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How to Build an Effective Website Structure: The Pyramid Model

One of key reasons I attribute the success of my niche websites to is building an effective website structure following the Pyramid Model.  In case you are wondering, the “Pyramid Model” is not a phrase commonly used in the web development community, at least not to my knowledge.

I have coined this method a pyramid because a website built with this method looks just like one.  Hang with me and you will see why I say this, as well as why this method of building a website structure is so effective.

If you are wondering how a website can look like a pyramid, well….it can’t, not to the naked eye at least. The pyramid I am referring to is the underlying website structure, or what I call the design blueprint or infrastructure.

Just like architects first need to layout a blueprint for a house before building it, successful internet entrepreneurs who make money online from niche websites build out the website structure before putting together the actual website.

The Significance of a Pyramid Model

Laying out a website structure before embarking on development enables you to do a few key things:

1)     It allows conceptualization of the website before it’s even done, therefore allowing you (the entrepreneur) to plan better.  Planning can refer to your presentation, soft selling, call to action and implementation of your monetization method mix.

2)     It allows you to line up keywords that are closely interrelated and benefit from relevant interlinking within your website.  Interlinking passes page rank from one page to another.  It is one of the most unknown, underestimated and underutilized on page SEO strategies.  It is extremely effective in my experience of building successful niche websites.

3)     It keeps your visitors on your site longer.  Because of content relativity, your visitors are more likely to click the links within and stay on your website.

4)     Most importantly, it allows you to strategically build your website in a way where the content pages that are focused on keywords that are easy to rank for collectively push your homepage up on search engine rankings.  Because this is the primary benefit of an effective website structure, this post will mainly focus on what you can do to take advantage of this strategy.

How to Build an Effective Website Structure?

You likely already know that effective keyword research is the most critical component of building a niche website.  I won’t be focusing on keyword research in this post.  If you are not familiar with this topic and terms such as keyword supply, demand and profitability, I highly recommend you read my post on keyword research before you continue reading this post.

For the purposes of this post, I will assume that you have already decided on a niche and have a set of keywords to work with from your keyword research initiative, including the main keyword of your website’s topic.

The main keyword, which I also refer to as your “website theme keyword” is what your website is all about. For example, in my niche site on Bamboo Plants, the main keyword or phrase is “bamboo plant care”.

Similarly, “paintball” is the main keyword of my niche site Paintball Tips.  Why didn’t I provide this example first? Because one-word website theme keywords are typically very hard to rank high for and can take light years.

I don’t mean to discourage you.  It is possible and I have done it repeatedly, but I wouldn’t recommend it for someone new to building niche websites.  Targeting such keywords is a very ambitious approach, one that requires a lot of training, initiative and perseverance.  The rewards can be mind blowing however as you can imagine.  Save this project for later.  For now, let’s focus on the low hanging fruit, the Bamboo website.

So assuming you have your main site keyword decided on (based on whatever method or strategy you are employing) and some relevant supplemental keywords to build your website around, the next thing you need to do is rank and re order the list of keywords in a structure that resembles a pyramid.

What is the Pyramid Model of Building Websites?

I want you to envision a pyramid and visualize its tip and its base.  Imagine the tip as the home page of your website and imagine the base as the rest of the content of your website.  We will call the tip Tier 1 or T1.

website content pyramid

Notice how the area below the tip and above the base is larger than the tip but smaller than the base? This also represents content on your website, but because it is the middle layer, we will call this Tier 2 or T2 content.  The base therefore is Tier 3 or T3 content.  It is important to remember this analogy when reordering and organizing your keywords.

Now, think of each of your keywords as either a T1, T2 or a T3 keyword.  You will be organizing your keywords in one of the three buckets.  Your T1 keyword is your website’s main keyword, the keyword you are trying to rank on Page One for.

T2 keywords are all the relevant keywords to your main keyword that have a relatively healthy search demand (search queries entered in search engines), while T3 keywords are ones that have a relatively low demand compared to your T1 and T2 keywords.  Often times, your T1 keyword will have the most search demand, but also the most competition (number of competing websites on the internet) and therefore the toughest to rank for on Page One.

