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[Guide] How to use a silo structure on affiliate sites in 2019

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by seocrab, Sep 18, 2019.

  1. seocrab

    seocrab Supreme Member

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    A quick note from seocrab

    Hey everyone, I've been having a good month and decided to give back to the community with another in-depth guide, this time on siloing content (see the previous beginner's guide to free keyword research).

    I've tried to make this as accessible to newbies as possible. If you have any questions about silo structures or using them on affiliate sites in particular (my specialty), reply to this thread and I will do my best to help out.

    Now onto the good stuff...

    How to use a silo structure on affiliate sites in 2019 [w/ examples]


    If you've been on BHW for more than a minute, you'll probably have heard of content silos.

    [​IMG]

    To most of the world, a silo is a bulk grain storage system. To SEOs, a silo is a site architecture method that can help boost rankings and pageviews through strategic internal linking.

    For an affiliate like me, that means more $$$.

    Silo content structures are nothing new. Bruce Clay has been writing about silos since 2006.

    Smarter BHW contributers than me have written excellent guides on siloing over the years. For example, you should really read Tom Belfort's silo AMA (@splishsplash) and silo guide.

    In this guide, I'm going to expand on Bruce and Tom's work by taking you through what a silo is and how to build affiliate websites using a silo structure.

    Most of my experience is with WordPress, so I'll also explain how to setup a simple silo in WordPress.


    Why website silo structures work

    To illustrate why silo structures work, I will borrow from the work of Stephen Cronin (who wrote this guide to siloing in 2012).

    [​IMG]

    Not only can you or I find an orange jelly bean easier in the silo, so can Google.

    By sorting your jelly beans into silos, Google can easily crawl your site and assign topical relevance for yellow jelly beans, orange jelly beans, green jelly beans, pink jelly beans AND generic jelly beans, instead of just generic jelly beans.

    And Google doesn't like serving general content - its algorithms are trained to give searchers the most relevant results. Siloing makes your site more relevant.

    In many cases, relevance > authority when it comes to ranking. And the good news is that relevance is a lot easier to build than authority.

    The easy way to silo

    The simplest way to get a good silo structure is to create a tiny micro-niche website.

    For example, a site completely dedicated to dog collars will naturally have a silo structure. The homepage will likely be about dog collars in general, and each post will be about a specific dog collar review. Informational content, e.g. a guide to dog collar materials, will also fit into this natural silo. You can interlink between all posts freely because they are all very relevant to the topic of dog collars.

    However, if you want to grow a site to more than a 30-page micro-niche site, you'll need to work a bit harder on your silo structure.

    What does a content silo look like?

    Theory is boring, so I'm going to show you what a good content silo looks like on a real website that ranks well in 2019.

    Note: To avoid outing any sites belonging to BHW members (incl.myself!), I'll only use well-known websites in this guide.


    I was reading the Inc. 5000 list of 2019's most successful businesses in America, and spotted some huge affiliate websites on the list.

    [​IMG]

    ConsumerAffairs.com generated almost $30 million in 2018, and will likely do better in 2019.

    Browsing ConsumerAffairs is like taking a MasterClass in siloing content.

    [​IMG]

    The site has over 300 categories, across a range of different topics. I used Scrapebox to scrape URLs from the sitemap and there were more than 17,000 pages.

    How can you best organize 17,000 pages? With a content silo!

    There are two big silo clues on the homepage:

    • The "Buyers Guides" menu link, which takes you to /resources/ and a list of all categories
    • A list of popular categories right on the homepage
    [​IMG]

    Which brings me to silo golden rule number 1:

    Silo golden rule #1: Top content must be no more than 2 clicks away from the homepage

    Despite having over 17,000 pages, ConsumerAffairs manages to link its top pages within 2 clicks from the homepage, and 3 clicks for all pages.

    [​IMG]

    See it for yourself: click the Buyers Guides menu link on ConsumerAffairs and you'll see it opens the top categories and a link to the category overview.

    [​IMG]

    From each category landing page, there are more links to the sub-categories on the same topic.

    Simple breadcrumb links show how these pages are connected to the homepage:

    [​IMG]

    Why is this important? Because most backlinks go to the homepage, and Google will see it as the most authoritative page on the website. In simplistic terms, the closer other pages are to the homepage, the more important they look to Google.

    Googlebot wants to be as efficient as possible when it crawls a website because crawling is expensive. If you give Googlebot a simple crawl path, you have a better chance of getting crawled more and seen as an authority in each silo topic.

    Silo golden rule #2: Only interlink within the silo

    You might be thinking: "if the homepage is so important, why don't I link to all my pages from there!". Well, if you run a small micro-niche site, that's fine. But if you publish content on multiple topics, you need to keep your silos seperate.

    You can see what I mean on TheWirecutter.com - there's a page for each category (all linked to from the homepage, of course) that lists all pages related to that topic.

