If you’ve been developing blog posts and content on your site without a plan, you may be undermining your goals. You may have already lost months of potential growth, and set your website up to grow sluggishly while brand new competitors easily zip ahead of you.
There is a right way to structure your website to get attention from search engines like Google. One of those ways is by applying a silo structure. Different models of siloing can help you create an SEO-friendly site, and choosing the right one can unlock the potential for explosive growth.
In this article, you’ll learn what siloing is and how it benefits your website’s search engine optimization. Then, I’ll take you through 5 silo structures for your site and show where they excel and fall short. I’ll close with some advice on choosing silos, and answer top questions.
Table Of Contents
- What Is A Silo Structure?
- How Does Siloing Benefit SEO?
- How To Plan & Create a Silo Structure
- The 5 Configurations
- Which One Is the Best?
- Frequently Asks Questions (FAQ)
- Conclusion: Silo like a Master
What Is A Silo Structure?
A silo structure refers to a type of planned site architecture where internal linking will connect certain pages to each other based on a thoughtful, standardized pattern.
It starts with a site that is organized into a hierarchy structure where parent pages serve as the general introduction for a topic.
Under the main topic pages are supporting pages—blog posts, guides, and other website content that covers narrower branches of the topic covered in the parent page.
The silo is created when the pages are internally linked together to create a navigation path that can pass link juice and topical relevance to other blog posts, landing pages or other content on your site.
A silo can be developed so that the link juice flows throughout the entire site, instead of stopping dead at the original page.
This guide is going to focus on teaching you to establish several different configurations of silos through internal linking.
When you build your silo solely by the internal linking of each page, it is known as a soft silo.
What About Hard Silos?
In addition to soft silos, there are also “hard silos” (or, physical silos). These are silos that are built into your website structure (your URL structures And directory structure).
Near the end, I’ll tell you more about building a hard silo that can reinforce the soft siloing on your site.
For now, let’s focus on what the soft silo can do for your SEO.
Believe it or not, none of this is as complicated as it sounds. I’ll prove it shortly by showing you 5 easy ways to develop a silo for your site. Before that though, I want to clarify why any of this matters in the first place.
Developing a link structure for your website takes work, and you deserve to know why you’re doing it. The fact is that having a silo structure for your links offers serious SEO advantages for your site that you can’t ignore.
How Does Siloing Benefit SEO?
A Silo structure benefits SEO by passing link juice throughout your website, and providing search engines like Google and search engine bots with a streamlined way to confirm the topical relevance of your content.
Siloing Helps You Enhance the Topical Relevance of Your Site
Search engines like Google look at different signals to determine if your website and its pages are relevant for different search queries.
One way that you can demonstrate SEO relevance on your site is by linking related pages together in a structure.
For example, imagine you have a blog post or commercial article on your website about the best protein powder.
You can prove the relevance of that blog post to search engines by linking to related content on the site (such as “best protein powder for men”, or “protein powder supplements”) back to it.
Applying an SEO silo architecture to your site also helps you more thoughtfully choose the pages and content that you want to enhance with more topical relevance.
When your silo is fully developed, you can easily direct topical relevance like a current across your site. That can translate to more attention from Google search engines spiders—and that can mean higher keyword rankings and overall better SEO.
Siloing Gives You a Lot More Mileage Out of Link Building
Link building has an important relationship with your Google search engine rankings..
Securing an external link for one page can be great for its search performance. However, with the right siloing structure for your site, you can ensure that links spread their SEO power through your other blog posts and landing pages.
When you have an effective silo architecture in place, the link structure allows the power to flow through to the other pages on your website far more effectively.
This can directly improve the search rankings of each page—even the ones that don’t receive the link.
In several of the siloing models that are covered later, you’ll learn how you can structure your internal linking so that the power of a link hits every page on your website.
Siloing Lets You Rank Much More Easily for Long Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords on your website can benefit from having a silo in place. Developing links to each silo page at the bottom of the site hierarchy structure can be difficult because these pages often target the most specific and long-tail search terms.
However, you don’t necessarily need links directly to these pages if you have a silo that can move the juice along from the most popular pages on your site.
Now, the pages on your site that deal with the longer tail SEO terms (such as “for men”, or “for women”) are in a better position to improve their place in search engines.
