Since mentioning that I converted my white hat case study site to a silo format a week or so ago, I have received a number of questions about how I did it and my thoughts on the SILOing process. While searching the internet for an easy way to SILO a WordPress I noticed a distinct lack of actionable information on the process. Due to this, I decided to type up this post to collate my opinions on the process as well as how I did it. I would like to stress that I have very little experience with SILOing and this post is more of a how I believe I managed to SILO a WordPress site rather than saying it definitely works.
I won’t be going in-depth on the theory behind SILOing in this post as Bruce Clay has this over on his blog that does an excellent job of going over the concept behind it. At this stage, I would like to stress that in my opinion, it is just a theory. There are a number of examples such as this one of people calling Bruce out for over exaggerating the success of the process to get his name out there and drum up additional business for his agency.
So Why Do So Many People Beleive SILOing Works?
The comment in the screenshot above is directly from the comments section of one of Bruces case studies and more accurately reflects my current opinion on the subject. I feel that relevant internal linking can help pass relevancy and link juice from page to page throughout your site but does not depend on your site being set up in closely related SILOs.
The problem with the theory of SILOing vs just relevant internal linking is that the concepts are very similar meaning SILOing could be taking the credit for nothing more than using relevant internal linking.
In addition, there are people out there giving credit to SILOing with little to no evidence that the additional traffic or SERP movement is due to the process. Take this thread over on BHW for example, the user does not confirm when they completed the SILOing process on their sites but below are the screenshots they use to back up their claims along with my opinions.
The user claims this screen shot shows that “traffic doubled”, although simple math dismisses this claim I believe the traffic growth could just be due to the domain being left to age in similar to the screenshot below of the analytics of one of my sites.
The user claims the screenshot below shows that “traffic exploded” from the SILOing process. As the user does not confirm when the SILOing process was completed on this website it is a little harder to analyze and seasonal Christmas traffic may also play a part. To me, the traffic is all over the place and shows massive fluctuations. If the user chose to show this date range to show the effects on the site since the process was completed I would struggle to credit the December and January traffic spikes to SILOing the site as it returns to a similar level that it has in November for the month of February.
The user describes the below screenshot as “8x traffic” due to the month of December having such a high traffic spike. As already mentioned, personally, I would credit this to season Christmas searches rather than SILOing.
The site does see a steady traffic jump from the month of November that continues throughout the rest of the screenshot. Personally, I would credit this traffic jump to changes on the domain as it is a steady jump that pulls a similar amount of traffic each month rather than continuously growing as a site aging in would. This jump could down to the process of SILOing or it could just be a benefit from internal links on the domain.
Later in the thread, the user goes on to make outrageous claims such as the screenshot below without taking keyword competition or off-page factors into consideration at all!
In my opinion, the thread is so outrageous that the user could actually be trolling the community rather than attempting to offer anything of value, additionally the user posts in response to a member pointing out the same points as I have said he doesn’t feed the trolls suggesting he is attempting to be serious.
The problem is that people take these threads at face value and beleive them.
These are just two users I noticed from the first page of the thread taking the post at face value and accepting the initial user’s claims. These are just the people who posted in the thread, I would imagine much more people read the posts and accepted them without taking the time to post. These people may then go on to post in other threads that SILOing works due to reading this thread rather than trying the process for themselves.
This can then lead to situations of one member opening a thread who has tried SILOing on their own domains saying the process offered little to nothing of value and then a number of people who have never actually tried the process coming to its defense swearing blind it does work even though they have never tried it.
I have seen this happen in a number of threads over a number of forums, on Slack, on Skype as well as on Reddit where people post to counter someone but they have never actually tried the process themselves but will swear blind that it works.
So Why Did I SILO One Of My Domains?
With all that being said, I wanted to try the concept for myself. I decided to use my white hat case study site as a test site for the process as some of its pages were struggling to index and my theory was that having some internal links to these pages may help with the issue.
I could have just added some regular internal links from indexed posts to these pages but I wanted to work out an efficient way to SILO a WordPress site for possible future tests of one SILOed site going up against a regular site targeting the same keywords.
Moving Onto How I SILOed My Site!
When I was conducting my research phase on how to SILO a WordPress site there seemed to be a lack of actionable information on how to complete the process with the majority of information out there being based on speculation. I also found a number of blogs and forum threads that advised people to avoid WordPress for SILOed sites in favor of HTML based sites.
Thankfully, when planning the site the categories and sub-categories for the topics and keywords that I had already ordered could easily be changed into SILOs meaning I could keep my existing content. The screenshot below shows an example of how the site looks when I layed out all of the articles I had available in my mind mapping software.
One of the initial problems I though I may have was the default WordPress menu and if Google is able to crawl it or not. After reading a number of forum threads on the subject it seems there is no definitive answer. Some people were saying that Google could not crawl drop-down boxes while others were saying their spider had problems with them in the past but could now crawl it efficiently so I decided to take no chances and make a custom menu that only links to the homepage and the main category SILO pages displayed in Red in the diagram above.
To do this, set up a parent page for each silo for the website, make sure it is a page, not a post (more on this later)! To use the screenshot shown earlier in the post as an example, I would create a page for the domains homepage as well as one page for each of the main SILO categories. Once done, in your WordPress admin dashboard select Appearance and then Menus as shown in the screenshot below.
