Aquatic Pets’.

Here’s a silo structure from the Australian hardware store Bunnings:

content-silo-bunnings

‘Building & Hardware’ is a content silo. It contains further content silos, such as ‘Decking’, ‘Landscape’, and ‘Fencing’.

Finally, here’s a silo structure from Harrods of London, containing famous women’s brands:

content-silo-harrods

Your website may not contain an inventory of products but it’s still a good idea to organize your content into a silo structure.

Why?

Because content silos establish your website’s keyword-based topical authority.

And that gives your website an SEO advantage.

In short: with a silo structure you’ll find it easier to rank on Google for your chosen keywords.

2. How Does Silo Structure Help with SEO?

We tend to think that search engines have great powers of understanding.

But without a silo structure it’s not obvious to a search engine what your main topics are and how they are organized into sub-topics.

2.1 Search Engine Indexing

Let’s say your website is just a collection of pages, all linked to the home page.

When a search engine indexes the content on that site, it won’t necessarily understand what your topics and sub-topics are.

But when you have a well laid out silo structure, you are telling the search engines: “this is how I want you to understand my content”.

By nesting sub-topics within a content silo you are signalling to the search engines that your website has topical authority for that topic.

And that’s important.

Because getting a web page ranked for a given keyword is not just about the content on that web page. It’s also about how much related content you have on your website.

If you write a single web page about a particular restaurant in Paris and the rest of your site is all about Paris hotels, it’s unlikely you'll get that page listed on Page #1 of Google.

The reason?

Because your site has no topical authority for ‘Paris restaurants’.

But if you have a whole content silo devoted to Paris restaurants, you have a much better chance of ranking.

Google wants to deliver content that will answer all of a searcher’s questions. And a website that has a content silo for ‘Paris restaurants’ is more likely to do that than a website that lists just one Paris restaurant.

But it doesn’t stop there...

2.2 User Experience

When a visitor lands on your web page for Restaurant ‘x’, she will see from your site navigation that you have a whole category (content silo) dedicated to Paris restaurants.

Of course, she’s going to click on to that category page and look at your other ‘Paris restaurant’ pages.

That’s going to increase the time she spends on your site. And that’s a metric that Google watches like a hawk.

And the reason for that is quite simple:

The more time a visitor spends on your site, the more likely it is that your content answered their query.

The result?

Google will move your site up the search results.

So a silo structure creates a better user experience for your visitors and that in turn improves your SEO.

3. Different Types of Silo Structure

There are two types of website content silos:

  • Physical content silos
  • Virtual content silos

3.1 Physical Content Silos

A physical silo is where you create categories using folders in the URL structure of your website.

Staying with the Paris travel guide example, this is how you could use your URL structure to create a physical content silo:

using folders in URLs

The folder structure tells your visitors and Google how your content is organized.

But what if you don't use categories in your URLs?

In that case, you need to create virtual silos.

Watch This Video: 'How To Create a Website Silo Structure (08 mins 05 secs)

3.2 Virtual Content Silos

A virtual content silo is a category you create through internal linking.

In a virtual content silo, there will usually be a Tier 2 page that serves as a category page.

In this example, the ‘Restaurant’ page would discuss Paris restaurants in general. It would link to the pages for individual restaurants.

4. How To Create a Silo Structure on Your Website

In the following example, I’m going to show you how to create a virtual silo structure, using internal linking.

So let’s get started!

4.1 Download a List of Your Blog Posts

First, download and install the Export Post Info WordPress plugin.

With the plugin installed and activated, enter a name in the ‘Random String’ field, and click ‘save Changes’.

Then click on the link next to ‘generated CSV file’.

In Settings, click on ‘Export post info’:

export post info

On the next screen:

  1. Type in a file name
  2. Click ‘Save changes’
  3. Download the file
export post info (2)

Now open the file in Microsoft Excel.

For this exercise, the only column we’re interested in is column ‘E’, containing the URLs of your blog posts.

Select Column ‘E’:

export post info (3)

Then paste the contents of that column into a new Excel Workbook:

export post info (4)

Next, take any URL and copy the root part of the URL to your clipboard:

export post info (5)

Then go to Edit > Replace:

export post info (6)

The ‘Find’ field should  auto-populate with your root domain.

If it doesn't, paste it in, and then click within the ‘Replace’ field (but leave this field blank):

export post info (7)

Next, click on the ‘Replace All’ button:

export post info (8)

You’ll then see a message confirming that your replacements have been made:

export post info (9)

4.2 Create a Mind Map of your Blog Posts

Next, download the free version of Simple Mind.

Open a new mind map and call it: ‘List of articles’:

mind map of blog posts

Now go back to your Excel file. Select and copy the cells containing your article ‘slugs’:

creating a virtual content silo

Now go back to your blank mind map.

Click within the central topic.

