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.
As an experienced digital strategist, I can assure you that there is an effective way to structure your website to capture the attention of search engines like Google. One of those ways is by applying a silo structure. Different ****** 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.
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.
Link juice is the name given to the authority that is passed along whenever any page in this hierarchy receives a link from another site. It’s one of the most important SEO concepts that relates to links, and it’s one of the reasons siloing is so necessary for your website.
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.
A silo accomplishes this by providing three more specific SEO benefits:
- Siloing helps enhance the topical relevance of your website
- Siloing gives you a lot more mileage out of link building
- Siloing lets you rank much more easily for long tail keywords
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 ****** 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.
Silos that are set up properly will allow all of your smaller pages to receive the flow of link juice from each silo page above or below them, and the SEO benefits that come with it.
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 ******.
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.
To make a site that’s ready for siloing you should follow these three steps:
- Step 1: Start with good keyword research
- Step 2: Break the topic into supporting pages
- Step 3: Break the sub-topics into long-tail keyword phrases
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.
The link structure matters a lot, because it’s going to determine:
- The path that link juice travels
- The topical relevance of each existing page
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
What is it?
I call this silo configuration the top-down recycle configuration because of the way the siloing creates a continuous link juice loop. The juice runs through your website from the top, to the bottom, and then back to the top silo page.
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.
Where does it excel??
The best thing about this configuration is the power it has to recycle link juice from to any of the pages in the siloing configuration. Rather than going one way, the juice for every link moves in a circuit until it hits every page on the website.
That’s no small SEO advantage. It should improve the search engine performance for every page. However, let’s consider that this siloing configuration also has some serious shortcomings that could affect your website.
Where does it fall short?
The topical relevance provided by this siloing configuration isn’t great, and it’s potential to help you in search engines is limited by that.
Also, relevant content doesn’t get the full benefit of being linked from many other pages on the website.
As an example, look at the keto diets page. It only gets one link from the best diets silo page. Again, the meal plan page below that one only gets one link from the keto diet silo page.
Also, I feel that if you’re angling for a sale, you probably want to go the opposite direction when linking in your SEO silo. It wouldn’t bother Google search engine spiders much, but there’s an issue with what live readers experience.
A website in most niches would want the content to send live visitors the other direction. You want to link people who land from long-tail SEO keyword phrases back up to content that is more commercial in intent.
Configuration #2: The Reverse Silo
What is it?
The reverse silo configuration is very close to the last siloing model we looked at. However, there are some important differences in how link juice moves throughout the website, and how the content relates to the others.
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.
Where does it excel??
I’ve used this model on more than one website in the past. It’s one of my favorites for two main reasons.
First, I appreciate all the value that the relevance provides. The silo pages are only linked to website pages that have content directly relevant to them (unlike the last model). That’s a plus for search performance.
Additionally, this siloing model has the power to point live readers to more general and commercial pages on the website even if they land on a longtail page that’s at the very bottom of the structure.
I think this siloing model is great for beginner websites that have to be really careful with their internal linking for the sake of their SEO. It may help their content perform better on search engines with less risk.
Where does it fall short?
I don’t think this particular siloing model has any dangers for your website associated with it.
Google Search engine spiders can easily navigate it, and readers should glide easily toward more commercial topics and landing pages from whatever content they’re reading.
That doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
It could be the case that it just doesn’t do enough for your website depending on your niche and SEO needs. There’s more you could do to achieve search supremacy.
The following ****** will cover some more complex ways to empower your website.
Configuration #3: The Serial Silo
What is it?
The serial siloing model is named for the way it interlinks pages to create topical relevance laterally in addition to up-down. The silo page interlinking strategy for this configuration plays out like this:
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.
Where does it excel?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t see much search or human value in this siloing model.
It’s not going to confuse Google search engine spiders, and your living visitors won’t get lost, but your website isn’t likely to see SEO benefits except in some rare cases.
You will see some sites employing this model for their content, and that’s typically in cases where a parent page has so many topics underneath it (50+) that it’s impractical to link all the content together.
In cases like these, linking laterally could help search engines understand your site a little better. I can imagine that there are some rare situations where this works out for the content.
However, even in that case, I don’t think that linking all the various child pages to one another instead of the parent is the best way to solve the problem. I’m sure some sites could defend the choice, but I’d look to other siloing configurations.
Where does it fall short?
This is not one of my favorite silos. I think it falls short in most respects.
First, linking your website pages laterally locks you into only getting two topical relevance links (a lower one and a lateral one) for each piece of content. That’s not much, and it won’t help your search performance.
