Table of Content
- What is website silo architecture
- How does it help
- Physical vs. Virtual Silo’s
- Site Structure
- Physical Silo
- Permalink structure
- Menu links
- Sidebar links
- Miscellaneous links
- Virtual Silo
- Physical Silo
- Internal links
- Internal vs. External
- Location of links
- Anchor text
- Ranking a champion page
- Ranking an overall site
- Buoyant PageRank
- Adding content
- Using a blog to out-rank your competitors
- Internal link building
Website silo architecture is one of the most wildly misunderstood concepts in the SEO-sphere. I’ve spent months scouring the internet researching and very few people ever really have a solid idea of what site architecture is, and how to properly implement it.
Some people would argue that silo’ing is simply “PageRank sculpting” or something of that nature – but it’s not.
The true essence of SEO silos lies in constructing thematic clusters of semantically related information within your website to make search engines understand with full clarity the relevance and intent of your content.
This is what’s referred to as “website silo architecture”. It is simply the most potent ranking factor in Google’s algorithm – bar none.
But what makes this so powerful?
Improved user experience, improved crawling rates, improved relevancy, and improved link juice distribution.
In other words – you’ll be able to produce competitive rankings with up to 90% fewer inbound links.
Case in point:
These are just some graph examples so you guys know this works. It’s a much more effective ranking mechanism than just sitting at your computer building links to one single page and going up one spot at a time.
Why not go up 10-20-30-40-50 spots at a time and drastically reduce your costs and time investment?
Why not rank in the first page overnight for your main terms?
And mind you – these are competitive rankings. I’m going up against thousands of multi-million dollar SEO Agencies with experienced staff members and large budgets to work with – and I’m still beating them out effortlessly.
If you do small business SEO, this is even better. As you probably know, most clients already have built up websites with content on aged domains that have pre-existing link equity, authority and trustb. The moment you structure their website correctly, the rankings skyrocket to the top of the first page.
The fact of the matter is, 95% of people get this wrong or fail to apply it correctly.
Here’s an affiliate site that I started a month ago. It has 1 link to the home page on a brand new domain (did I forget to mention the ranking graphs above are also on a brand new domain?).
And these are just the “category” pages. Most of the product pages are within the first 2 pages and those have just as much if not more search volume than the silo pages.
I’m not sure why SerpFox didn’t show the search volumes but here they are from Google itself.
Again, by far the most potent ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. The best part? Google endorses it. And the technique’s been around for more than 15 years. As a matter of fact, today – it works better than ever as illustrated above.
Amazon and Wikipedia are the absolute masters of website silo architecture and they’re some of the most dominant websites on the internet.
But enough showboating – let’s get into the nitty gritty details that we all came here for.
There are 2 types of silos – physical and virtual. They both work incredibly well, but I prefer physical silos as it makes the entire website easier to navigate for the user.
However, sometimes a physical silo may not be possible because you already have a ton of pages on your website so you’d be better off applying a virtual silo.
The difference is in the “look” of the website. The first ranking graphs I showed were on a website with a virtual silo structure.
A virtual silo is formed through the use of internal links – at its very core what you’re doing is utilizing contextual linking patterns to create a hierarchical pyramid-like structure (as Matt Cutts would say) to create stronger signals of relevance (through anchor text and page titles) and pass on link juice (the link itself).
We’ll go over it in much detail further down the post.
A physical silo is achieved through the use of menu (navigation) links, sidebar links, directories and subdirectories, and the URL-structure of your website.
With that said, for this to work the best you have to create large authority websites. The more pages (and internal links) that you have, the stronger your website becomes.
I mean – why settle for niche websites that take months to rank and bring in $2,000 a month when you can create a monster that makes $500,000 a year and mauls down any website on the internet?
Would you rather have a website that becomes an asset that you can later sell for millions, or a dinky site that brings you enough money to go out for a nice dinner every other week?
The best part is that no term, market, or affiliate offer is too “out there” that you can’t rank for it. A strong website with a solid architecture will rank for terms that have as much as 100,000 search volume IF you put in the work to build links and quality content.
It’s time to start thinking big. A large authority website also starts to make money pretty quickly as one or two product pages ranked can bring you at least a full time income depending on your niche.
Prelude – Keyword Research
On a physical silo, it’s very important that you have a clear visual of where your site’s going before you start building it out.
This means – doing thorough keyword research, knowing what terms you’re going after and how you want to structure the website.
For instance, if you make a website about “computers” there’s a myriad of ways that you can silo the site. Your main term could be “computers” and then the category pages could be “computer parts”; “computer repair”; “computer brands”; and so and so forth.
