Website Structure and Content Silos: How effective sites structure their content to amplify their results

Website Structure. It’s one of those things that beginning bloggers usually don’t think about.

But experienced bloggers know how important it is.

The WordPress Seattle Bloggers Meetup group discussed this very topic at one of their monthly gatherings. Here are the notes of that meetup hosted by James Upton of DIYTileGuy.

Note: Scroll down to the bottom to see the video

website structure and content silos

What is a Content Hub?

A content hub is one way of structuring your content. It consists of one main piece of content at the hub and several related posts that support the main hub.

Below is an example of a hub & spoke content hub or I’ve also heard it called the spoke and wheel hub.

Why have a Content Cluster around a particular subject?

There are several reasons to structure your content in an organized way. Some are as follows:

  • Google can crawl content easier
  • Rank higher (long tail keywords)
  • Better user experience
    • Spend more time on site
  • Shows more authority (topical relevance)
  • More post ideas

If Google sees that you have just one post on a subject then it may not consider your site as being authoritative on that subject.

However, if you have whole cluster of content around one topic then that is a signal to Google that your site specializes in that subject.

hub and spoke content method

Internal links vs External links

Linking creates the structure of your site. Firstly, note that there are two kinds of links:

  • External = Clicking the link takes visitors from your site to another website
  • Internal= Clicking the link takes visitors to another page on your website.

We’re mainly going to be dealing with internal linking in this post but I wanted to touch a bit on external links first.

External Links

External linking is normal especially for an authority site that is referencing and sourcing it’s information.  As an example, Google seems to love Wikipedia and it’s extensive out-links.

Those external links are how Wikipedia sources its information and they make its content more authoritative. It’s not simply saying something but it’s backing that up with sources.

Here are some general characteristics of how I’ve been handling external links lately:

External links should be Do-follow

When using external links as sources for your information they should be do-follow links. Google should be invited to crawl them.

Place them in brackets with numbers

Take a look at the image below to see how I’ve handled the external links when talking about the subject of different kinds of thinset mortar.

I’ve been placing the external links in brackets with numbers and the numbers link to the source of the reference.

Doing it this was distinguishes between your internal and external links.

External links in a blog post
To differentiate internal and external links the external links are numbered at the end of the paragraph

The number correspond with links down at the bottom of the post that I’ve labeled as the Reference area.

The number, itself, will take a reader to the external link when clicked.

External links reference section
Reference section for all external links is at the bottom of the post

People are less likely to click them

And, let’s face it, you want people to stay on your page so doing it this way makes people less likely to click these links and go off page. At least that’s my theory, anyways.

Internal Links

Internal links are what define the hub or silo. Without internal links there is no structure and there is no hub.

Internal links show:

  • Relevance of pages
  • Relationship between pages
  • Value of pages

Whichever page is at the center of the hub or the top of the silo is going to be the most important page. The hub will have the most links pointing to it.

Different types of silo structures

Matt Diggity of Affiliate Lab talks about several different silo structures and what he likes and dislikes about each. He also tells you which are his favorites in this Youtube video.

This video is definitely worth watching if you are trying to understand how different content silos work.

example of a content silo structure for blogging

Cornerstone Content

Cornerstone content is basically a hub post that we’ve talked about already.

Yoast, an SEO plugin, has a feature where you can label a post as ‘Cornerstone Content’ and it will give different guidelines on how to optimize these posts as opposed to ‘normal’ blog posts that don’t have the cornerstone designation.

Here are some traits that your cornerstone posts should have:

  • Be on the home page (high in site structure)
  • The most internal links
  • Longer content (Yoast indicates 900 words for cornerstone vs 300 minimum typically)
  • Should link to related long-tail keyword posts

Cornerstone posts should be the central hub and then link out to longer-tail keywords ‘spoke’ posts on the same subject.

Posts vs Pages or Hard Silo vs Soft Silo

Soft Silo

If you choose to organize your site with categories and tags then you are using the soft silo approach.

Categories and tags are the traditional WordPress method for organizing your site.

