Building content silos to increase rankings is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in SEO. It’s fair to say it’s an intermediate to advanced SEO task (when you do it right). And you need to do it.
Here’s how to think about silos for SEO:
Pretend you’re building a house so you can sell it to someone. (In SEO, that “someone” is Google.)
Your website content is what you’ll build the house out of. Blog posts are bricks. Landing pages are mortar.
You’ve already got the building materials. And you figure that’s enough. You call up a real estate agent (also Google) to list your home.
The agent takes one look at the piles of bricks and mortar and says: Get the %$!& out of here.
That’s because you don’t have a house. Not without a design and a structure.
Google wants to see a fully constructed — and very solid — building before it’ll start sending Google users to it.
Silos are how you turn those piles of bricks and mortar into something tangible — something Google loves. And loves to rank.
All right. Let’s get into it – or, click here to learn more about our On-Page SEO Service.
Silo structure is website architecture. It’s how the content on your website comes together — via links — to build something cohesive and (hopefully) comprehensive.
The internal links between pages have to be thoughtfully planned out. That’s how you create a silo “structure” rather than a haphazard piece of modern art.
You might have 100 blog posts or 1,000. In either case, if you’re working with a solid silo structure, each one will fall into a hierarchy. It will link into some part of your silo plan.
If you’re lucky, you’re thinking about all of this before you have 1,000 posts on your site. Not to mention a ton of backlinks.
That way, you can build your SEO silo structure and let it define your content creation and link building strategies going forward.
But if that’s not you, that’s OK. We’re going to solve your silo problems today. Just keep reading.
Before we get too far into this:
Let’s highlight an important distinction. There are two types of silos:
1. Hard silos
2. Soft silos
Hard silos are all about the structure of your URLs and how your site’s directories and files are organized.
Soft silos are all about internal links. The URLs matter much less than the topics of the posts and pages, the links between them and the anchor text you choose for each link.
Both are important to the long-term success of any SEO strategy. But for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on soft silos.
(Although we’ll talk a little bit more about how hard silos can complement your soft silos toward the end.)
Great. So why should you care about silos?
I’m going to guess you’re too smart to just take me at my word when I say they’re great for SEO. (Good for you!)
Don’t worry. I’m not into smoke and mirrors. Here’s why you should care about SEO silos:
Here’s more information about each of those points:
When you build out incredible silos with perfect internal linking structure, you make your backlinks go much further.
By keeping the link juice flowing. Think about it like this:
When you get a backlink to a particular page on your site, that link passes authority (SEO people call it “link juice”) to that particular page.
Google follows links to understand the web. And to understand what backlinks mean.
So, it’s going to follow that lovely backlink you got and hit the page on your site. Great.
But then what? If you don’t have any internal links on that page, the link juice stops right there.
But if you have well-placed internal links — with optimized anchor text — the link juice continues to flow to other pages on your site.
(By the way, you get to CHOOSE which pages get that authority. You’re in control of your internal links.)
A mapped-out and implemented silo structure makes sure none of your content is on an island with no links to other content.
More than that: It directs link juice from inbound links to key pages on your website.
That’s going to make every backlink you get go A LOT further.
Topical authority is kind of a big deal in SEO.
And if you’re in a YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) niche like law, taxes, insurance or healthcare, you’re going to need a lot of topical authority if you ever — ever — want to rank.
(For context: Google considers some subjects so essential to people’s lives that it sets a higher bar for sites ranking within them. Those are YMYL niches.)
How do you make your website into an authority on your topic?
It’s not easy. It’s never easy.
But silos make it easier.
Remember the most basic way Google crawls and understands the internet? It follows links.
When you set up silos on your website, you create a bunch of links for Google to follow. You guide Google through the various pages and posts on your site with your silos.
Along the journey, Google learns more about the topics you’re covering and how you’ve related each one to the other.
Do that in a way that demonstrates authority on the topic — with comprehensive content and healthy backlinks to boot — and Google is going to LOVE your website.
Google only loves websites that it believes are authoritative. That’s got to be you. Otherwise, your SEO efforts will fail.
