Website structure, WordPress categories and tags, silo architecture, hub pages, and pillar content…
Did you ever wonder which is which — and what exactly it is that you’re supposed to do?
In this blog post, I’ll talk about website structure not only as a powerful ally for ranking on Google but also as a technique to organize your mind.
In short: You will find yourself on page 1 if your content is the most relevant answer to a search query (keyword).
Increasing clarity and relevance will improve your chances of Google crawling, indexing, and ranking your content.
Website structure is a mental concept and a strategy for SEO, more so than a tactic for URL structure and permalinks.
We will cover:
- SEO 101: keyword mapping
- Core concepts/silos/hubs
- How it comes alive
Let’s jump in!
Relevance 101: Keyword mapping
The main idea of SEO is this: Every keyword cluster that you are targeting should have one home on your website.
This process is called keyword mapping.
To find appropriate target keywords, you will want to do keyword research first.
Learning how to conduct keyword research isn’t the purpose of this blog post, but a general description is in order.
Basically, by conducting keyword research, you’re looking to find keywords that describe your business and offering, that have good search volume and comparatively low keyword difficulty.
Back to keyword mapping: Each target keyword cluster will be married to one specific page within your website.
A keyword cluster is a family of keywords meeting the same search intent.
It will usually consist of the primary keyword, its synonyms, variations, and supporting keywords.
Here is a recent example for a keyword cluster:
- pandemic plan for business continuity
- pandemic plan for business
- pandemic planning for business
- pandemic business plans
- pandemic flu business plan
- pandemic flu business continuity plan
- pandemic preparedness business
SEO content is evergreen content, ideally living on a static page.
Not every article that you create needs to be an SEO piece.
But if you want to rank well, you’ll need a sufficient amount of SEO content.
SEO content can cover all kinds of keywords in the decision-making funnel, from educational guides and blog posts, to review and comparison posts, to sales and product pages.
Looking to rank for “apple pie recipe?”
Create one specific, well-optimized page for it.
If you didn’t write about a topic, there’s no way for Google to index and rank you.
At the same time, keep in mind that you’ll want each keyword cluster to have one home.
So, if you want to rework your “apple pie recipe” a few months later, you’re always better off updating and improving the existing post.
This is especially true if you publish seasonal content every year but want to start ranking for these keywords.
Two pages on your site fighting for the same keyword will cause keyword cannibalization and content duplication.
You’re probably already competing with thousands of websites for a keyword — why compete with your own pages?
Make your life easier: Choose one target page per keyword cluster.
OK, now let’s review the relationship between all of your target pages.
Distinct core concepts
Whether you’re building an affiliate site, a content website, an eCommerce store, or an online presence for a digital business, there are almost certainly core concepts that your website and business embody.
What are the primary areas of expertise, main issues, or core concepts that your site will be covering?
I like to consider website structure from a bird’s eye perspective.
What are the high-level, strategic, crucial concepts you want the site to be associated with — and ranking for?
Here’s the mental image I use for this exercise:
(No need to start thinking about subcategories and tiny exclusions from the general rule at this point. We are looking for broad strokes.)
I usually brainstorm these core concepts using pen and paper.
What are the key topics or concepts within the overarching theme or goal of this website?
For existing websites, I start by pulling a report with Screaming Frog.
I then try to spot patterns.
This provides me with a working hypothesis on how to structure the website:
- How many core concepts can I spot?
- Did I cover all areas that relate to the services, courses, and products?
- Are relevant competitors in the same niche covering these concepts as well?
- Are relevant competitors covering something that I might have forgotten?
- Does my SEO client agree with the patterns I spotted?
- Are we planning to cover more concepts in the future?
These core concepts are often called silos (coined by Bruce Clay) or hub pages.
In WordPress, they will often be your blog categories or parent pages.
Silos create an environment in which all topically related posts and pages live.
They are an ecosystem with one clear purpose: Boosting relevance and authority for a specific concept.
For a fitness website, this could be: strength training, endurance training, stretching, and equipment (if these are the topics for which you have content and service offerings).
