Site Architecture: How to Beat High-Authority Sites with Fewer Links Using Silo Structure

I want to show you something that on the surface defies logic.

Let’s look at the keyword “christian mingle reviews,” a good keyword with solid search volume.

Definitely in the “doable” KD range, but would take a bit of effort, especially since higher-volume keywords tend to be slightly tougher to rank for.

...which is why this might be a surprise…

Of course, there are plenty of people who use hidden PBNs and the like to rank for these kinds of keywords, but I don’t think that’s the case here.

More...

While the domain isn’t super powerful, there are 90 referring domains that we can, and the backlink report does reveal what looks like some (albeit small) legitimate link building effort.

I also want to look at another example of this phenomenon.

Let’s search for “best espresso machines,” a good, juicy keyword. Look at the #2 and #3 results (please note that SERP results do change over time and may not be the same when you read this).

...and they’re beating it with fewer links.

TheSweetHome, of course is one of the biggest and most well-known review-style sites out there and was was sold to the New York Times as a half of a two-site package worth $30 million.

The crazy doesn’t stop there. Check out how small the two winning sites really are.

Here’s CoffeMakerPicks:

And here’s TheEdgeCoffee:

TheEdgeCoffee actually has some pretty decent authority (DR52, according to Ahrefs), but look at the authority of CofeeMakerPicks:

If you’ve spent any time at all as an SEO, that probably seems very low in the context the sites it’s beating.

So how is this possible?

How are these a small sites with lower authority kicking that much more ass than sites with higher authority?

The Power of Relevance

This is the power of relevance.

In particular, it’s the power of thematic relevance: relevance within the themes created by the content of a site.

Yes; link building is still essential. Yes; links are still hugely important in Google’s ranking algorithm. But links are only one part of the larger context.

I’ve been gathering data to support this claim: relevance often beats authority--especially when few page-level links are present (i.e. with low-KD keywords).

...sometimes...

Of course, this isn’t a new concept. But there is a lack of good data.

More importantly, there aren’t many people in our world of independent site builders really talk about wielding the immense power of relevance to make more money with our authority sites.

Here’s an example I used from a previous blog post.

These are the heatmaps from Ahrefs showing the density of rankings for a site, and I think they’re the best way to roughly judge relevance.

Site with Low Relevance

Site with High Relevance

To be clear, relevance is not the only way to achieve that kind of heatmap. Sometimes, sites with loads of authority can do it, too. But for small- to medium-sized sites, relevance seems to be the only way to do it.

After looking at a bunch of examples like this in a bunch of different niches, I’ve come to the conclusion that understanding and leveraging relevance might be one of the most underrated techniques in SEO.

Let’s talk about how to do it.

The Two Ways to Create Relevance

Method #1: Narrowly Focused Niche Sites

The first way to create relevance is by simply creating sites that are extremely focused on one thing.

With this kind of site, technical SEO almost doesn’t matter because there’s only one theme on the whole site.

Here are some examples of small sites with super-high relevance.

BestCrossbowSource.com:

CoffeeMakerPicks.com:

Bestmattress-brand.org:

These are essentially micro-niche sites: sites about just one type of product. But, clearly, relevance is playing a big role in their success.

But that’s also the problem.

If your site is about one product only, there is very limited room to grow. We prefer to build sites with much higher ceilings. That’s why big companies typically create relevance a different way...

Method #2: Silos

Silos replicate the relevance of focused niche sites within larger sites by isolating groups of related content (don’t worry; we’ll talk more about the theory and execution below).

Plenty of big sites silo heavily.

But there’s a shockingly small number of small sites that do it. When they do execute it properly, it has some pretty powerful results.

Here’s the heatmap from 10bestonline.com (our example from above).

But perhaps a better example is ThankYourSkin.com, a nicely siloed site built by our friend Tung over at CloudLiving.com.

This is especially awesome because Tung and I were really digging into the nitty-gritty of siloing around the same time, and I know he consulting a number of technical SEO experts. Looks like it worked!

Here’s one more: vixendaily.com

They also have a strong social presence, but according to SimilarWeb, 90% of that traffic comes from search.

Alright, siloing is awesome and helps you manufacture real relevance while also maintaining a site’s upward mobility.

A Small Concession

In almost all cases I’ve found, siloed sites “break” the silo in some way or another. In the case of ThankYourSkin, the silo is broken with the “Recent Posts” sidebar widget. In the case of VixenDaily, articles occasionally link to others in different categories (though rarely from what I can tell).

This seems to indicate that while siloing seems to work well, it’s not as necessary to be as strict as it used to be (or as once thought).

Gael's Notes                 

Yep, there is more than one way to do well online, many successful sites completely ignore site structure and silo principles and still do alright but there seems to be a high correlation between organised site structures and good search rankings. But correlation may not be causation, who knows.

Siloing Theory

Before I give you my take on it, let me point you to two of the cornerstone articles on siloing:

I want to concede that Bruce Clay’s article is old, and some of the advice in there I consider to be outdated (e.g. using nofollow links to “shape” PR).

I also have a slightly different take on silos than Bruce does, and we execute slightly differently than the Scratch99 article.

Still, it’s good to understand the framework on which the theory was developed.

I also want to go over some terminology that will give the rest of this conversation some context.

Terminology

  • Silo page. The “top” page of your silo that links “down” to child pages below it. In WordPress, these are usually pages. Often, but not always, they replace category archives.
  • Post. Most literature on silos will call these “children.” I think that’s stupid, so I call them posts because on an WordPress site, that’s what they are: the actual blog posts that make up your silo.

My Take on Silo Theory

There are two parts to siloing: grouping and isolation.

  • Grouping = putting content into tightly related categories.
  • Isolation = creating closed ecosystems for groups and ensuring content only interacts with content from the same category.

You create both grouping and isolation with both site structure and internal link structure.

The whole idea, though, is to create closed ecosystems: groups of tightly related content that exist in one place on your site and interact mostly with each other.

Grouping

  • Groups = clusters related content.

These will be our silos.

Technically, we want content in groups to be semantically related, but since there’s not many reliable ways to tell which of your articles are semantically related to one another, I usually fall back on good old fashioned common sense.

A fitness site might create the following groups, for example:

Here’s the tricky part…

You can break your content into as many groups and subgroups as you like, but you need to retain your user experience.

So a major decision for sites creating silos will be: how many and how deep?

Generally, you want to keep your groups as relevant as possible and between 10-100 articles each.

For all intents and purposes (and assuming we’re using WordPress), we’ll group our content into categories. Each category will be in a folder on our site, and that will be reflected in the URL structure. For example:

  • fitnesssite.com/fat-loss/
  • fitnesssite.com/muscle/
  • fitnesssite.com/nutrition/

Bruce Clay would tell you these are “physical silos,” or silos created in the file structure of your website, and that they can do the job on their own. Gael would argue that you don’t need physical silos anymore and that schema markup can hint the structure of your site to Google so you can keep short urls AND use silos.