We’ll get into the specifics of how to build SEO silos a bit later. But suffice it to say: You create a bunch of content focusing on topics, subtopics and related queries derived from longtail keywords.
If you’ve never heard of a longtail keyword, here’s what you need to know:
“How to sue for a slip-and-fall accident” is a longtail keyword. “Most dangerous intersections in Miami” is a longtail keyword.
“Dallas Slip-and-Fall Accident Lawyer” is NOT a longtail keyword. “Dangerous intersections” is NOT a longtail keyword.
That’s all you need to know for now. Back to silos:
Silos help your site rank for longtail keywords really, really fast. And longtail keywords can be really valuable.
SEO is a long-term strategy. But who doesn’t love quick wins? You’ll find quick wins in the longtail.
These keywords often have high intent — meaning those who search them are likely a good fit for your business, whether it’s a law firm, insurance agency or anything else.
They also tend to have less competition. That means they’re the very definition of low-hanging fruit.
See, when you build a silo, you end up with a ton of content topics. The topics at the bottom of the silo are typically going to target longtail keywords.
Because silos make your site so authoritative on the subjects you write about, they tend to convince Google that you should rank for those lower-competition longtail keywords. Fast.
The best part? You’re starting the rankings snowball’s descent down the hill.
When you scoop up longtail rankings, you get some traffic. If you give those website visitors what they’re looking for with your content, their on-site behaviors will send more positive feedback about you to Google.
Over time, that empowers your site to rank for more competitive keywords. And the snowball keeps rolling. And growing and growing.
You can configure silos a lot of ways. Many of them will be effective.
But you’re not looking to be some kind of SEO silo pioneer. You just want a silo structure that WORKS.
Here are five tried-and-true silo structures to choose from:
I call this one the top-to-bottom loop because it sends your link juice from the top of the silo to the very bottom — and then back up again.
Here’s what it looks like mapped out:
As you can see, wherever backlinks hit the silo — whether it’s at the silo head or a subtopic — the internal links point the link juice further down to the very bottom: the content targeting longtail keywords.
Then what happens? Those longtail pages link back to the silo head. The link juice flows right back to the top.
It’s a tidy and effective loop. And it’s pretty easy to keep up with if you’re building out large silos.
What’s Good About the Top-to-Bottom Loop?
This configuration ensures that the link juice from all those backlinks you hope to get hits EVERY page you’ve got in the silo.
That’s because it’s a perfect loop.
As you’ll see in some of the other SEO silo structures, that kind of perfection doesn’t always happen.
The other thing I like about this silo is that it’s fairly simple, given that you map it out somewhere.
What’s Not So Good?
Really, the only problem with this silo structure is in its simplicity. More specifically, it limits the total number of internal links a given page in the silo will receive.
And in general, more internal links pointing to an important page is going to be better.
Look at the structure again. See how those really important subtopic pages only get a single inbound internal link?
That’s not ideal. It’s not going to destroy your rankings or anything, but it’s also not helping as much as it could.
Warning: This is a super effective silo structure for SEO, but it takes some experience to implement properly.
Here’s how the priority power-up works in a nutshell:
You send more internal links from all levels of the silo to the most important pages in the silo.
That’s regardless of which “level” of the silo those priority pages happen to be on.
Here’s how it looks on paper:
Let’s get a little more specific:
Say you’re a personal injury lawyer. You’ve got a general personal injury page at the top of your silo.
One of your subtopics is car accidents. And those are BIG money for your firm. That means you want to prioritize that subtopic page.
So, you start to build your silo. You create the topic, subtopic and longtail content.
Then it’s time for the links. And this is where it gets tricky.
You link top-down (like you would in the top-to-bottom loop structure discussed above) first.
But then, you add more internal links pointing to the car accident page. You go into every page in the silo and look for natural opportunities to link to that big-money car accident page.
The more the better. And use as many different kinds of (relevant) anchor text as possible.
What’s Good About the Priority Power-Up?
The best thing about this silo structure is pretty clear: You point more resources toward the pages that really matter.
That typically leads to higher rankings for those prioritized pages. If that’s what you want, then this is the silo for you.
What’s Not So Good?
