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Why It Makes No Sense (And What to Do Instead)

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Why It Makes No Sense (And What to Do Instead)


Everyone knows that structuring your website in a logical way is as important for users as it is for SEO, and “siloing” is one way many SEOs recommend doing this.

But I think that “siloing” is a terrible idea and isn’t something you should do.

In this post, I’ll explain why that is and what you should do instead.

But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page…

What is silo structure in SEO?

Silo structure in SEO is a type of website architecture where you group, isolate, and interlink content about a specific topic. This creates clean, distinct sections of related content on your website.

Here’s roughly what SEO silos look like in practice:

Flowchart of silo structure in SEO

You can see that each silo consists of a main silo page and related content, all of which are interlinked. However—and this is a crucial point—the content in one silo does not link to the content in another silo. That’s why it’s called silo structure, as the content is literally isolated in silos.

Why is siloing so popular?

If we run a quick search in Content Explorer, we see over 11K published pages containing the phrase “silo structure” and the word “SEO.”

Content Explorer search of "'silo structure' AND seo"

The reason for its popularity is the perceived benefits, which usually go something like this:

1. It helps Google to find your pages

Internal links are one of the ways Google finds new pages, so it’s best practice to ensure that all of your pages are interlinked in some way or another.

Siloing can help with this because it creates a logical hierarchical structure with consistent internal linking.

2. It boosts rankings

There are two main reasons why siloing may help to boost rankings.

Better flow of PageRank

PageRank (PR) is Google’s formula for scoring the value of a page based on the quantity and quality of pages linking to it. Backlinks are how PR flows into your site, and internal links are how PR flows around it.

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As all pages in a silo are interlinked, siloing helps PR flow between them.

In effect, if one page in a silo attracts lots of high-quality PR-boosting backlinks, some of that PR is shared with other pages in the silo through internal links.

More contextual internal links

Silos are groups of related content. This means that the internal links between pages within them are usually contextually relevant. In other words, siloing creates internal links to and from pages about similar or related things—and usually with relevant anchors, too.

Both of these things help Google to understand the context of a page, as John Mueller explained in this Webmaster Hangout:

[Internal linking] also helps us to get a bit of context about that specific page. And we get some of that through the anchor text …  and some from understanding where these pages are linked within your site.
John Mueller

For example, if you knew that a page had these internal anchors…

  • The company founded by Steve Jobs
  • The iPhone manufacturer
  • CEO, Tim Cook

… you could probably figure out that it’s about Apple.

The same would be true if a page had internal links from pages about these things:

3. It creates a good user experience

Internal links aren’t just useful for SEO; they also help users to navigate your website.

For that reason, siloing can improve user experience, as it effectively brings topically similar pages closer together. In other words, siloing places content about Steve Jobs, iPhone, and iPad fewer clicks away and helps you find relevant content more easily.

What’s the problem with silo structure?

Given the potential benefits of siloing, you may be wondering what the problem is and why it’s not something I’ll recommend.

The answer: Forbidding internal links between silos is silly and doesn’t help SEO or users.

For example, let’s say you had these three silos:

Flowchart of three silos: gym studios, gym classes, gym instructors; notably, instructor "Sarah" is under the silo "gym instructors"

Very neat. But what if Sarah teaches Pilates at the New York studio? Wouldn’t it make sense to internally link Sarah’s profile, the class she teaches, and the studio she works at?

See also  Google’s New Link Building Guidelines

Of course. But this would ruin your “silos.”

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that some SEOs disagree with the idea of restricting internal links to silos, including Gael Breton from Authority Hacker:

Historically, when reading about SEO silos, you’ve probably read about the idea of ‘keeping link juice in the silo’ and only internally linking to pages that are in the same site section.

We disagree with this.

We believe that, in content, as long as it contextually makes sense to link to another page of your site, you should do it.

Gael Breton

However, the reality is that once you do that, you’re no longer siloing. You’re effectively just using a traditional pyramid site architecture, which is recommended by pretty much everyone, including John.

The top down approach or pyramid structure helps us a lot more to understand the context of individual pages within the site.

