There’s more than one way to bake a cake—and more than one way to structure your website.
Hungry for better rankings, happier customers, and a simple, intuitive way of planning content? We’ve got the recipe for you.
We’re talking, of course, about siloing. We’ve cooked up this article to help you understand the what, why, and how of siloing. Best of all, we’ve got the perfect recipe for creating site silos: It only takes 3 easy steps!
There’s a lot of tasty content to cover, so let’s get straight to it:
What is a silo structure?
Silo structures are one way you can organize your website; it’s a method that has a lot of benefits for SEO. These structures allow you to group content about a specific topic, then interlink between those pages.
The best way to describe a silo structure is by showcasing one visually. Imagine we have a website about baking—let’s call it bakingenjoyers.com. We bake almost everything, but three of our main categories are bread, cake, and pie. We’ve got a lot of content for each—so we can create silos for each of those topics. Our silos might look like this:
Each arrow represents a link. As you can see, all of the content links to related content and back to the main page of the content silo. All content will also link back to the main page of your site—though this is often achieved through link headers and footers.
Note that the content from one silo does not link to the content in other silos. The lack of links between categories is, in fact, what makes a silo a silo.
I’ll let you in on a little secret—there are plenty of reasons to link between silos. Realistically, sites should include interlinking any time the content calls for it—but there are some problems with the “always interlink”. I’ll discuss these problems in greater depth later in the article, but they can be summed up with the statement, “Silos allow you to clearly visualize how traffic flows through your website”.
What types of websites can benefit from a site silo?
Any type of website can benefit from using siloing. Siloing is used by:
- Local businesses
- E-commerce businesses
- Affiliate sites
- And basically every other type of website you can imagine
With site silos, you build self-sustaining ecosystems in which users take themselves through sales funnels. As they read through your silos, they glean more about your company and products, all while learning more about the topics they care about. By consistently linking between pages in your silo, you ensure that your users have a never-ending stream of content to enjoy.
That’s useful for every type of website. You can interlink between content pages, product pages, and more—as long as you’ve got well-thought-out silos, your users will appreciate the effort.
What are the benefits of creating a site silo?
There are several key benefits to creating a silo, no matter what kind of website you’re siloing:
Silos simplify content creation
One of the biggest benefits of creating site silos is that they enable you to quickly identify which of your most important pages need more supporting content. Take our “Cake” silo, for example: We’ve got a whole bunch of different cake flavors but nothing on birthday cake or wedding cake—two very popular keywords that we definitely want to target.
We can build more supporting content easily because we know that people aren’t usually in the market for birthday pie or wedding bread. In other words, siloing gives you the ability to visualize the type of supporting content you’ll need for your most important pages.
Silo structures are extremely easy to follow. Each page in your silo will link back to the silo’s category page as well as to at least one page within the silo. Take, for example, our hypothetical page on wedding cake. It’s easy to understand how that page can link back to the main “Cake” page of our silo.
It’s also easy to find other internal linking opportunities. You can link to vanilla cake, multi-layered cake, chocolate cake—basically any flavor of cake you can imagine—from your wedding cake page.
Note that you don’t have to link from every internal page to every internal page in a silo—only use links when it makes sense. Remember, Google uses these links to establish context for your website, and your users will use them to learn more about the silo topic—and your company. Keep things clean!
Silos speed up decision-making
In theory, you can create a silo without creating a visual representation of your silo. In other words, you can simply create your main category pages, then create supporting pages and interlinking between them.
I don’t recommend this method.
One of the main advantages of siloing is that you can quickly refer to a simple visual model of your site’s structure. This allows you to evaluate which pages need more support, the types of supporting content you’ve already created, and what content links to what—all at a glance.
Organizing your content into an easily digestible graphic will seriously help you improve your on-page SEO.
Now that you understand the benefits of creating silos, let’s move on to the meat of the article—how to create the perfect silo.