You might have several really important pages in a silo. But this structure gets WAY too complicated if you try to prioritize more than two pages.
(And is it really prioritization if you’re prioritizing multiple pages?)
If you’re looking for something a little simpler, try the one-for-one silo.
Here’s what it looks like:
Let’s break that down:
It’s pretty much exactly like the top-to-bottom loop. Each page links down to a page lower in the silo. And the bottom layer of the silo loops it all back by linking to the silo head.
But there’s a key difference:
The links go both ways.
So, your silo head links to subtopics. And those subtopics link back to the silo head.
Your subtopics link down to pages targeting longtail keywords. And those longtail pages link back up to the subtopic pages.
It’s one for one, as the name suggests.
What’s Good About the One-for-One?
This silo structure is easy for both users and Google to navigate. That means it’s particularly useful if you have a lot of content.
It’s also one of the simplest silo structures. And it allows you to link naturally from low-intent longtail pages back up to higher intent subtopics. And so on.
What’s Not So Good?
This structure distributes the internal links relatively evenly throughout your silos.
That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. But it could leave some opportunity on the table.
The fact is that you just won’t care about the rankings of some pages as much as you care about others.
But in this silo structure, you’re giving as much link priority to the pages you don’t care so much about as the ones you DO care a lot about.
Read that silo name again. This is better than no internal linking at all. But not by much.
Still, many who are just starting out with SEO end up with silo structures that look like this: WARNING: don’t hurt your eyes trying to understand this random internal linking mess.
As you can see (hopefully), that’s only a little better than nothing.
If you’re lucky, you’ll keep all that crazy linking topically relevant and within a subset of pages and posts on your site.
If you just don’t have the time to do siloing in any other way, then do this one. (Or hire someone to do a better one.)
Here’s how to do it:
Determine the topically related pages that either exist on your site or will soon. Make a list of them.
Then, within the content of all of those pages, look for natural opportunities to link to other pages in the list. You can have several links per page.
And that’s it.
What’s Good About the Better-Than-Nothing Silo?
This silo structure is a time saver. That’s about the only thing that makes it preferable to other silo structures on this list.
And again: It IS better than nothing.
But you’ll eventually want to graduate to something a little more sophisticated if you truly want to maximize your SEO ROI.
What’s Not So Good?
It’s haphazard and confusing. It dilutes link juice quickly. And it’s nearly impossible to map out in a way you can actually understand.
And in my experience, these downfalls do limit ranking power.
However, compared to sites with no internal linking at all, sites that choose the better-than-nothing silo structure do perform marginally better.
In most of the silo structures we’ve discussed so far, the link scheme has gone either up or down — or all around in the case of the better-than-nothing silo.
Up and down linking is great for building topical authority. But what about lateral links?
Just as good. So, why not do both?
That’s what the lateral linker allows you to do. Here’s what it looks like when it’s mapped out:
See that? The silo head links to a SINGLE subtopic page. That subtopic page links laterally to another subtopic.
That pattern continues until you reach the last subtopic page. And then, that final subtopic page in the line links back up to the silo head.
Meanwhile, that first subtopic page links down to the next layer (either more subtopics or longtails).
The lateral linking pattern repeats on that lower level. And it keeps going to the bottom of the silo.
What’s Good About the Lateral Linker?
This silo structure makes sure every single page in the silo gets included. That’s a good thing for search engine bots as they crawl your site.
That means you don’t have any orphaned pages that are likely to get left out of the rankings.
Also, this pattern is pretty easy to follow. That makes it a popular choice for people managing really large silos.
What’s Not So Good?
But for users? This structure is neither a good thing or a bad thing. It certainly doesn’t help them understand the topical layout of your site or content.
That’s not going to necessarily harm you from an SEO perspective. But it also doesn’t help.
Meanwhile, you have this other issue:
Most pages in the silo have a single inbound internal link. That’s not very many.
But a SINGLE subtopic page or longtail page on each lower level of the silo has TWO inbound internal links.
Your silo head, however, only gets the one.
That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in terms of prioritizing important pages. But in the end, the pitfalls are unlikely to outweigh the upside of this silo structure.