I do prefer to use the URL structure above, and I think it adds relevance to your pages (e.g. Google can more easily see everything here is about fitness); however, I’ve seen plenty of sites work without it.

Isolation

  • Isolation = ensuring content in a given silo only interacts with other content from that silo.

This is how we really build relevance.

When Google crawls our site, we want it to land in a silo and think, “Oh wow… everything here is about weight loss” (or whatever).

We do this with internal link structure.

Link structure is the single most important thing in silos.

To properly isolate, all internal links stay in the silo. Weight loss articles only link to weight loss articles. Muscle building articles only link to muscle building articles. And so on.

In strict silo theory, internal links cross silos leak relevance.

And we want to take into account all internal links:

  • In-content links
  • Sidebar links
  • Footer links
  • Anything else

In other words, these are the rules for internal links:

  • Silo pages can link down to their OWN posts
  • Posts can link to other posts in the same silo
  • Posts CAN link up to other silo pages.
  • Footers should ONLY link to low-value pages (e.g. contact pages)
  • Navigation should ONLY link to top silo pages

Here’s what that might a post in a silo might look like, then:

To be fair and cover my bases, link structure is one of the areas that I think is disputed, and I found plenty of counterexamples of sites with “leaks” that still perform really well. Some folks, like Gael, think you should still link to other silos if you absolutely need to.

That said, even if you don’t follow strict silo theory, you still want to try minimize cross-silo linking.

To better picture this, we need to talk about structure, and to do that, we need to quickly get some terminology out of the way.

Silo Structure

There are lots and lots of theoretical silo structures out there. Some of them stray into the ridiculous.

We try to make it simpler.

For our purposes as authority site builders with blog-style sites, we essentially want a short, hierarchal structure in which our home page links to our top silo pages, and our silo pages link to posts in that silo.

Of course, we create these keeping in mind the link rules from above.

The basic structure is: Home > Silo Page > Post

Blog posts for this structure might look like the following:

  • fitnesssite.com/muscle/deadlifts/
  • fitnesssite.com/muscle/bench-press/
  • fitnesssite.com/nutrition/keto-diet/

With subcategories, your structure might look like this (this is only one top-level silo): Home > Silo Page > Sub-Silo Page > Post

This would yield pages like the following:

  • fitnesssite.com/nutrition/keto/high-fat-snacks/
  • fitnesssite.com/nutrition/paleo/easy-paleo-recipes/

Now, you could go even deeper. Something along the lines of:

Home > Silo Page > Sub-Silo Page > Sub-Sub-Silo Page > Post

But at that point, you start to sacrifice two things:

  • User experience
  • Page depth (the number of clicks it takes to get to a page)

So, generally, it’s not recommended.

Execution: How to Create Silos for SEO

In this section, We’re going to focus on building silos from the ground up for a new site. We’re doing that because (1) building them from the ground up is the best way to understand the whole process and (2) silos really are something that’s best planned from the beginning. I’m also going to assume we’re all using WordPress (because who isn’t these days?).

Of course, many of you have existing sites you might want to silo. That’s a very different process with different considerations, so I’m going to cover that separately below.

Step #1: Take a Silo-Based Approach to Keyword Research

Silos are not something you can plan as you go (well you can, but it’s an order of magnitude more difficult).

That means you’ll have to structure keyword research around silos.

Rather than simply typing “cats” into Ahrefs and taking all the lowest KD keywords, you’ll need to brainstorm silos and test them to see if there are enough profitable-looking keywords to make them work.

Let’s do this for a hypothetical fitness site.

We’ll start by brainstorming possible silos. If you’re at all familiar with a niche--or if you already have an idea of what you want your site to look like--you might be able to do this off the top of your head.

If you don’t, one good place to start is places that list subtopics for the niche. My favorite are wikis like this one. Wikis are usually organized into subtopics:

Already, I’m getting some ideas for possible silos. Based only on these categories, easy ones might be:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Endurance
  • Dieting

However, I might note that these might be a bit too broad. “Endurance training,” for example, could encompass anything from cycling to jogging to doing burpees in your basement, so it might be tough to keep content in the silo semantically related.

If I’m still feeling lost, I might visit some successful sites in the niche and see how they break down their categories/silos. Here’s the basic structure of Muscleforlife.com (one of my favorite fitness websites):

I know that I can’t start a site as big as this one. I’m just making ideas for what might be good silos.

I particularly like the idea of adding a supplements silo, since there are probably some nice affiliate commissions floating around in there.

Then start plugging your silo ideas into Ahrefs and see which have the best combination of low-competition keywords that are also tightly related.

This isn’t a keyword research tutorial, so I’m just going to show one quick example. I just typed in a few core keywords and set a max KD to see what I could find.

I found some good ideas for product-driven affiliate articles (although I’d be adding “best” to these).

And I found some great questions readers want answered.

In general, I like this idea for a silo. Keywords are low-competition, and, more importantly, tightly related, and it seems like it’d be a very sensible silo to have on a fitness site.

There would, of course, be a lot of ways to go about it, but if I were really starting a fitness site, I’d probably land on the following silos:

  • Fat loss
  • Muscling building
  • Nutrition
  • Supplements

Step #2: Plan Your Silos on Paper

Planning your silos on “paper” is crucial.

If you don’t lay them out beforehand--if you don’t know what your site will look like in the future--siloing, and therefore manufacturing relevance, becomes much more difficult.

To do this, I use one of three tools:

It doesn’t much matter which you choose; it’s just important that whatever tool you’re using let’s you create and organize different levels of information.

My favorite is probably a good old fashioned Google Sheet, since it’s easy to record KD, search volume, etc. Here’s how it looks for me:

In WorkFlowy, it would look like this:

And in MindMeister, it looks like this:

If your site has sub-silos, the organization might look a bit more like this:

Step #3: Start with Your Biggest Silo (and probably ONLY that one)

In my view, this is one of the most foolproof ways to make sure you have real relevance right off the bat: don’t even mess with multiple silos. Just create one silo to begin with.

Of course, you’d set up the tech to grow into other silos.

But to start, you’d set up just one so that you could be sure you were creating the relevance needed to rank. I’ll steal a diagram I made from our last blog post that illustrates this idea (for context, this would be a hypothetical diet site).

Of course, this is not mandatory.

You can start a site with multiple silos (I’m doing this right now, in fact), but this is probably the most efficient way to rank quickly while leaving yourself room to grow.

This is also why we recommend people brand large. So they can expand silos without betraying their branding.​

Step #4: Set Up the Tech

The technical setup for silos can be slightly annoying.

And it really comes down to two things we need to accomplish that fall outside normal WordPress setup:

  • Sidebars that only link to articles in the current category
  • Custom category pages
Custom Sidebars

As mentioned above, to preserve relevance, we need our sidebars to link only to other posts in the current silo.

If you’re a ThriveThemes user, the default “Thrive Posts” widget has a “Related Posts” option, which does exactly this. Just be aware that your posts need to be in only one category for it to work.

