Website Silo Architecture: SEO Siloing Simplified

To draw on a visual analogy, most websites are like the image of mixed fruit below (which makes it difficult for a search engine to determine the topicality or relevance of the website (or more importantly the page) when trying to determine what to rank that page for or why.

Mixed Fruit

Most Websites Are Structured Like The Image Above

Website silo architecture is the process of implementing a structure whereby each topic is housed in it’s own mini-site within the site and the internal linking pushes ranking factor back up to the primary / topic page otherwise dubbed the “silo landing page”.

While SEO is simpler than most so called “experts” imply, it’s like the difference between a short order cook and a chef, they both cook food and often use the same ingredients, but it’s how they use them that matters.

Similarly, when you dial in the appropriate on page and off page SEO using website silo architecture, then regardless of whether your website is aged or new, a website which previously had zero presence can instantly sprout wings and start ascending the SERPs (search engine result pages) to the top 5 results.

On the contrary, if your execution lacks the proper structure for the granular ingredients, then lackluster results are sure to follow. You have to (a) understand your topic (b) create a top down model (starting from broad phrases to specific categories and supporting content) and (c) put each thing in its proper place.

So, what is the proper way to structure a result-driven SEO campaign? Here’s our take on five fundamental methods which we have deemed evergreen SEO principles we’ve used for years to create proven results.

  1. Proper Title and URL structure.
  2. Proper H1 Use (to mirror title and URL).
  3. Proper site structure (cascading tiers of relevance).
  4. Theme relevant internal linking.
  5. The proper amount of link flow (to reach and exceed the tipping point).

Proper Title and URL Structure

By using specific shingles (groups of words) in the title (with prominent keywords first) you send the strongest SEO signal to search engines (as they attempt to determine the topic of your page).

The more diffused (or verbose) a title is, the less effective it is for SEO. For example, if I am trying to rank for insurance rates, then those shingles should be the sole or primary page title as well as the URL structure should follow suit such as domain.com/insurance-rates/

While conversion cues must be balanced with SEO, it is possible to get the best of both worlds through using synonyms or plural variations in the title while keeping it succinct and relevant.

For example, a title such as -  Insurance Rates: Find the Best Rate and Affordable Prices! (which also includes keywords like best, prices, rate and rates) in case consumers use a long-tail query, then your landing page can rank for all potential variations of any of the shingles.

Proper H1 Usage

Using the proper H1 tag (header tag) is a common tried and true SEO technique; if you use WordPress then your permalink (page title) can easily be switched to your H1 tag by simply changing your style sheet.

If you are using other CMS (content management systems) or static html pages, similarly, the suggestion to mirror your title and URL structure with the primary keyword is ideal. Such as the example above, the H1 tag should be “Insurance Rates”.

One little trick is, you can also make the H1 (Header Tag / Text) a link and link that either to the home page or pass that ranking factor on to another page you intend to rank. If you are properly theming your website using website silo architecture, then it is possible to feed the primary silo landing page from your category pages this way (to page rank flows up and back to the primary landing page) from nested pages that support the category.

Proper Site Structure

Think of your website in tiers, those tier represent the natural data hierarchy of your website. Starting with your home page (in the root folder), this is tier 1 and the starting point for your SEO.

The root folder is the natural destination for your most prominent pages and should house your primary landing pages in the first tier. This is because eventually, all the nested pages will pass their link-flow back to the root and you can scale laterally with multiple silo landing pages for competitive keywords and markets.

Here is a visual aid to assist provided by Network Empire.

Sample of Properly Siloed Website

Using the example from above, domain.com/insurance-rates  – would be my Silo Landing Page, i.e. the keyword I want to rank for. Now, by adding relevant categories and supporting articles, you can give any landing /silo page wings in the SERPs (search engine result pages).

Theme-Relevant Internal Linking

To implement theme-relevant internal linking, It is linked from my homepage with the keyword “insurance rates” as the anchor text to reinforce it. I would also use contextual anchor text links to any other silo landing pages that need tier one link flow to support them.