John Mueller

Best practices for site structure

With silo structure out of the window, let’s look at a few simple best practices for planning and structuring a website with SEO in mind.

1. Use a pyramid structure

Pyramid site structure puts your most important content at the top, followed by your second most important content, your third most important content, etc.

This is how most websites are structured.

For example, here’s what a website selling home furniture may look like:

Flowchart of pyramid structure with "home" branching out to "living room" and "dining room"; each of them then branches out to related furniture categories

You can see that the internal linking structure resembles a pyramid.

Here are the benefits of pyramid site structure:

  1. Easy to navigate – Visitors start on the homepage, choose a category, then dig deeper.
  2. Good PageRank flow – Site homepages tend to get the most backlinks, so having important content close by makes sense.
  3. Internal links are contextual – Categories link to their respective subcategories and vice versa.

You’ll notice that those three benefits pretty much align with the perceived benefits of silo structure. It just doesn’t have the downside of prohibiting internal links between silos, which brings us neatly to…

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2. Internally link where relevant

The main problem with SEO silo structure is that it prohibits linking relevant contextual opportunities outside of the silo. Using a pyramid structure with no such stipulations solves this.

For example, let’s say that you have some dining room chairs and a sofa in the same style. You can happily internally link between those pages despite them being in different areas of the site.

Flowchart of pyramid structure; notably, "blue velvet sofa" and "blue velvet chairs" can be interlinked even though they're located in different areas of the site

This is better for users and your bottom line.

If you want to find relevant internal linking opportunities, there are a couple of ways you can do that using Ahrefs’ Site Audit (get access for free with Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account).

The first is using the Link Opportunities tool, which suggests where you should add internal links.

For example, here the report is suggesting we link from our SEO glossary to our meta robots guide:

Internal link opportunities report results

This is because our meta robots guide ranks in the top 100 for “meta robots.”

The second is using the Page Explorer tool, which allows you to search for mentions of any word or phrase on your website.

For example, if we search for mentions of “search quality rater guidelines” on the Ahrefs blog, which is a keyword we’re targeting in our QRGs guide, we see a mention in our list of Google ranking factors.

Page explorer report results

It probably makes sense to internally link from here, as it may help boost our page in Google.

3. Create content hubs for blog content

Blog content typically suffers from a lack of contextual hierarchy because it’s published chronologically. You can solve this by creating content hubs out of related posts.

Content hubs are similar to silos in that they are interlinked collections of related content.

Here’s what they typically look like:

Flowchart of content hub: "vegetable" is in center and branches out to different vegetables like carrot, beetroot, etc

The only true difference between hubs and silos is that you’re free to link between content hubs.

For example, let’s say that we have two content hubs: one about fruits and the other about vegetables. Given it’s a common misconception that tomatoes are vegetables, it may make perfect sense to internally link from the post about tomatoes to the vegetable hub page.

Flowchart showing 2 content hubs "fruits" and "vegetables"; "tomatoes" connected to "fruit" can be internally linked/connected to "vegetable" hub

You’re free to do that with content hubs because, unlike with siloing, there’s no rule that you can’t.

In effect, content hubs give you the best of both worlds; related content is grouped and interlinked (as is the case with silos), but you’re also able to internally link between pages where it makes sense. 

Recommended reading: Content Hubs for SEO: How to Get More Traffic and Links With Topic Clusters

4. Make sure important content isn’t too deep

Deep content is harder for users to find, but it’s a common misconception that this is also true for search engines. As long as your content is internally linked, Google will be able to find and index it.

The problem is that Google may not prioritize the crawling or indexing of deep content because it assumes it holds little to no value for searchers.

This is why you need to ensure that important content is not buried deep in your site.

You can see how deep your content is at a glance using Ahrefs’ Site Audit. Just go to the Structure Explorer and toggle the “Depth” tab.

"Depth" filter in Structure explorer

For example, you see above that most of the pages on the Ahrefs blog are between one and three clicks from the seed (in this case, the blog homepage). However, a few pages are 5+ clicks away, which probably isn’t ideal for important content.