If you don’t use ThriveThemes, there are lots of other plugins you can use, but I prefer Ultimate Posts Widget.

Just search for it in the plugin finder in WordPress.

Find it in your widgets and move it into your sidebar.

In the options, just tick this one box (and don’t worry about any of the other stuff).

Now for the more annoying part…

Custom Category Pages

To really do silos, you need silo pages.

And these are important. You could use the default category archives pages, however...

...because they are at the “top” of the silo, and because every other page in the silo should link “up” to them, they will be among the most powerful pages on the site. In other words, they potentially have the most ranking power of all pages, so you don’t want to put actual content here.

To do that, you need custom category pages you can actually edit.

WordPress will let you add content to pages by default…

The problem is that it mostly just slaps text on top of your category archives, which looks really weird for most themes. Instead, we want to edit these like a traditional page and we want to suppress the archives.

If you use ThriveThemes, they make this easy, too.

You need to create both a category and a page with the same URL. Then, while editing the category, find the corresponding page here.

If you don’t use ThriveThemes, Gael found a pretty good hack to get you 90% of the way there using redirects, so you don’t have to hire a developer. Careful though, it's dirty.

To do this, simply add the redirection plugin to your WordPress site, then go in tools > redirection

Grab the URL of your category

Create your custom category page and grab its URL

And simply create the redirect inside redirection

That setup us not perfect but with 301 redirect there is no loss of “juice” and both to the user and Google, the navigation around your site is coherent.

Now that we know how to setup custom pages for category pages, what should custom category--or, silo pages--actually look like and do?

Basically, they need two things:

  • Content that targets a common-sense, broad keyword for that silo
  • Links to all the articles (or at least the most important) in the silo

Even though it’s a bit ugly, 10bestonline.com does this well:

We do it on HealthAmbition’s Juicing silo, too.

Navigation & Internal Links

Just a quick note here that you don’t need anything special for these.

Just make sure they follow the rules:

  • Navigation only links to top-level silo pages
  • Internal links in posts only link to other posts in the same silo
  • Every article in a silo has at least some internal links from other posts in the silo (you can use category-restricted related posts plugins, sidebars, or plugins like WP Post Navigation to make sure the crawler paths go all the way through the silo).

Step #5: Add More Silos

After you’re up, running, and generating some traffic and revenue, it’s just a matter of adding more silos.

If you launched your site with all its silos filled out with content from the beginning, you can simply add more content to those silos.

That’s the basic process for new sites; however, like I mentioned, it’s a bit different and riskier wit existing sites, so let’s discuss that briefly before wrapping up.

Existing Sites

Transitioning an existing un-siloed site to a siloed structure is both difficult and risky, and if you screw it up, you can tank your traffic.

The main problem is usually that some percentage of existing content doesn’t fit neatly into any real categories, especially if the existing categories are overly broad.

So you’re faced with an ultimatum: go for silos and delete irrelevant content, or… don’t.

I had this exact problem with HerePup and ended up just leaving the site as-is because I didn’t want to delete content that was bringing in traffic and earning money.

The other problem, of course, is dealing with existing URL structures. If they would need to change to implement silos, silos become way riskier, since changing the permalinks of an existing site can cause some real damage.

However, if you do think it’s worth it, here is a very basic checklist.

  • Keep URLs the same
  • Organize content into silos off-site (a spreadsheet or something)
  • Create the categories in WordPress and re-assign posts
  • Replace category archives with a silo page while preserving URL
  • Change sidebar to only link to other posts in the silo
  • Change all in-content links to point only to other posts in the silo
  • Move low-value links to the footer
  • Change navigation to link to top-level silo pages

Wrapping it Up

I want to make yet another concession here at the end.

Siloing has been around for a long time, and the evidence I’ve found suggests it can help manufacture relevance. In fact, some of the examples are pretty extreme.

That said, it’s only one model, and there are counterexamples: there are siloed sites that don’t do well, and there are non-siloed sites that see lots of success.

Here’s the other thing: almost all siloed sites I’ve ever found “break” the rules in some way. And often, the most successful sites are the ones “breaking” the rules the most.

Just look at Wikipedia. Every single article links to dozens--and often hundreds--of articles in other silos. It’s the most egregious, silo-shattering structure imaginable, and they do fine. Clearly, their massive authority makes up for whatever lost relevance they might incur, but the point is...

...very few are doing it “perfectly,” which suggests silos and relevance exist on a spectrum, and getting 90% of the way there very well might yield 90% of the benefits.

So here’s what matters most: that (1) a logical, user-friendly site architecture can help your rankings and that (2) silos are one way to do that.

I think it’s worth restating that after doing all the research for this article, I do think going for ultra-high relevance is a viable strategy for competing with higher authority pages, making it an attractive option for novice link builders.

Over to you…

What do you think? Have you seen silos work in the same way? Is there data we’re missing? Do you disagree? Are you using silos yourself?

Let us know in the comments!

Perrin Carrell
 

Hey there :) I'm Perrin, part of the Authority Hacker team. When I'm not blogging about Internet Marketing here, I help businesses improve their online presence, and, of course, I run a couple profitable blogs of my own.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 117 comments
Erick - October 2, 2014

Solid guide Gael! I followed your tips using workflowy and it’s working out great. I do have a quick question though, once you find all the helpful and problem solving keywords. Do you go straight on finding high CPC keywords or do you just keep finding problem solving keywords?

Thanks!

Reply
    Gael Breton - October 2, 2014

    Hey Erick,

    usually what i do is look for products I can affiliate that solve the problems. This way I can both make money and help the traffic I’m about to receive by recommending the right products to them. CPC is a nice indicator that people buy using these keywords but since most of our money comes from affiliate, we usually focus on solving problems with products.

    Hope that helps,

    Gael

    Reply
Cosmin - October 16, 2014

Great content mate.
I saw that Y Answers links to Quora, and these resources are great to start, I usually navigate to competitotr websites and read comments, most of the time you will get a few more ideas to improve existent content and for future posts.

What social plugin are you using ? I’ve been searching a while for something like that.

Thanks.

Reply
Paul - October 20, 2014

Hi Gael,
A great post – useful advice that I am going to be following right away.
Thanks

Reply
Dima - November 6, 2014

Hi, Gael!

I’m curious about your sharing box in this post. “Download your PDF for sharing this post”. What tool do you use to display this? I cannot find it.

Thanks.

Reply
Lee Trends - November 12, 2014

Happy to see another post hit my inbox.

Great content as usual Gael. There are so many tools out there to get your content going.

This is a simple and useful guide, whether Workflowy or a Mindmap tool, it’s good to get the process out your head and onto paper or some kind of visual representation.

Reply
Kas - November 20, 2014

Hi Gael,

The above post could not have come at a better time. As you know I am starting a new site so it´s perfect timing to plan as per your post.

I may have a few questions, just to warn you in advance lol

Thanks for the great tips.