By writing a contextual article and linking to the silo landing pages from the homepage, any link juice my homepage receives, get ring-fenced and passed along to the on page editorial links (the silo landing pages / preferred keyword landing pages) by design.

The next tier is your category pages; these will become the hub page that sites on tier 2 one folder away from the root.

The category page and primary landing page share a similar URL structure, but the primary landing page is the grandparent and the category parent, next up the posts or supporting articles are the children of the parent/category page.

For example (to support my silo landing page, I would create a category called “affordable insurance rates” since it is thematically relevant to the silo landing page.

On that page, if I wanted to use the H1 tag to link back to the primary landing page with “insurance rates” it would pass along that link flow, when I add the tier 3 pages (blog posts/products or articles) depending on the type of site you are building.

Domain.com/insurance-rates/affordable-insurance-rates/ – whereby the silo landing page becomes the grandparent, the category the parent and the post/supporting article becomes the child.

The third tier would be used for adding supporting content under the nested theme relevant category which has the primary purpose of acting as a controlled portion of the website to administer all content that contains the primary or secondary keywords associated with the primary silo landing page.

Adding the Proper Amount of Link-Flow

Link flow is created from linking from page to page with the appropriate anchor text. Link-flow also takes the number of inbound and outbound links in addition to the strength and thematic relevance of the links. Siloing passes maximum link flow by capping contextual links (from only linking within the silo) and each page is linked via navigation by virtue of the category.

As an example, if I added supporting articles to the affordable insurance rates category they would also be theme related and contain a contextual link that linked back to my category page, which in turn links to my silo landing page (primary landing page in the root).

I would add pages like:

  • Best insurance rates
  • Save money on insurance
  • Compare insurance rates

And each would become a post attached to the category, such as: domain.com/insurance-rates/affordable-insurance-rates/compare-insurance-rates

And have navigational links to everything in that category, while linking back to the silo landing page with the contextual keyword it is trying to rank for “insurance rates”.

The benefit to this type of siloing (using a helix link structure for the data hierarchy) is that the primary keyword (the most competitive phrase) gets ranked from the pooling link flow becoming buoyant underneath it and the category and supporting articles also get ranked as a side benefit (from the internal linking from the navigation).

To take this a step further, you can mix the anchor text shingles and link back to the category / or silo landing page with multiple anchors (to create keyword stemming).

Or, if you wanted to purely silo the page, then you would link in your navigation from the tier 3 pages back to your category page and use the contextual links from the nested supporting articles to link to the primary silo landing page (and not link across to other silos or silo landing pages from any category) only the parent or grandparent (Silo Landing Page).

Building sites in this method produce tectonic shifts in rankings, the only thing you need to is (a) continue to drip fresh content and (b) start link building using deep links to the silo landing page or the category pages.

There is no need to link to the supporting articles, unless you want to give them a boost, since, over time, they too will rank (from sharing the collective PageRank and link-flow of the theme cluster you created).

Website Silo Architecture SEO Tools Under Development

Siloing can be difficult, which is why to make this simple, this feature has been integrated into our upcoming theme WP Ultimate (which is still undergoing fine tuning). We will however, be releasing our plugin the WP Silo Importer that works in tandem with Domain Web Studio and allows you to build theme relevant optimized WordPress sites in minutes (instead of painstakingly publishing dozens or hundreds of pages by hand).

In order to use the advanced silo importer, you will require a subscription to DWS. But we also have a basic silo importer inside The WP Ultimate Theme that allows you to quickly and easily create categories and nested posts on the fly.

The advanced silo importer however is far superior and adds a parent silo landing page, ties the category (using a page not a post) to keep link flow buoyant (so your rankings stick) and then uses the posts as the last tier after the categories.

The WP Silo Importer Plugin (released within 7-10 days to the DWS community) also uses shortcode which you can inject into pages or sidebars to instantly build our all of the navigational elements for theming your content. Doing this by hand on a 100 page site would take hours, with our plugin, merely seconds.

So, the takeaway is, proper planning from theming the website at the beginning of a campaign, combined with tactful supporting content and site structure can save you months on the way to page one and allow you to rank for multiple keywords with 1/10th of the links as a mixed-fruit website.

