What is the SILO Website Structure?

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blog-siloThis is a guest post by Matt Dunlap who is a website developer that specializes in dynamically creating large networks of niche WordPress minisites.

If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

A big part of SEO, that most people often overlook is the actual website structure.

While it’s easy to see the title tags, H tags, and keywords, it’s much harder to determine how well your website is set up for search engine spiders.

SILO stands for “isolation”.

I know you were probably thinking of large corn silos, which I guess kinda makes sense. For example, say you have two big piles, one pile is corn and the other is strawberries (BTW, I’m not a farmer). You probably don’t want to mix those two crops together, so you put them in silos. When the farmer goes into each silo, he knows exactly what he is going to get.

Treat a website the same way. Put your website content into silos, or better yet, in categories.

After you read this, you will probably go back to your website, or blog, and say to yourself… “This is impossible, how can you link all my blog content without crossing over categories?”

The answer is with nofollow attributes. You will still maintain your human organization, while telling the Google bot what content is important and where to go.

As they say, write for humans, optimize for robots

Some simple rules for silo websites:

1. Keep your categories separate. Use nofollow attributes when linking between categories.

2. Link to posts, not categories or tags.

3. Link often between posts. Most people only link from new posts to older posts, but I suggest you go back to older posts and add updated links to your newer posts. Older posts will have more pagerank too.

4. Try to keep the categories on the same topic. Remember, every page in your website should have a different title, meta tags, headers, etc… When organizing your silos, make sure you have distinct keywords that follow everything in that category.

For example, let’s say you are blogging about cars. You will set up a silo for trucks, cars, and motorcycles. This is very high level, in reality you will want to get much more “niche”.

Take the truck silo. Your title should “All about trucks”, your category slugs should be “trucks”, your meta keywords should have “trucks”, and most importantly, all the posts in this silo should have “trucks” in the title and permalink.

Again, this is very high level, but hopefully you can understand the strategy.

5. Learn to use tools to analyze your website content. Google webmaster tools will show you everything you need to understand how Googlebot spiders your website.

I can fully understand that maintaining a silo structure for your personal blog might be tough, since you probably blog about a wide range of topics, but it can be done.

If you flip websites, or manage highly targeted niche sites, this is a must to learn.

This is a guest post by Matt Dunlap who is a website developer that specializes in dynamically creating large networks of niche WordPress minisites.

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33 Responses to What is the SILO Website Structure?

  1. Jean Sarauer June 24, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I need to go back into my archives (lucky I’ve not been at this too long!) and link to newer posts. I need to do a whole lot more than that, but at least it’s a starting point!
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..7 Signs That Granny Hijacked Your Blog =-.

  2. Julius June 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Great introduction to the concept of silos. I also like the idea of checking your older posts and updating them to link to newer ones.
    .-= Julius´s last blog ..Why Is It Good For The Economy To Hire People With Disabilities? =-.

  3. John Soares June 24, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    Matt, thanks for sharing this information. For my hiking website I’ve found I’m actually on page one of Google for category names, so I’m very careful to put important keywords in them while still maintaining a natural sound.
    .-= John Soares´s last blog ..Resolved: Coffee Increases Productivity… =-.

  4. Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella June 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Now you see, that point #3 was one I wondered about. I didn’t know if search engines would frown at new links on older posts or not. So I guess I just shoulda trusted my instincts from the get to.

    You’ve done a great job of illustrating the relationships between keywords down through different levels of blog organization. I’m really going to start thinking more about how all these things relate to each other and if I am doing a good job of exploiting and narrowing my focus for the search engines.
    .-= Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella´s last blog ..Want To Write More Engaging Posts? Think Like A Telemarketer =-.

  5. Matt Dunlap June 24, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    Thanks for reading the post… I see a couple comments about linking from older posts.

    I recently wrote a googlebot tracker for my blog and noticed that many older posts get spidered multiple times a day, so any changes you make, including links will get indexed and point to your newer posts
    .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..Dynamically creating WordPress Minisites On-The-Fly =-.

