How to Create Content Silos on Your Website

August 29, 2011

In a post-Panda Update SEO world, we’re all looking for new ways to create quality content that Google is going to reward by giving your website top rankings for your chosen keywords.

If you’re wondering what are the content guidelines for creating quality, user-friendly content, look no further than this post on Google’s Webmaster Blog. In the post Google lays out pretty clearly what it is seeking from your website’s content in order for you to get ranked on the first page for your best search terms.

Rather than rehash these content guideline–you might as well get the advice straight from the source–we wanted to talk about another method you should use to get your website found by potential customers.

Content silos (AKA content themes) have been a successful SEO method of content generation for the past couple of years, but only since Google’s Panda Update has it become a crucial part of your SEO strategy. That’s because before Google’s Panda Update, Google wasn’t measuring the totality of your website’s content when producing its search results; it was measuring the value of each particular page.

However, that’s not the case anymore. Now Google’s search algorithm is measuring the overall value of your website’s content when determining where your site will rank. That’s because Google is looking for sites that are authorities on specific subjects. And for your site to get found on Google, you need to build your content in such a way that you prove to Google you are an authority in your industry.

Think of your site like a how-to book. Every how-to book has a title (defining the overall theme/message) and subsequent chapters (categories) and sections within those chapters (sub-categories). Google is reading your site similarly. It looks at the website URL as the title, the homepage as introduction and internal pages as chapters.

And like any book, your site needs to be structured cohesively so the crawlers can easily find what they’re looking for.

This is why silos are such a great SEO tactic. It structures your site well so it helps the crawlers find what they’re looking for so they can deem you an authority. Moreover, silos let you create categories and sub-categories so Google will see the you are an industry expert that has provided people with information on a wide range of topics related to your business.

So now that we’re explained silos and why they’re important, we want to tell you how to create silos on your website for SEO. Here are our top 5 ways to create silos.

1. Devise a great content strategy.
Before you start restructuring your site or rewriting your content, you need to determine how to build out your content. It all starts with quality content that proves you are an industry expert. That’s what Google is looking for. So, consult your online marketing team to determine the top 4-5 categories and then the 4-5 sub-categories within them. For instance, at National Positions we’re an Internet marketing company specializing in SEO. So our top 6 content categories are our top 6 services: SEO, social media marketing, video marketing, local search marketing, conversion rate optimization and mobile marketing. And within those 6 categories, we’ve created 5 sub-category pages that give our readers everything they’ll want to know about Internet marketing. As a result, Google will deem us an industry authority and reward us with a first page ranking.

2. Improve Your Keyword Research.
This seems obvious, right? Everyone who knows about SEO is doing keyword research and using their most popular search terms often. Well, that’s not enough anymore. Your keyword research has to improve along with your content. 2 or 3 years ago, you could use your top keyword bunch of times on your homepage and get great rankings. Not anymore, now you need to do find out your top 3 “seed keywords” and the related keywords to each of those seeds. As a result, you’ll have a basket of related keywords to optimize for. Ideally, your keywords will correspond to your silos. For example, our SEO silo uses a basket of keywords related to SEO and our social media silo uses a basket of keywords related to social media. While this may seem like you are spreading yourself too thin, it will add to the breadth of your expertise and Google will ultimately rank you for dozens, even hundreds, of keywords. So instead of ranking for 2 or 3 keywords you’ll rank for 30 or 40.

3. Build Virtual and Physical Silos.
There are 2 kinds of silos: virtual and physical. Virtual silos create a “folder” of pages that’s defined by the URL. For example, all our SEO pages are within the same URL category of SEO. Physical silos are restructuring the navigation on the site so the user can access the categories and sub-categories by clicking links in the navigation bar, sidebar or footer.

We highly recommend you make both of these changes. It would be a pity to create a bunch of great silo content without building the virtual and physical silos to match. It would be like writing the book without dividing it into chapters and sections. Just as chapters as the table of contents, chapters and footnotes show the reader where to find all the pertinent info, the virtual and physical silos show the crawlers where to go and where all the best info is kept.

A NOTE: Creating virtual and physical silos each have their own demands. For the physical silo, it means paying you have a web designer and web developer restructured your site. For the virtual silo, it means changing your site’s URLs and making sure you put in place 301 redirects so you don’t lose the juice from exiting, older pages that you want to reorganize.

4. Integrate Your Blog.
If you’re not blogging already, start today. Like right now! Blogging helps you get found as well as convert more visitors into customers. The only way to get top rankings on Google is to consistently product quality, unique content that’s getting indexed by the crawlers. To do that you need to blog. Also, blogging helps you leverage your existing client base to win over new customers are who seeking industry tips and value exchange. So, yes, blogging is a must.

If you’re using silos, you need to make sure your blog is well integrated with the rest of your site. A common mistake made is to build impeccable silos on your site, only to have the blog hidden on their outskirts of the site. If your blog isn’t linking to pages in your silos and your internal page aren’t linking to your blog posts, then the crawlers aren’t likely to give you all the credit you deserve. Remember, you need to guide the crawlers because they don’t have eyes and ears.

Make sure your blog is linked to from your homepage, has set-up categories and sub-categories that correspond with your silos. For example, our wordpress blog has categories for our 6 silo categories as well as the sub-categories within those top 6. And for each blog post, we link to a page that’s related to that category and sub-category. (And we also use the keywords within those categories as the anchor texts!) That way, the crawlers are guided to every important page on our site. Make it easy on the crawlers to give you credit! This leads us to our last point…

5. Interlinking is crucial.
Inbound links coming to your site are not the only kind of links that matter. Almost as important are internal links within your pages. As we said, the crawlers don’t have eyes and ears and need to be guided. One way to guide them is by linking to relevant pages and using relevant keywords as the anchor text. To get maximize the impact of your silos, you MUST interlink correctly.

To interlink correctly, you must interlink ALL pages within a silo to one another (including blog posts). However, DON’T LINK OUTSIDE THE SILO. There can only be 1 link outside of the silo: to the homepage. That way, all the power of the silo is in support of the homepage, which is the most important page on the site. If you start linking outside the silos, you will confuse the crawlers and loose maximum impact. Also remember to always do the linking in the body of content and as high up in the text as possible.

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