How To Silo Your Website: The Masthead

One of the more powerful tools an SEO can use when setting up or fixing an existing website is siloing or themeing. However, when I mention this to beginner or intermediate SEO’s, they are often confused about how and where to start. In this multi-part series, I’ll be giving you some examples of how I use the technique.

Sometimes it’s helpful to imagine what you would want your site links to look like in the SERPS …

Let’s take a step back and understand what siloing is. Basically, it’s dividing your website into high level themes or vertical sections, then using information architecture and strategic internal linking to control the flow of link equity or pagerank where we want it to go.

First step: determine your top 4-6 keyword terms. If you have a large trusted site you can do more, but 4-6 is a good place to start. These should be high level head terms, usually 2-3 words. These are not longtail terms. Sometimes it’s helpful to imagine what you would want your site links to look like in the SERPS. For this example I will use a fictional Disney World travel website. These would be my top choices:

  • Hotels
  • Vacations
  • Travel Tips
  • Information

Ideally these would be the words, tabs, or options in the masthead of the site. Here’s where things get tricky. Within the context of the site, “hotels” has meaning, but to the external world it doesn’t. It’s extremely unlikely the internal anchor text “hotels” will enable us to rank for hotels. Additionally “hotel reviews” is going to be a much better converting term, so here’s what we really want in our masthead:

  • Disney World Hotel Reviews
  • Disney World Vacations
  • Disney World Travel Tips
  • Disney World Information

… there is no good reason for any search engine to crawl your shopping cart … ever …

Ok now those terms are ideal and exactly what we want to have in our sitelinks. However the tabs/anchor text in the masthead will end up being really wide, or two-three rows, which looks kinda text-heavy. So when you are in this situation I suggest using an image replacement technique. Now this is not a clear cut issue, and some people at Google don’t endorse it. So if you are going to use it make the image exact or very close to the text being replaced. The more different it is, the more likely it is to get you in trouble. Also use an established image replacement technique, like Leahy/Langridge Method or Gilder/Levin Method. Unless someone at Google wants to answer the image replacement question without a side order of waffles (*cough* Matt *cough*) we are left to find our own way in the dark.

You are going to need a link to the homepage for usability purposes. I’m not a fan of using the word “home.” I prefer an obvious icon of a house and an image replacement with the site name. I’m assuming you have a logo in your masthead–again use image replacement for the name of your website to link back to your homepage.

If you are going to have a blog, use image replacement again. This time, try using “Disney World Blog” or “Disney World Travel Blog”–something that matches your content nicely.

I’m going to ruffle some feathers here by saying you probably don’t want customer service, privacy, or contact us in the masthead. Every link up there dilutes the emphasis, so put them in the footer. This isn’t 1998: it’s unlikely your website is the first website the user has ever visited. They will know enough to scroll down.

If you have an onsite cart, you can put that there. It’s where Amazon has trained us to look for it. I would nofollow the link. Not because I’m trying to conserve pagerank, but because there is no good reason for any search engine to crawl your shopping cart … ever.

Resist the temptation to add more links. Or to add a second row. Or a sub row at the bottom of your masthead. You will be rewarded.

So what are the takeaways here:

  • Put only your top keywords in the masthead. Remove all other links.
  • Use the the full keyword you wan to rank for, not a shortened version that makes sense within the site.
  • Use well known image replacement techniques to fit longer keywords in.
  • Replace “home” with an image using image replacement

Next in the series, How To Silo Your Website: The Breadcrumb.
photo credit: Let Ideas Compete
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