This is what an effective website structure looks like when done.  I use an excel spreadsheet, nothing fancy.  As you can see, it involves some research, prep work and some brain power, however when you have your website structure ready in blueprint format, you have pretty much defined the structure of your website and are ready to build.  Building the website is actually the easy part.

website blueprint

Using this website structure I am able to build the website infrastructure that is needed to get my website on page one of google for its main target or theme keyword.

bamboo plant care

I want to highlight a few things on this image (the blueprint). Each one of the keywords you see on this spreadsheet represents a single, individual webpage on my website. Notice how the keywords are grouped.  They are grouped by relevancy, as well as according to the pyramid concept discussed above.

For example, notice the T3 keyword “how to grow bamboo” with a demand of 2,321 monthly searches.  Notice how it is grouped with one other similar T3 keyword, both of which support the T2 keyword “growing bamboo”. There is a good reason for that which I will discuss below.

But before moving on, I want to show you how this looks on the website itself.  Fire up the bamboo plant care website and notice the tab on the left hand navigation menu titled “Growing Bamboo”.

growing bamboo tier 2 link

This webpage is optimized for the T2 keyword “growing bamboo” from the blueprint spreadsheet, hence it is one level away from the home page, which is optimized for the one and only T1 keyword of your selected niche.

Now go to the Growing Bamboo webpage and scroll to the bottom.  Here you will a link linking this T2 page back to the T1 page or the home page.  Notice how selected keywords are used as anchor texts in the link?  I will discuss how to specifically interlink webpages further below.

Growing Bamboo

Just as T2 pages are linked to the T1 page, all T3 pages should be linked to their relevant T2 pages.  For example, go to the T3 webpage How to Grow Bamboo and scroll to the bottom.

Here you will notice two links, one linking back to the T2 webpage from which this T3 webpage stems, and another linking back to the T1 page or home page of the website.  I will also discuss why we do this below.

how to grow bamboo

Why Does a Pyramid Website Structure Model Work?

There is a very specific rationale that explains why this methodology works.  From studying keyword research, we know that a keyword demand represents the number of searches for that keyword and the supply represents the number of competing web pages on the Internet which are optimized for that keyword.

By targeting T3 keywords which are relatively lower in demand but much lower in supply, we are essentially going after those keywords which are the easiest to rank for in your selected niche. The entire premise of selecting low supply keywords as T3 web pages is to get the web pages indexed quickly on search engines. Not only that, but by properly optimizing these low supply web pages, you are pretty much guaranteeing your chances on ranking on Page One of search engines for these keywords.

What this does in turn is helps push the T2 pages that the T3 is linked to higher up on search engines.  Because the T2 pages are targeted for keywords that have a healthier competition, the momentum of the underlying T3 pages linked to it will propel it higher in search engine listings.

You can imagine what this does to the home page. When you have several high demand and supply T2 web pages ranking for their respective key terms, they collectively push your main website keyword to the top of search engine listings.

The best metaphor I can describe this with is an ocean waive propelling a surfer higher as the waive generates momentum from underneath.  This process works like clock-work. If executed correctly, the methodology is very powerful, one that results in heavy organic search engine traffic and as a result healthy profits for your niche website.

How to Interlink Web Pages

This post would not be complete if proper interlinking is not discussed.  Interlinking is simply linking one webpage to another within your website.  And although you can do this a variety of ways, the most effective way in my experience, and one that many successful webmasters recommend is as follows:

Ensure all T3 pages are linked to their relevant T2 pages, as well as the home page of your website.  Also ensure that all T2 pages are linked to your home page.  Finally, ensure that all T2 pages link to their respective T3 pages, and that your homepage links to at least all (or as many as possible) T2 pages of your website.  When possible, link to as many T3 pages from your home page as well without making it look like one huge link farm.

You can navigate through my Bamboo site and observe how I have done this.  You can also refer to the images above to see how I have concluded each page with some links on the bottom pointing to the respective home, T2 and T3 pages using the relevant anchor text.

This structure does a couple things. First, it ensures that page rank juice is flowing from one page to another in sequence up and down the pyramid chain.  Your webpages will gain popularity and page rank over time as they are indexed in search engines, liked on Facebook, tweeted and re tweeted on Twitter, Dugg, Stumbleuponed, mentioned in blogs, forums and discussion boards, or one of several other ways.

