An Overview Of Silo Structures For SEO Results

Overview Of Website Structure

Like al forms of media information, we want to organise a website into sections, so that we can easily find what we need, when we need. This is probably one of the most basic aspects of on page SEO for Irish businesses. In the library, books are carefully categorized into sections and in the department store, each item is in it s relevant section too.

So when it comes to websites, we need to do the same but not just for the site users, but also for the search engines.

When a search engine takes a look at our site, it wants to know if our site or page, covers a topic in depth. To do this it will compare words and phrases on our site with similar sites to check if we've covered all the bases.

But it also looks carefully at how the information is organised. If we have a page that's main theme or topic is kitchen appliances and all of our links go to other pages specific to different types of kitchen appliance, then Google knows that the article is highly relevant and focused on this topic.

So What Is A Website Silo?

The idea of silo arcitecture and design was first put forward by Bruce Clay and all it is organising your subject matter into carfully planned themes. 

Of course there is a bit more to it than this, but this is the essential idea.

The Theory Behind Silos

Let's take a look at it from a local business perspective. A lawyer generally operates in more than one area of the law. Maybe practising Family Law & Divorce.

Google sees these two areas of the law as completely different and will produce vastly different results for the different searches. If our example client wants to rank for these closely related terms then the website must be structured with a separate silo for each term. And content must be built to support each page to show that the topic is covered in full. Here's a nice graphic to illustrate this.

seo silo

In the above example we can see that we have a 'hero' page that is tightly focused on the main keyword that we want to rank. Then we have child pages that cover important related topics and finally we have blog posts with important but not essential information.

All of the content is carefully liked within the structure to show the webcrawlers that it is thightly themed. We also link upwards in the silo so that all the authority and juice flows toward that one page we want to rank for.

WordPress & Silos

For a few years, WordPress was a bit of a nuisance to build silos with due to an issue with category pages overriding the hero pages. But mostly we don't have to worry about that anymore. 

Most modern themes allow the redirecting of category pages to the hero page with little fuss.

Researching Your Topic

Like all SEO, in-depth research is the key. When planning your silos you need to be sure that all aspects of the topic are covered. I usually start with an investigation of Wikipedia and then move on to the strongest competition nationally. All these ideas go into a Google spreadsheet with the main themes and the key terms that should be covered on each page.

Creating A Content Plan

A content plan is essential to stay organised and cover all the necessary work. Especially if you are farming the content creation out outsourced writers. Below is a screengrab of a working Google sheet I use to track content creation.

Posts Or Pages & Which Is Better?

People often argue about the difference between using pages & posts. Basically don't worry about it. Personally I use the following structure for most sites Home>GeoLocation>Topic>BlogPost

I find it works just fine. The Geo-Location page is usually a relevant city name and I find it works better than a 'services' page.

301 Redirects, Categories & Website Silos

There's a wealth of different WordPress plugins out there if your site theme is not silo friendly. Network Empire have one which I don't like but is popular and can be found by Googling it. Personally I recommend using Yoast and Simple 301 Redirects.

WP & Clean URL Structures

Whilst this is not the deep dive in website structure and linking strategies that it might be, I should point out that there are essentially two types of Silo structure. URL based and Virtual based.

In the first the URL structure is used to show the search engines the site hierarchy. This can be reinforced by using 'breadcrumbs' and then the internal linking pattern.

In the second, you use only the linking structure to create the silo and nominate the 'hero' page via those said links.

Which is more powerful is open to debate, but by using the URL, breadcrumbs and links, I think these are clearer signals to Google about your site hierarchy.

Types Of Silos

A lot has been made of different types of linking patterns between pages and different silo structures but it all comes down to how you want the link juice to flow through your site and which is the page that you want to rank.

Do Breadcrumbs Matter?

Breadcrumbs are often maligned by the old school SEO folks as they 'leak' link juice and also stop the webmaster from controlling the internal anchor text is used. This comes from the idea Google will only count the first link and it's anchor text to another page. 

Like a lot of Google, this is a blackbox issue and I have not see a valid test to back it up. In my view with the rise in the semantic web it's more useful to use 'breadcrumbs'.

Interlinking Silos Correctly

This is a huge area of confusion in SEO circles and one which very few people get right. The core thing to remember is that links should only go to highly relevant pages. Generally, if you have structured your site correctly these will be within your themed silo structure. But there are always exceptions...

As a general rule of thumb, only cross link within sections and link to the above 'hero' page.

When you are linking out to external sites, these links should also be highly thematically relevant and to be honest, if your site and site sections are highly themed, these outbound links should be kept to a minimum.

It's also good practice to reduce the number of links on a page. For example, all footer links should be removed from low level silo pages if possible.

Conclusion & Summation

This is a hugely important area that most SEO's just don't know about. Worse still is trying to deal with web designers who don't understand the most basic concepts of SEO. Check here for an onpage seo checklist.

My article above is light on graphics and some people need visuals to fully grasp the concept, I would recommend taking a look at Webris here or the original and still the best article by Bruce Clay here


About the Author

Foley has been helping businesses increase their revenue and boost their online presence for 4 years. He enjoys jogging, beer and tinkering with the web.