Kas

Reply
Kas - November 20, 2014

Hi Gael,

I will be starting with 2 or 3 categories at first.

How much content should I have under each category before going live?

I will be working on a maintenance plugin until it´s ready to index.

Cheers

Reply
Srinivas - November 27, 2014

Hi Gael,

The Google Discussion Search link gives the following message.

400. That’s an error.

Your client has issued a malformed or illegal request. That’s all we know.

Regards
Srinivas

Reply
Darryl Bray - January 27, 2015

Should you being keyword research to determine the titles of your categories?

Reply
    Gael Breton - January 28, 2015

    Hey Darryl, yeah I think it’s a good idea especially if you make your category pages content rich, you can target short tail keywords with them.

    Reply
Nick Phillips - January 30, 2015

Thoroughly enjoying all the content on Authority Hacker. I so need help and guidance with planning my site, else I’m totally random in the way I do things!

I’m creating a site in a travel niche that brings together info from up to 20 different sources in one place – I suppose it could be seen as a directory/catalogue of holidays. I don’t see it fitting the same model as the example site given above, as I’m not sure my visitors will be trying to solve a problem as such, except maybe, deciding who to book with and where to go. My structure is more along the lines of breaking it down into destinations (countries), with perhaps some categories like City Breaks, Amazing Scenery, Luxury, Price Bands, Seasons, etc. I’m not sure I’l get ideas from Quora, Yahoo Answers …..

I’m struggling to think what sort of structure/content I should be going for – I can produce articles along the lines of “Top 10 destinations in Europe”, “5 Unusual Holidays In France”, etc but I see the main category pages simply listing all holidays (with some picked as specials/feature holidays) to a particular country – any advice?

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Reply
    Gael Breton - January 31, 2015

    Hey nick, there are plenty of questions on q&a sites about destinations, you should really inspire yourself from what people ask because that’s essentially what your audience wants.

    In case what you want to create doesn’t solve a problem, it’s going to be hard to monetize later on. Not sure I’d keep going if I didn’t solve a pain or addressed a specific community.

    Reply
Nick Phillips - January 31, 2015

Thanks for the advice Gael. I feel that I do in part solve a problem with my in development site. Bringing together information from 20 different sources, in one place. No one else is doing this in the niche. I will also gear my content towards further problem solving – that is, answering where, what, why, when and how queries. Thanks again.

Reply
Jorge - February 10, 2015

Very good tips! Thank you very much =). I will try out workflowy.

Cheers
Jorge

Reply
Ivan Cuxeva - March 20, 2015

Gael,

Thank you for providing so much value on your posts. I just wanted to pitch in and provide an alternative to Workflowy.

I currently use FreeMind, which allows me to map out a site before things are written and put in place. The learning curve is a little longer than workflowy, and there is no android app for it, but it can produce similar results and … well its free :)

Cheers!
Ivan

Reply
    Gael Breton - March 20, 2015

    Hey Ivan,

    Thanks for dropping by. Actually Workflowy is also free. I personally prefer it but the best app is the one that works for you right? ;)

    Reply
Danny - July 18, 2015

Checking on the Google Discussion plugin. Thanks for the tip, Gael! :D

Reply
Sandra - March 29, 2016

I loved your sentence about content being king and content being – queen. :) This is really true. Our agency team was using Trello quite some time to park ideas, to discuss next tasks, but something was always missing. So, after some time, we’ve decided to create our own calendar and the content flow and communication were never better. As you said, the best app is the one that works for you. :) As for content creation, I also find Quora and sites from the niche very useful, but I would also add Twitter to the list.

Reply
Bhuboy Villanueva - June 2, 2016

I have been using mindmeister for my site planning though, it is limited to 3 mind maps for the free account, I have downloaded workflow in my I pad and will take look and see which will be more easier to use for me. thanks for this

Reply
    Gael Breton - June 2, 2016

    You’re welcome!

    Reply
    Ivo - March 1, 2017

    Check out XMind (free) for mindmapping. There’s no limit for how many you create as far as I know. Been using it for couple years now for the single purpose of planning out silos.

    Reply
Aitzaz Basra - June 12, 2016

Gael,
I am in great problem and need your help. Your content is awesome how do you research? Is there any google dork you use to research? How do you get latest researchs and reports in your niche?

Reply
Tom - August 3, 2016

Like Mark, I’ve found that note taking app like Evernote to be a bit awkward for some reason. For years, I’ve been trying to find a cross-platform app that can collapse bullet points, so I was of course glad to have found Workflowy earlier this year. However, for some subconscious reason I feel that it’s not as solid as, say, Google Drive, which I like to use to produce a sheet with bullet points.

As usual, the advice in this post is actionable as always, I also remember some online marketer suggesting to use the exact same phrases forum posters use when it comes to articulating their pain points. I also have to say that it didn’t occur to me to have content this far — even though planning the blueprint of a post is a customary thing for me.

Reply
David - February 28, 2017

Hi Gael & Perrin,
Thanks for this post, it’s really valuable… as usual.

I just have one concern. Do you think there’s a real difference in terms of SEO between those two URL structures : mysite.com/silo1/post1 and mysite.com/post1 ?

I mean, i like the idea of having an URL independent of its silo/category, so that I can move it without too much damage to a new silo/category in a few months/years, if I change my mind or the structure of my site.

I know this is recommended for e-commerce, but I don’t see it very often in blogs.

I see also that you use the structure mysite.com/post1 for Health Amibition – would you do the same if you were to start again from scratch ? Or would you include the category of each post in its URL ?

Thanks !

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - February 28, 2017

    This is a question I investigated pretty extensively when digging into silos earlier this year.

    Short answer: not a huge difference.

    Long answer: there are mixed opinions. Moz found a very slight negative correlation between the number of “trailing slashes” in a URL and rankings, but it was extremely small (about the same as they found with having AdSense on your site–in other words, mostly negligible but still there). That, and shorter URLs tend to rank better–something that’s been proven in a few places.

    On the other hand, one of the best SEOs I know (an in-house guy in Chicago that’s not a part of our scene but manages huge websites) is convinced that relevant category and subcategory names in the URL adds relevance and clarity to the page for both users and bots.

    I tried to find good data on this (other than Moz’s 2015 rankings report) but couldn’t. Still, if there’s a difference, it likely isn’t a huge one.

    For my part, I use categories in my URLS but try to keep URLs short. Gael does sometimes and doesn’t others.

    For silos, it’s really the structure that matters, though. :)

    Reply
      Gael Breton - February 28, 2017

      and for my part I prefer short urls, see, there’s many ways to skin a cat ;o.

      Reply
        David - March 1, 2017

        Thanks guys for your answers ! If there’s not a huge difference, I think I’ll stick to the short URLs and focus on the structure of my upcoming sites :)

        Reply
          Victor - March 8, 2017

          I like to use folders because it makes a lot of other stuff much easier.

          It’s mostly about being able to group the content.

