This article was first published on June 24th, 2020, and was last updated August 2023.
A silo is a great visual for a way of grouping pages to improve SEO. Just as silos on a farm group grains separately, maintaining their integrity and maintaining their value, siloing a website improves website optimization around a specific topic.
If information weren’t divided with a content silos, it would be like mixed grain–inherently less valuable.
Using SEO silo architecture, you can improve SEO and site organization, making your site easier for readers and bots to navigate.
Table of Contents
What is a Silo Structure?
You work hard to create great content with excellent SEO, and you strive to achieve search engine rankings. However, neither search engine bots nor readers will find all of the great content on your website if you don’t utilize good website architecture.
A silo structure groups content and links structures in a way that search bots love. All of the information that your website covers is cleanly divided into categories. Each category should have around five pages under it. Each page in a category is thoroughly linked to the other pages in the category.
Why Do Content Silos Matter?
Also called Content Clusters, content silos improve your website information architecture and improve user experience. You may also find that organizing your content in this way makes it easier to build new content in a balanced way.
Each silo encourages readers to dig deeper into your pages in a logical way. Readers find more complex information as they understand the principles in the page they’re on or find products just when they’re ready to buy.
At the same time, readers have plenty of choices in what they’re reading. They can follow internal links within the silo, so they can choose to read about what they want without being overwhelmed by choices.
Putting content into categories makes it obvious to search engines what the content is about. Organized silos let you rank for many different subtopics on one site. Related pages connected through internal links make it easier for both users and bots to navigate your site. An organization silo can be especially effective for improving SEO on Shopify sites, since it puts product pages where readers are more likely to find them.
Physical silos build the linking structure directly into the URL structure. For instance, if you were physically siloing the URL of a page about a specific hairbrush, the URL might look like this:
This used to be considered an essential element of silos, but most SEO professionals now consider it to be less important. Google is too smart to be taken in by such basic URL organization. Bots need to see real content grouped to trust that your website is a good reference for your keywords.
Virtual siloing is much more relevant to the way that a search engine indexes content. An internal link structure connects groups of related pages while separating unrelated pages and strengthening the landing page of each silo. This structure cues bots to connect pages for specific keywords, making it more likely that pages will rank for those keywords. Furthermore, this style of organization is easy to navigate, since pages are where readers expect them to be.
Search engines crawl, index, and rank your website. Building links from other sites is an excellent way to get search engines to rank you well. However, it’s also important to link within your own website.
When you link internally, search engines can crawl across the pages of your site more easily. When a link is followed from an external site, there will be a higher probability that bots will continue to crawl across your pages. Furthermore, anchor text is another signal to search engines about your page content.
How to Silo Your Site Effectively
Build Top-Level Landing Pages
These landing pages are absolutely essential to the functioning of your silo strategy. Each landing page heads the silos under which all other content will fall. In our hair tools website example, landing pages might be:
Some websites recognize the overarching themes that define your site and it can be relatively simple. For the hair tools website in our example, deciding on the high-level landing pages seems relatively straightforward. For other sites, dividing your entire site into clearly defined categories may be more challenging.
It’s best to think about both your current themes and the findings from keyword research to help you reach a conclusion. Examining both what your sites are currently covering and the relevant keywords can help you see opportunities that you might be missing to extend your content.
Build Lower Level Pages
Under each landing pages are more specific pages, like this example for Hairbrushes:
Depending on your site, content, and goals, you may end up having many more categories becoming more and more specific under the landing page category. It’s best to have at least five content pages for each silo theme.
If you don’t think you can fill out enough content for a theme that you are considering, look for ways to put pages into another silo. If you have too much content for one silo, consider breaking it up into two.
Plan Crosslinks for Pages Within Each Silo
Each page in your silo should link naturally to the other pages in the silo. It’s important for pages to be connected naturally and follow the ways that people would typically search for content. Don’t forget to use anchor text to reinforce your keywords.
Lower level pages should NOT crosslink to other silo pages. This concept is fundamental to the creation of a silo. The content pages must be organized in such a way that they are separated by category. If they link to one another, your silos will be muddled.
However, lower-level pages SHOULD link to other high-level landing pages. When this is done correctly, bots and human readers will be able to navigate from any silo to the top of another silo, from where they can easily navigate down through those topics. This technique avoids the silo mishap of keeping users and bots from finding relevant content due to a lack of crosslinking.
Create Content and Build Your Silo
Content needs to be high-quality–ideally better than any competition that a search engine is likely to find. Siloing SEO depends on great content as much as any other SEO technique. Internal linking also depends on content being connected logically so that readers want to explore between pages. Use good SEO practices for all content to put each of your silos at the top of search results.
Writing titles and headings is also essential to successful SEO within your silo. Titles should accurately describe page content and subtly reinforce the ways in which this page is different than other website content in the silo.
Headings should emphasize important topics and subjects within the overall content. Google doesn’t like very long headings or excessive headings that don’t contribute to the structure of the content.
Overall Website Content Organization
Throughout your SEO siloing strategy, it is essential that you keep overall organization in mind. It can be easy to be sidetracked with including enough content and making sure that related pages link together.
However, an easy pitfall of silo SEO is making pages too difficult to access. Readers may only end up finding a small percentage of the relevant pages your website has to offer. This doesn’t just hurt the reader experience. Quality Raters at Google will hold a difficult to navigate page against you, hurting your SEO as well.