That’s A LOT of information. But you’re probably ready to cut to the chase:
Which silo structure is best for SEO?
Not all of these will work well for people with different levels of SEO experience, so we’ve broken it down into best for beginners and best for experts.
(But we’ll leave it up to you to determine which category you fall into.)
For beginners, the one-for-one silo structure is best. Why?
Because it checks all the boxes for a beginner:
You don’t have to do a lot of mental math to understand that each page links up to one level and down to another.
That’s the kind of simplicity that’s great for those who are new to silo building.
And as you expand the silo, you don’t have to go in and redo links on existing pages to make the structure work.
That’s simple maintenance.
Finally, this silo structure WORKS. It’s not the absolute best structure. But it’s effective.
Think of it like a Subaru. It’s reliable and low-maintenance.
Now let’s take a look at the Lamborghini:
If you’ve been doing silos for a while or feel reasonably confident that you’ve got this locked down, the priority power-up silo structure is your best choice.
It allows you to point more link juice at the pages that really matter to you. That’s going to be key as you work to outrank your (likely steep) competition.
But remember: This structure is pretty complicated. And it requires a great deal of maintenance as you publish new content.
If you’ve got the time (or team) to do it for you, though, it will pay off in a big way.
You can know everything there is to know about the types of silos. And their impact on your SEO efforts.
But if you don’t know how to actually BUILD a working silo, that doesn’t mean much.
So, let’s make sure that’s not you.
Here’s how to build a winning SEO silo in four steps:
Your silos are only as strong as the silos inside them. That’s why you have to find amazing keywords to target.
Let’s do an example. For the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to be a personal injury law firm in San Francisco.
How would you find keywords? There are a few tried and true methods:
There are other ways. But those are the most common.
The good news for our fictional San Francisco personal injury law firm website is that there are some defined topic areas within which to search for keywords:
You get the idea. Your practice areas are a GREAT place to start when you’re looking for broad keywords.
Make the list of the broad keywords/topics that matter most to your firm. Each of those broad topics will get an amazing (and probably longform) piece of content.
These will be the central pages that hold the silos together. More on that in Step 2.
This is the part where you come up with the supporting pages. Depending on your chosen silo structure, your parent/pillar pages will link down to or be linked to by these supporting pages.
How do you find the supporting pages for each silo?
By breaking the broad topics down into smaller and more specific pieces. And finding keywords that match those pieces.
Time for an example:
You’re building out your vehicle accidents silo. You already have the San Francisco Motor Vehicle Accidents pillar page planned out.
What are the subtopics?
Some keyword research tools will provide a list of suggestions. You can use those if they make sense. But you can also do this manually.
Just think about the natural subtopics:
Then find keywords relevant to each of those topics. Pair each subtopic with a relevant keyword.
Finally, write the pages or posts that will target the keyword for each subtopic. These don’t have to be as massive as the silo head content, but they should be comprehensive.
You’re not done breaking these topics down. Now, you have to break down your subtopics.
You’re looking for even more specific subject matter here. And you’re going to use those specific subjects to target those juicy longtail keywords we talked about earlier.
Same idea as before:
Some keyword research tools will do this for you (mostly and with some obvious errors).
But you can do this with logic, too. Just think about the smaller subtypes and questions related to each subtopic.
Let’s do that for the “car accidents” subtopic we identified under the “vehicle accidents” silo head earlier:
This list could go on and on. Do this for every subtopic in the silo. And make sure these keywords have some search volume.
Then, create a piece of content that targets each longtail keyword you identify.
Once you’ve done all the keyword research, silo mapping and content creation, you’ve only got one piece of the puzzle left:
The internal links, to be specific.
Remember: These links have to follow a HIGHLY specific pattern. This pattern is defined by the silo structure you’ve chosen.
So, refer to the silo structures earlier in this article. Map out how you’re going to link all your content together based on that. And start linking.
A note about anchor text:
Each internal link you add to your silo is going to have an anchor. This is just the text you use with the link. SEO people call it anchor text.
Google reads the anchor text of every link. And it uses it to understand how pages are related.
So, be thoughtful about the anchor text you use for these internal links. Make sure it’s relevant.
