SEO Siloing: What, Why, How
What is SEO siloing? Why should you do SEO siloing? And how do you silo a website?
These are common questions that site owners have as they embark on their journey of strategic search engine optimization.
In this article, I’ll give the what, the why and how of SEO siloing so you can build a better website that:
- Demonstrates expertise and authority
- Is more relevant to your desired search queries
- Helps you rank better in the search engine results pages
Here’s the outline:
What Is SEO Siloing?
SEO siloing is a search engine optimization technique that structures a website’s content by grouping related webpages together in hierarchical categories based upon how people search.
The goal is to have the top of each silo be based upon popular queries and to build a hierarchy containing content about that keyword. By having a concentration of content matching popular queries, you become a subject matter expert, satisfying the expertise component of E-A-T.
As an example, say you owned a website on power tools, and you sold cordless power tools, electric power tools and gas-powered tools.
You could set up your navigation in such a way that all the pages related to cordless power tools were in one silo or category, all the pages related to electric power tools in another, and all pages related to gas-powered tools in yet another (as illustrated below).
Why Do SEO Siloing?
SEO siloing helps to improve the relevancy of a website for desired search terms in order to rank better in the search engine results pages. It is a necessary method for establishing expertise.
SEO siloing is a secret weapon in search engine optimization. It not only demonstrates to the search engines that a website is an expert on a topic, but it organizes content in a way that is designed for search engines to crawl and understand, and for users to find and browse.
Make it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site. Add navigation pages when it makes sense and effectively work these into your internal link structure. Make sure all of the pages on your site are reachable through links, and that they don’t require an internal “search” functionality to be found. Link to related pages, where appropriate, to allow users to discover similar content.
Make a site with a clear hierarchy aligned by words users would type and with pages containing a reasonable number of text links that point to the important parts of your site.
–Our summary of Google Webmaster Guidelines
SEO siloing serves a dual purpose:
- Siloing creates a good user experience for people when they come to a website — the content is easy to find and browse. This can result in more time on the website.
- Siloing helps search engines determine relevance, and that better positions the site for ranking for its keywords.
When a person searches for something on Google, for example, one of the ways that search engines determine the most relevant webpages for a search is by examining indexed webpages and then the overall website structure.
This can help determine if a website has enough supporting content for the keywords/search terms used (in other words, the search engine is assessing if the website is an authority). Clearly organized content helps create relevance.
The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important. Although Google’s search results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site.
–Google, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide
Siloing is a foundational SEO technique that should be a part of any SEO strategy. While it is not the only factor in ranking, without it, the relevancy battle is lost.
Plus, siloing has the ability to drive tangible results as part of an SEO program, such as more visibility in the search results, more traffic and more revenue.
How To Do SEO Siloing
Siloing involves doing research on your website, your audience, and the search terms they would use when looking for your products, services and information. Armed with that data, you can create a plan for how you will organize the content/webpages on your website.
Finding a Theme
You first need to understand what the theme of your site is. Think of your website as a book, and its navigation as chapters in the table of contents. If your website were a book, what would the theme be? What sort of chapters would support this theme?
There are several questions you can ask yourself to discover the theme if you’re stuck:
- What services, products or types of information do you offer? Each service, product or category of information can be a silo.
- What topics are you currently ranking for?
- What search queries would your intended audience use to find your product, services or information?
- What are some missed opportunities for how you could theme your site? (Check out the SEOToolSet® Single Page Analyzer and Multi Page Analyzer tools to help you discover this. We offer free versions of these SEO tools.)
By the end of this exercise, you should have a better understanding of how to create organized silos, or categories, on your website based on things like:
- The products, services and information you offer.
- The themes your website is already ranking for.
- The newly discovered opportunities for content based on keyword research and data discovered through SEO tools.
Organizing the Topics, Site Navigation and Directories
Once you have a list of potential topics for your site, the major categories and subcategories will emerge and can be organized into silos. A silo can be physical or virtual, and we’ll first talk about a physical directory silo. You can discover more in our SEO silo tutorial linked to at the end of this article.
Going back to our power tools example, this fictional website has one major theme (power tools), supported by three major categories (cordless power tools, electric power tools, gas-powered tools), each of which has a landing page on the site.
These categories also happen to be the search terms that the website wants to be found for, and they all support the more generic search term of “power tools.” Having this supporting content helps to make the site relevant for, and an authority on, power tools.
Each category consists of multiple subtopics, or webpages, that exist within the physical directory for that category on the site. Each subtopic supports the main category landing page.
For example, electric drills, electric compressors and electric saws all support the electric power tools category (and search terms for electric power tools).
Example of a siloed website
The visual above is a handy way to illustrate how the site’s navigation will play out. Users will be able to navigate from one page to another by organized landing pages that link to subpages for each category.