The 3 steps to creating the perfect site silo
1: Use a tool like Lucidchart
Remember our chart for bakingenjoyers.com? I made that chart in a tool called Lucidchart. I highly recommend it for making your own site silos. The tool is absolutely free, and there are a ton of cool features that make it especially useful for diagramming silos. You can, for example, take advantage of a whole bunch of free style templates.
Here’s another version of the chart—I changed it with just a click:
Lucidchart has many useful features, some of which are already on display here. You can see the arrow function—it allows you to map exactly where you want your links to come from and go to.
Another handy feature is the “Sticky Notes” object. As you (probably) know, content creation is a never-ending process. You’ll need to keep building your silos out as long as your site exists—a point I’ll discuss in greater detail later in this article.
Sticky notes allow you to create content ideas as a part of your silo chart and to easily distinguish between content you’ve already created and WIPs. This makes Lucidchart a great tool for creating silos around your existing content and for planning future content.
The final handy Lucidchart feature I wanted to discuss is the ability to link to your pages from your Lucidchart chart. This makes it easy to keep track of which pages are live.
The fact that Lucidchart comes with all of these features as a freemium tool is pretty outstanding. You can get everything we mentioned here for free—and you can upgrade if you want access to more features.
2. Identify your money pages and map out the silo around them
The “money pages” of each site will depend heavily on the type of website you’re building. Some sites make their money off of affiliate links. Local businesses may make money from their booking page. E-commerce businesses make money off of category pages featuring their products.
Let’s use an e-commerce business as an example—namely, our faux-bakery bakingenjoyers.com.
We’re an e-commerce page, and our money pages are our category pages—namely, “Bread”, “Cake”, and “Pie”. These pages all feature products we sell. We’ll want to ensure that we’ve got content-heavy silos for each of those pages, and with each, we build links back to the category page.
Creating content on your category pages
For our silo strategy to work, we’ll need reciprocal linking; our content will link back to our main category pages, and our category page will need to link to our content in turn.
There are a number of ways of going about this. One of my favorites is to create content on our category pages and link from that content to supporting content through contextual links (links found within the content).
It’s usually best practice to write the bulk of your content in the bottom portion of your category pages, well below the fold. This keeps your products front and center on the page while still giving you plenty of space to create internal links. Written content is also useful for giving Google context about your category pages that it might not be able to glean through headings, alt text, and other common category page features.
Siloing is both a method of plotting your site’s internal linking structure and a reference to how those pages are actually interlinked. You should know, then, that not all links are built equally. Your site will have structural links (found within nav bars, footers, and the like), image links (images that link to other pages or links to the source of the image you’ve used), and the aforementioned contextual links.
Contextual links tend to be the most powerful. Users are more likely to click on contextual links, and you can use relevant anchor text for those links to give search engines more context for your pages.
The driving motive of internal linking strategies is to pass “link juice” (authority) from one page to another. By ensuring that you have powerful contextual links back to your category pages, you’ll ensure that high-ranking supporting content passes its authority to your money pages.
That’s the power of a great internal linking strategy—and it’s one of the reasons why I love siloing.
Adding existing blogs to your silos
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’ve already developed content to support your website. Fortunately, silo structures are very accommodating, and you can add your existing content to silos.
All you have to do is figure out which silo your content belongs in, then create links to the silo from your content (and vice versa). Imagine, for example, that we already had a page on “The Historical Significance of Apple Pie”—it’s easy to see how we could add that content into our new “Pie” silo.
3. Keep building it out
SEO is a process—and so is silo-building. You’ll need to keep creating content for as long as you’re trying to improve your website’s rank—and you should never stop trying to improve your website’s rank.
Let’s look at a few of the ways you’re likely to build content into your silo framework:
Adding content to existing silos
Your silos will allow you to plan content well in advance—but eventually, you’ll reach the end of the content you initially planned for your silo.
One of the biggest advantages of developing content in silos is that it’s easy to see which pages are performing well, which topics you’ve covered, and which silos need more content.
Best practices are still at play here—you’ll want robust keyword research to figure out which topics fit well into your silos and well-written, unique content to help you get users into your silos—and keep them there.