For example, if you have a site about food and one of your categories is Best Red Apples then your URL will look like this:

One of the big advantages of soft silos is that you can reorganize your posts as your site grows. You can simply add or change categories and move on.

However, a major disadvantage is that it’s often times difficult to add content to category pages to help optimize them.

Rather, they simply contain a list of posts that you can scroll and not much else.

Soft Silo ProsSoft Silo Cons
Easy to reorganize laterMessier Organization
Posts show up in blog rollCan be difficult to add content
to optimize
Pros and Cons of Soft Silo Structure

Hard Silo

On the other hand, hard silos uses pages as the categories. This means that the pages would show up in the URL as follows:

An advantage of hard silos is that you can use the page as a category page and also add additional content to it. This means that the category page can be better optimized and potentially be a landing page.

However, once you choose your structure it is not easily changed after-the-fact. You’re likely to take a hit with your SEO if you change your structure later.

Hard Silo ProsHard Silo Cons
Cleaner Site StructureDifficult to reorganize later
Can be better for SEOBlogs don’t post to blog roll
Pros and Cons of Hard Silo Structure

Bottom line:

If you aren’t 100% sure of your site structure use the soft silo content structure of posts, categories, and tags to organize your content.

3 Click Rule

Whether you end up using hard or soft silos for your website, you want to make sure that you honor the 3-click rule.

This means that your content is never more than three clicks from your home page. However, with a larger site that has a lot of content this can be a challenge, at times.

In the example below, three clicks gets you to the post about red apples but Macintosh apples is a fourth click.

Home–>Fruit–>Apples–>Red Apples–>Macintosh

One could remedy this by simply the category of Apples be clickable from the home page. Then the clicks would be as follows:

Home–>Apples–>Red Apples–>Macintosh

The category of Fruit would still be between Home and Apples. As a result, you’re simply bypassing the Fruit category and listing Apples on the home page.

Don’t have Duplicate Content

With creating content hubs and silos, you want to make sure that your ‘spoke’ content is related to the hub but you don’t want to duplicate the content.

So, make sure your keywords are different for each post and that each post is optimized around a specific keyword.

Anchor Text

Finally, how do you go about linking your posts together? This is where anchor text comes in.

Anchor text is simply the text that is highlighted for the link. For example, if I write:

The best WordPress group is located in Seattle Washington

The anchor text is the part that is highlighted.

So when you internal link to your different posts you want your anchor text to match the keyword that post is targeting. Most of the time, anyways.

example of exact match anchor text for internal links

Let’s look at this example above. We’re linking from the hub ‘smart home devices’ to two different spoke pages.

Exact Match Anchor text:

“We have posts on smart kitchen appliances and smart bathroom fixtures.”

You can see that the keyword is the exact match that is highlighted [links are disabled for these examples].

However, with all things that involve Google, this has been abused over the years. So if 100% of your internal linking is exact match anchor text then this makes Google suspicious.

So you have to mix it up a bit. This is where similar match anchor text comes into play.

Again using the example above, we link between the two spoke pages with similar match anchor text.

Similar match anchor text:

“For bathroom faucets, check out our post on smart fixtures for bathrooms.”

Here the text is similar in context but not an exact match.

Finally, to make things look natural, you also need to diversify away from similar match anchor text.

Consequently, having a few instances of anchor text that doesn’t match at all is perfectly natural. So throw in a couple of links similar to this:

“For more, click here.”

This keeps things looking natural and indicates to Google that you aren’t trying to abuse anchor text keywords.

To summarize, you want the majority of your internal links to have exact match anchor text. But you also want to mix it up and use some similar match anchor text along with a few ‘click here’s” so Google doesn’t think you’re trying to game the system.

Final Word

Here’s a bullet point list to summarize this post:

  • Figure out what your site is about
  • Create cornerstone content posts
  • Make those the hub or top of a silo with other similar posts
  • Use internal links to show how silos are related 
  • The hub should have the most links
  • Use Exact match anchor text with your links (don’t overuse)

I hope this was helpful and be sure to join us at Seattle WordPress Bloggers meetup held monthly.

Video of the Website Structure Meetup


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