          A few examples:

          * Analysing topic/section performance in Google Analytics

          * Crawling/filtering with tools like Screaming frog

          * PPC targeting specific topics/sections of the site.

          * Robots.txt stuff

          etc

          Reply
Ken - February 28, 2017

Great content, per usual. First time, long time. Started listening to the podcasts lately. Here’s a question that perhaps I can get some guidance on:

I have a site that is in the “snow shoeing” (for example) niche. I rank decently for “best snow shoes” and I’ve beaten all of the other “snow shoe” niche sites…even the larger ones as I am pretty large as well (that’s what she said!). The sites that I am having trouble leap frogging are the “outdoor” sites that talk about everything “outdoors activities” to include snow shoeing.

I am heavily focused on snow shoes. I have relevant links. So, topically I’m there and narrowly focused. I’m also siloed to the best of my ability and knowledge.

People always say, “look at what your competitors are doing and do it better”. So, if this is the case are they getting authority credit for their wide range of topics? And if I start adding relevance to my site on skiing, ice skating, snow boarding, etc..will my “authority” go up and match those other sites?

If so, and if I wanted to match, how would you start developing content on a site that is narrowly focused at the moment and is basically built for that focus to start competing with the more authoritative sites above me? Have I reached my ceiling? If not, will I lose topical relevance by branching out and start looking at a wider umbrella of keywords?

Looking for anyone’s input as I usually learn as much from comments as the content.

Thank

-Ken

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - February 28, 2017

    Good question :)

    So, you get authority from a lots of stuff. The main one is, of course, links from good sources, but there is some data to suggest bigger sites rank better (tried to find the source I read this from but couldn’t, so, you know, grain of salt here, since it’s from memory).

    I’ve NEVER seen or heard of a site gaining authority simply because it was broader.

    If there’s any correlation here, my guess would be that broader sites tend to be bigger > bigger sites tend to have more resources > sites with more content and resources tend to have more links.

    As for expanding into other silos, there’s a diagram and section for that in the post :)

    Reply
Rocky - March 1, 2017

Thanks Perrin for sharing.

Another monster post!

May I use Post instead Page for Silo? I mean I will write a hub post and then in this post, I’ll link to other posts in the same category. Does that work the same as Page does?

Thanks

Reply
Bhanu - March 1, 2017

Wow…….. almost 9 months back I have created a site with focus on traffic through Adwords but after three months it actually started ranking for many important keywords as I have got few backlinks(5). Without knowing anything about silo’s I actually created a silo with almost 70% similar to the way you said. Even the content I used for the site is copied from other sites as I wasn’t focusing it to rank. Thanks for the article Authority Hacker I will apply the techniques to create more sites and also create an article on how to do link building to silo’s it would give better understanding to rank them.

Reply
Vinnie - March 1, 2017

Thank you Perrin for a really good article. Any thoughts on using souped up category pages instead of redirecting to pages. Essentially using something like enhanced category pages or just editing category.php manually. Will that work/rank as well as a separate page?

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 1, 2017

    I think that’s actually the ideal, since you’d be accomplishing the silo effect with one less redirect. I’ve just never figured out a not-too-technical way to do it. Even hired a few developers and did’t find a great solution. We have people in our community (techy ones) who do it, though.

    Reply
Daniel - March 1, 2017

I think you guys are producing really great content of late. I enjoy so much reading every bit of your posts.

Reply
Bobby Kittleberger - March 1, 2017

Hey Gael – great piece.

I’m wondering though, why not just use the category pages that WP provides? In WordPress, I’m able to add content to the top of those pages, while the posts in that category are automatically populated. What’s the disadvantage with just using that feature and not making/redirecting to your own pages? Is it because “categories” is in the URL?

For example, I did one here: https://www.guitarchalk.com/category/guitar-lessons-education/ and modeled it after Smashing Magazine’s category pages, which are setup the exact same way: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/category/coding/

Thoughts?

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 1, 2017

    These do work and won’t break your silos, BUT…

    The top of the silo is where the concentration of power is, so if you put a nice, meaty piece of content there, it can be a very powerful page. So it’s not that you CAN’T use categories, is that you’re wasting the opportunity to put a bunch of content on one of your most powerful pages.

    Reply
      Bobby Kittleberger - March 1, 2017

      Is it possible to just put that content at the top of those category pages? In my WP (running on the Genesis framework) I can edit it like any other page on my site. Can’t use Thrive Content Builder but that’s no biggie.

      Reply
MARVIN - March 1, 2017

Good content but i don’t unterstand the silo structure of thankyourskin… can u explain? i can’t find silos. He only uses categories.

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 1, 2017

    Silos are not wholly different from categories. They work together. A site with silos will almost always still and necessarily have categories.

    For TYS, look at the individual posts, which link out to basically nothing else except Tung’s related posts (from the same category) at the end. They don’t even have a sidebar.

    That said, TYS does “break” silos in a few ways, but, as mentioned in the post, most sites are “breaking” one silo rule or another.

    Reply
Guy - March 1, 2017

Hi Perrin, I would like your thoughts on this Domain Healthsources.com for a silo sight?

Reply
Ryan - March 1, 2017

How about primary navigation bar leaking Silo juice to other major categories? Does that matter much?

Reply
Stefano - March 1, 2017

Great post!

Reply
Ear - March 1, 2017

Awesome post that came at just the right time!

Here’s my question, I may be splitting hairs here…

For a site with apparel (camping gear whatever) which would be the better silo and corresponding menu:

Home -> Apparel (with below dropdown)

Apparel
– pants
– winter pants
– dress pants

– Shirts
– long sleeve
– short sleeve

or…

Home -> Pants Shirts
– winter pants -long sleeve
– dress pants -short sleeve

Sorry for the length. Once again, quality stuff!

Reply
Tomaz - March 1, 2017

I didn’t quite understand how can I create a page which is showing posts in the same category.

Recently I was looking to healthambition.com and when you click on their page nutrition –> https://www.healthambition.com/nutrition/ you get a page with posts… How can we do it? Here the juice also passes to the posts in that category right? Can you help me out? I’ve know how to do all other stuff(redirect,category page…)

Kind Regards,
Tomaz

Reply
Fibonacci - March 1, 2017

Hello,

Amazing article. Before read this article, I have same mindset and target 02 keyword you mention =D, but I can’t show my idea detail like this.

Thank you.

Reply
Oliver - March 1, 2017

Thanks guys, great article!

When should I start the custom category pages? Right from the get go or when I have at least X amount of posts in one category?

Best,
Oliver

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 2, 2017

    I’ve found that basically everything with silos is easier from the get-go, including custom cat pages. Pays to make sure they’re actually working. :)

    Reply
Nate - March 1, 2017

Hi guys, another excellent post. I have been siloing but not that strictly so I am definitely going to tighten them up and clean up my related post links. Definitely going to improve my top navigation links to be more Silo specific.

Is there an easy way to change a post to a page? I have been publishing all my main pages in my silos as posts.