Or Stick Around and Read More Posts

20 Comments

  1. Matthew Sweet
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Hi Jeffrey,

    Wow, thanks for such a great article and I’m really looking forward to seeing the new Theme in action.

    I have a question, can I add links to each supporting article in a category in the sidebar on each of the article pages? So if there are 10 supporting articles, will there only be links to the other categories (parents) or can their be links to siblings and a single link to the parent category?

    The reason I ask is that I like the idea of answering a list of questions in a category as supporting articles – and allowing the user to see those questions listed in the sidebar.

    Otherwise I can have all the categories listed in the sidebar on a supporting article page and ask the user to click through to answer the next question at the end of the article.

    I hope that make sense, thanks!

    Matt

  2. Mike Claggett
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Great article Jeffery,

    Before I get started on this comment, I want to thank Matthew for his comment and would also like very much to see your response to his questions.

    There were a couple of places in this article where I found myself with a big “HUH” Question Mark swelling in my brain; but only a couple.

    I’ve been a VERY happy user of your “Ultimate SEO” plugin for … hmmmm maybe 5 years now. It’s made me a real hero with my “Local Business SEO” clients.

    Here is one example I think I have followed SEO Design Solutions’ lead on “Website Silo Architecture” and it will help me to better explain my questions.

    *** GEO-Tagging for Local SEO Questions ***
    First Question – Changing listed landing page in SERPs.

    I developed this site and did the SEO (Ongoing), for an Auto Body Shop in Menifee California.

    Domain: MenifeeBodyShop.com

    If you Google “Menifee Body Shop” you’ll see he has the “A” listing in Google Places and a BEE UTE TEE FULL multi-page listing position 1 in organic.

    While that is wonderful, one of the pages I wanted in that multi-page listing is missing. And the “Contact” and “Directions” pages need not be listed.

    If you take a look at the site you’ll see on each page, a page description below the logo and menu that is in an H2 tag.

    In the listing on Google, the Tinting page is not listed. So if I understand you correctly from this statement in your article:

    “One little trick is, you can also make the H1 (Header Tag / Text) a link and link that either to the home page or pass that ranking factor on to another page you intend to rank.”

    If I were to use an H1 tagged head line in the child pages of the “Tinting” page but linked that H1 tagged headline to the “Tinting” page, that action could might then replace one of the other pages in the Google SERPs Multi-Page listing?

    I hope I haven’t botched this question. Sure would make me even more of a hero if I could pull that one off.

    I really appreciate your posts and bounce in her as often a possible.

    I had another question but I’ll do it in another comment to keep them separate. This one is a bit long and I apologize for that. (Talk about verbose :)

    Anxiously awaiting your reply.

    Mike C.

  3. Mike Claggett
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    OK – Now for the actual GEO-Tagging question.

    Because many locals tend to include city name or zip code as part of their search query, I’m wondering if having the city name as part of the primary keyword for a silo landing page, for each landing page would carry some kind of keyword stuffing penalty.

    But would doing so be better for a local site’s SEO?

    Thanks again.

    Mike C.

  4. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    @Matt:

    Sorry for the long sabbatical prior to the reply, been traveling a bit.

    We have all the internal silo / navigation level mapping worked out in the form of short codes. You can either (a) add it to the html version of the page and publish (and the navigational elements with excerpts will be included or (b) just use the silo navigation (without excerpts) and and it will include (1) the child articles associated with that silo and (2) the primary silo landing page (anchor text) back to feed that silo and category only.

    The reason being, from your home page you would essentially link to all of your silos and categories, but once you are in that category, only others in the category are present. This ring fences the link flow and Page rank and pushes it back to the top (silo landing page). So, essentially, you could opt to do it your way and add other categories, but the option we suggest is to keep each silo pure and only link up to the silo landing page (contextually) but use navigational links (through either sidebar short code widget or within the article itself).

    Let me know if that answers your question.

    Thanks,

  5. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    @Mike:

    For your sitelinks, there is a section inside of Google webmaster tools that allows you to promote or deny pages as site links, or at least block the ones you do not want to show. I completely understand your dilemma, but in this case, you may need to do more internal linking to the preferred landing page “tinting” from creating supporting articles with the primary shingle / keyword “tinting”.