  6. James Pruitt June 25, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    Great ideas. I use the seo smart links plugin. just enter one or two keywords, and every time you use those keywords it will autolink to the relevant post. you can also set it to no follow them by default.

    it will go to all posts that have that keyword, so you just need to get urls from some of your older posts. i usually do my main keyword for the post and 2-3 common variations that I will probably use in the future, or that I know i have used in the past.
    .-= James Pruitt´s last blog ..Back Link Building Secrets: Are You Wasting Your Time? =-.

  7. Matt Dunlap June 25, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    James, I’ll have to check that plugin out, sounds good. I read on searchengineland about making a glossary for your website to help with SEO. I wonder if the smart links plugin could link to that… with a little hacking
    .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..How to create a network of top level domains with WordPress 3.0 =-.

  8. Luqman June 25, 2010 at 11:14 am #

    Nice post, I have to make some changes to my blog according to the SILO structure, I did not take this into consideration when I started my blog, thank for sharing this article.

  9. jabin June 25, 2010 at 5:58 am #

    i am going to bookmark this page.

  10. Matt Dunlap June 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    Luqman, I didn’t start my blog with this strategy in mind either… I think nobody does. When you start a blog, all you think about it blogging, then after you blog for months, you realized you would really like to make sure you’re in the search engines.

    Remember to do an SEO audit every so often!
    .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..Your most effective keywords are not in your blog post =-.

  11. Dennis Edell June 25, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    This couldn’t have been timed better, as I set up my new blog network from scratch.

    Also, I’m very glad to see someone else suggest going back; linking old to new as a vice-verse kinda thing.

    I’ve been advocating this forever and was shocked, at first, at how often I got, “holy crap, I never thought of that!” lol

    Either it’s the wording, or I’m slow. What exactly do you mean by, linking between categories?
    .-= Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing´s last blog ..Blog Network Almost Ready to Rise – Multiple Posts Coming Here. =-.

  12. Tom Dewell June 25, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    Thanks for defining silos. I, too, was thinking either of the grain or ICBM type! I see now how the separation of the silos is important to SEO. I have also been reading that categories should also be, or include, the keywords you want to be ranking for. Is this important?
    .-= Tom Dewell´s last blog ..US Wins Another World Cup Game! =-.

  13. kaiserthesage June 25, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    it is believed to be the future of SEO, and I do think it is. The main point of siloing is to contain all relevant information in one place or silo, to fully achieve a high percentage of relevancy through search queries. But I do still think that building links will still play a huge part on this strategy, since the internal linking structure of the site is expected to be very weak.
    .-= kaiserthesage´s last blog ..Top Page for a Very High Competition Keyword in 3 Months Part II =-.

  14. Matt Dunlap June 26, 2010 at 6:51 am #

    Dennis,

    Take my blog for example, I blog about SEO, link building, PHP, etc… I also blog about personal stuff…

    I don’t want to link between “PHP” and “things that suck” (one of my personal categories) because when the Googlebot finds links from a PHP topic to a personal topic, it will get confused and you don’t want to confuse the Googlebot… It’s hard to stay strictly silo on a personal blog. It’s much easier on a blog niche you are trying to monetize…

    Does that make sense?
    .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..Your most effective keywords are not in your blog post =-.

    • Dennis Edell June 26, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

      It does, and frankly just seems like common sense.
      .-= Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing´s last blog ..Would You Like a PRIVATE Community =-.

  15. Matt Dunlap June 26, 2010 at 6:55 am #

    Tom,

    I definitely try to make my categories relevant, at least the slugs… Take for example, my javascript category which has the slug

    mattdunlap.org/website-development/javascript/

    Look at those keywords! add a nice post slug with more keywords and you got a killer url… I hate it when people make “cute” titles without any keywords. Remember, you can edit the slug of your url in WordPress to be different then the blog post title.
    .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..Hot Link Protection is a Must When on a Cloud Server =-.