Applying a silo can be so effective, in fact, that you may see pages in your website structure developing a better search engine rank even before they’ve received any backlinks of their own.
Now that you understand the SEO benefits, you’re ready to learn more about putting it into practice on your site. I’ll start by giving you the basics on implementing a silo on your website. Then, I’ll follow up with my five favorite models.
How To Plan & Create a Silo Structure
Implementing a silo structure is simple at the strategic level. I’ll illustrate with the website Dietmasters.com.
As you can imagine, a site like this is aiming to be a great hub for all types of diet advice. In order to be competitive, it will need SEO-relevant content to cover all the possible pages within a topic like this.
The best SEO keyword that a site like this could target is “best diets”. That’s a broad SEO-friendly term that could incorporate any number of landing pages, service pages or blog posts.
To plan for an SEO-friendly silo structure, we have to be careful about how we set up the website and the first rounds of website content.
Step 1. Start with good keyword research
This first step will help us learn what intent people have when they’re looking for search terms like “best diets”.
Follow your normal process for choosing keywords, and compile what you’ve learned into a research doc to help you develop content.
We’ll need to know the right keywords so that we can break the topic down into narrow SEO keyword phrases that can be used to build blogs and other content.
When we’re done, we can build content that matches the needs of search engine users and choose thoughtful anchor text.
Imagine that you performed this research using a search engine or your favorite research tool, and learned that the search terms with the most keyword relevancy for a site like this were:
- Keto diet
- Paleo diet
- Vegan diet
These three SEO keyword phrases will make up the top-level category pages for our sample site.
For the category structure, we’ll think of these pages as lateral to one another. They’ll have their own child pages, but they won’t necessarily link to one another.
When developing content for each supporting page on the site, we want to choose keyword phrases that are even more specific. That way, we can target commercial intent.
Step 2. Break the topic into supporting pages
The next step would be to take those top-level site topics, and break them down into child pages/support pages so that we can create content that will speak to more intentional audiences.
This use of keyword phrases reinforces the relevance of topics that are in the top level of the site hierarchy.
Let’s use the “keto diet” search term as an example. Your research may show you that people who are using search engines to find information about the keto diet keyword terms are hungry for content about:
- Meal plans
- Apps to help them manage the diet
These keyword terms will make up the next level of supporting content pages for our site, but we’re not quite done.
Step 3. Break the sub-topics into long-tail keyword phrases
We can keep going. Let’s use the meal plan page as an example, and look at the SEO-friendly search terms that could be developed from that.
Your research may show you that people who use search engines to look keyword phrases like keto meal plans may also be looking for content about:
- Breakfast meal plans
- Meal plans for men
- Meal plans for women
This will create another level of support pages (at least for our example site). These are the most long-tail SEO keyword phrases.
Using this research, we now have an idea for how we might want the site architecture to appear, and what kind of content to feature on the site.
Implementing a silo structure involves planning how the link structure will be established within the site hierarchy. Let’s jump into how to do that now.
Implementing a Silo Structure
If we were planning out a strategy for our example site, the hierarchy that we’ve developed from our research might end up like the sample website below.
This graphic establishes the hierarchy of the different topics we’re going to cover on our example site.
Starting with the top level, any one of these pages could be a blog, or a service page, or landing page prominently featuring SEO content or an affiliate product.
To bind all these content topics into a silo, we need to properly link them together.
If all of the pages in the site hierarchy only linked to the pages below them (for example, keto diet to meal plan, supplements, and app), then the link juice would stop traveling the second it hit a dead end.
Links built to the long-tail pages wouldn’t travel at all because they’re at the bottom.
The other SEO measure—topical relevance—determines how relevant a page appears to be based on its relationship to other pages on the site. If we strictly follow the hierarchy rather than applying a silo, each page would have links from a single parent page, and no others.
Obviously, the hierarchy here is not a configuration on its own. We need to develop a silo so that we can empower and control both link juice, and topical relevance. Let’s jump right into the most popular configurations, and whether each one is right for your site.
The 5 Configurations
The 5 linking configurations below will show you how to develop your contextual links within a silo system for a powerful SEO effect.