Also, do you have statis home pages or the newest content popping up?

Thanks again for this awesome review.

Reply
    David - March 2, 2017

    Hi Nate,

    You can check the WP plugin “Post Type Switcher”, which allows to switch easily from one format to another.

    Reply
Martin - March 1, 2017

Hi Gael! I just wanted clarification on somethings.

Do you link in the content to other post and if so based on your pictures do you only link to ONE post from another one? Or do you only use the sidebar links.

Also you said the post should only have the top page as navigation menu. Do you know if there is a plugin to do this or do you customize the specific wordpress post, any ideas how?

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 2, 2017

    If following strict silos, links can go to any other post in that silo, and there’s no real limit. Obviously link where it makes sense, and use common-sense plugins, though.

    Reply
Benjamin - March 1, 2017

Hi Guys,

Awesome article :-) i can use this for my new website.

I have one questions:

Authority hacker use 2 types of category pages.
– blogroll style like https://www.authorityhacker.com/seo/ which looks like the category page from wordpress without the /category in the url
– custom style like https://www.authorityhacker.com/affiliate-marketing/

how do you create a blogroll style page besides the regular blog page? did you use plugins or custom coding?

Keep up the great work :-)

Kind regards

Benjamin

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 2, 2017

    These are just standard WordPress archives pages. Archives pages DO work for silos but miss out on the ranking power the page on the top of the silo gets.

    That said, we don’t follow many of the rules for silos on this blog :P

    Reply
Ryan - March 1, 2017

Neither TYS nor health ambition use categories as part of their main navigation. Is that because of Silo structure or is there some other benefit that I am missing when one doesn’t use categories/silos in primary nav. Thank you for the article though, great work.

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 2, 2017

    TYS does use categories in their main nav.

    HealthAmbition does not, and you’d have to ask Gael :P I actually disagree with that and then they should be in there.

    For the record, HealthAmbition is not an example of a strictly siloed site, and I would not use it as a model for silos (although that one juicing page IS a good model for a silo page). Same with HerePup.

    HerePup has broad categories with links all over the place, and I think it misses out on traffic because of it.

    Reply
David - March 1, 2017

I can give you another great example that i saw doing some research for the fitness industry in latam. KW: “Alimentos para aumentar masa muscular” it is a great one actually with lots of traffic and there is one site called Fullmusculo in position number 1 with the post “Los Mejores 17 alimentos para aumentar masa muscular ” beating two of the biggest sites in the fitness and health industry in latam Vitonica and salud180.

You should include this kind of examples because i know i’m not the only latinamerican reading and following your blog.

Great job with this post guys!

Reply
Julia - March 1, 2017

Regarding creating silos, you gave the example of juicing on healthambiition.com as a silo category. I’m wondering why you do not follow the instructions you just stated here on your post; namely that all side-bar and footer links should only be to that particular silo. I’m truly just curious. I want to get this right and I don’t understand the discrepancy.

Reply
Mike - March 1, 2017

I an trying to set up the category page with redirection but the above instructions are a bit vague. Great article by the way!

Reply
sean - March 1, 2017

Great detailed article which has helped me a lot. I just have two questions

1) I am just wondering, in the individual posts how would you link to the main silo page? since the silo page is more of a resource page and not an info post the user might be interested in?

2) Is the Silo page H1 tag title a high traffic keyword you are trying to rank for?

Cheers for the help

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 2, 2017

    Thanks :)

    1. Any way you want. Easiest way is breadcrumbs. But you can also put them in content since they make a slightly more powerful link to your silo page.

    2. Yep

    Reply
Mohamed Yasser - March 1, 2017

hello, great article here just what i was looking for :) i have just a question what about my existing backlinks if i change my articles links i will lose those backlinks ??

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 3, 2017

    You shouldn’t change your URLs of existing pages (especially if they are profitable) just to do silos. That could cause damage.

    Reply
Doug - March 2, 2017

Hey Perrin,

I’m finding the Custom Categories section confusing.

Neither Herepup.com or TYS have navigational links to categories that redirect to silo pages? If I click navigational links I go to category archives.

Healthambition has https://www.healthambition.com/recommended-products/ which goes to a silo page, then links at the bottom to product reviews archive category.

Is the Healthambition approach mentioned above the method being described in the Custom Categories section?

Cheers.

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 3, 2017

    Correct. Neither HerePup nor HealthAmbition is a good example of tightly siloed sites, and if you look at the Ahrefs heatmaps for them, they’re probably missing out on traffic because of it, and they seem to have low relevance scores.

    I would not use either of those sites as models/examples of silos because they really aren’t. Both sites were built without much attention paid to silos.

    The example from above is just one example of a landing page (for one category on HealthAmbition).

    Reply
Carlo - March 2, 2017

Very helpful! I was just thinking to silo a site and was wondering if to mess with permalink structure or not…

Separately, when you say to link in navigation only to top level silo pages, does this mean you recommend not to use in navigation pages like “Resources” and “Courses” (which are money/conversion pages)? Thanks for clarifying!

Love your content :)

Reply
Shekhar - March 2, 2017

Hi,

I could not understand why comments with the dates of 2014, 15 are getting displayed below this article of 2017 ? Is it a re purposing of an old post?

Coming back to the main Silo topic, I too spent past few weeks in learning about all that is available on SILO on internet. I think apart from Bruce Clay (who first of all introduced this term on his website), the people at Network Empire (Sue Bell & others) have done remarkable job in spreading knowledge about this topic. Their youtube videos are very helpful in this regard.
As regards WordPress, we must admit that its core structure is not suitable for a Silo structure and despite doing huge customization with available plugins, there always remains the possibility of leak in silo structure.

One question that I have about your article is the replacement of category page with a Silo landing page. While it can be done with the Thrive theme or redirection plugin also, there are two potential limitations in doing this:-

(1) A category page is automatically updated when a new post in that category is posted. However, if we replace this page by a landing page, then we will have to manually update the said landing page to include the link of the new post. Do you think we can do something about it?

(2) Further, even if we replace the category page with a landing page, in the event of using a breadcrumb for site navigation, the link for category page will invariable lead to the category page instead of the silo landing page. For some technical reasons, the wordpress gives preference to category page over landing page when using a breadcrumb navigation. Have you experienced it?

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 2, 2017

    Yep; we had an old post here. Everything in this post is new, though.

    1. Great question. I just use a feature in Thrive (the post grid feature) that keeps the lists of post updated automatically. I’m sure there are other plugins that do it as well.

    2. This is one of the things Thrive does as well (a feature we requested, actually). If you 301 that page to the landing page, it should work anyway, but you can always just do a bit of custom coding, too. Custom category pages are honestly one of the most annoying bits about silos.

    Reply
Colbie - March 2, 2017

Boom. Was waiting for this article. Mahalo guys!

Reply
Daniel - March 2, 2017

Awesome article Perrin and Gael! Thank you for the wealth of information, tips and techniques, so well organized and presented.