For a software website, this could be: productivity, company culture, and goal setting (if these are covered by the features of your software tool).
Next, you will want to perform keyword research for those core concepts. See if you can find an appropriate main keyword to map.
Now’s also the time to sense-check your intuition and brainstorming with data.
The keyword research might kill certain ideas because there’s simply no search traffic there.
Or, it can show you where you need to narrow a concept down further because it’s just too broad.
You can be more ambitious with the keywords you’re choosing here.
And, in general, the keywords will be a lot broader than a topic for a page or post should ever be.
Keep in mind, this is the parent concept for all the articles you plan to write for that section of the website.
Balance any branding considerations against what the data indicates are strong SEO keywords.
Hopefully, at this point, you’ll have an idea for what the hubs, categories, and core concepts or silos of your website could be.
By the way, in most cases, you’ll want to optimize your homepage for your brand name or the one overarching theme of your website.
Clarity of mind creates clarity in content creation, which means a better chance of ranking on Google.
Keep in mind, Google uses algorithms that interpret content with mathematical models.
If you can’t structure and focus your own thoughts and content plan, how’s an algorithm supposed to understand what you’re trying to say?
URLs, internal links and all the good stuff
Now, how do you set everything up on a (WordPress) website?!
And how do you interlink your hubs and silos??
The main rule for URL structure is:
Choose a flat structure.
Use as few folders as possible.
domain.com/silo/sub-silo/category/subcategory/ is NOT going to do you any favors!
And stuffing keywords into the URL several times does NOT improve your rankings!
Keep your URL structure as simple as domain.com/main-keyword-for-page/.
You can still establish a holistic website structure for Google using internal links.
Consider working with this structure:
I like this format because it forces you to be more strict and focused in your content planning.
The core concept, hub, silo, or category pages are essentially the homepage for this section of your website.
Ideally, they highlight everything you have to offer for this core concept in a beautiful way.
The default way that WordPress archives blog pages does an abysmal job at this.
However, there is hope!
This is an excellent example.
And this is a guide I recommend for creating useful category/silo/hub pages.
In WordPress, a solid structure usually entails using categories and working with blog posts.
Or, it can mean creating a parent page and working with pages.
Thrive Themes or Elementor now enable default WordPress blog archives to look much better.
On that note: Go easy on the tags and categories.
Use one category per post or page. Don’t blow up your 500-page website with 100 tag archive pages just because you felt you had to tag 20 details for each post.
That is so WordPress 2010 😉
The essence of internal linking is to create context.
You want related posts to link to each other.
Basically, all articles about apples, bananas, and oranges should link to the Fruit main page, but they would never link to steaks.
Make sure you don’t forget to establish internal links to new pages when you create them.
Orphan pages with no incoming links will struggle to rank.
Here are some best practices:
- Add your core concept/hub pages to the header navigation and/or your homepage
- Create a sitemap and add it to Google Search Console
- Use breadcrumbs
- Use the core concept/hub page to link to the articles within this section of the website
- Posts should only link to their hub page as well as related posts
This graphic helps illustrate this:
Clarity in mind makes for a more focused content plan.
It allows you to create a clear structure.
All your articles will find their own home in their section of the website.
This way, Google knows exactly where to go.
Searching for content on red marbles?
Go to this site:
Not this chaotic, messy one:
Ultimately, SEO is about giving users what they want: The best answer to their search query.
Don’t play hide and seek with Google: Clarity and focus are the secret weapon of a skilled SEO.
[author_bio image=”https://seobutler.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Viola-Headshot.png” name=”VIOLA EVA”]Viola Eva is passionate about digital entrepreneurship, flow, and mindful marketing. As a marketing consultant and SEO for her agency Flow SEO, she has worked with clients ranging from individual digital entrepreneurs, to software companies, to multinational corporates and government institutions. She is a speaker, educator, and specialist on all things SEO for digital businesses.[/author_bio]
Thanks for the great content. A quick question: is it feasible to link to a post outside the silo with the “rel=nofollow” attribute? Would this practice damage the silo structure?