By Laia Cardona, on 13 August 2020
When we talk about on page SEO, many times we’re talking about the typical techniques used to optimize headlines, meta descriptions or content. But there is a small yet mighty force that can have a big impact on your website’s positioning on search engines: the URL structure and site map.
Creating a coherent web structure with well-organized links not only makes it easier for search engines to understand your content, but it also helps users locate information easier and have a better user experience. So let's look at how to improve your URL structure through a siloed organization with pillar pages and clusters.
URL Structure and SEO
Normally, when we surf the Internet, we’re looking to seamlessly navigate through a website easily. We’re not alone - Google's algorithms are also paying attention to user experience and ease of navigation.
We want search engines like Google to analyze all the content on our website quickly and easily, which requires structuring the information very well at an architectural level, creating different levels of depth in the website and making it understandable to Google's algorithm. And this work is based on a good URL structure.
The URL is the address of a specific page of a website. There cannot be repeated URLs, neither within the same website, nor anywhere on the Internet, as it is a unique identifier. Likewise, the contents of each URL should also be unique, otherwise Google will understand that it is duplicate content and will penalize it.
Within every URL there two main parts:
- The fixed part or domain of the site: For example, in our case it would be:
- The customizable part of each page: Ideally, it should describe the content of the page as clearly as possible, through keywords separated by short hyphens and without superfluous elements. For example:
www.cyberclick.net/inbound-marketing is better than www.cyberclick.net/inboundmarketingeverythingyouneedtoknow
In order to define the architecture of your website, it is recommended to create the homepage and from there to branch out the different pages and levels. Continuing with the previous example, we would have
- First level: the home page.
- Second level: the Cyberclick services section.
- Third level: each of the pages dedicated to a particular service.
In this way, the URLs are telling search engines how the information within your website is structured. In addition, these types of URLs are also easier for users to remember.
How To Create A Silo Architecture With Pillar Pages And Clusters
For a long time now, in the world of SEO and inbound marketing silo architecture has been the reigning winner for website organization. The basic idea is to create one or several pillar pages dedicated to large concepts related to your industry. In turn, each of the pillar pages will link to different clustered articles with secondary content to expand the information. This world of main and secondary content, connected through links, reinforce each other and position themselves better in Google.
Each pillar page is a piece of content, usually written, that revolves around the main broad keyword you want to position for. It is a longform content, which seeks to explain the different points within a broad subject in a summarized way. In turn, each of these points is developed through other, shorter pieces of written content, videos or infographics that support the pillar page.
For example, Cyberclick has a pillar page dedicated to SEO. The secondary content (also called content cluster, discussed below) is this article. In the pillar page, we explain broad basic principles of SEO, and we’re using this article to get more granular and explain a certain topic in more detail.
Many times SEOs debate about how long the written content has to be, but the truth is that there are no magic numbers like 500, 3,000 or 10,000 words. So how long should main vs secondary content be?
My recommendation is to search for that keyword in Google and look at the average length of the contents that are positioned on the first page. If you see that on the first page most of the content is limited to 500 words, you just need to go a little bit beyond that. In other more competitive sectors, you may see that the contents are much more extensive, but the same rule applies: you just have to go a bit further than the average.
But remember, there is no exact science. You may also find that a 3,000 word article is in the second position for a given keyword while a 1,000 word article is at the number position.
Content clusters (also called topic clusters) are a series of articles that delve into different aspects related to the pillar page. For example, you can have a pillar page about content marketing and cluster pages about content marketing in social networks (which would be a long tail keyword) and about guest authors (related keyword).
The idea of a content cluster is to provide value to the user and add weight to the pillar page through links. Thus, we create a silo or cluster around the main keyword to reinforce it and position it above the competition.
Continuing with our previous example, our pillar page on content marketing could have an H1 entitled "What is content marketing" and within it, an H2 with a definition (without a derivative article) and another H2 on inbound content marketing (which links to an article in the cluster on that topic).
As for the length of the contents of the cluster, they should be shorter than the main page. If your pillar page has 3,000 words, 1,000 or 1,500 may be enough.
Finally, the link structure organizes this content and helps users and search engines understand the relationship between the pages. Thus, the pillar page should link to all the sub-articles and vice versa. Content from different sources can also be included if they are related, for example, a YouTube video or an article from another section. This is not an exact science, so experiment and find out what works best for your website!