You can see the pages in each depth bucket by clicking on the corresponding part of the visual representation.

For instance, if we click on the “5” bucket for the Ahrefs blog, we see only archive pages:

List of URLs and corresponding data in the "5" bucket

As these pages aren’t particularly important, the depth probably isn’t an issue. However, if we saw important pages or posts here, we might consider adding relevant internal links to them from other content higher in our site’s hierarchy.

Final thoughts

Organizing your content makes sense, but siloing your content doesn’t. All this does is preclude you from internally linking to your content from relevant and contextual locations on your site, hindering SEO.

My advice is to organize your site roughly in a pyramid structure, group related blog or informational content into hubs, and then simply internally link to and from pages wherever it makes sense. This is not only best for SEO, but it also makes your site easier for visitors to navigate.

Got questions? Disagree? Ping me on Twitter.





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7 Ways To Use Google Trends For SEO & Content Marketing

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7 Ways To Use Google Trends For SEO & Content Marketing

Google Trends is a surprisingly useful tool for keyword research, especially when using advanced search options that are virtually hidden in plain sight.

Explore the different Google Trends menus and options and discover seemingly endless ways to gain more keyword search volume insights.

Learn new ways to unlock the power of one of Google’s most important SEO tools.

The Value Of Google Trends

While Google Trends is accurate, it doesn’t show the amount of traffic in actual numbers.

It shows the numbers of queries made in relative percentages on a scale of zero to 100.

Unlike Google Trends, paid SEO tools provide traffic volume numbers for keywords.

But those numbers are only estimates that are extrapolated from a mix of internet traffic data providers, Google Keyword Planner, scraped search results, and other sources.

The clickstream data usually comes from anonymized traffic data acquired from users of certain pop-up blockers, browser plugins, and some free anti-virus software.

The SEO tools then apply a calculation that corresponds to their best guess of how that data correlates with Google keyword search and traffic volume.

So, even though paid SEO tools provide estimates of keyword traffic, the data presented by Google Trends is based on actual search queries and not guesses.

That’s not to say that Google Trends is better than paid keyword tools. When used together with paid keyword tools, one can obtain a near-accurate idea of true keyword search volume.

There are other functions in Google Trends that can help dial in accurate segmentation of the keyword data that helps to understand what geographic locations are best for promotional efforts and also discover new and trending keywords.

How To Use Google Trends For SEO

1. Get More Accurate Data By Comparing Keywords

Google Trends shows a relative visualization of traffic on a scale of zero to 100.

You can’t really know if the trend is reporting hundreds of keyword searches or thousands because the graph is on a relative scale of zero to one hundred.

However, the relative numbers can have more meaning when they are compared with keywords for which there are known traffic levels from another keyword phrase.

One way to do this is to compare keyword search volume with a keyword whose accurate traffic numbers are already known, for example, from a PPC campaign.

If the keyword volume is especially large for which you don’t have a keyword to compare, there’s another way to find a keyword to use for comparison.

A comparison keyword doesn’t have to be related. It can be in a completely different vertical and could even be the name of a trending celebrity.

The important thing is the general keyword volume data.

Google publishes a Google Trends Daily Trends webpage that shows trending search queries.

What’s useful about this page is that Google provides keyword volumes in numbers, like 100,000+ searches per day, etc.

Example Of How To Pinpoint Search Volume

I’m going to use the search phrase [how to lose weight] as an example of how to use Google Trends to get a close idea of actual search volume.

The way I do it is by using known search volumes and comparing them to the target keyword phrase.

Google provides search volumes on its trending searches page, which can be adjusted for what’s trending in any country.

On this particular day (September 22, 2022), the actress Ana De Armas was trending with 50,000+ searches, and the American ex-football player (keyword phrase [Bret Favre News]) was trending with 20,000+ searches.

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Step 1. Find Search Trends For Target Keyword Phrases

The target keyword phrase we’re researching is [how to lose weight].

Below is a screenshot of the one-year trend for the target keyword phrase:

Screenshot from Google Trends, September 2022

As you can see, it’s a fairly stable trend line from September 2021 to September 2022.