  16. Matt Dunlap June 26, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    kaiserthesage,

    I agree, link building is/should be your #1 priority…

    That is why I love guest blogging. Not only is this comment thread longer then any comment thread on my site, but you build authority…

    Thanks again Andrew for giving me the opportunity to guest blog on your website!!!!
    .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..Hot Link Protection is a Must When on a Cloud Server =-.

  17. Colleen June 28, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    Very good stuff Matt. In reading your list I’m horrible about linking between posts. What I should do is simply install a ‘for further reading’ type plugin that at least in part does the job.
    .-= Colleen@Kennewick Real Estate´s last blog ..Hue Estates Kennewick Homes For Sale =-.

  18. Mark Johnson June 27, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    Hi Matt.

    This is a fantastic post, I myself am an SEOer and internet marketer, but really reminds me that now matter how long you are in the game, you are always learning.

    I love the concept of making every post in a category target that category’s main keyword. Do you also target individual posts at their own keyword though?

    If you have a category of “Trucks” and you write a post about a specific truck, it must sometimes be tricky getting the specific truck based keyword into the title with the main keyword “trucks” whilst still making the title appeal to your readers.

    Your website looks really interesting by the way, I’m definitely going to be book marking it 🙂
    .-= Mark Johnson@Marks Marketing Blog´s last blog ..Has Keyword Elite been knocked from it’s podium =-.

    • Matt Dunlap June 27, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

      Mark, As the saying goes, write for humans and optimize for robots…

      I agree, it can sometimes be hard to make a readable title while going after bulletproof SEO. If it can’t be done, don’t force it, you still have all the other keywords in the title tag, url, blog post, etc…
      .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..Your most effective keywords are not in your blog post =-.

      • Mark Johnson June 27, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

        yep I totally agree with that. “Get your SEO right, but never let SEO override user experience.”

        So where do you stand on placing posts in multiple categories?

        What if you write a post about the best trucks to use for transporting your motorbike…? Does that go in both categories? Surely then you risk cross linking?

        Probably sounds like I’m being a little picky now, but I often post in 2 categories, I’m just starting to debate with myself whether I am being unfocussed or if sometimes there is no alternative… and is that a bad thing?

        What do you think?
        .-= Mark Johnson@Marks Marketing Blog´s last blog ..Has Keyword Elite been knocked from it’s podium =-.

        • Matt Dunlap June 27, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

          my blog has 2 levels of categories… A main category and then children category under the main. I only use 1 child category for every post. I recommend not posting in multiple categories.

          I do use multiple tags, but I’m thinking about changing that too. I recently wrote a googlebot script to see how the googlebot spiders my website and was surprised to see how it actually works. I wrote about it as another guest blog post here
          http://wphacks.com/is-your-wordpress-blog-wasting-googles-time/

          if you post in multiple categories, then the googlebot will inevitably spider the same post as 2 different links. Even though there are plugins for canonical links, you are wasting the googlebot’s time.

          If the googlebot hits your site 100 times a day, you want the googlebot to get 100 different blog posts. If you post in multiple categories you will be giving the same post to google as different links, making the googlebot make the decision on which link is most relevant. Does that make sense?

          if every post has 2 categories, the Googlebot will only see 50 different blog posts. I’ll be posting some stuff I found out about the Googlebot as I get more info, it’s really cool to see.
          .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..How to enable WordPress 30 to run multiple websites =-.

          • Mark Johnson June 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

            Thanks Matt.

            Those are some really interesting points, I’m giving your post a read now. Definitely lots for me to think about. My only concern would be the usability.

            At the end of the day, if a post belongs in two categories, I want my users to find it if they look in either of those categories. Do you not think that limiting a post to one category might sometimes negatively impact how browsable your site is?

            Generally it is probably only 5% that do go in more than one category, but those few are un-avoidable, so I can’t see how I would decide on just one… I guess that is where you would suggest making some of the links no-follow?
            .-= Mark Johnson@Marks Marketing Blog´s last blog ..Has Keyword Elite been knocked from it’s podium =-.