Conversely, your category pages could also be individual brands. So things like “Dell”;”HP”;”Asus”;”BenQ”; etc…
It depends on the intent of your website. Therefore having a clear vision before you start is of utmost importance.
(Note: I love to read how-to posts with a clear-cut path to action, I absolutely abhor theory – so this post will be purely about strategies you can implement. I will also say why they work and show examples.)
Once you’ve done your thorough keyword research, you’re going to choose 1-3 terms that are mildly competitive. We’re talking 20,000 search volume and more.
This is what your home page is going to target, and yes – you will rank for it. However, it may take up to 6 months.
On my affiliate website that is 1 month old, I’m targeting 2 keywords that combined make up for roughly 50,000 unique monthly queries. I’ve already broken the top 100 results.
Word of caution – while you want to go broad here, don’t go too broad. Broad terms like “weight loss programs” are healthy competition at 22,200 search volume, and “weight loss supplements” at 18,100.
They also have a potential to turn readers into customers, so these would be terms I’d go after.
However, this would be a terrible niche to go into as anything health-related usually tends to have all major brands like Wikipedia, WebMD, and others ranking.
I’ve found that niches where people shop for specific brand products on less popular (not obscure) markets tend to be the absolute best to go after.
In the category pages, you then want to have slightly-less-but-fairly-competitive terms. These are your “silos” which become a major point of link juice distribution.
If you went into the “gaming computer(s)” niche which would be targeted by your home page at over 60,000 monthly searches, your category pages would be things like “gaming mouse”; “gaming monitors”; “gaming keyboard” and so on and so forth.
Then inside these categories, as dictated by your keyword research, you’d make posts targeting individual products. I can definitely see this as a very profitable niche as gaming computers tend to be very expensive.
A 4K gaming monitor can easily run up to $500, and even at 4% commission it’s still roughly $10. With the monster search volumes this industry has, there’s a very high change of this turning into a multi-million dollar affiliate website.
Now that you have the proper mind-set instilled in you and you’ve done (presumably) your keyword research – let’s get right into the fun stuff.
(Side note: EMDs / PMDs work incredibly well here and they’re heavily recommended)
Website Silo Architecture 101
Let’s start up with the URL/Permalink structure of the website. If you’re starting out from scratch, you’d set it like this:
And redirect the actual www.domain.com/category/category-name/ URL to the new one which would be www.domain.com/category-name/
If we went with the gaming computers story, an example would be:
Here we have a live example:
This lets Google know the intrinsic hierarchical structure of your website through your permalink structure.
If you’re going to attempt this on an established site, don’t do this. It might make your entire site go haywire and cause irreparable damage.
Menu (Navigation) Set-Up
Once the URL string is complete, we move on to the navigation portion of your website.
99% of websites get this wrong and it is absolutely atrocious to relevance and link juice distribution. The ONLY things you should have on your menu are your category pages (no drop-downs).
Most people have their about, contact, and other useful pages here but it actually damages their website. If you absolutely need these links, just apply a “no-follow tag” and place them on the footer or something.
Another thing – clean out any site wide links. This includes your footer, sidebar and your home page. There should be no outbound links on your home page that is not to your category pages.
If you have any affiliate banners or any other kind of link on your sidebar or footer areas, make sure to “no-follow” them.
Having outbound link to non-relevant pages leaks your relevance and link juice. You want to direct these elements into your category pages instead. This is what a properly set-up menu looks like:
As you can see, it links only to the category pages and nothing else. Any inbound link built to this domain, will increase the rankings for all the silos simultaneously as well as improve the relevance of the website.
Now this part is not very “popular” to say the least. But here you need a dynamic widget that displays links based on the category or post on which you’re located.
And have it only show links of within that certain silo.
Cardinal rule #1 – Never in any way, shape, or form cross-link between your silos.
Cross-linking between silos severely damages the relevance of your website and thus defeats the purpose of website silo architecture.
If you have a post about “suede blue shoes” inside the “suede shoes” category and you link to “leather blue shoes” on the “leather shoes” category, Google’s going to be profusely confused and it’s just going to infer these two posts are about “blue shoes”.
While to a human being, this would make sense – it doesn’t quite work that way in search engines. You’d be losing out on some major brownie points.
On the other hand, if both of these posts are under a “blue shoes” category, then it’d actually help establish deeper relevance within your silo.
Hence – the need to have a clear vision of what you want your categories to be.