To be clear, I’m talking about the links that appear in your content—the ones that can be found scattered throughout the paragraphs in a blog or other type of content.
These siloing plans for your website structure don’t include links in your sidebars, top level navigation bars, or other site navigation.
For simplicity’s sake, each configuration we’ll cover uses the same site (our Dietmasters.com example site) as a model. This will allow me to show you how the same site can accomplish different goals with a different SEO silo.
The green arrow lines in each of the siloing examples below represent the direction that internal links will travel on the website.
The line starts in one silo page, and the arrows represent the pages that they should be linking out to.
Configuration #1: The Top-Down Recycle
One of the key features of this configuration is the fact that all the pages at the bottom of the hierarchy come back and link to the silo page at the top.
I call this connection “completing the loop”. It’s called that because any backlink that is pointed to any of the pages on this website is going to flow through the entire silo. Every page gets a little bit of the juice.
If the lowest pages within a silo didn’t link back to the top, the juice for any links that were built to the lower silo pages would dead end as soon as they were built. The website as a whole wouldn’t benefit, just the linked page.
Configuration #2: The Reverse Silo
Look closely, and you’ll notice that in this configuration, the links move in both directions from the silo pages. Not only are the parent pages all linking down to the child pages, but each one also links back up to the next closest parents.
If backlinks were built to any of these pages, the juice would empower the pages above and below. Additionally, each page appears more topically relevant because multiple related pages in the content silo link back.
Configuration #3: The Serial Silo
In this one, a parent page links down to one child page on the website. That child page then links to all of it’s siblings, and one in the sequence links back to the parent page again.
Like in the past content silos, the link juice is free to flow to the entire website. It flows along a different path, but will still hit all of the pages in some order.
Configuration #4: YOLO Silo
Don’t hurt your eyes trying to map out the siloing in this graphic.
The simple idea is that every single page is linked to as many other pages on the website as possible, regardless of their content or place in the hierarchy.
Like the other silos, the link juice is free to move throughout the entire website. However, it’s not going to move along any particular path.
Configuration #5: Priority Silo
After the reverse siloing configuration has been implemented, we’re going to go through and manually link up the website pages that have the best relevance to one another.
Let’s see what that looks like.
The second step here isn’t based on following a siloing architecture. All the pages that were linked were hand-picked because they had potential or an existing or beneficial relationship to the pages that were linked.
That covers the 5 top siloing configurations.
In the following sections, I’m going to make my personal ruling on which siloing configuration is best for your site, and answer some of the most common questions I hear about silos.
Which One Is the Best?
Some topics I cover are more conditional, but for this one, I think there are some pretty clear standout siloing configurations depending on your level of SEO expertise.
For beginner websites, I recommend The Reverse Silo. For advanced SEOs with aged websites, I recommend The Priority Silo.
For Beginners: The Reverse Silo
I think that The Reverse Silo offers some of the best advantages to new SEOs who have a young website.
I’m choosing this one for several reasons.
First, it’s super easy to implement and maintain. You just need to make a map of your topic, subtopics, and longtails, and then apply two-way internal links to each page.
As long as you have it written down somewhere, it’s hard to mess this siloing model up. You should see positive attention from search engines shortly after implementation.
Second, this siloing model is comprehensive. Every page is included. No pages are left out or orphaned by this strategy. Link juice flows throughout the site and can move from page-to-page in a way that is intuitive for both crawlers and users.
Finally, this siloing model has decent topical relevance. Without needing to apply too much thought, you’ve linked pages together that have a close topical relationship to one another.
For Advanced Users: The Priority Silo
For advanced users looking to boost authority sites, I’m going to recommend the priority silo. Again, I have several reasons to believe that this is the best siloing option for the advanced SEO who cares about their website’s performance.
First, the link juice is excellent. You have all the benefits of the basic reverse silo, but on top of that, you’ve also provided more direction. The most important pages on your site get juice more often, from more directions.
Second, the topical relevance is also excellent in this siloing model. It allows you to prioritize your landing pages, and make sure they attract the most topical relevance.
The pages are closely linked to others of the same topic, but you’ve also applied human intelligence (and your personal experience of how your content was built) to manually link the most topical pages on your site.
The only downside of this configuration is the amount of management it takes, and the amount of experience it takes to make good choices about which pages on your site deserve priority.