Other resources essentially link back to them.  And as webpages gain quality back links, their page rank increases. Because you never know which web page gets picked up or linked back to by a popular outside resource, linking all your pages internally ensures that the page rank effect will pass from the webpage linked to by the outside resource to the rest of your website. Remember the waive metaphor?  That is exactly what is happening here.

Second, by tying all pages together and rolling them all up to the homepage, you will be ensuring that every single page of your website is “crawlable” by search engine robots or spiders.  This ensures each of your webpages is indexed in search listings, giving you the maximum exposure to visitor traffic.  Executing effective interlinking is a key strategy in making your website successful. Do not rush this step of the process.

Couple Important Ancillary Details

There are a few other points to keep in mind as you execute this strategy.  You will notice in the spreadsheet image above that the main website keyword is also listed as a T2 keyword (you can see this on row 20).  The reason for this is that a website’s home page is always titled “index.html” and can be optimized for any keyword.

Proper on page SEO starts with the webpage URL (file name), and since the home page does not require a keyword rich URL, you can use the

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66 Responses to “How to Build an Effective Website Structure: The Pyramid Model”

  1. I have no idea why you only have 1 like but these information your offering are great thank you very much 🙂

    • Sunil says:

      welcome to the blog Sally. it’s funny you ask. so many have asked me that, and I wonder myself as well. however, I am not active on Facebook perhaps that’s why? I plan on doing so in the near future. I’d certainly appreciate your vote of endorsement if you feel you have gained something valuable from my articles.

      please let me know how I can help you with your objectives.

  2. KaraKing says:

    Thank u Sunil. Very informative! Will use this great advice.

  3. L says:

    Hello Sunil,
    This is really great info on building a site correctly.

    You say Tier 3 kw’s are easier to rank for but I did a search for some (not all) of your Tier 3 kw’s and they aren’t ranking in the first 3-4 pages of Google. Why is that?

    Also, who is the character Renaldo on this site? Is he the person who writes content for this site or is he a fictitious character “created” for this site?

    Nonetheless, great resource for blueprinting a site!

    • Sunil says:

      I will respond to your comment and questions, but please indicate your name so we know who you are.

      some T3s rank on their own w/o marketing because of choice of keyword. that said, not all do. when marketed, many do because again, inherently the kw chosen is/are easier to rank for. you don’t need all to rank on page one for your site to rank on page one for its main kw, although you can, and I have for several other niche sites.

      I use a pen name for most of my niche sites online, such as Renaldo, inspired by a good childhood friend.

      hope that helps?

  4. Sunil,

    This is a great strategy. Initially I was tempted to skim this article, but I’m glad I actually went back and read through it slowly.

    I’ve used the Backlinking Strategy that Works as defined by Pat Flynn in the past with mixed results. It seems to work sometimes, and other times if the competition is too fierce and there isn’t fresh content on the website all the time it doesn’t seem to work as effectively.

    Maybe it’s because I didn’t optimize my internal pages in the way you’ve shown here so the effect wasn’t as strong….

    I think I’ll implement this on one of my newer niche sites and see what happens over the coming months.

    • Sunil says:

      good to see you buddy. the two main action steps in my opinion are 1) keyword selection and 2) proper website blueprint. all external marketing efforts (i.e. linkbuilding) in my experience are short term in nature if the site itself is not built well. this is an inherent issue with most blogs. that’s why many static websites outperform blogs from an SEO perspective.

      Pat’s strategy is good, but it only addresses external marketing without focus on the website itself. I have niche sites ranking on page one spot one which I have not marketed at all, except for social bookmarking initially when I built them.

      let me know how your experiment goes. I am very much interested. better yet, combine this method with your external backlinking efforts…

  5. Really in-depth post. Looks like I’ve got some work to do.. Thanks!

  6. Gera says:

    Hi Sunil,

    Really a lot of concepts inside this great article.

    The T2 are secondary keywords of medium demand and the T3 are of low demand but easy to rank.
    I like the idea of using the baseline of the T3 to pushes the T2 , and then the T1.
    In general you target T1 and T2 on articles, but you left out the T3s…very interesting.

    I like the layout of your niche site is very clear and explicit for search engines.

    Did you make the interlinking by hand? I do related articles by plugins and seo smart links to give more deep, but not in that type of pyramidal structure.