Once the menu options is open, remove the existing menu items then make sure you have the “Pages” menu visible and select all as shown in the screenshot below. Select the homepage and top level SILO pages and press the “Add to Menu” button.
Be sure to untick the “Automatically add new top-level pages to this menu” option as shown in the screenshot below. Tick the “Primary Menu” open and click save.
The menu on the domain should now look a little similar to the one in the screenshot below meaning it only directly links to the home page and the main SILO pages.
Be Sure To Make Pages Not Posts
As I already had the site I chose to SILO online I had posted almost all of its content as posts rather than pages. With this particular method of SILOing a site, you need to have all of your content as pages to make the whole process easier. This is due to the user being able to easily assign a parent page to each page to better align the SILO structure to take advantage of a few plugins.
If you are still in the planning phase of your site then you can easily just post the content as a page rather than a post when you come to publishing it. If like me, you already have your content online in post format you can use this free plugin to quickly and easily switch your content from posts to pages.
To do this, install the plugin and navigate to your posts page and select the “Quick Edit” option as shown in the screenshot below.
The window in the screenshot below will appear and you can change the “Post Type” from a post to a page.
Once converted to pages you can then go into each page and select the regular “Edit” option and assign the parent page using the “Page Attributes” options to the right hand side of the text window as shown in the screenshot below.
Using the diagram of a SILO shown earlier in this post, the home page will be a regular page with no parent. The pages labeled as SILO 1, SILO 2 and SILO 3 will all have the home page as their parent. Post 1, Post 2 and Post 3 will all have the SILO 1 page as their parent and so on.
Setting A Static Home Page
As the SILOing concept required a static home page for the internal linking to work we need to change the default settings in WordPress to meet this requirement. To do this, make sure the page you wish to display as your home page has been published.
Then navigate to settings -> Reading tab as shown in the screenshot below.
One the page loads, select the option to use “A static page” as shown in the screenshot below and then select your home page as the page you wish to use from the drop-down box that appears.
Setting Up The Permalinks
There are a number of posts out there on SILOing that suggest that your URL structure can also assist in the process. Using the diagram earlier in the post they would look similar to this, domain.com/silo1/page1.
To set this up in WordPress navigate to your domains settings -> permalinks options as shown in the screenshot below.
Once the permalinks options have loaded ensure you select the “Post Name” layout and your URLs should naturally fall into the above structure above without any additional effort.
Clearing Your Widget Area
As the theory goes, the actual posts within each of the SILOs should not link to each other at all meaning the widget area is a potential risk to break this rule. To remove this risk I simply remove all of the widgets from the sidebar that link to other posts or pages on the domain.
I currently have the sidebar blank on the domain I SILOed but I may add a display ad from the AdSense program or amazon associates when the domain begins to get traffic.
A Quick And Easy Navigation Plugin
During my research on SILOing WordPress, I discovered the free CC Child Pages plugin. Once installed, the plugin adds a new button to your WYSISYG editor for your pages as shown in the screenshot below.
Once clicked the plugins shortcode menu will appear as shown in the screenshot below.
The plugin adds a quick and easy link-based navigation menu to the page you add it to and will display the child pages of the page whose ID you add to the “Parent Page ID” field. This means that on your home page you will set the page ID in the plugin as the page ID of the home page. Once added the plugin will add a link to each of the pages that have the home page as their parent page meaning it will have a direct link to each of the SILO category pages.
One the SILO category pages you repeat the process as above setting the page ID for the plugin as the page ID for each of the SILO category pages. This will add a direct link on each of them to each of the posts that have them set as their parent page.
When on a post or page in WordPress that particular page ID will be displayed in the URL as shown in the screenshot above. In the screenshot example, the post ID is 323. Personally, I set the “show as list” option as true and it should look a little something like the screenshot below when viewed on your sites.
It may not be the prettiest many to have on your pages but it can be placed at the very bottom of the pages it is on if you want to hide it from your viewers while still providing the link to the pages using a relevant anchor text.
Linking Up The Chain
This is where you will have to make a few personal choices as to how you want your actual content pages to work. There seem to be multiple theories on how they should link up the chain. Some of the resources I found said they should only link to their main SILO category page so their link juice is kept within the SILO while others say it should link to the homepage, some said it should link to both and some said it should link to the homepage and the main SILO category pages of the other SILOs on the domain.
The way I have set the domains menu up in this post it goes with the last option meaning they link to the home page and SILO category pages via the menu. If you like you could also add links into the article text to pages to offer more control over anchor text and perhaps pass some relevancy via the anchor text used.
No Indexing Catagories
As I organize the pages via page parent relationships and CC Child Pages I don’t use categories. If you do it maybe an idea to set them to no index. As I don’t do this I will leave it to you to work out how to do it but I have seen people mention they use the Yoast plugin to do it.
That concludes my post on how I SILOed my white hat site. As I mentioned at the start of the post I have no idea if SILOing works and I am pretty skeptical towards it compared to regular internal linking between relevant pages. I’m not even 100% sure if I have done it correctly but I thought I would type this up as I have had a number of people as me how I did it along with my thoughts on the process.