You should be updating your silos regularly—even if all the content in the silos hasn’t been created yet. You can do this by using Lucidchart’s Sticky Notes feature, as we discussed above.
Creating new silos
As new products are developed, new affiliate junctures are found, and new opportunities are discovered, you may need to build new silos. As long as your new money pages are different enough from your existing pages, new silos are a good idea.
There are two things to consider when creating new silos: What new content you’ll want to make for them and whether or not existing content would serve your new silo better.
Remember, however, that changing the links to and from your existing content affects your overall silo structure, so be careful how and when you change links to content. Be sure to replace any content you move to a new silo with new content.
We heard you liked silos—so we put a silo in your silo.
Nesting silos is an excellent strategy when you have several related silos. Imagine, for example, that we have a category page for “Desserts” on bakingenjoyers.com. We might decide to nest the “Cake” and “Pie” silo within the “Desserts” silo; we might add other silos like a “Cupcake” silo.
Even within our “Cake” silo, we might find opportunities for nested silos. We might, for example, realize that “Wedding Cake'' deserves a money page of its own. Building content around wedding cakes—but having that content remain within the “Cake” silo—might be a very reasonable decision.
There are things to keep in mind when nesting silos—and when building silos in general. Your site structure is still relevant. You want all of your money pages to be accessible from your home page—even if those money pages are nested within other silos. Keep your site structure as shallow as possible—most content should be accessible within 2-3 clicks from your home page.
Tips for managing site silos
Linking between silos
You might be tempted to link between silos; at times, doing so might seem like it makes a lot of sense.
Imagine, for example, that we realize there’s an interest in wedding pies. We’ve got our “Pie” silo and our “Cake” silo (which may even have a “Wedding Cake” silo nested within it). Logically, we’d want to link between our “Wedding Pie” page and our “Wedding Cake” page—people who are planning a wedding will likely be interested in both.
Here’s the problem—once we link between silos, they’re no longer silos.
The point of silos is to create a network of internal links that feed each other; these links all address similar topics, giving Google and users more context about your website. Want to link between silos? Here are three things to consider:
- Re-imagine your silo structure. In our case, we might realize that “Wedding” is a worthy silo all on its own and put all wedding-related baking into that silo. You’ll want to be cautious moving existing content to new silos—you don’t want to lose that link juice—but it can be worthwhile if you’ve noticed you’re linking between certain types of pages often.
- Link between silos—but sparingly. By limiting how often you link between silos, you’ll still send important contextual signals to search engines, all while allowing your users to navigate to relevant pages. Be careful, though—it’s easy to be tempted into continually linking between silos, which will inevitably destroy your carefully planned structure.
- Abandon your silo structure entirely. We love silos because they’re easy to understand, they’re simple to implement, and yield results. They aren’t, however, strictly necessary. You can implement a simple pyramid structure on your site and link between pages as you want. Eventually, you might reach this point—but when you first start working on internal linking, we highly recommend silos.
Silos and subfolders
When building silos, your first instinct might be to keep everything in the same subfolder. We might, for example, have bakingenjoyers.com/pie as our “Pie” content page. Anything found within that subfolder would be supporting content or a product page—e.g., “bakingenjoyers.com/pie/strawberry” or “bakingenjoyers.com/pie/what-is-the-best-pie-for-a-wedding”.
This is an easy way of organizing things—but it’s not strictly necessary. Siloing can happen whether or not all the content for the silo is located in the same subfolder. You might, for example, want to reserve your /pie/ subfolder for products only. It’s fine to keep all of your “Pie” silo-related content in your /blog/ folder as long as that content links to your “Pie” silo page (and vice versa).
There’s a lot to love about site silos. They:
- Are easy to visualize and implement
- Create powerful positive feedback loops
- Help search engines understand your website
- Keep users engaged with your content
We use silos for many of our SerpFocus clients—and we think you should use silos on your own websites. The benefits of siloing are extremely positive, and there’s a low barrier to entry. Easy wins are something we always look for in the world of SEO—and they’re exactly what siloing offers.
Until next time!