Using Flat Site Architecture
Flat site architecture utilizes internal linking, menu categories, and other tactics to ensure that no page on your site needs more than four clicks to access. Compare this to a deep architecture website, which may need as many as 10 clicks to access a given page.
Flat, or shallow, sites bring more views from the pages that get lots of backlinks, such as your homepage, to pages that may not get as much traffic that you want center-stage, such as product pages.
Flat pages don’t just improve the user experience and attract traffic to lesser-known pages–they increase the overall SEO benefits of your site. Search engines are better at finding all of the pages on your website when each page is close to a landing page.
Image from: https://backlinko.com/hub/seo/architecture
How to Organize Your Website Architecture
To take advantage of siloing without sinking pages too deep into silos for users to find them or bots to crawl them, utilize a shallow siloing technique to put pages in silos directly under landing pages that are close to the home page. Therefore, it will only take a couple of clicks to the homepage to get to any given page.
Break Up Categories
If you have huge categories encompassing many pages, break them up into smaller silos, which each contain only five or six pages. This way, you won’t have to bury pages deep within categories where they may be hard to find. If you find that you have categories that aren’t well rounded out, combine pages together or fill out more content to create even coverage across your website.
If your site is very small, you may be able to get away without categories, provided that pages are interlinked well. However, as soon as your site starts to grow, you’ll likely find that internal links aren’t cutting it, requiring categories.
Link to Main Category Pages Frequently
Your category landing pages are like the surface of the silo– you want visitors to end up there as often as possible so that they can travel down through your pages. Link to category landing pages in homepage text as well as menus.
Images from: https://backlinko.com/hub/seo/architecture
Simplicity is Key
You may tend to have more content for one category your website covers than another. However, if you let some areas become very complicated with lots of content in different levels while other areas have very little content, you’ll hurt SEO. Furthermore, you’ll hurt user experience, since anyone landing on a given page in such a website will have a hard time navigating back to what they need.
The more complicated your website gets, the harder it will be to stick to a simple SEO silo, but it is essential to keep things simple if you want this technique to be beneficial to your SEO and users.
Potential Downsides of Siloing
If you isolate content within silos in such a way as to make them difficult to find, you can negate the benefits of using silos and make your pages harder, not easier, to find. Users can only access a given piece of content by operating directly down from top-level pages. That means there is a higher probability that they’ll miss out on pages that may have interested them across silos.
Think of physical silos on a farm. These long containers may hold corn, wheat, etc. The only way to access a grain is to open that silo. Silos cannot be accessed from other silos. Similarly, a site that locks its silo architecture into a hierarchal form prevents users from navigating between silos.
Site users determined to find specific information they expect on a site may resort to using Google to search the site instead of navigating within the site. This is a clear sign of a site’s failure to build a good user experience through their site structure.
Here are a few ways to avoid those downsides:
1) Lower Content Links Consistently to High-Level Pages
When lower content is well-linked to high level silo pages, users can navigate down from the high-level pages to arrive at what they need.
For instance, a lower level page in the silo “Hairbrushes,” may direct readers to the top of the silo for “Curling irons,” when discussing using a brush for curling. Therefore, readers can still find their way to specific curling irons from a lower-level hairbrush page without crosslinking between a lower level hairbrush page and a lower level curling iron page.
2) Build a Thorough Sitemap
The primary risk of using content silos is making it hard for readers and bots to find pages within the content of your website. Internal links help by moving readers to the top of other silos. However, since there is no linking between pages in different silos, it may be more difficult for a reader to find a specific page in a different silo.
A sitemap is a huge advantage for increasing how well your website can be crawled. It enables you, and your visitors, to see your site at a glance. If any navigation has been lost in the silo, it can be recovered.
3) Use an Effective Search Tool
Is your search tool effective for finding pages across your site? If users are trying to find your pages with Google, then your search tool is failing you. Check your search tool frequently for a variety of keywords that your users may be using to make sure that it is offering all relevant pages for each keyword.
4) Clarify Menus
Are pages clearly indicated in menus so that users can easily navigate to the page they’re looking for? Remember that each category should only have half a dozen pages at most. All of your pages should be clearly visible and easy to find by category when users peruse your menu. Also, be sure that menus are easy to find and available on every page.
5) Take Advantage of Siloing Carefully
Siloing has huge advantages for SEO. However, if you’re not going to link between pages in different silos, you need to make absolutely sure that your website is easy to navigate. To benefit your SEO, silo structure needs reinforcement from the website structure to make navigation a breeze.
Incorporate a Silo System
If you want a great way to improve your SEO, a silo system is an excellent way to do it. This technique has stood the test of time for improving site SEO. While it has experienced some changes, silo building remains a great way to improve your SEO.
Other Ways You’ll Hear “Silo” in Business
The visual of a farm silo means more in business and website creation than in it’s relationship to SEO. Here are some other ways that you may hear the term “silo” that have no relation to building SEO silos.
What Does Working in Silos Mean?
Working in silos describes an organization condition in which each department works independently of one another, creating overlap and oversights. When this occurs, priorities aren’t clearly understood, steps are repeated, and workers fall into repetitive thinking patterns that kill creativity.
What is the Silo Effect and Why Does it Exist?
The silo effect refers in general to the failure of information to flow readily between parts of an organization. When different branches of the company don’t communicate well, productivity can be reduced across the organization.
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