    [​IMG]

    Aside from menu links, each individual post only sends internal links to topically-relevant content within the silo.

    For example, a Wirecutter page on "Best Lightning Cable" sends internal links to other pages in the electronics category, like "Best USB Battery Packs", and "Best Micro USB Cable".

    [​IMG]

    Bonus tip: you'll also notice that on The Wirecutter, internal links are merely underlined, while external (affiliate) links are in bold and red. That's a clever way of using plenty of internal links for Google, but discouraging user clicks on anything but affiliate links.

    You can do this yourself with some simple CSS.

    There are always exceptions to any rule but, in general, keeping your internal links within each silo will help improve your relevancy for key topics, especially if you cover a broader niche.

    More relevancy = better ranking.

    How to structure a silo in WordPress

    [​IMG]

    WordPress makes it really easy to build a silo structure.

    Step 1: Categorize your content

    Look at a list of all your content pages and break them down thematically. You can do this with pen and paper, a spreadsheet or whatever tool you prefer.

    For example, if you have a site about sporting equipment, each sport would be a separate silo, like this:
    • Golf
    • Tennis
    • Football
    • Hockey
    Or, if you have a site just about golf, you could break into down into:
    • Golf clubs
    • Golf bags
    • Golf balls
    • Golf tips
    Similarly, if you have a site only about golf clubs, you can break it down into the types of club:
    • Drivers
    • Irons
    • Wedges
    • Putter
    You get the idea.

    If you have ranking data, look at some of your top keywords and group them into silos too.

    Fun side effect: You'll probably find lots of new keyword opportunities once you start thinking about your site in silos.

    Step 2: Pick a WordPress silo type

    Remember that silos are about two things: topic landing pages and internal links.

    There are two ways to achieve a silo structure in WordPress:
    • using category slugs, also known as a physical silo, e.g. mysite.com/topic1/article1 (I will show you this below)
    • virtual siloing e.g. mysite.com/topic1 landing page that links to related articles like mysite.com/article1 (a plugin like WP Show Posts will help you display relevant posts on a landing page).
    Either way works fine. I personally prefer category slugs on larger or broader niche sites because it's good for UX and adds more keywords to each URL.

    Smaller sites do just fine with a virtual silo.

    Step 3: Add silo topics as categories

    Remember: if you're working on an existing site, take a full backup before making any changes in case you mess something up. If you have a staging site, use it.

    From the WordPress Dashboard, go to Posts > Categories and create a category for each silo.

    [​IMG]

    Depending on how large your site is, you can also create sub-categories with a parent category (e.g. mysite.com/golf/clubs/club-review-post)

    [​IMG]

    Step 4: Change permalink structure

    From the WordPress Dashboard, go to Settings > Permalinks, select Custom Structure and add /%category%/%postname%/ into the box.

    [​IMG]

    WARNING: If you change the URL of old content, you'll need to 301 redirect it to the new page to avoid losing traffic or rankings. A plugin like Redirection will let you do this, or you can edit your .htaccess file.

    Step 5: Review your links

    Start with your menu bar and link out to each main silo category page.

    From the WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance > Menus and you'll see a section to add category pages right there.

    Next, edit each individual post and make sure you're only linking to relevant content within the same silo.

    When you're done, your links should look something like this image from Authority Hacker's post on site achitecture:

    [​IMG]

    If you have a lot of content, use a tool like Screaming Frog (free for up to 500 pages) to crawl your site and produce a map of internal links.

    Step 6: Check for errors and update your sitemap

    Finally, when you think you've finished, check your site for 404 errors or broken images (Screaming Frog will help with this too) and check your sitemap (e.g. mysite.com/sitemap.xml) contains your new URL structures.

    Submit your sitemap in Google Search Console and you're done.

    Summary

    [​IMG]

    By using silos to organize your content and internal links, your site is:
    • Easy to navigate for users = more pageviews, more time on page
    • Easy to crawl for Googlebot = better crawl rate, more relevancy for different topics
    Relevancy = Authority = Better shot at ranking

    There are many different approaches and theories on siloing: the best way to find out what works is to take action right now. Measure what works, change what doesn't. Your own experience will give you more insight than this guide or any best practices can.

    Happy ranking :D
     
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  2. aristocratic

    aristocratic Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Thanks for taking your time to share this.
    As a noob on websites it helped me understand what Silo structure is and how it can be made using Wordpress.
     
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  3. IamKing

    IamKing Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Mentioned very good points about silo structure. Taking action is more important to check the results. Thanks for simple & effective guide :)
     
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  4. topakins

    topakins Regular Member

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    Thanks for this. You referenced Tom Belfort's thread but I think your approach is still slightly different, especially when it comes to using wp's default category page. Tom himself said there are different ways to go about siloing your website. I'm already using Tom's strict silo on a website and I'm going to be trying out your liberal way of doing it on another site.
     