Then I added the two keyword phrases for which we have a close search volume count to compare all three, but for a 24-hour time period.

I use a 24-hour time period because the search volume for our comparison keywords is trending for this one day.

Google Trends ComparisonScreenshot from Google Trends, September 2022

Our target keyword phrase, with a red trend line, is right in the middle, in between the keyword phrases [Ana De Armas] (blue) and [Bret Favre News] (yellow).

What the above comparison tells us is that the phrase [how to lose weight] has a keyword volume of more than 20,000+ searches but less than 50,000+ searches.

The relative search volume of [how to lose weight] is 50% of the keyword phrase [Ana De Armas]. 

Because we know that [Ana De Armas] has a search volume of approximately 50,000+ searches on this particular day, and [Bret Favre News] has a search volume of 20,000+ queries on the same day, we can say with reasonable accuracy that the keyword phrase, [how to lose weight] has approximately a daily search volume of around 30,000 on an average day, give or take a few thousand.

The actual numbers could be higher because Google Trends shows the highs and lows at particular points of the day. The total for the day is very likely higher.

The above hack isn’t 100% accurate. But it’s enough to give a strong ballpark idea and can be used to compare with and validate extrapolated data from a paid keyword research tool.

Related: How To Do Keyword Research For SEO

2. Discover Insights From Time-based Trends

There are two general ways to look at the keyword data: stretched across over longer periods of time and shorter time periods.

Long Period Trends

You can set Google Trends to show you the traffic trends stretching back to 2004. This is valuable for showing you the audience trends.

  • Upward Long-Term Trends: If a trend is consistently going up, this means you need to focus energy on creating content for this trend.
  • Downward Long-Term Trends: If the trend line is steadily moving down, then it may be a signal that audience content consumption is changing.

For example, review this five-year trend for [WordPress] the search term, WordPress the software, and WordPress the website:

An image of Google Trends tool showing a five year trend.Screenshot from Google Trends, September 2022

There’s a clear downward trend for WordPress in all three variations.

The downward trend extends to related phrases such as:

  • WordPress themes.
  • WordPress plugin.
  • WordPress hosting.

There are many reasons why search trends go down. It can be that people lost interest, that the interest went somewhere else or that the trend is obsolete.

The digital camera product category is a good example of a downward spiral caused by a product being replaced by something else.

  • The digital camera caused the downturn in searches for traditional analog cameras.
  • The iPhone started the downward spiral of the digital camera.

Knowing which way the wind is blowing could help a content marketer or publisher understand when it’s time to bail on a topic or product category and to pivot to upward-trending ones.

Related: Content Marketing: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

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3. Related Topics And Queries

Google Trends has two great features, one called Related Topics and the other Related Queries.

Topics

Topics are search queries that share a concept.

Identifying related topics that are trending upwards is useful for learning how an audience or consumer demand is shifting.

This information can, in turn, provide ideas for content generation or new product selections.

According to Google:

Related Topics

Users searching for your term also searched for these topics.

You Can View by the Following Metrics

Top – The most popular topics. Scoring is on a relative scale where a value of 100 is the most commonly searched topic and a value of 50 is a topic searched half as often as the most popular term, and so on.

Rising – Related topics with the biggest increase in search frequency since the last time period.

Results marked “Breakout” had a tremendous increase, probably because these topics are new and had few (if any) prior searches.”

Related Queries

The description of Related Queries is similar to that of the Related Topics.

Top queries are generally the most popular searches. Rising Queries are queries that are becoming popular.

Screenshot of Google Trends Related Queries feature.Screenshot from Google Trends, September 2022

The data from Rising Queries are great for staying ahead of the competition.

4. Short-Term Trends Can Bring Massive Traffic

Viewing keyword trends in the short view, such as the 90-day or even 30-day view, can reveal valuable insights for capitalizing on rapidly changing search trends.

There is a ton of traffic in Google Discover as well as in Google News.

Google Discover is tied to trending topics related to searches.

Google News is of the moment in terms of current events.

Sites that target either of those traffic channels benefit from knowing what the short-term trends are.