And, at least once in every silo, use the primary (big) keyword you’re targeting as an anchor.
Silos are a big deal in SEO. And they lead to lots (and lots) of questions. We’ve tried to answer some of the most common questions about SEO silos below:
Ideally, you won’t link outside of your silo structure any more than is necessary.
By default, your navigational menus will create links that deviate from your silo structure.
But for the internal links you’re adding to the content of your silos, be strict. Don’t link outside the silo if you can possibly help it.
Because one of the biggest purposes of silo building is to control the flow of link juice from backlinks.
The more you link outside of the silo you’ve built, the less controlled that link juice (and ranking power that comes with it).
Are silos a ‘set it and forget it’ SEO strategy?
Wouldn’t that be nice?
But no. They’re not.
You have to go in and update your silos from time to time. For one thing, you should publish new, relevant content and link it into your silos.
In general, bigger silos are more powerful silos.
But you also need to update, add to and refresh the content in your silos. Especially when it’s not ranking well.
You can do it once a month, once a quarter or once a year. But you DO have to do it sometimes.
Silos work best when you keep them tight. So, maintain a tight focus on your primary subject.
If you’re building a silo about product liability lawsuits and have a subtopic about fatal defective product accidents, you might be tempted to cross-link to a post about wrongful death.
Don’t do it. Stick with the product liability-specific stuff. Create a new, product liability-specific post about wrongful death if need be.
Trust us: Your silos will work better that way.
There’s some debate about this in the SEO community. Let’s put it this way:
Hard silos aren’t going to cause any problems if you do them right. But they’re not necessarily going to help you.
They CAN help. But they won’t always.
Some SEOs think Google doesn’t really care that much about parent pages and child pages as they relate to URL structure.
Others disagree vehemently.
We’re somewhere in the middle:
Yes, there is likely some sort of SEO effect related to URL structure — parent-child pages specifically.
But it’s minimal when compared to the power of soft silos built with internal linking rather than URLs.
So, if you have the time and resources, it’s fine to plan out hard silos. But do your soft silos first.
Vary anchor text within your silos as much as possible. But make sure it’s always relevant.
Almost nothing will raise red flags for Google faster than spammy anchor text.
It’s safest to keep your anchor text relevant and varied within the topic you’re focusing on.
SEO silos can fail. Hard. That’s what happens when you allow mistakes into your silo creation processes.
But you can avoid these common silo mistakes:
Silos are all about the internal links. That means you have to be really careful where you put them.
In other words, you have to map out your internal links to PERFECTLY reflect your chosen silo structure. And then you have to execute that structure precisely.
Why does this matter?
Because when you don’t close the loop properly, the link juice leaks out. All those beautiful backlinks you’re building are sending their authority all over the place — and not exactly where you want them to (your money pages).
Inappropriate Anchor Text
Anchor text matters. In your SEO silos, it’s a HUGE part of how Google understands the relationships between all the pages you’ve created.
And there are a few types of anchor text to use:
Here’s the thing:
You have to use ALL of those types of anchor text in each silo you build. But many people don’t do that.
Here’s the mistake they make:
They go way too hard on exact match anchors for their internal links (not to mention backlinks).
Don’t get me wrong: I love exact match anchor text. And I think it’s good to hammer it sometimes.
But if you use all exact match anchors in your silos, Google’s going to think you’re up to something. That doesn’t look like natural linking. At all.
As a result, you’re going to either:
You don’t want that. Ranking No. 1 is the whole point of building silos in the first place.
This is a lot of work. A TON of work. But when you do it right, it’s worth it.
When you build massive, perfectly optimized silos, you get results in the rankings. And that’s what you want.
But you also get more bang for your buck with backlinks. Silos let you control the flow of link juice (authority) around your site. That’s worth a lot.
The good news:
The initial setup is a ton of work. But maintaining and growing your SEO silos is a lot less work.
(And you’ll be a lot happier as you do it because the traffic and leads will be pouring in.)
So: Build the silos. Get links. The rankings will come.
That’s the power of silos for SEO.
Some more helpful tips: Optimize Your Website Pages Like A Pro: 13 Easy Steps