Siloing Navigation and Creating a High Authority Website Structure

Matt NeSmithSEOLeave a Comment

Three new and one old grain silo, plus a tractor. Taken in rural Montana.

One of the easiest ways to build authority within your website is to use the pages within your site. While we often hear that gaining backlinks is the best way to gain link juice, your website needs to be setup so that it can accept this authority and distribute it across the pages that matter. The methods explained in this article also take your existing authority and consolidate it so that even in its current state, you can build authority to certain pages within your website without gaining an extra link.

What I’m talking about here is using your internal linking structure. By adjusting how pages are linking to each other, you can make sure the authority gained from links is actually used properly and is being passed along to pages you deem as the most valuable. Your website by its very nature has authority built into it, and as links are pointed to your site, that authority builds over time. However, once authority gets passed to a site, too often it gets scattered across every page and by the second level of the site it is diluted down to the most minute fraction. By reworking where that authority is being passed, you can build the value of all pages on the site, and most importantly, those pages that define your business.

As a quick refresher before we dive into the methods, it is important to remember that one signal of page importance is the number of links going to a given page. Another signal is the authority of the inbound link coming into a page. Siloing your website’s navigation allows you to control the number of links being passed to a page from within your website, and this in turn means that more authority is being passed to it. The pages can then be ranked, so to speak, by the number of links pointed at each page. The more links a page has, the more important is it.

How does your Site Currently Pass Authority?

To get an idea of the current state of your site you can do one of two things. Look at the cached version of a page or crawl the whole site and rank pages by their number of internal links.

To view the cached version of a page, simply type cache: then with no space, follow that with your URL. It will look like this in your browser bar: cache:www.domain.com. Once the page loads, you’ll notice an extra box at the top (screenshot below).

In the bottom right corner of this gray box you’ll want to click Text-only version. What you will then see is a stripped down version of that page. On it you will most likely notice a lot of blue links. Below is a screenshot from eBay, and this is only a small portion of the links that are shown (about  1/5).

Let’s say that eBay has a total of 150 links on their homepage. If an inbound link from an external source links to their homepage (let’s give this link 50 points) that 50 points is going to be dispersed to all 150 pages- meaning each page in-turn only gets 0.33 points. Now, if you set your site up so that you are only linking to the important pages and remove all of the extraneous links, you might be able to get your link number down to 75. If that happened, the points being passed to each page would then double to 0.66!

So that’s one way to understand what is happening on your site, but like I said there are generally two. The other way by is crawling your site and looking at the number of internal links pointing to each page. We use a tool called Screaming Frog, as it makes it really easy to discover the number of inlinks.

Below is a list of the top ten internally linked-to pages from an example site. While it looks to be in somewhat good standing, we soon realize that there are some drastic differences between the various pages on the site.

First of all, the homepage is fourth on the list – ideally it would be first, as it is the most important page on the site from a tiered perspective. Next, we have a few core products listed through this top 10. However, there are large jumps in the number of links going to these product pages. Hosted exchange has over 3,000 links, while Cloud Hosting, another core product that could be even more important, only has just over 2,000. This gap between pages makes it so that certain pages get less authority passed to them, and therefore, fewer overall votes.

That’s the why, let’s get to the how. Well, sort of. Each website is unique, so the exact methods of implementing this may be different depending on the CMS being used or the preference of your developer. So what I am going to give you is a guideline of sorts to help describe how the final product should look and function and ultimately how we recommend passing authority throughout your site.

Navigation Siloing

With these guidelines, the way the navigation works and looks will not change. Also, all pages will still be able to be visited by the user no matter the current page they are on. When we say that a page is only linking to one other page, this pertains to the coding visible to the engine (and the links that are actually followed by the crawler), and not the usability and layout. Ok, lets get to it!

  • The Home page will only link to top category pages (See image below).