    From there, you would only link your category page for “tinting” to the “tinting” silo landing page http://www.domain.com/window-tinting and thereby pass along all the ranking factor from all the posts/pages in the category back to the primary landing page (from linking to the silo page from the category with the h1/link).

    So, first >>> kill the listings you do not want in webmaster tools, then second>>> create a small silo for tinting and then promote it with internal links and deep links to give it wings.

    Make sense?

  6. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    @Mike:

    For the GEO question, here is reply…

    No keyword stuffing penalty, you may need to use supporting articles instead of making silo or category pages, since most local keywords (a) have less competing pages and (b) also do not create a ton of search volume (hence, they are easy to topple with the right site architecture).

    You could include State, City, and Zip codes on landing pages (like, serving the following zip codes) to boost on page relevance, but keep the titles laser focused and create a page for each city with the primary keyword.

  7. Mike Claggett
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    Jeffery,

    Thank you so much for clarifying those points for me.

    About 6 hours ago I became a “Network Empire” member. I can already see where a LOT of things I was a little foggy about or had made mistaken assumptions about are already and will be becoming Crystal Clear. The fog is lifting and it’s going to be a sunny SEO 2012 for me.

    I want you thank you and SEO Design Solutions for directing me to “Network Empire.

  8. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    @Mike:

    Those are the people I hang with, there is no parallel online, honestly…

    Welcome to the community.

  9. Marcelo
    Posted July 21, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Gday guys I’m pretty much still earning my stripes and need some help..

    I creating a new WP site and I installed the SEO Ultimate plugin. Can you send a how to create a silo structure using the plugin?

    Your input is much appreciated.

  10. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    We have a plugin that does it for you – http://www.networkempire.com/dap/a/?a=152&p=www.networkempire.com/sales-page/silo-plugin-sales-page/

  11. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Check out our new plugin that silos properly and builds navigation structure – http://www.networkempire.com/dap/a/?a=152&p=www.networkempire.com/sales-page/silo-plugin-sales-page/

  12. Dave Evans
    Posted December 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    As regards to internal link structure (I am not an SEO expert) I understand you want relevent anchor text linking your pages. BUT is it benifical to build lots of pages that link back to the index page.i.e lots of site content in separate pages. OR is it better to keep your content on fewer pages?

  13. Bill M
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Jeffrey:

    You have easily the best SEO blog on the web. Question: nofollow links are ineffective for link sculpting – you still pay a link juice penalty for the link.

    I have some pages that I don’t want indexed, and I don’t want to pass juice to them either. If I make the links to those pages noindex/nofollow, will the links still cost me juice?

    If so, how do I block the pages and keep the juice?

    Thx-

    Bill M

  14. Thabiso
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Jeff:

    If use the DWS plugin, do i need to stay a member of network empire for it to work even after i have created silos with it on my wordpress blogs. My plan is to stay a member for at least two months and during that time create silos for wordpress blogs. Would this silos still function after ceasing membership?

    I so need the plugin but the monthly fee is steep for me. Is there a place where i can be a sub member for a reduced monthly fee?

    Will appreciate you input.

  15. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi:

    The plugin will work after you have created them, but you may not be able to add new content to the permalink structure since we rewrote the way wordpress outputs the heirarchy for nodes. I am not aware of any sub fee, but you may be able to downgrade membership.

    Jeffrey

  16. Tony Eason
    Posted February 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    On Wednesday, I have a meeting with a client – Thank you for the SILO Architecture Information [needed to brush up on the subject matter].

  17. Anurag
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Hi Jeff..

    i am the regular reader of your posts and these ideas are really work,now waiting for WP Silo Importer Plugin …Keep it up

  18. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    No Worries Tony, hope you crush it for them in their market…

  19. Jeffrey_Smith
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    The deeper the silo (supporting articles) the more powerful the silo (and more of the online conversation you can rank for).

  20. Zane
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this
    onto a friend who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner simply because I found it for him.
    .. lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!

    ! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this topic here
    on your website.

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