Then click on Edit > Paste > Paste Text as List:

creating a virtual content silo

Your text will now be added to the blank mind map:

mind map of blog posts (2)

4.3 Organize Your Blog Posts into Level 1 and Level 2 Categories

You now need to organize your blog posts into Level 1 categories and Level 2 categories:

mind map of blog posts (3)

These Level 1 and Level 2 categories will become a virtual content silo:

creating a virtual content silo

You now need to write a category page for 'SEO' and a category page for 'On Page SEO'.

I would never normally write an article about ‘SEO’.

Why?

Because this is a head keyword and as such I have no chance of ranking for it on Google. The same goes (to a lesser extent) for an article about ‘On Page SEO’.

But in this case, we need to create a ‘landing page’ that acts as an anchor point for the lower-level pages.

These are pages that you write purely for the internal structure of your website and not with any expectation that they would rank in Google.

Your web pages on SEO and On Page SEO would be ‘definitional’ articles, where you define SEO or define On Page SEO.

5. Silo Structure and Internal Linking

Internal linking is a vital part of creating content silos.

But to create effective content silos you have to be careful with your internal linking.

If you’re like most bloggers, you’ve probably been doing internal linking in a fairly random manner.

You just type in a keyword to the WordPress internal linking tool and follow the suggestions made by WordPress.

But this doesn’t produce clearly defined content silos. In fact, this type of internal linking will dilute any content silos you may have created.

The rule with internal linking for content silos is never link outside the silo. The only exception to this is vertical linking, when you link to a higher-level category page or the home page:

a) link vertically from blog post to category page and vice-versa
b) link horizontally between blog posts within a silo

Conclusion

A silo structure on your website organizes your content in a way that search engines can understand.

By showing the search engines that you have topically related content, you increase your chances of ranking for particular keywords.

This is because search engines look not only at the keyword distribution within a specific web page but also at the whole content of your website.

If the search engines see that your website has topical authority for content that is related to a particular keyword, your chances of ranking for that keyword increase dramatically.

Of course, it’s not all about search engines. Your visitors also benefit from a silo structure. It helps them understand what the focus of your website is. And it helps them find content that is related to the page they initially landed on.

That translates into more time on page. And that’s a metric that search engines closely monitor. More time on page equals higher ranking in the search results.

In short, a well-defined silo structure on your website will help you rank for individual keywords.

This post was most recently updated on May 1st, 2020

    • Hi Jhonty, I don’t have any hands-on experience with Google Blogger, but I imagine the process would be the same as on WordPress. Best regards, Rob.

  • Hi Rob,
    This article is such an amazing resource.

    I am starting a new website right now and I want to implement the silo structure. I just need to double check one thing to avoid any mistake.

    On my website I have a blog and I want to clearly understand how to use it for a correct silo structure.

    Some blog posts are news or other general info that do not strictly fit in only one single silo but they may be related to several of them. For instance, let’s say I have 2 silos, “bets WP templates” and “best website builders.” If I publish a post on my blog about “web design ideas”, such a topic may easily link to both silos.

    How do I decide to which silo i should link? Can it link to both silos?

    Thanks

    • Hi Michael,

      In general, it’s best to assign a blog post to a single category. The reality is that a blog post can often be assigned to two or more categories. For example, I often write articles that could be assigned to my ‘SEO’ category and my ‘Blogging’ category.

      But when you assign a post to more than one category, it dilutes the strength of that category. When a single post links to multiple categories, it makes the search engines wonder which category it really belongs to. It affects the strength of your categories because some of the article’s authority is being sent to one category page and some is being sent to other category pages.

      So, as a rule of thumb, try to assign each article to just one category.

      If you’re having difficulty choosing which category to assign a blog post to, you can always ask Google. In the example you gave, you have a blog post on ‘web design ideas’ and you’re trying to choose between ‘WP templates’ and ‘website builders’ as the parent category. Go to Google and type in ‘web design ideas’ followed by a space and then the letter ‘t’. If Google Auto Suggest comes up with ‘templates’, then you know that Google associates ‘web design ideas’ with ‘templates’. Likewise, type in ‘web design ideas’ followed by a space and the letter ‘b’. If Google Auto Suggest produces the word ‘builders’, then you know that Google associates ‘web design ideas’ with ‘builders’.

      Hope this helps,
      Rob.

  • what about strip the category base from category slug so it’s looks like a page?

    site.com/category/camera-lens > site.com/camera-lens

    because i’m using complex silo suture is that ok?

    • Yes, absolutely! That’s what I did. Most websites don’t need category pages. Better off withour them. They just make for longer URLs, which is not good for SEO – Rob

    • Hi Bally,

      Thanks for your question. From an SEO perspective, I would go for No. 2. Option No. 1 looks over-optimised for the keyword ‘fitness machines’. Also, shorter URLs perform better in the search results.

      Hope this answers your question,

      Rob.

  • Extremely helpful and came just on time as I am rebuilding my website. Thanks for the guidance Rob. Your blogs are a completely different taste in SEO.

  • The video on How to Build a Silo Structure in WordPress without Plugins (11 mins 40 secs) is actually showing a wicked advert. Just want you to know about this

    • Hey Hope, thanks so much for letting me know – I’ve just replaced it with the correct video 🙂

      Rob

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