Third Level Push (modified Siloing) For Deeper Index Penetration
Third-Level Push (aka “siloing”), according to Dan Thies (who regained my attention after his recent article on Google proxy hacking), helps you get third-tier pages (e.g. article/product detail pages) in the main index and ranking higher by “taking more of the PageRank from your second tier, and pushing it down into the third tier.”
In most sites, your global navigation links to the entire second tier from every page, including the home page. This causes the second tier pages to accumulate a lot of PageRank, at the expense of your third tier.
Makes perfect sense. Sites with slightly low link popularity (home page TBPR 3-4) often have no problem getting the home page and most of the category pages in the main index, but they often can’t get some of the product detail pages to stick. Why? Often its because of exactly what Dan said: the internal navigation makes the home page and second-level pages PageRank-hogs, leaving the third-level pages high and dry.
Some SEOs call Dan’s tactic “siloing”, and attribute its benefits to better themed internal linking. For example, Haylie from Bruce Clay talks about siloing, albeit with a focus on ranking, not index penetration. Siloing, in this case, is done by setting up thematic pyramids via links or directory structure. Just imagine a tree hierarchy, where leaf nodes link up to their parent, then a set of parents link up to their parent, and so on, till you reach the root node.
Dan disagrees: “At the time we all assumed this had something to do with the topics of the pages not being closely related, but we were wrong.” According to him, increase in site traffic is due to increase in PageRanks at the third-tier.
So how do you implement Third-Level Push? In brief:
1. Use nofollow to prevent second-level pages from passing PageRank to each other. This forces PageRank downwards to the third-level.
2. Use nofollow on links on third-level pages to second-level pages so that a third-level page passes PageRank to its parent page but not to any other pages in the second-tier.
3. Tiered Pairing: To prevent second-level pages from losing too much PageRank, you can link them in pairs: e.g. page A with B, C with D, and so on.
4. Circular Navigation: To circulate more PageRank on the leaf level, link them up in circular faction, so page A links to B and C, B links to C and D, etc.
That’s third-level push in a nutshell.
Note: Avoid deleting or adding links to do this (like I did); instead, just use nofollow. There’s no bigger sin than compromising user-experience for the sake of SEO (well, there probably is, but lets not get into that).
A Third Level Push Implementation for Wordpress
Does third-level push really work? I decided to use this blog as a guinea pig. But how do I implement third-level push on Wordpress? Sure, you can just Google for a “SEO Siloing” Wordpress Plugin, but that’s no fun. Warning to the faint of heart: don’t try this at home:
1. open template-functions-category.php
2. find function wp_list_cats($args = ”) declaration.
3. around line 236, under parse_str($args, $r): enter:
if ( !isset($r[’nofollow’]))
$r[’nofollow’] = FALSE;
// That sets the default nofollow value, in case no value is passed.
4. Look for the return list_cats.. line.
5. At the end of the long argument list (after $r[’heirarchical’]), type $r[’nofollow’]
6. Find function list_cats(…..).
5. At the end of the function declaration argument list @line 279, after $hierarchical=FALSE, type: “, $nofollow=FALSE”
6. Now look for the A HREF echo statement, around line 327.
7. Replace $link = ‘<a href=”‘.get_category_link($category->cat_ID).’” ‘; with:
if($nofollow==FALSE) $link = ‘<a href=”‘.get_category_link($category->cat_ID).’” ‘;
else $link = ‘<a href=”‘.get_category_link($category->cat_ID).’” rel=”nofollow” ‘;
8. Finally, open sidebar.php. Look for the wp_list_cats line for single posts (not the home page), around line # 104, that looks like: wp_list_cats(’sort_column=name&optioncount=1&hierarchical=0′);
Replace that with wp_list_cats(’sort_column=name&optioncount=1&hierarchical=0&nofollow=TRUE’);
Potential negative side effects: If your blog doesn’t have a lot of backlinks, your category pages might go supplemental. In that case, try Tiered Pairing.
UPDATE: Joost apparently incorporated my idea into his Robots Meta Plugin. Check it out.
Does Siloing/Third-Level Push Really Work?
So what happens to PageRank flow after I implement a third-level push?
Here’s a before and after:
(Pages in the main index are green. Notice I channeled most of my site’s PageRanks to only those URLs I want to rank, so I had some supplemental URLS but none of them I cared about.)
Hmm…so basically I lost PageRank to some of my unpopular category pages. But where did all that PageRank go? To just a handful of recently-published posts, which had high PageRanks to begin with. So it doesn’t really look like I gained anything, does it? In fact, it looks to me like a whole bunch of pages might go supplemental.
See, there’s no point in having pages with too much PageRank (at least for getting pages indexed). You want a moderate amount of PageRank on as many pages as possible.
Nah, instead I want something more like this:
Notice now PageRanks are more evenly spread throughout my site.
(screenshots generated by PageRankBot).
Sitewides’ Gotta Go (Modified Third-Level Push)
The problem was I had other sitewide links besides links to category pages, like “recent posts”, “top posts”, and links to the home page. Those URLs stole the PageRanks the category pages gave up.
In short, sitewide links are bad. So what did I do?
1. Dumped sitewide links: Got rid of sitewide links to recent posts and top posts (better to nofollow them but I was in a rush) and nofollowed links to the blog home page. Used third-level push (nofollowed sitewide links to category pages), except I prevented blog articles from linking back to its parent category page to keep the page from accumulating too much PageRank.
2. Added related posts plugin to circulate PageRanks to internal pages “randomly” instead of sitewide.
Will this setup help me or hurt me? Time will tell. The main problem is that now my site’s PageRanks are unfocused; my top posts aren’t getting any special attention. I can modify Wordpress so that X% of links to top posts are nofollowed instead of nofollowing every single sitewide link. That way, my most important pages will have the highest PageRanks but they won’t be PageRank hogs.
I do believe that third-level push can work, as long as you have some kind of tool to make sure PageRanks are actually being pushed down to the third-tier pages. Just by nofollowing links to category pages won’t guarantee that, though preventing sitewide links from flowing juice will probably do the trick.
Why should you care about this stuff?
As Matt Cutts recently explained (emphasis mine):
You could do a similar post with a bunch of Play-Doh and show how you have a certain amount of Play-Doh (your PageRank), and you choose with your internal linking how to spread that Play-Doh throughout your site. If a given page has enough PageRank (reasonable-sized ball of Play-Doh), it can be in our main web index. If it has not-very-much PageRank (tiny ball of Play-Doh), it might be a supplemental result. And if only a miniscule iota of Play-Doh makes it to a page, then we might not get a chance to crawl that page.
The Play-Doh / PageRank metaphor is kinda disturbing, but hey, whatever works.