Practical Ecommerce

Do-it-yourself SEO: Organizing a Website with Silos

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.

My previous four articles explained basic search engine optimization. In “How to Get Traffic to your Website (via Google),” I reviewed how Google and other search engines identify content on a site. In “Do-it-yourself SEO Starts with On-page Optimization,” I explained the beginnings of optimizing a web page. In “Do-it-yourself SEO: Importance of Title Tags,” I continued my explanation of on-page optimization by addressing the importance of title tags. Finally, in “Do-it-yourself SEO: Using Helpful Descriptions,” I addressed how to use descriptive text on a website to help search engines identify it.

In this article, I will discuss silos, another important website structure you should be aware of.

Silo Longevity

Silos have been a viable website structure for search engine optimization purposes for a long time. About 14 years ago, I attended a SEO seminar in California. Even back then, the speaker spoke a lot about silos and how Google loves it when your site has a silo structure. That ideology still applies today, even though it’s not totally necessary in order for your site to rank highly. But if you want an advantage, you should consider using silo structures for your site.

Silo Basics

Let’s say your website is about general dentistry. Let’s also say the services you offer are cavity repair, implants, orthodontics, and cosmetic dentistry. Each subset of dentistry, such as implants, will be a “silo” of your site. That means even though your site is about dentistry, one of the major sub pages (also known in HTML markup as a directory) will be cavity repair. Another will be implants. Another will be orthodontics, and so on.

Thus, silos are simply an important related subject to the main topic of your website.

Similarly, if your site is for a divorce lawyer, the home page will simply be about divorce lawyers. The silos (related subjects to divorce) could be child custody, alimony, child support, grandparent rights, and so on.

When creating your content for the home page, always aim for at least 500 words. However, be careful not to artificially stuff your home page with too many primary keywords because Google dislikes it. In fact, you’ll often get penalized for it. A good rule of thumb is to not use the main keywords more than once every 100 words. In fact, once every 150 words is fine. Think of synonyms you can use instead or just reword what you have to say.

Why Are Keywords Important?

In the past, Google used to reward sites that used lots of keywords. Once people figured that out, they manipulated their ranking by using lots of keywords. To fight that, Google changed the ways in which it ranks sites and continues to change continually. It never stops changing because people are always trying to figure out how to exploit the ranking system. Google wants to show you the best results for what you’re searching for or you won’t continue to use its search engine. If you don’t use Google, it can’t make money through advertising. As you can imagine, Google is hypersensitive to making sure its search engine is the one you prefer to use when browsing because you know you’ll get the best results. To give you those results, they will eliminate the manipulations by those who try to cheat the system.

Backlinks

Now that you know what silos are for and now that you’ve constructed silos according to the rules I laid out above, you’ll want to create a link back to your home page from the silo. Somewhere in your text in the silo, preferably towards the top of your text (first paragraph, for instance), pick some wording that’s related to your main subject and make that a link back to your home page.

Let’s assume you are doing dentistry and your silo is on dental implants. In your first paragraph, find text that talks about dentistry in the city and state you’re in. If you don’t have it, create it. Do this for all silos but make each link slightly different from the others. So if you’re in Utah, your dental implant silo link back to your home page could be “dental Salt Lake City UT.” Your next silo link could be “dentistry Salt Lake City Utah” and so on. The rule is to use similar text back to your home page so Google knows you’re about dentistry — but don’t use identical text. Also, do not link back to the home page more than once from a silo.

Adding Additional Content

Now, say you want to add additional content to your site. You ought to do this by creating supporting pages that link to your silo pages. If you’re using WordPress, you will simply create posts with links in the text. If you don’t have WordPress, you simply create more pages that link to your silos.

The links from supporting pages are to be created just like your silos pages. Continuing with the dental website, if you’re writing posts for the dental implant silo, then you’ll create supporting pages (content) about dental implants. One could be about the cost of dental implants. Another could be about how implants are done. Another could be about the pros and cons of dental implants, and so on. The supporting pages are all related to dental implants that are also related to the main dental subject. You should do this for all other silos. Again, one link per supporting page to the silo is fine. You could even do a couple more from the supporting page if you like but no more than three is recommended. Plus, vary the amount of links where one supporting page has one link, another has three, another has two, and so on. Here’s an illustration of what your site structure might look like.

An example of a website silo structure.

An example of a website silo structure.

Research Keywords

Here’s a tip you want to embrace that SEO pros might not tell you. Research keywords using Google’s Keyword Planner tool. Look to see what people are actually searching for rather than assuming you know already. Once your eyes are opened to what people are actually searching for, you can give Google exactly what it wants to give its users. For example, you may think that “dental implants” is one of the major keywords people look for when searching for implants, but you may find people search more for “tooth implants.” If this is the case, you may want to name your silo “tooth implants” because it is searched for more than “dental implants.” If you do this, you’ll have an edge on your competitors because Google tends to show your site before another, all other things unconsidered.

Unique Content Matters

Lastly, make sure your content is unique — not only on your home page and silos, but also on your supporting pages. Google has said it can’t tell where the unique content was originally posted and therefore you may (or may not) be penalized using non-unique content, but I wouldn’t take that chance. There is so much work invested into your site that you want to start on the right foot and follow the same path. It may take a little more work initially, but once it’s done, you won’t have to worry about it. Imagine doing all that work only to get penalized by Google and it drops your ranking so no one can see your website. Don’t take that chance.

See the next installment in our “Do-it-yourself SEO” series: “Dos and Don’ts for Backlinks.”

Andy Curry

Andy Curry

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  1. Andy July 3, 2015 Reply

    Thank you Andy for your post!
    Andy, Italy

  2. Paul July 22, 2016 Reply

    Hi Andy,
    Thx for your post.

    You say “do not link back to the home page more than once from a silo.”
    Do you include the link in the header menu in that count? or maybe you recommend to remove it?

  3. Paul July 22, 2016 Reply

    One more question:

    would you recommend to remove internal links (or make them nofollow) to make the website looking more like a silo architecture? Links between silos? Links from top to down?

  4. Sean August 15, 2016 Reply

    I’m working on creating a silo structure for a simple niche website. One thing I’m not sure about is the role of the silo landing pages and the content they should have on them. Are these supposed to be your website’s main “money pages” or are they meant to just funnel traffic to those pages?