When it comes to determining the success of a website and its content, the two core principles are user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO). User experience relates to how friendly and useful your website and its content is to the real human beings that visit.
Search engine optimization relates to how Google, Bing or other search engines rate the quality and relevance of your website and its content according to specific searches.
The best way to plan, create and organize the content on your website for both UX and SEO is with content silos. A content silo is a term used to describe a set structure for grouping the content on your website into related categories.
For example, let's say you have a business that sells camping equipment, and you group your website's content into 'silos' of your main types of equipment — tents, backpacks, coolers, footwear, and cooking gear. That way, when a person or search engine looks at your website, they can more easily find the type of products and information that they want.
Think about it: in a physical store that sells camping equipment, the products are organized into groups to make it easier for the customers to buy what they want. The same principle holds true for your website — the easier it is for people to find what they want, the more sales you'll make.
If all your content just exists on your site with no organized structure, your website's users will get frustrated at not being able to find what they want quickly and easily and will leave it for a better website. Search engines, meanwhile, will rank your site much lower than your competitors that have a better-organized website.
But how do you create content silos to effectively organize your website? It isn't as simple as splitting your site into a few categories. Here are our tips to help you create effective content silos.
Step One: Plan the Structure of Your Website
The first step is to plan out the structure of your website — or, put another way, how do you want to organize your content into silos? There are actually a few different types of silos you can use. The first was touched on above with the example of the camping equipment website, where you can group all your content by topic or theme.
A news website typically silos its content by topics like politics, entertainment, sports and more, while a business can silo its content by the different types of products or services they sell.
You can also create silos for your website by the purpose or type of content. For example, your website might include a mix of product and service pages — a contact form or sign-up page, informational articles, marketing pages, and so on.
It can make sense to separate these into their own silos due to the very different type of user experience they offer. Someone just looking for information is not going to have any interest in a product page, and vice versa.
So sit down and plan out all of the necessary content you know your website will have, and think of how you can create groups to fit them all. One thing to keep in mind is that you don't have to have just one content silo — you can use more than one as long as it makes sense from a UX and SEO perspective.
If you want some ideas, look at the most successful websites that are in your niche and see how they have their content structured.
Step Two: Researching Opportunities Within Your Silo
The next step is to start researching all the content opportunities you have to fill up the silos you created in Step One. If you are a business that sells products, you will need to figure out how you will manage your product listing and description pages, including any text and images you want to use.
If you are a business that sells services, you will want to figure out how you want to break down and describe all of the services you offer to customers.
After writing down every type of content and topic you think your website needs, take that list and start researching ideas for actual content you can create around that. You can use tools like Uber suggest to show you different variations of topic titles to use, or Buzzsumo to show you examples of the most successful content in that same topic.
You can also look at your competitors’ websites and see what they do well. Tools such as SEMRush, Moz Open Site Explorer, or Ahrefs Content Explorer all let you enter someone's website and they will show you their top ranking pages and keywords, which you might also want to include on your site.
Every time you find a new idea for a unique piece of content, add it to the list. Depending on the purpose of your site, you might be planning as many as hundreds of ideas, or as few as a dozen or two.
Step Three: Creating Your Content
Now it's time for your content creators to get to work. Whether they're making videos, articles, infographics, or something else, start with the essentials and work down the list of priorities. Start with the content for your home pages and your essential products, services, or content category pages that will form the core of your website's purpose.
From there, you can fill out your content silos with a variation of different types of content. For example, that camping equipment website might not want to just have a shopping category page for the different types of equipment and call it a day.
It can also include helpful guides related to camping that uses the equipment that the website sells: how to set up a tent, how to repair a tent, how to pick the right kind of tent for different types of camping, and so on.
This content both adds value to the experience your customers have on your site, and also helps your website rank for more searches related to your niche in camping.
Step Four: Build an Internal Linking Structure
The last step in creating a content silo is how you set up the internal links to help people and search engines navigate to other relevant content. That way, if what they see on the current page does not fully satisfy what they're looking for, they can quickly and easily move on to the next most similar page.
Conversely, it should also be easy for them to get to a different content silo (or category) altogether if that's what they want.
There are two types of content silos you can create for this: one is physical and involves links on the page that takes a real person to the next page they want, and the other is more technical that helps search engines crawl your website.
For physical content silo linking, you should always use things like breadcrumbs. Say someone on the camping website clicks on the footwear page, then on hiking books, then on a specific brand. The page they're on should have visible "breadcrumb" links that allow them to instantly go to whatever step in that process they want to go back to. It would look something like this:
Home page > Footwear > Hiking Boots > Hiking Boots Brand Name
You should also include links in the text, or the sidebar columns, that can send the user to the most important pages related to whatever page they're already on.
If they're looking at the Hiking Boots page, for example, they should be able to click on the shop page to look at boots they can buy, on any informational pages that teaches them about hiking boots, or on any resources or tools page that helps them find out their size, compares boots, and so on.
For technical linking, breadcrumbs help search engines crawl each category in a logical flow, as well as any other links that are included. The other way you tell search engines what pages to prioritize, and what structure your website uses, is by creating a sitemap that reflects the same silo structure you created for all your website content.