This is a simplified, general overview of what it means to silo content on a site, and why you might definitely want to do it.
Now, it’s very possible to get deep in the weeds explaining silos and how they can be used as part of a content marketing strategy—but I’ll try to make this a very simple overview.
Defining a Content Silo
Content Silos are named after the silos used on farms, that are used to group and store different valuable materials separately. At the end of the day, a Content Silo is a method used to organize pages to:
- Improve your site’s authority.
- Improve your site’s SEO.
- Make your site easy to navigate and understand (for human visitors and search engines).
To illustrate how silos work and why they’re necessary, let’s look at their real-world name-sakes for a second.
Which of these 2 options is more valuable—Which would you rather have?
1 Silo full of Grain, 1 Silo full of Coal, and 1 Silo full of Cement
1 Ginormous Silo full of Grain, Coal, and Cement mixed together
Yeah, it’s a ridiculous scenario—but, it’s an apt analogy.
Think of content silos the same way.
Grouping valuable content with very similar themes inside 3 separate “silos” maintains the integrity of the contents and keeps them useful for someone looking to make use of them.
Conversely: Having otherwise valuable content on very different subjects mixed together in a single huge container makes what’s inside inherently less useful—less valuable.
Unless you’re doing something completely unethical to rank, the search engines don’t hate you—I promise. They want to understand your site, they’re just not that good at it without a little hand-holding.
Silo architecture groups related content in a way that search engine bots like and can easily understand.
Bots desperately want to understand the point of what they’re “reading,” but without meticulously designed and executed silo organization, your site can look like a whole lot of white noise to them.
Years ago, you could just start writing blogs with a few categories named after keywords, and not worry too much about the architecture (as much, anyway).
In 2022, the competition is much more cutthroat—and if they’re ranking higher than you today, they’re using advanced content marketing strategies. They’re siloing—and you need to silo too if you want to have any chance at competing.
Organization Within Silos
A content silo is organized into several “levels.” At the top of a silo, you have a general page on a broad subject, and things get more specific as you move down.
Here’s an (extremely) simplified example of a content silo:
Let’s say you have a site that has information about different pets. Within your website’s organizational structure, you have a few different silos.
You have a silo focused on “Dogs,” one about “Cats,” one about “Chinchillas,” and so forth.
At the top of the “Dogs” silo, you have a general page giving some surface information about dogs.
The “Dogs” silo might be divided into “Sporting Dogs,” “Hounds,” “Terriers,” etc.
“Sporting Dogs” might be sub-divided into pages that talk about different breeds, like “Labrador,” “Cocker Spaniel,” “Irish Setter,” and so on.
It’s a stripped-down example for a site with a questionable business model, but hopefully, this gets the basic idea across.
Physical and Virtual Silos
Virtual siloing isn’t negotiable. You have to virtual silo as part of any content strategy… or any “strategy” period. Virtual siloing just involves connecting content through inter-linking (as well as the lack of it).
Physical siloing is a more powerful tool, and necessary depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. However, it can take some work and time to apply a physical siloing structure to a site that is already built.
Physical silos organize information using separate “physical” directories/sub-folders. Using the example in the previous section, this might look something like:
Linking within silos/not linking among unrelated silos is extremely important, and can make or break your content strategy.
This brings us to…
Silo Your Content Correctly (or Don’t Silo at All)
If your site has no overall strategy concerning how its content is organized—or if a strategy is executed poorly—it’s really difficult for a program (i.e. search engine bot) to figure out what the hell your site is about, who would benefit by visiting it, or who your intended audience even is.
Human visitors are a little more forgiving… but not much.
How many times do you find yourself hitting the back button a few seconds after landing on a page where you can’t immediately find what you’re looking for?
When executed correctly as part of an overall content strategy, siloing content can:
- Organize content meaningfully to give your visitors a better experience.
- Clearly define the purpose of different sections of your site for search engines.
- Build and maintain strong associations among similar content on your site.
- Organize specific landing pages within a silo structure to rank more highly relative to other pages.
- Improve overall authority for the things you want your site to rank for.
By using these principles when you’re organizing a website, you improve site organization and SEO, making your site easier to navigate not just for search engine bots, but for your visitors as well.