Technically, however, it’s the URL structure that creates the silo’s physical directory. The URL structure can help search engines and users better understand what the categories are about by creating a sort of filing cabinet for the content.
Directory structure example, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide, Google
For example, in the power tools fictional website, the URL hierarchy structure for the cordless power tool category in the illustration shared earlier would look something like this:
- powertooldepot.com/power-tools/cordless (main landing page for cordless power tools category)
- powertooldepot.com/power-tools/cordless/cordless-drills (supporting webpage for cordless power tools category)
- powertooldepot.com/power-tools/cordless/cordless-planers (supporting webpage for cordless power tools category)
- powertooldepot.com/power-tools/cordless/cordless-hammers (supporting webpage for cordless power tools category)
As you can see, each category is organized neatly through a clear URL path. This creates a physical silo for the content. This is, of course, a highly simplified explanation and there are other steps for consideration when creating a physical silo.
There is also another way to connect like-topics together on a website: the virtual directory. A virtual directory is created when one page links to another page on the same site, say from the body content on the page.
You would create a virtual directory when two pages on a website exist that are not in the same category, for example, but are still relevant to one another. Or when you are not able to create a physical directory for whatever reason.
For example, on the power tools site, the electric saws page might mention the gas-powered tools category with a link to that landing page within the body content.
When you link two pages together via a text link within the content, it creates a connection between the two pages that should communicate relevance to search engines (and also directs users to a relevant page).
You can create entire virtual silos that mimic physical directories by strategically interlinking pages on a site. But it must be done carefully. If you interlink unrelated pages, such as the low-level electric saws page with a low-level page from a different silo, you’ve diluted the theme and blurred the lines of your virtual silos.
More on virtual siloing can be found in our SEO Guide and in our SEO silo tutorial linked to at the end of this article.
Creating Expert Content
Silos become valuable when they have a good amount of supporting content on a topic to support search terms. But it needs to be quality content.
According to Google, the highest quality webpages demonstrate expertise, authority and trust.
… the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:
- The expertise of the creator of the MC. [editor’s note: MC = main content]
- he authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
–Google, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
In its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, Google points out examples of how different types of websites can demonstrate E-A-T:
- High E-A-T medical advice should be written or produced by people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High E-A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.
- High E-A-T news articles should be produced with journalistic professionalism—they should contain factually accurate content presented in a way that helps users achieve a better understanding of events. High E-A-T news sources typically have published established editorial policies and robust review processes …
- High E-A-T information pages on scientific topics should be produced by people or organizations with appropriate scientific expertise and represent well-established scientific consensus on issues where such consensus exists.
- High E-A-T financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc., should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly.
- High E-A-T advice pages on topics such as home remodeling (which can cost thousands of dollars and impact your living situation) or advice on parenting issues (which can impact the future happiness of a family) should also come from “expert” or experienced sources that users can trust.
- High E-A-T pages on hobbies, such as photography or learning to play a guitar, also require expertise.
You want your siloed content to be perceived as high quality. Keep in mind that some topics do not require that the author has formal expertise to demonstrate E-A-T, according to Google:
Some topics require less formal expertise. Many people write extremely detailed, helpful reviews of products or restaurants. Many people share tips and life experiences on forums, blogs, etc.
These ordinary people may be considered experts in topics where they have life experience. If it seems as if the person creating the content has the type and amount of life experience to make him or her an “expert” on the topic, we will value this “everyday expertise” and not penalize the person/webpage/website for not having “formal” education or training in the field.
So consider the topic of the page. Ask yourself what kind of expertise is necessary to fulfill the page’s purpose. Remember that the amount and type of expertise needed depends on the subject matter.
Optimizing Silo Content
Creating expert content is the foundation, but there are still tactics you can use that will optimize the silo’s content further for users and search engines. For example:
- Know how much to write based on the top-ranked pages for a keyword or search query. For example, if the top-ranked pages for a term have 1,000 words, then the goal is to meet or exceed that word count.
- Know the best reading level for the content. If all the top-ranked pages are written at a fifth-grade level, then the goal is to stay within that level of readability.
- Write to mobile users. Mobile traffic accounts for more than 50 percent of website traffic. Think about how to break up the content into digestible paragraphs (sometimes one or two lines) for ease of reading on a mobile device.
- Optimize the content. Ensure the keywords/search terms are woven throughout the page, including in the meta information and body content.
For more on SEO siloing, check out our complete step-by-step SEO silo tutorial that expands on the concepts within this article. There you can view it as a webpage or download as a PDF.
What do you think about SEO siloing? Let’s start a conversation in the comments section.
Want to go deeper? Join the Bruce Clay SEO Training & Membership program at SEOtraining.com, where Bruce covers siloing in depth in his online SEO training course.