Now that you understand the intricacies of internal linking, it is pertinent to your success that you find a way to only have related links within your silos.
I do this through the use Network Empire’s free “Simple Silo Plugin” which sets up the menu, sidebar and permalink structures for you.
When implemented correctly, your sidebar should look like this:
Notice how the silos “common dreams” and “dream research” pages feature different links in their sidebars.
The website www.dreammoods.com is actually really good at establishing a strong website silo architecture and is easy to see why they dominate their niche in its entirety.
The only thing I’d change is removing the “sitemap” “forums” and “contact” links from the menu structure, as well as removing the drop-down links from the navigation menu.
However, I’m extremely OCD and how the saying goes – don’t fix what’s not broken.
Another quick way to establish a strong relevance and hierarchy within your site is through the use of breadcrumbs.
It not only changes depending on the page you’re in and sends relevant link juice, but it also helps the user tremendously in navigation.
It’s a win-win-win.
Check out an example below:
The website www.testosteroneboostersreview.com is another great site to emulate. They dominate their industry as well, so it’s always good to see what’s working right in front of your eyes.
Again here, I’d just remove the “monthly archives” and “the recently added” widgets and use “dynamic widgets” to assign different links to each page.
Again – just my OCD talking. Don’t fix what’s not broken.
Notice how I keep on insisting on removing any links that should not be there. This is always there first thing I look for on any website.
Other than that, remove them! It’ll only make it harder for you to establish a strong central theme.
If you already have an established website, and you can’t do some of the stuff mentioned above – your best bet would be a virtual silo.
A virtual silo is achieved through the use of contextual links. In my experience, it works just as well, so no need to fret.
What you would do is to inter-link between all your supporting posts contextually or through a dynamic sidebar, while maintaining a hierarchy within your website.
In the next section, we’re going to be talking about internal links so stay tuned to know how to “virtually” silo your website.
If you get the first two sections of this post right, you’d already be miles ahead of everyone else. However, this might just be the most important part of the post.
Internal links are infinitely more powerful than external links, it’s the main reason for why you’d need as little as 10% of the inbound links in order to rank.
Leveraging contextual links (the ones within the body of the text) within your site is very important. Google puts a tremendous amount of weight on them. But again, most people get this wrong.
Everyone on the web is trying to emulate Wikipedia, but the online giant maintains a reckless internal linking strategy and violates cardinal rule #1 to the fullest extent.
Once you have your categories and posts set-up, the next thing that you want to have on your mind is what page(s) you’re trying to rank.
For instance, if you have an e-commerce site and you want to rank your product pages – it’d be a good idea to setup your contextual links in a fashion where the whole entire site would be ranked simultaneously.
However, if you have a local client and you want to rank him for “cosmetic dentist Miami” and you’re using ‘supporting posts’ (what would otherwise be product pages) to push relevance and juice up to your silo – then you’d put a different strategy into place. Which we’re about to get into now.
But first – Cardinal rule #2 – You need at least 3 category pages (3 silos) and 5 supporting posts per silo to establish a solid website silo architecture.
Now, depending on what you’re trying to rank – the anchor text and the location of the link play a huge part.
Location of the Link
It’s a well-known fact in the SEO community that links higher up in the content hold much more weight than links at the centre or bottom.
As such, I always like to link to my most important pages first depending on what page I’m in.
If I’m in the home page, I link to my most important / competitive silos first.
If I’m on a category page, I link to my home page first.
If I’m on a supporting post / product page – I always link up to my category page first.
Cardinal rule #3 – Keep your outbound links on any given page under 10 for the most effectiveness.
This way, you maintain a solid hierarchy within your site and most of your link juice and relevance goes to the most important pages in your website.
You can always be a bit more aggressive with internal anchors but I like to vary them in order to target all variations of the main keyword.
For instance, if you have a local client and you want to rank the home page for “divorce attorney Miami” then from each category page you could do the following anchors:
- Divorce attorney in Miami
- Miami divorce lawyers
- Divorce attorney Miami FL
You get the idea. Again, internal links are a lot safer. The only way to get penalized here is if you have 20 category pages and they all link to the home page with the same anchor text, then on top of that, you build inbound links to your home page with exact match anchors as well.
Be reasonable, and you’re good.
Cardinal rule #4 – Never use “generic” anchors in your internal links. These are anchors like “here, click here” and things of that nature. It dilutes your relevance and it does not make sense to Google.
With that said, let’s go into the 2 scenarios we talked about before.
Ranking a Champion Page
A champion page is when you have a website in which you only want to rank either the home page or the category pages.