    • The home page will not link to any other subcategory pages or landing pages. All of its authority will be passed directly down to the 7 main categories in the navigation.

  • The Category pages only link to the subcategory pages.

    • Ex. Ferrari (1) will only link to the Subcategories (2a, 2b, 2c, etc.) within its Navigation dropdown. In the image below, they are all of the subheadings labeled 2a, 2b, 2c, etc. The Ferrari page will not link to the landing pages across the top or other Category pages, but all of these other links will still be visible and useable for the site visitor.

  • Each Subcategory page (F40, F50, etc.) only links to pages under it, and not across other subcategories (see the table and corresponding chart below for clarification).

2a > A1

2a > B1

2a > A2

2d > E3

2a > A3

2b > F1

= ✔

= ✗

  • Also, each page under the subcategory will link back up to the subcategory it lives under.

    • Ex. The Specifications page for the La Ferrari will only link up to the La Ferrari Subcategory page, and nothing else, but all other navigation options will still be visible to the user.

As mentioned before, it is important to note that even though only specific pages are being linked to in the navigation, the navigation will still maintain its current layout and look, and all of the links will still be visible to the user at all times. The optimizing process will make it so that only certain links are visible to the engines and it can only follow a certain path, whereas the user can continue to go wherever they like.

This can successfully be achieved through various coding techniques, dependent on the capabilities and bandwidth of the developer. Below are a few quick guidelines.

Do’s

  • Do use Javascript, jQuery or another language to create conditional viewing of the navigation based upon what the user has clicked. The user will still see all navigation options, but depending on what was clicked and the page the user is on, the Javascript coding that the crawler sees will only show specific link paths.

Don’ts

  • Don’t use rel=nofollow.

    • With rel=nofollow, the crawler will still go to the page to see what is there, but it will not give the page being linked to any authority and no link juice is passed. While this seems beneficial for what we are trying to achieve, the way Google handles nofollow links actually could be detrimental. The main issue is that link juice and authority is still distributed across all links, even if they are nofollowed, and because of this, authority is wasted.

    • Ex. If there are 4 links on a page, and the page has 100 points to give to these 4 links, each page being linked to would gain 25 points. Originally, if a link was nofollowed, Google would instead count it as 3 links, and each followed link would get 33.33 points. However, Google updated their algorithm so that even though there are only 3 followed links out of the 4, the authority is still distributed across all 4 links evenly. This means 3 pages being followed get 25 points, and the leftover 25 points is lost in the wind.

Whew! You made it. We’re not quite done yet though.

Cross-Linking for Bonus Authority

Another great way to pass authority all around your site is to use in-text crosslinks. This is something we recommend to clients that have a blog, and it can be used sitewide depending on the context of the page you are doing it on. Additionally, this method is much simpler than reworking your navigation, so if you want to start small, start here.

For each blog post or piece of content you create, you will want to identify a related core page on your site. Getting back to the car example from the chart above, if you write an article about the hybrid system on the new La Ferrari, you can link back to the La Ferrari category page within the text of the article. What this does is open a connection between two related pages on the site. As this article gains backlinks and authority is passed to it, you can then pass authority through it and back up to the top-level category page, boosting its authority even more. As this is done across your site, the authority of those top-level category pages will increase, without new external links even pointing at them! For one of our clients we had a sample set of three pages with page authorities of 39, 60 and 43. After working through their navigation and creating some connections between related content pieces, the page authorities became 53, 59 and 55, respectively. Not bad, huh?

Easy Authority is, well, Easy!

With the methodologies outlined above you can begin to improve the authority of pages existing within your site using the assets you already have. Setting up these links will also ensure that any authority being passed to your site through backlinks will be distributed to the proper pages and not lost on pages that provide no value.

There is a lot of information here, but read through it and talk with your team on how to best implement this on your site. If you have any additional questions or need some help, give us a shout! While we can’t build silos to store your grain, we can definitely help you get silos setup on your website.

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