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:
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:
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.
Here’s another example.
A travel site dedicated to Paris might have three categories:
- Paris Hotels
- Paris Restaurants
- Paris Attractions:
Websites that have inventories of products usually have a silo structure.
Here’s a silo structure from Amazon’s website:
‘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:
‘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:
Your website may not contain an inventory of products but it’s still a good idea to organize your content into a silo structure.
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.
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.
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:
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’:
On the next screen:
- Type in a file name
- Click ‘Save changes’
- Download the file
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’:
Then paste the contents of that column into a new Excel Workbook:
Next, take any URL and copy the root part of the URL to your clipboard:
Then go to Edit > Replace:
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):
Next, click on the ‘Replace All’ button:
You’ll then see a message confirming that your replacements have been made:
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’:
Now go back to your Excel file. Select and copy the cells containing your article ‘slugs’:
Now go back to your blank mind map.
Click within the central topic.
Then click on Edit > Paste > Paste Text as List:
Your text will now be added to the blank mind map:
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:
These Level 1 and Level 2 categories will become 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’.
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
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