This would apply to most local sites. As generally you’d be trying to rank for a handful of keywords.
The approach here is to leverage contextual links within the body of the text to push up authority and relevancy.
Say you’re trying to rank your home page for “dentist Miami”. Then you’d set up category pages as:
- Cosmetic Dentist Miami
- Pediatric Dentist Miami
- Emergency Dentist Miami
The next step would then be to write 5 supporting articles (which you can outsource) about each one of these categories. Within these articles, you’d want to link up to your category page using targeted anchors and place the link somewhere within the first 100 words.
Within the category pages themselves, you’d follow the same pattern and linking up to your home page.
Assuming your menu, sidebar, permalink and breadcrumbs are set-up correctly – this might just be enough to rank your client’s site. Or if you’re doing lead gen.
However, there’s also another method.
Ranking an Overall Site
This method is more suited for e-commerce and affiliate sites that have a lot of products.
The goal here when using contextual links (keeping the aforementioned factors constant), is to build the most relevance possible.
In your home page, you’d link to your priority categories. And then from your priority categories you’d link to your most important / competitive product pages.
Within your product pages, you’d identify similar products within that category and also link to it. For instance:
Let’s go back to the gaming computers example.
Where the home page is targeting “gaming computers”, and you’re inside the “gaming monitors” category writing an article about ASUS 4K Monitors. Now within the article, you might want to link to other ASUS gaming monitors for those people who may not afford a 4K – and that’s totally fine, in fact it helps your “ASUS Monitor” products rank higher.
However, what you DON’T want to do is link to an “ASUS Keyboard” or “ASUS Mouse” because that’d hurt the relevance of the “gaming monitors” category.
If that doesn’t quite make sense yet, just let it marinate in your head. It took me a while to wrap my head around this stuff.
There’s not a lot of things to really say here as most people are pretty knowledgeable on link building, but I will give my own take on how I personally build links to a silo’d website.
Once your entire site is set up with content and the proper site architecture – build a couple of links and see where the site stands in the SERPs.
Seeing as anywhere you link to on the site will cause a boost, I’d primarily focus 60% of the links on supporting posts and 40% to the home page.
Make sure not to neglect any pages or posts as they will slow down your process. You want to aim for something dubbed “Buoyant PageRank”.
Which is when some pages of your website have so much link juice that it “spills over” and other pages on your site begin to skyrocket their way to the top of Google.
Let’s talk about content – the livelihood of your website.
The key here is to keep adding content to your website constantly. If you’re doing local SEO, maintain a blog updated with a consistent posting schedule.
If you have an e-commerce or affiliate website with products on it, just add new ones as they come out.
The key to understand is that the more pages you have and the more internal links your website has – the higher it ranks.
The domain authority of your website is greatly affected by how many pages your site has. When you inter-link them, that effects is doubled.
So keep adding content consistently, and leverage the power of internal links.
Remember to never cross link. Not even on your blog.
Essentially, you’re “link building” internally – which is awesome. As your site begins to build up its authority, every new page / post you add will only be more powerful – and this snowballs.
You’ll have a website that is self-powered and ranks incredibly well.
When these concepts are applied correctly, these are some of the traffic numbers you could expect:
Multi-million dollar assets that last for long periods of time. Website silo architecture is one of the best kept secrets within the SEO industry and has remained so since its origins.
However, it is also one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.
Fully understanding this concept and knowing how to properly implement it can give you a massive leg-up on your competitors.
They’ll be trying to reverse-engineer your link building techniques and traffic generation methods while grossly over-looking what it really is that you’re doing.
It might take a few tries, and I recommend first trying this on a development server before applying it to your actual website. That way, if anything breaks you’ll know what to do beforehand or know what caused it to break.
Keep in the fore-front of your mind the cardinal rules that we have outlined here, and also remember to perform thorough keyword research before starting.
Know the intent and where you want your site to go before you start to give yourself a better chance at succeeding.
And lastly – look around competitive niches and analyse the top sites. Often times, we’re so caught up in reverse-engineering our competitors sites that we commit a lot of the same mistakes that they do.
By looking at the most successful sites on the internet, you can gauge an idea of what works best in tough industries and leveraging their techniques for your gain.
If you take the same approach that a major website takes and apply it to a fairly competitive niche – there’s a very good chance that you’ll end up dominating completely.
With that said, thank you so much for reading and let me know if you found this helpful. You can direct any questions you have to me and I’ll be glad to answer them. This is a slightly nuanced concept and one that needs plenty of critical thinking to be able to figure out.
Until next time,