That’s why I’m recommending it to pros. At this point, you’ve probably developed enough websites that those decisions are easy for you. You know what landing pages perform, and how to choose the best support pages that will provide page links.
You may have some more questions about silos, and how to implement them on your website. In the next section, I’m going to do my best to cover the siloing questions that I get most often.
Frequently Asks Questions (FAQ)
Silo’s can take effort to implement and maintain. I’ve tried to cover the website structure information that extends beyond the configuration in the questions and answers below:
What is the difference between a soft silo and a hard silo?
A soft silo is created by interlinking pages, while hard silos (also called physical silos) are built through your site structure and directory structure.
Physical silos can be implemented by applying the hierarchy to the folder structure, xml sitemap, and URL structure on your site. It should be reviewable from your sitemap page.
Below you can see how the directory structure (folders) and URL structures would appear for our sample site:
Taking this extra step to clarify your website structure and directory structure can help out search engine crawlers. The clear paths may help you use your crawl budget (the number of pages Google will crawl on any given day) more efficiently.
A hard silo site structure may have more utility to live visitors when you’re covering certain topics. For example, if you have a national site and you want to clarify what state each topic applies to when the topic exists for multiple states.
You should use varied anchor text when sending links to the internal pages on your site. Some anchor text you could build to your keto diet page might include:
- Information about the keto diet
- What is the keto diet?
- Keto dieting
I personally tend to go a step further and use a mix of 80% target anchor text plus a 20% buffer of miscellaneous anchors. Miscellaneous anchors are those that aren’t targeted at all. In your content, they might look like:
- There are other diets you can try…
- The Paleo diet isn’t for everyone…
- Try diets that allow meat…
I consider building miscellaneous links to be among my best practices because these anchors provide your site with a layer of protection against over-targeting. I have hit myself with a penalty in the past by using over-targeted internal links.
Pages that are linked together need to be highly relevant for new sites, but you can relax a bit if you have an established, high-authority site.
To use the examples we’ve been going off, Paleo pages should only link to Paleo pages, and keto pages should only link to keto.
The reason for this rule is that new sites are still developing their topical relevance. In my own experience, Google just refused to give my new sites any attention whenever I tried to experiment with looser linking practices.
This may be because less-relevant internal links make it hard for Google to figure out what your site is about in the early stages. If Google can’t figure you out, they won’t direct traffic to your site, and your site won’t grow.
The most important page to link from is your home page. It’s the most likely to attract backlinks among all the pages on your website. That means it’s going to be the starting point of a lot of link juice.
Just because it’s the most important page doesn’t mean that you should be linking it out to every page on your website. Link from it to only your most valued money pages/landing pages.
Are there any pitfalls to think about?
Yes, putting any silo strategy in place can expose you to linking pitfalls that you will need to control by being careful. I have some personal war stories of mistakes that I’ve made that you may be able to learn from.
Pitfalls from my personal experience:
- Sending exact match anchors to the same page over and over: As I mentioned above, this is a practice that has actively undermined my work in the past. Doing this can attract penalties for your site, and you need to avoid it.
- Not closing the loop: I’ve talked a lot about the flow of link juice in this article. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is killing the flow of juice to your pages by dead-ending it somewhere. Make sure that link juice has a path out of wherever you send it on your site.
Do silos need to be maintained?
Silos need to be maintained if you want them to keep working effectively. Maintaining them is a matter of keeping the strategy that you planned in place even as your website grows and adds new pages.
Maintain it by closely monitoring and controlling the links that appear on any new pages you create. If you add a new blog (or several) make sure that you properly close the loop whenever new content is posted.
It may help you to keep a visual of the strategy you have in place for your site. Even one that just looks like the one you’ve seen in the images throughout this guide will work.
Conclusion: Silo like a Master
Now you understand how to structure your website effectively by using silos. You also know why it matters to your search engine rankings and keyword rankings, several models you can use, and how to apply the right one to the right website.
You also know how to reinforce your link silos by applying a domain directory structure to your site, if you choose to do so.
Meeting those goals will allow relevance and power to flow through your site and allow better keyword rankings for even the most long-tail topics. It will also help you visitors understand your site better.
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