Google loves the silo link structure.
Are you using it?
What is the silo link structure?
A silo link structure is a site architecture to clearly organize your content into keyword targeted categories or topics.
The silo structure basically results in your site having the homepage at the top, secondary pages or categories that are core-keyword centered, possibly a third layer of more related keywords, and finally a layer of posts (or pages) that all feed into the keyword level of pages (aka the silo pages). Basically, this moves all of your content into “silos” or “towers.”
All of your posts feed the silo page and the silo page feeds your homepage. Any linking between silos is recommended to be kept to a minimum to control the flow of link juice, although I typically break that rule to help improve the user experience. I should mention that, while this site uses categories and tags which are similar to silos, it doesn’t have an exact silo structure. At the moment, it is a flat structure with lots of cross linking. I may change that in the near future.
Why Google loves it
So why does Google love the silo structure?
The silo structure presents a really clear and clean order of links that makes it easy for Google to see what your site is about.
Instead of picking a blog that is mess of tons of content covering tons of stuff, Google can just pick your site with a clear silo about the topic being searched for.
The example that seems to be used a lot for this is that of a jar of gumdrops.
Some sites just put all their posts under a page called blog. That is the equivalent of putting every flavor/color of gumdrops (aka the posts or articles) into the same jar (see the image above on the left).
With the silo structure, you can instead have a different jar for every flavor/color of gumdrop.
If someone wants a red gumdrop, instead of Google giving them a jar full of assorted gumdrops (graphic on the left), they instead direct them to your jar of red gumdrops (graphic on the right).
In the eyes of Google, your clearly organized content is a better bet to meet the needs of the user than the site with content that is unorganized and all together in one big “jar.” Each post that you make in a category is then helping you to become more authoritative in that category keyword.
I don’t really have any absolute proof to prove that this works. However, several notable people in SEO have mentioned that they also believe this works. This includes:
Brian Dean at Backlinko (a well regarded SEO site) included a silo site structure in his list of Google ranking factors at number sixty five. He wrote:
“65. Site Architecture: A well put-together site architecture (especially a silo structure) helps Google thematically organize your content.”
Bruce Clay at BruceClay.com has an awsome article about the silo site structure in which he wrote:
“More often than not, a website is a disjointed array of unrelated information with no clear central theme. Such a site suffers in search engine rankings for sought after keywords. Siloing a website will serve to clarify your website’s subject relevance and will lay the groundwork for high keyword rankings. It is a core building block for search engine optimization and is normally an advanced topic.”
At the very least, I think it makes sense to organize your content to make it easier for both users and search engines to navigate your site.
How to use the Silo Structure with WordPress
To use the silo structure with WordPress, all you really need to do is:
- Come up with your keywords
- Use those keywords as category names
- Change your permalink structure to
- Customize your category pages
- Write posts and add them to categories
There are tons of strategies to come up with keywords. You may already have an idea for what you want your keywords to be. I would recommend at least going to the Google Keyword Tool and sticking your topic in. You can then find out what people are searching for and possibly refine your keywords or choose subtopics based on the results.
To use a keyword as a category, just go to the dashboard > posts > categories. From there, you can add a category.
To change your permalink structure, first back your site up, then go to the dashboard > settings > permalinks.
Choose the custom permalink and fill in eitheror and hit save changes.
You likely will need to clear your cache and may need to fix some broken links.
To customize category pages is still a bit of a challenge in WordPress. If you just want the category pages to be plain blog pages that show a list of posts in whatever format your site uses, you should be good to go. You can also customize your widgets to show on specific categories. That is useful for putting targeted ads and opt-ins on your site. There also are a lot of great plugins you can use like SumoMe or Bloom.
If you want the page to be it’s own custom page that is full of its own custom content, all you need to do is go to add pages and make a page that has the same name as the post category. Pages automatically override categories in WordPress, so the page will show instead of the category page that had all your posts from that category.
One strategy for these types of category pages that works well is to make lead magnets for each category and then use an optin plugin to promote the lead magnet on each individual category page. So I could give away a free SEO book in exchanged for an email optin on a category page called “SEO.” A lot of sites use that strategy to effectively build their email lists.
Adding new posts is fairly simple with WordPress. I should mention that if you want a post to go into multiple categories, the first category alphabetically will be the one that the post uses in its permalink structure. If you use the WP Category Permalink plugin that is recommended by WordPress on the permalink page, you can select which category you want a post to go into.
When should you use a silo?
There is definitely some debate in the SEO community as to when a silo structure is best. When having a silo structure appears as a promoted ranking factor, it typically does so somewhere down the list, meaning this isn’t exactly the most important SEO factor in the world. Content, promotion, and links are all way more important.
However, you could gain an advantage with a silo structure in the following scenarios:
- You are targeting a few, specific keywords or phrases
- Your site is a mess of content and needs to be organized
- The only page that matters on your website is the homepage, and you want to filter all the link juice to that page
You should definitely consider the silo structure if your site:
- Is in the planning stage or is brand new
- If you have lots of content but poor organic traffic
- If you are doing a redesign and changes page names and locations anyway
When should you not use a silo?
I think the silo structure is typically good and Google loves it, but you might consider not switching to it if:
- Your site is old and already has tons of posts and backlinks. By redoing your site structure, you could lose a lot of your current search traffic and referral traffic. You could redirect all those pages, which would take awhile.
- If you already have organized your content really well within WordPress. This isn’t that difficult to do as WordPress already has categories and tags, which helps with SEO. If your site is organized, you might not want to re-organize, and it might not give you that much of an SEO boost. You might also already be using another structure like the Flat structure, which Moz seems to promote.
I hope this post was helpful in explaining what the silo structure or site architecture is, how to use it in WordPress, and when to use it or not to. I think there definitely is some benefit in arranging your pages in a way that filters the link juice to your advantage and targets keywords. As that is the case, it definitely is worth considering using the silo structure.
To find out if the silo structure would be a good fit for your site, contact us today!