Blog silos have been gaining a lot of popularity lately and it's already becoming one of those new buzzwords that gets beat-to-death by online marketers.
Marketers have a way of using catchy little phrases to explain what is often, a complicated process. They also have a way of abusing something that works to the point that it doesn't work anymore. Blog silos, or “siloing” is no different, so far.
So What is a Blog Silo?
Before you understand what siloing means, you need to first understand a little about how Google works.
Google uses, what they call “spiders” or “crawlers” to read the contents of your website. This is what they use to determine the quality and ranking of a website.
There are a lot of things taken into consideration but many of them are far too complicated to discuss here.
Instead of getting into complicated algorithms, we will discuss the most important ones. Those are…
- Internal links
- Outbound links
This one is pretty self explanatory but it's important you understand it.
When you started your website you came up with a main topic and a few other secondary, or similar topics to write about. These are also known as your keywords.
As an example, let's say you're starting a website about jellybeans. Some of your keywords might be, red jellybeans, blue jelly beans, white jellybeans etc. For the sake of this post we'll use those keywords as categories. (your categories don't always need to be your keywords)
These are links from other websites that point to your site. Ideally, you'll have lots of quality websites linking to yours. These are also known as “backlinks” and at one time, they were the ‘Holy Grail' of SEO.(search engine optimization)
In Google's early days, backlinks were the only thing they knew how to measure. They counted each backlink to a site as a ‘vote'. For any given search, the site with the most votes (backlinks) would get higher rankings.
It didn't take long before people figured this out. Once they did they created their own backlinks which forced Google to rely on other metrics. Backlinks still count, but they are not the only thing that matter anymore.
It's difficult to write good content without linking to a source that helps support your message. A website with no outgoing links looks suspicious in the eyes of Google. For example, bloggers often link to wikipedia to help them explain a statement or statistic.
When you link to another website, that website recieves a backlink, which can help it rank better.
Internal linking means linking to other relevant pages or posts within your site. If you write a post called “What white jelly beans taste like” you might also link to a post called “Why white jelly beans taste good”.
Internal linking is a great way to keep readers and search engines spiders on your site longer. The more spiders know about your site the better. Giving them plenty of content to crawl and showing them the way to it, is going to be a huge benefit.
Many websites are a confusing mess. The site's navigation(menu) is often overlooked and treated as an afterthought. But it's one of the most important factors in maintaining a successful website.
The navigation of your site needs to be simple, clean and relevant. Having a difficult menu system will cost you readers and it will cost you with the search engines.
The Solution Silo
Siloing a blog is an attempt to simplify things for search engines. Each page within a given category links to another, and that one to the next.
For example, Your white jelly bean category might have about 5 to 10 pages. In a silo each one of them is linked to the next one. The last page in that category links to the home page, or whatever page you choose to be the ‘main page’.
For all the buzz surrounding it, siloing is actually very simple. It’s that simplicity that makes it effective. Search engines, (like readers) love simplicity when it comes to websites. Here is a site that I think does siloing very well. I'm not sure about the authenticity of the site, but you can see that she has 5 main subheadings sporting 5 categorized blog rolls, and posts to match each category.
I've been doing some research into backyard chickens, and unfortunately, this lady wasn't ranked for much (found her site searching for domain names). So while soloing works in theory, without some involvement in your blog, it won't make you rank automatically.
Siloing your site is nothing more than an internal linking process, calling it a strategy isn't accurate. Being mindful of your internal links is something you should be doing anyway. Siloing is just one way to do that, albeit an effective one.
Why it Works
One of the reasons bloggers and site owners don’t like to link to shady or low quality sites is because links pass what is known as Pagerank. Google is phasing out the term “Pagerank” so for the rest of this post we’ll use another common term, “Link Equity”
When you link to another website from yours, that link carries with it a part of the optimization(or link equity). The link, then gives that link equity to the page it’s linking to. Siloing traps that equity within the defined categories and then passes it on to the homepage.
When you create several pages, each page can develop a good bit of authority which is then translated into link equity when you link to another page.
Does it Really matter?
It is very easy to link to other pages and posts on your site without even thinking about it. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but being mindful of these links can give you a competitive edge over your competition.
Using an internal linking process like siloing can keep your website from looking like a big wadded up mess to Google. Remember that Google looks at your site and sees something very different from what you and I see.
Besides links, Google sees lots of pieces of code and text, that’s it.
Links serve as roadways for search engines to navigate to the next important piece of code or text. This is what helps them find the next important piece of information within your website.
Think of it like driving to a big city you've never been to before. If you have no map and no simple navigation, such as road signs then you're likely to get lost. The difference is, you'll probably keep trying until you find your destination. Google owes you nothing, and has trillions of other pages to crawl. Siloing is just one way to ensure the odds are stacked in your favor.
Longevity of Siloing
One point I want to bring up is that this term is a bit of a buzzword that's being talked about a lot recently. The concept has been around a while (at least for a few years) and how to properly silo has been documented on many SEO themed websites.
But I also know that any way to game the search engines is eventually caught by Google, and sites that engage in such activity are ALWAYS caught. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing black hat about silos, but if people start to abuse the method to artificially pass page rank between pages on your site, or to create a structure that attempts to ‘trick' Google Spiders into seeing something that's not actually there, the heavy hand of an algorithmic penalty is in your future.
I said it before, and I'll say it again It's my belief that any type of internal linking you do should be based on what's most useful to the user, and not what the pundits say “The Big G” wants.
Siloing your website can be a lot to understand if you are just starting out in online marketing. In my opinion your time can be spent in other areas that will produce much better results. For many beginners, it's a huge step just to understand how affiliate marketing works, and adding complex SEO strategies like the one outlined in this post will just muddle things up.
Things like a simple menu navigation, quality content, finding relevant affiliate products, keyword research, and a consistent blogging schedule are much more important to focus on.
Your site's structure will naturally follow a certain ‘flow'. If you've followed my advice and chosen a good niche that you already know about (or properly researched), then that flow is likely be created with little effort. Really, all you need to do it sit down with a pen and paper (or text document), and do a little planning.
A lot of marketers forget that Google is willing to overlook many things if visitors are reacting to the site positively. On top of that, nobody really knows all the factors (and to what degree) that play into a site's rank. I would say that if you want to take just one thing from this SEO technique, it's that internal linking to appropriate pages can help Google see all of your pages as well as efficiently decide what they are about.