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  5. seocrab

    seocrab Supreme Member

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    Yes, there are no hard and fast rules to it, even I use different silo setups on different sites. It's more about understanding the concept of how Google determines relevancy and testing how you can manipulate that in your specific niche.
     
  6. TheVigilante

    TheVigilante Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    I remember a guy asking if silo works as of today, I am going to make sure to tag this post to him and let him know that it still works in 2019 :)

    @cynical07 here you go pal
     
  7. T2tkid

    T2tkid Elite Member

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    A good tutorial on Silo. Have you tried silo-ing using pages only?
     
  8. zebestof230

    zebestof230 Junior Member

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    That's great, I was going to launch an affiliate website because I think I can have a lot of good content, but I don't know if there are some things to know before starting ? Is one affiliate website in a niche (not tiny-micro-niche) enough to rank and generate income ? Or the strategy is more like doing several micro-niche sites ?

    I knew I had to silo, but this step by step guide is gold, thanks again ;)
     
  9. topakins

    topakins Regular Member

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    O
    One more thing, how do you get contents without breaking the bank. For a silo to have the full effect, you need lots of contents. I have a website with around 15 articles making $20-30 every month and I know if I can bring it up to around 100 articles, I'll be fine. I write my website articles myself. But with a full-time day job, part-time school for my degree and 3 kids to care for, this is killing me. I think I need to outsource. How do you get affordable articles that you can still use on a money site.
     
  10. seocrab

    seocrab Supreme Member

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    Yes I have. Only on one site so I can't generalize the results, but it worked pretty much the same, it's what you'd call a 'virtual silo' created with strategic linking only.

    In my experience, it really doesn't matter if you use posts or pages, categories or tags or anything else as long as you link correctly.

    No problem, glad it's helpful!



    I'd say even a tiny micro-niche is enough to generate good, recurring income. Even tiny topics can have a big audience.

    If you've never ranked an affiliate site before, I recommend you start with a tiny niche because it's a lot easier to gain relevancy and authority quickly and you'll learn a ton along the way.

    I write a lot myself, but it's definitely hard to find time with other commitments.

    I do outsource, too, but I'm picky about the quality. My best tip for getting affordable content that doesn't suck is to find friends/family that want some extra cash. If you do good keyword research and outline all the h2s etc, they can't go too wrong unless your niche is very technical.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
  11. neo

    neo Power Member

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    Do you remove the category base from the url?
    Or are you creating Silo pages and redirecting the default mysite.com/category/golf/. to. mysite.com/golf/
     
  12. seocrab

    seocrab Supreme Member

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    If you setup your permalinks as shown below, there will be no category base, just mysite.com/golf/post-name with no redirecting required.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. doggysog

    doggysog Junior Member Marketplace seller

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    I havent really implemented siloing ever, I am thinking of starting to do it but for my old content, will it have any effect in your opinion for more established sites?
     
  14. seocrab

    seocrab Supreme Member

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    Do you mean is it worth adding a silo to an existing site? Yes, definitely. Just make sure your old URLs all redirect correctly.

    If I'm buying a site, I like to find one with a bad or non-existent silo structure because it's an easy way for me to boost rankings and traffic without adding more content or backlinks.
     
  15. ozzie5

    ozzie5 Registered Member

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    Thank you for this. Especially the info on how to do the WP stuff.
     
  16. zebestof230

    zebestof230 Junior Member

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    I was thinking of translating quality articles from English to my language (Tiers 1 country) and start a blog with silos in a blog. It's not very ethical, I know, but I haven't started yet, I just feel that I'm missing a HUUUUUGE part outside my website. I read a lot "Backlinks", "Do-Follow", and many words about SEO I'm not sure if I must know them or if it's just a bonus when it's already working ?
    Thanks for your answer up there ^^
     
  17. 2DHades

    2DHades Power Member

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    That's solid, thanks, bookmarking for future reference
     
  18. W9go

    W9go Elite Member

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    i tested last year and did not find any ranking improvement when switching a category to a silo structure. since i use html pages i really changed a existing page to a 100 % clear silo. 0 improvement.

    i think silos only help if you have pages which are not really seo optimized .... if you give google what they want in the article you are good as well.
     
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  19. seocrab

    seocrab Supreme Member

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    Thanks for sharing. Interesting that it also did not have any negative impact. It's possible your site was already well-structured with good internal links, but it's good to hear another perspective on this.
     
  20. Yogesh1998

    Yogesh1998 Senior Member

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    Thanks for this detailed guide!

    I have a question. Suppose I am writing a post about, say, MacBook and it comes under the Laptops category. Now, I write a post about any iPhone and it comes under the smartphone category. Both products are from the same company Apple. As one can see both the products are in different categories but both are related. So, my question is, should these posts link to each other despite being in different categories?