A well-defined silo structure will help search engines understand your content. And that will improve your SEO and make it easier to rank your pages in the search results.
Silo structures can be created using WordPress categories and/or internal linking. I'll be showing you how to do both in this article in this article.
Listen to a podcast of this article: 'How to Create a Silo Structure on Your Website'
What is Silo Structure on a Website?
Silo structure on a website is a way of grouping web pages together, in a hierarchy, based on theme.
Many websites have no silo structure and are simply flat:
This kind of site architecture doesn't indicate to either humans or search engines what the relationships are between the different pages on your website.
But on a website that is optimized for SEO, the web pages are organized into hierarchical clusters that represent different topics:
These clusters are also known as 'silos'. Each 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.
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.
- 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 a silo structure is not just for search engines. It also helps your human visitors.
- User Experience
Let's say you have a travel site about Paris, and one of your web pages deals with 'Restaurant x'. When a visitor lands on that web page, he or she will see from your site navigation that you have a whole category (or content silo) dedicated to Paris restaurants.
Chances are he or she will click on that category page and look at your other ‘Paris restaurant’ pages.
That’s going to increase the time your visitor spends on your site. And the more time a visitor spends on your site, the higher your pages will rank in the search results.
Because it tells the algorithm that your content answered the searcher's query.
So a silo structure creates a better user experience for your visitors and that in turn improves your SEO.
Creating Silo Structures: Two Different Principles
There are two different principles involved in creating website silo structures:
- creating physical content silos (using categories)
- creating virtual content silos (using internal linking)
- 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.
- Virtual Content Silos
A virtual content silo is a category structure you create through internal linking.
In this example, the ‘Restaurant’ category page would discuss Paris restaurants in general. And it would link to the pages for individual restaurants.
How To Create a Silo Structure on Your Website
In the following example, I’m going to show you how to create a silo structure, using both categories and internal linking.
STEP 01 - Download a List of Your Blog Posts
First, download and install the Export any WordPress data to XML/CSV plugin.
Then export a list of all your published blog posts, as a CSV file:
STEP 02 - Create a Spreadsheet in Google Sheets
Next, create a new spreadsheet in Google Sheets and import into that sheet the CSV file you just exported from your website.
In the Google Sheet, add a new column to the right of the column containing your blog post titles, and label it 'content silos':
STEP 03 - Identify Content Silos
Next, identify which of your blog posts could be placed within a single topic cluster. In the example below, I've identified five articles as belonging to a 'Paris Restaurants' content silo:
When you've finished assigning each blog post to a content silo, you can then sort the table on the basis of that column, so that your articles are grouped by content silo:
In the next step, we'll use WordPress categories to create interlinked content silos based on those topic clusters.
STEP 04 - Create WordPress Categories
You now need to create a category in WordPress for each of your topic clusters.
In the example we've been using, every time you write a new blog post about a Paris restaurant, you would assign that article to the ‘Paris restaurant’ category.
WordPress automatically creates a ‘category’ page for each category. The category page will (a) list the blog posts that fall under that category, together with a brief excerpt from the article, and (b) link to the individual articles or blog posts in that category.
You should also create internal links from each page in the content silo back to the category page.
And that’s it - you now have content silos based on WordPress category pages:
STEP 05 - Create Internal Links
Internal linking is a key part of creating content silos.
But to create effective content silos you have to be careful with your internal linking.
If you’re like many bloggers, you may 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 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.
- Search Engine Land: Everything Should Not Be A Blog Post: Start Using Silos
- Bruce Clay: SEO Silos - how to build a website silo architecture
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