  19. Matt Dunlap June 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

    Hi,

    I hear you… What you are saying makes sense, and that is more important then SEO.

    I’m going to look at my Google analytics and see what kind of traffic I get in my categories. From a users point of view, blogs don’t have that good of usability anyway… Looking at my traffic I’ve come to some conclusions
    1. nobody uses the built in search on blogs.
    2. if you blog everyday, posts older then 10 days are buried.

    The most important rule to live by… Give people what they are searching for. So if having posts in multiple categories accomplishes that, then do it. Just make sure, if you solve the secret, you let me in on it 😉
    .-= Matt Dunlap´s last blog ..Hot Link Protection is a Must When on a Cloud Server =-.

  20. Kathy June 28, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Silos are definitely a benefit for SEO purposes. If done properly, they pass lots of topic sensitive page rank through a chain of theme centered pages to a well designed landing page. That page ends up with a ton of juice for its primary keywords. Plus, any of the other pages within the silo that happen to get organic traffic will also help pass that along to the ultimate destination where you can monetize it.

    I think the concept of building silos was part of the reason behind structuring WordPress the way it was structured. Then people came out with plugins like YARP and Related Posts by Category to make sure the internal page linking occurred.
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Should You Use No Follow Tags For Comments On Your Blog =-.

  21. Aaron July 5, 2010 at 6:01 am #

    Nice post Matt. Very relevant and helps your site get noticed as an authority site if you can keep certain topics and links to them which relate to each other. It seems Google is big on synonymous content right now, so very well timed post on your part.
    .-= Aaron´s last blog ..Free Blogs =-.

  22. Leah July 7, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    I like the idea of rank sculpting by using no follow on your categories. I also agree with all your other tips. They seem like simple no brainer’s, but it’s often the little details that get overlooked. & those little details do add up. I keep a posting structure chart for each clients site. It keeps the posts looking uniform, but also a a handy checklist of all the little details. That way whomever does the post (myself, associates, interns, actual client) all follow the same format. I’m going to add your no follow tip to it.

    Thanks!
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..Free Open Stock Photos- Images and Graphics for Your Website and Presentations =-.

  23. jennifer August 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Well its great but i what if I have link of new post in old one and vice verse. Also what is the benefit to use your category title in each and every post as you said about using truck in each post. Well Don’t you think i will sounds spam for visitors. Its true you are in truck category and you will post about truck only but in 25 percent cases we may not add truck keyword in title, whereas truck keyword will be in meta description, content etc. So please reply me about this. Finally instead of diverting visitors to post some times we need to direct visitors to category or tag page for providing visitors comprehensive information on particular keywords and visitors will find what to chooose from that category to get exact information. therefore I can’t always link only post 🙂 Please reply for my queries

  24. Matt Dunlap August 3, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    1. “what if I have link of new post in old one and vice verse” – This is fine, but you want to maintain links within the same silo (category)

    2. putting the category in each title. Remember to write for humans first, then tweak for robots… If using the category sounds funny in the title, don’t use it. This is an outline and should be used to make you think about SEO when making a website. Making little changes isn’t going to hurt your website.

    Lastly, remember to monitor your website. The SILO structure is a great place to start, but if you need to tweak it, the by all means do so. Just make sure you monitor your website and if something works do more of it, if something fails change it.
    Matt Dunlap recently posted..The Sad Truth About Your Blog ArchiveMy Profile

  25. Tess September 27, 2010 at 12:21 am #

    I LOVE your suggestion of linking older posts to newer posts – never would have thought of it myself! Great suggestions here, I need to go back through my blogs and make a few changes. Thanks!

  26. Jason McCullough July 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Been reading up on Silo’ing my website. This post broke it down for me in very simple terms. Thanks.

  27. david miller February 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    I am jst building a new site but not in wordpress – can I still build a silo structure or does it only work in blog format?

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