You recommend creating a page with the same name as the category, and then redirect using Thrive.

Unfortunately, on my site I did intend for siloing, but built the main silo page as a regular wordpress Post, not Page.
The main navigation does lead to that post, this IS the main article that I use for the category, it links to all posts in the category and posts lead back to it. BUT it is a post, not page, and hence cannot be redirected using thrive.

Do you think it is critical to somehow build a new page and redirect to this post, or the silo structure would be just fine sitting on a post?

What’s the value in having a page instead of post? or where do you see issues with its SEO value being a post and not page?

Thanks!

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 8, 2017

    It could be a bit messier, since you likely ALSO have a category archives page. What you would miss out on is the location of the silo page: having that page at the “top” of the category, which is where all the internal links converge. As long as the posts are isolated, though, it should be fine.

    Reply
Muhammad Imran - March 3, 2017

Nice and indepth piece of content. Now, I am going to implement this technique on one of my newly launched sites. Thanks for sharing. :)

Reply
Robin - March 3, 2017

Hello Perrin,

thank you once again for this wonderful article.

I do have a question about the neccesary URL-Structure in order to create Silos that are highly important for authority sites that cover more then one topic.

Is it really neccessary to have the posts in a SUB-URL or is it enough to just link them to each other.

Normally it would contradict my opinion of placing the keyword as closely to the domain as possible meaning I would try to avoid to go deeper then just one leve.

Authoritysite.com/Topic1/Subtopic or Authoritysite.com/Topic1/ linking to authoritysite/subtopic/ and vice versa.

Would love your opinion on this.

Best Regards

Robin

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 8, 2017

    Doesn’t matter much, and there are a few schools of thought. But silos can work with both, and I’ve seen working silos both ways. The necessary thing is the link structure :)

    Reply
Mark - March 3, 2017

Hi, the question is unrelated to this post, but I hope that’s ok.

I plan on launching a new website, and would rather buy an existing one and build it up to avoid 4-8 months of waiting before I can start ranking reasonably high. I have my eyes set on one particular website, which is contextually relevant and has a good backlink profile. The problem: I do not like this website’s domain name.

My question: would purchasing this website and then doing a proper, complete 301 redirect of the website to a brand new domain (one purchased on say namecheap.com and which was never owned by anyone before) achieve the same result? Essentially, will the “age” of the purchased website (which is 7 years old, by the way) also transfer over to the brand new domain it’s currently redirecting to?

Your answer is going to weigh heavily in my decision making here, so please, if you’re not sure of the answer (ie. if you’ve had no hands on experience in the past with this), I would greatly appreciate if you would be forthcoming and just say “I don’t know”. But if you do know, I would be forever grateful if you could share your experience.

Thank you

Reply
David Elliston - March 3, 2017

Awesome writeup Perrin, I’ve read shorter books. Very detailed, keep it up!

Reply
Cesar - March 3, 2017

Excellent post! Thanks Perrin for introducing me to the concept of siloing our websites to make them more relevant to the eyes of Google and also to make it more useful to the visitors, I think that’s another great benefit of structuring our websites, it’s great user experience too! I have a question, I started my website without considering silos and I want to try it out on one of my categories, I don’t use Thrive Themes so I don’t have the option to replace my standard category page with my custom silo page so I was thinking of using the alternative method that Gael recommends, in that case, Do I have to no-index my category pages on Yoast? Or I can leave them indexed? What’s the best option? Thanks for proving us with another great post. :-)

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 8, 2017

    Nope; keep them indexed and just redirect. :) However, for an established site, you might want to keep the standard archives page and just build your silos with your link strucutre to start. If you’re already profitable, you generally want to implement changes slowly to reduce risk. And remember not to change the URLs of your posts, of course. :)

    Reply
Daniel - March 4, 2017

Thanks for the in depth information that makes a difficult to understand topic thats hard to implement more manageable. It seems that there would still be a need sometimes to point someone outside a silo to a category that is also closely aligned sometimes to a post and would make for a better user experience. I was wondering if TAGs are followed by Google and would they reduce relevancy, and also would a no-follow link allow another way of directing someone without reducing silo relevancy? Thanks!

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 8, 2017

    This is called “PR shaping” and is generally frowned upon by Google. Gael would tell you to link if you really need to. I somewhat disagree and would tell you to simply direct users to the top of the silo that article is in (which is “allowed” anyway).

    Reply
Hana - March 4, 2017

Great article again. That’s a pity I couldn’t read months ago.. :)

Reply
sveisko - March 4, 2017

Hi, a great guide! I have some questions, I hope you have the time to answer. There is one part I don’t understand, you are saying “In other words, they potentially have the most ranking power of all pages, so you don’t want to put actual content here.” Shouldn’t that be the oblivious page to put content, since this will be a page that ranks, or am I missing something?
Next, I am using Thrivethemes, and have set up a custom page for a category page (category and url have the same url as you have outlined), I have redirected the category to this page, but whatever my latest post in this category are is overriding this and shows up at the top of the page.

Any good solutions would be highly appreciated!

Reply
    sveisko - March 5, 2017

    Hi, I have solved it. I am not 100% sure what the reason was, but I had the “No Category Base(WPML)” plugin installed – removed that one – same issue.
    I had the custom landing page in the same category ( I use “Post Tags and Categories for Pages” since from the beginning this site only had Pages) as the silo, so I removed the category from the Page (I have not removed the plugin – yet) and now it works fine.

    Reply
Toki - March 6, 2017

Hello!

I had a question about the redirection plugin hack. I see how to do this with one category page but what if I wanted to do sub-silos?

For the fitness example, say I wanted to create a sub-silo like “fitness/strength/squat”?

Is that even possible using that redirection plugin?

Thank you

Toki

Reply
Benjamin - March 7, 2017

Hi guys,

What are your advice for the silo page? can i put quality content on the silo page (like 3000+ words) and create other sub articles? or should i create a “simple” silo page that links to other sub pages?

Reply
Toai - March 8, 2017

Hi,
I had read all articles on the site. Awesome content!
I just create a new site follow your instructions. Nice!
BUT, the homepage does not show excerpt post although setting “Summary” in Setting -> Reading.
Do you know what’s wrong with it?
I use Genesis Framework with child-theme.
Thanks in advance, guys

Toai

Reply
TJ - March 9, 2017

Thanks for the great article. It looks like Thankyourskin is using a combo of pages for some niches and also blog posts with category archives as the silo for some pages?

Also, when rebranding from a narrow niche to a broad authority, is it basically just a process of backing up the site and uploading it to a new domain?

What should I do if I accidentally made my home page target a “best+keyword” and I’m ranking for it? If I go broad I want to keep my homepage clean because it’s easier to build links that way. So if I redirect my current homepage to my new inner page targeting that keyword (there’s over 100 referring domains) then the new homepage will not have any links… Since I messed up, am I better off just leaving it as is even if my domain name is too niche? Or is there a way to bypass this problem? Thanks for your help.