Also, the pages that end up not receiving a parent link (such as the paleo diet page in the example above) only get a single link from a sibling. The result is that not much relevance is passed on.
The content that’s being linked together in silos that are structured like this isn’t even that relevant. Keto and Paleo don’t have much to do with one another, and your website won’t benefit from connecting the two pieces of content.
Other silos just have a better chance of passing on that crucial topical relevance.
Configuration #4: YOLO Silo
What is it?
I’ll confess, YOLO silo is a name that I invented for this configuration, but that doesn’t mean this one is a fantasy.
You will see silos like this on a lot of new websites. I theorize that it’s because new SEOs think interlinking = relevancy regardless of how well the content in them matches. I don’t think Google search engine spiders are fooled.
When applied to a website, the YOLO silo looks like this.
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.
Where does it excel??
Honestly, it doesn’t. At least, I’ve never seen any real evidence that it does. Search engines won’t treat you better just because every page has dozens of connections to other pieces of content. There’s little SEO benefit.
I included it because you’re definitely going to see it on websites in the wild, and I don’t want you to wonder if I’m hiding something by not covering it. I know it exists. I just don’t think it’s effective for SEO.
I think it’s fair to say that some sites will get away with it because of other factors in their favor, but the YOLO silo doesn’t offer any advantages on its own.
Where does it fall short?
This siloing configuration doesn’t even offer the pretense of topical relevance. You’ll see content connections like “keto breakfast plans” linking to “women’s vegan diets”.
Search engines may not penalize you for this alone, but good luck creating anchors to link this many pages together without making your content look spammy to readers.
It just doesn’t make any sense for this example website, and it won’t work on any other site unless every page was somehow highly relevant to every other one.
This configuration also falls short because no page on the website is in a better position to rank. You want to set aside some kind of SEO priority for your service pages or landing pages, right?
In this one, every page has an (equally small) chance to rank, regardless of how important they are or how likely they are to make you any money.
There are better silos for almost any kind of website.
Configuration #5: Priority Silo
What is it?
The priority silo is one of my favorites. Compared to other silos, I think it’s the one that offers some of the best possible benefits for experienced SEOs, especially the ones who are using websites to move products.
To fully explain what it involves, I’m going to use two different graphics of silos in sequence.
It starts with the reverse silo configuration that I showed you earlier. Note that in this one, two pages on the website have been color-coded gold.
The two gold pages represent the ones that I’ve identified as most important.
They could be marked that way because they have a lot of money-making potential. In most cases, it will be because they’re my landing pages and I have a lot of links to affiliate products on them already.
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.
Where does it excel??
Compared to other silos, the reverse-silo is already really effective at applying topical relevance. Search engines will respond positively, as long as you don’t make other SEO mistakes elsewhere.
This configuration improves on that effectiveness by giving SEO priority to the site pages that need it most. These (gold) pages are your money pages, and they should get the most page links.
This example only includes a small selection of pages, but you could easily increase the number of internal links to your favorite pages. I’ve seen sites build silos that point as many as 30 links toward their priority pages.
That doesn’t come with SEO risks unless (as in the last example), every page is like that.
Where does it fall short?
This model doesn’t really have any standout limitations. Compared to the other silos, it doesn’t come with any particular risks for your site. Search engines aren’t likely to be put off, and it’s user-friendly enough for live readers.
The only real point of failure here is choosing the pages that you want to prioritize poorly. If you pick the wrong pages, this configuration would still work—the SEO results just wouldn’t be worth anything.
I see silos like this on some of the most successful sites online. Most SEO pros understand that they shouldn’t be relying on mimicking any model too closely.
This lets them apply their personal experience.
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?
The difference is that 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:
Dietmasters.com (folder) / Dietmasters.com/vegan-diet / Dietmasters.com/paleo-diet / Dietmasters.com/keto-diet (folder) // Dietmasters.com/keto-diet/supplements // Dietmasters.com/keto-diet/app // Dietmasters.com/keto-diet/meal-plan (folder) /// Dietmasters.com/keto-diet/meal-plan/breakfast /// Dietmasters.com/keto-diet/meal-plan/for-men /// Dietmasters.com/keto-diet/meal-plan/for women
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.
What kind of anchor text should you use when sending links to internal pages?
How relevant do pages need to be to link them?
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.
What is the most important page to link from?
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 ****** 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.
Remember, when it comes to interlinking, you have 3 main goals. You want to:
- Link to pages that are relevant
- Link to pages you want to rank
- Link to even more pages you want to rank
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.
I did my best to answer some of the biggest questions that apply to interlinking, but you may have more of them. If you’d like to get more tips or learn some secrets that aren’t this article, join The Affiliate Lab.
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