    Reading your blog for quite time, but first time I comment 🙂



    • Sunil says:

      good to hear from you Gera.

      this model works every time for me because it is not only logical/rational, but it also makes sense for the human as well as from a technical perspective. it supports everything Google has said to date about linking/interlinking.

      I don’t not trust plugins when it comes to linking and therefore do it by hand. it’s paid off nicely in my experience.

      hoping to interact with you more. please let me know if you would like to read about specific topics…

  7. rith says:

    Hi Sunil!
    I am pretty love your bamboo blog design and the way you do it. Could you address me some points?
    – Do you write articles yourself (Looks professional)?
    – Theme, if i am not wrong you use html code theme, any chance you could share :)?
    – Do you provide any service of creating such niche blogs ?

    • Sunil says:

      welcome to the blog Rith.

      for some niche sites I write my content, for others I outsource quality content. I do use traditional HTML, although some recent sites are Worspress Thesis based. read my post on Thesis to understand why I am trying this experiment. so far so good performance wise. email me I will shoot over some files.

      I created some niche sites for folks years back. I can refer you to one of my developers who may be able to help. email me.

  8. Geoff says:

    Hey Sunil, I thought I did a good job interlinking on my car website, but clearly I still have some work to do! I will definitely be bookmarking this post for reference and coming back as I redo my main menu system and theme over the next couple weeks.

  9. Hey Sunil, very interesting article, so much that I had to print it and tweet it. And also you’ve a pretty good site, so much that I had to subscribe to updates.

    Well, I guess we’ll keep in touch. 🙂

    Have a great day!

  10. Gary says:

    Great post yet again Sunil!

    Just finished up changing all my “Home” links to keywordy links instead.

    Thanx for the advice!

  11. Zunaid says:

    Hey Sunil

    I just started reading your blog recently and I must say that its simply awesome.

    Just one question – how are the actual numbers on your spreadsheet calculated

    Is the demand the global monthly searches? Is the supply number the number of search results for the phrase in quotes? And how would the profitability be calculated?


    I’ve read through the keyword research so my apologies if you have explained this and I missed it.

    • Sunil says:

      welcome Zunaid and thank you.

      yes to the firs two questions. the apparent difference is likely because I used another software to crank these numbers as opposed to market samurai which I predominantly use today. most software are accurate, but they pull from various data sources hence the difference.

      the profitability is merely a ratio of the two. you will see this trend down the line as you look at each keyword. it’s an easy way to a more profitable keyword relative to another, because it is really all relative isn’t it?

  12. Sunil – this post right here is MONEY! Well worth the long read. I’ve heard of building sites out in this manner, but never heard of the term beforehand (you learn something new each and every day, right?). Either way, building sites like this definitely can do leaps and bounds for your overall SE rankings.

    I’m working on something similar with a couple new authority sites I’m putting together. Lots of emphasis on the navigation and on-page optimization structure. We’ll see how things pan out.


  13. Jeff says:

    Hey Sunil,
    Great post. Great info.

    Like you said, I think the whole structure and proper building out of a website can be just as powerful (if not MORE powerful) than backlinking to the site. Awesome read…took a while, but it was very worth it!


    • Sunil says:

      welcome Jeff and good to see you here. you are correct, I have gotten a few sites ranked on page one without any marketing whatsoever simply by pushing the home page up via easier to rank tier 3 pages.

      what strategies have you employed that have worked best for you?

      hope to see you more often and please let me know if you’d like to see more coverage on specific topics.

  14. Very insightful post Sunil. I had no idea you had a niche site on bamboo, that’s really neat and very investment savvy of you. Your pyramid concept and graphic helped me understand your tips well and that’s awesome you know so much about all of this. I really need to pay more attention to these things! -Sydney

    • Sunil says:

      good too hear from you Sydney. yes, I generate a bulk of my income online from a portfolio of similar niche sites. I prefer this route because it is a true set and forget model and can be rinsed and repeated from one topic to another. it’s something anyone can do around any of their personal interests or passion. this has helped me live the “untemplated” lifestyle if you will 🙂

      let me know if you’d like more coverage of specific topics. would be happy to help.

  15. Mike says:

    As I am really new to SEO the only way I am building websites so far was to make them blog style. It was quite effective but your Pyramid model looks way more better.
    Of course I am doing internal linking and have found it very useful and have seen that used anchors for interlinking ranks well in Google.
    Thanks for the great tips and example will try to implement this in some of my plain affiliate websites.