Reply
Paul - March 9, 2017

Nice post! I am quite confused with how to set up custom categories for silos (step #4).

Are there any step by step guides out there you could point me to?

Thanks!

Reply
Nate Alger - March 10, 2017

Hi guys, awesome post. Do you use Amazons API and the regular WordPress editor or do you download the photos and use Thrive Content Builder? I wish there was a way to incorporate the two.

Reply
Rameez Ramzan - March 10, 2017

Hi Perrin Carrell,

I am also following similar website architecture as you mentioned in your post. I felt that silo architecture would be fruitful for link juice, you can easily pass juice to internal pages as compared to complex architecture.

Secondly, do you think if I use no follow and no index tag for categories and archive page it gives bad impression to Google crawler??

Reply
Akash - March 11, 2017

Hi, perrin..

I have some doubts..

1) Do we have to index the both category and page ( with the same name ) for google?
2) Anything else we have to add via yoast to the above category or page.. like meta description or seo title?

Reply
Emmerey Rose - March 15, 2017

Very helpful post Perrin! With regards to relevance over authority, does this work all the time?

Reply
Dory - March 15, 2017

Hi Perrin Carrell,

I have question, can you answer me:

I have 02 category: Kitchen and Bedroom. Should I setting permalinks:

domain.com/kitchen/how-to-use-product-a
domain.com/bedroom/how-to-use-product-b

OR

domain.com/how-to-use-product-a (Inside category Kitchen)
domain.com/how-to-use-product-b (Inside category Bedroom)

Thanks in advance.

Reply
Mark - March 16, 2017

I think you are confusing correlation with causation when you state that “Niche relevances allows smaller website to beat authority sites”. The reason those smaller websites beat the larger one is that they typically focus all of their link building onto one primary page, whereas large authority sites, while they will have significantly more links pointed to their domain in general, will have those backlinks diluted and spread out across hundreds or thousands of pages.

Google ranks pages, not entire websites and not themes.

If we have a large “authority site” with 1 000 pages, one of which is say about “The Best Dishwashers”, and the website has in total 20 backlinks per page (so 20 000 backlinks total to the entire domain). And then we also have a “niche website” about dishwashers, with its front page having a total of 30 backlinks, then assuming the strength of all links to both websites are equal (this will never be the case, but we have to assume for the sake of this argument) then the “niche website” will outrank the authority website for the term “Best Dishwasher”, assuming a certain minimum threshold of content quality is maintained. This has absolutely nothing to do with “niche relevance” in my experience, and everything to do with how backlinks are spread out across the various _pages_ of a website.

Again – Google does not rank websites, it never has. Google ranks specific web pages on a website.

Reply
    Perrin Carrell - March 16, 2017

    Hey man :)

    Happy to see you here.

    These are great points for sure. And I agree with you that page-level links is what matters. 100%.

    I think there is room to argue with you on this point, though: “…The reason those smaller websites beat the larger one is that they typically focus all of their link building onto one primary page, whereas large authority sites, while they will have significantly more links pointed to their domain in general…”

    I think one of the first examples from above (“best espresso machine”) is a good counterexample, where the hyper-niche sites are beating major sites (TheSweetHome in this case) despite having fewer links to that specific page.

    An additional counterpoint might be that small sites often don’t have the resources to build links to all their pages (some of the examples above have hardly any links at all, really) but often still have very impressive position heatmaps, which indicates most of their pages rank well despite having fewer links.

    So I’m with you. I just think I have more confidence in relevance.

    Happy to see you pop up here, man :)

    Reply
      Mark - March 16, 2017

      Hi Perrin, thank you for the kind welcome.

      I do not want to point fingers with the Espresso site as I do not know them, but just to put it out there – hidden PBN’s are currently increadibly popular, I would strongly advise against ever trusting ahrefs/moz etc. data for determining the “power” of a niche website’s link profile. Again, I’m not saying that this is the case for the Espresso site at all. Just that it is extremely trendy nowadays to hide PBN’s using htaccess, so while I do accept your counter example as theoretically possible, it personally doesn’t convince me.

      Regarding this part:

      “An additional counterpoint might be that small sites often don’t have the resources to build links to all their pages (some of the examples above have hardly any links at all, really) but often still have very impressive position heatmaps, which indicates most of their pages rank well despite having fewer links.”

      I believe it can be mostly traced back to a few things:

      1) Their front page main keywords are typically very low competition; it’s very easy to rank for those with just 10-20 decent links to the home page.
      2) The remainder of their pages, rank high because the inner pages are even lower competition; so much so that they can rank #1 without any direct links to the pages at all, just by virtue of having a decent detailed article on the subject (plus whatever PR trickles through to those pages from the backlinks coming in to the front page).

      Again I realize this is all hard to prove, but please keep in mind that site authority as a direct ranking signal (as opposed to it being indirectly helpful, because authority sites generally attract more links) is a concept pretty much made up by the SEO / marketing industry, so I’m personally very careful with it. I hope you do not take this the wrong way and there are absolutely no ill-intentions on my part.

      And again I urge you not to brush off the hidden PBN’s issue. Even if it can’t be considered as proof and even if you have no reason to believe that it’s prevalent, I think it is a good idea to alwas keep this as a possibility in the back of your head, _particularly_ when you see a small niche website outranking larger sites with what appears to be a much weaker backlink profile to the ranking pages in question.

      Thanks again for the welcome.

      Reply
        Perrin Carrell - March 17, 2017

        Totally. I’ve heard similar stuff about some of these sites (hidden PBNs and the like), although, to push back a bit, I think there are lots of good examples of relevance winning in the SERPs.

        Still, I definitely agree with ya. I think page-level links are super important, etc. And I certainly don’t think relevance beats links all the time.

        I also strongly agree that site authority is super overrated (if interested, check out our study of KD scores of keyword tools, which shows that tools using site authority as a primary part of the calculation are really, really inaccurate).

        Lots of intricacies here for sure.

        Reply
          Mark - March 17, 2017

          “I think there are lots of good examples of relevance winning in the SERPs. ”

          Would you mind sharing an example of this? I’d really appreciate it. (I mean, an example of a page that seems to rank higher based on relevancy of the domain rather than based on backlinks, and which we can reasonably assume that no hidden PBN is in place). Not meaning to be picky or anything, it’s just that honestly I’m yet to run into a such a situation.

          Reply
Chris - March 17, 2017

Perrin —
Killer article, bro. Perfect timing for me too. QQ– a site like BestCrossbowSource is about crossbows but they also tackle crossbow accessories. For a small niche site like this, focusing on not necessarily “one product” (to your point above) but one “family of products” (i.e. Paintball guns and masks; crossbows and scopes…etc) does it still make sense to silo? For example, siloing crossbows and scopes separately? Or since it’s all in the same family, is it okay to not necessarily silo? Hopefully that makes sense… thanks again for the epic piece of content man!

Reply

Leave a Reply:

Send this to friend