A benefit of viewing short-term trends (30 days and 90 trends) is that certain days of the week stand out when those searches are popular.

Knowing which days of the week interest spikes for a given topic can help in planning when to publish certain kinds of topics, so the content is right there when the audience is searching for it.

5. Keywords By Category

Google Trends has the functionality for narrowing down keyword search query inventory according to category topics.

This provides more accurate keyword data.

The Categories tab is important because it refines your keyword research to the correct context.

If your keyword context is [automobiles], then it makes sense to appropriately refine Google Trends to show just the data for the context of auto.

By narrowing the Google Trends data by category, you will be able to find more accurate information related to the topics you are researching for content within the correct context.

6. Identify Keyword Data By Geography

Google Trends keyword information by geographic location can be used for determining what areas are the best to outreach to for site promotion or for tailoring the content to specific regions.

For example, if certain kinds of products are popular in Washington D.C. and Texas, it makes sense to aim promotional activity and localized content to those areas.

In fact, it might be useful to focus link-building promotional activities in those areas first since the interest is higher in those parts of the country.

Keyword popularity information by region is valuable for link building, content creation, content promotion, and pay-per-click.

Localizing content (and the promotion of that content) can make it more relevant to the people who are interested in that content (or product).

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Google ranks pages according to who it’s most relevant, so incorporating geographic nuance into your content can help it rank for the most people.

7. Target Search Intents With Search Types

Google Trends gives you the ability to further refine the keyword data by segmenting it by the type of search the data comes from, the Search Type.

Refining your Google Trends research by the type of search allows you to remove the “noise” that might be making your keyword research fuzzy and help it become more accurate and meaningful.

Google Trends data can be refined by:

  • Web Search.
  • Image Search.
  • News Search.
  • Google Shopping.
  • YouTube Search.
Screenshot of Google Trends showing the different kinds of searchesScreenshot from Google Trends, September 2022

YouTube search is a fantastic way to identify search trends for content with the word “how” because a lot of people search on YouTube using phrases with the words “how” in them.

Although these are searches conducted on YouTube, the trends data is useful because it shows what users are looking for.

A Google Trends search for how, what, where, when, why, and who shows that search queries beginning with the word “how” are by far the most popular on YouTube.

Google Trends limits comparisons to five keywords, so the following screenshot omits that word.

Screenshot of Keyword Popularity on YouTube.Screenshot from Google Trends, September 2022

If your keyword phrases involve instructional content that uses words like “how to,” refining your research with the YouTube search type may provide useful insights.

For example, I have found that YouTube Search shows more relevant “related topics” and “related queries” data than researching with “web search” selected.

Here’s another example of how using different kinds of search types helps refine Google Trends data.

I did the same how, what, where, when, why, and who searches but this time using the News Search refinement.

Screenshot of Google Trends with News Search refinement selectedScreenshot from Google Trends, September 2022

The search trends in Google News are remarkably different than the search patterns on YouTube. That’s because people want to know the “what” and “how” types of information in Google News.

When creating content related to news, identifying the correct angle to report a news item is important.

Knowing that the words “what” or “who” are most relevant to a topic can be useful for crafting the title to what the readers are most interested in.

The above is the view of search queries for the past 90 days.

When the same keywords are searched using the 5-year perspective, it becomes clear that the “who” type keywords tend to spike according to current events.

As an example of how current events influence trends, the biggest spike in searches with the word “who” occurred in the days after the 2020 presidential election.

Every Search Type query refinement shows a different help to refine the results so that they show more accurate information.

So, give the Search Type selections a try because the information that is provided may be more accurate and useful than the more general and potentially noisy “web search” version.

Unlock The Hidden Power Of Google Trends

Free tools are generally considered to be less useful than paid tools. That’s not necessarily the case with Google Trends.

This article lists seven ways to discover useful search-related trends and patterns that are absolutely accurate, more than some search-related data from paid tools.

What’s especially notable is that this article only begins to scratch the surface of all the information that’s available.

Check out Google Trends and learn additional ways to mix different search patterns to obtain even more useful information.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Studio Romantic/Shutterstock



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