    • Sunil says:

      welcome to the blog Mike. let me know of other areas of interest and I’d be happy to incorporate those in future posts. interesting that I was just looking at the Galaxy SIII the other day

      • Mike says:

        Yup ,Galaxy S3 is trending topic these days and interest is close to Apple upcoming products. The rumors are all over the internet that’s why I decided to put them in one place 🙂

  16. Akil says:

    Amazing detailed post and right to the point, this remind me a little of Michael Campbell Revenge of the mininet. At the moment this is one area I feel I need to work on strongly so thanks for this article as I will begin to put this into action as I learn a similar method to what you written above.


  17. Nice tutorial, Sunil. Goes well with the morning coffee. And your bamboo site does add value. I spent some time on it this morning, as bamboo is a plant I’m planning on this spring.

  18. brian says:

    Great post. Doesn’t sbi require recurring payment to keep sites working or maybe that was if you hosted with them. I’ve been do affiliate sites but realize having own products is much more of a business so I need to go that route. Do you get decent conversions for your clickbank products on those sites. Seems to follow along the niche profit classroom model which I’ve heard good things about. I just need to figure out what product to create and really have an expertise….do you ever create products in markets you don’t know and ever had an info product or market that failedthat you learned from?

    Thanks for the great info and blog. Brian

  19. Thoufeeq says:

    That was a great post, Sunil.

    I have a question.

    What if I started a niche website with exact match domain (say, “camouflage wedding dresses”) whose keyword has low monthly search volume (say 480 or 720 Local Exact searches per month) and later on I decide to target a a bit bigger searched keyword “camouflage dresses” on the same site and later on I want to rank for the term “camouflage”, which is the major keyword of the niche…

    Is that possible with this method that I can rank for the main keyword at last, as the home page was once intended to rank for the long tail keyword?

    In other words, is it possible to rank for the main keyword by starting a site which first targets only the long tail keyword, following your Pyramid structure?

    • Sunil says:

      great question Thoufeeq and yes you can. I have done exactly that with a couple niche sites. the key is to run a parallel page later on when you are ready to target a more competitive keyword to the current home page that is targeted for the current keyword. over time as you build the internal links correctly, you will be able to rank for the parallel page as well. but why do that when your main page already has your eventual main/target keyword in it.

      i.e. camouflage wedding dresses has the main KW “camouflage” in it inherently. this is the beauty of proper keyword research

      • Thoufeeq says:

        Thank you very much for the quick reply, Sunil.

        That’s what I exactly wanted to know.. And one more question, if u don’t mind.

        For your niche sites like bamboo-plant-care site, u prefer SBI? If so, why do u prefer it over traditional methods like wordpress, plain HTML sites, etc..

        I tried to read your review of SBI from your RESOURCES page, but I couldn’t find the link.

  20. aj says:


    For those of us who can’t afford SBI’s brainstormer to find kw’s, is there another less expensive keyword research software you recommend?

  21. this is an excellent post. we tried something like this on a smaller scale for one of our clients and it has been working very well so far. the advantage of this approach is very little paid marketing is needed after the website is built if done correctly.

  22. Sunil,

    Thanks for a great post. This is perfect timing as I am trying round two of my niche site efforts. I have a few follow up questions:

    1. Would it be better or worse to link from the tier 3 to two different tier 2 pages, instead of one. In other words, would it hurt to link to more than one tier higher (i.e. maybe make its support of one tier 2 weaker?)?? I hope that makes sense.

    2. Also, is there an optimal number of tier 3 pages/keywords? In other words, would it always be better to have more tier 3 keywords that are supporting tier 2 and 1, than less? or is there a point where more is not worth the effort to produce more material? Perhaps you use a “wait and see” approach?


    • Sunil says:

      welcome Corey. sure, you may link to 2 T2 pages and there are no penalties per se for this. for your second question, imagine a pyramid. the bottom layer is always “bigger”, so yes, more T3 pages linking to T2. there is no limit to this. if you find 100 profitable keywords in your research phase, then overtime you may want to write content for all 100

  23. Erik says:

    Hey this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG
    editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

    • Sunil says:

      hey Erik. blog’s are all WYSIWYG mostly. just get your hosting, download WordPress, pick a theme and get to it. you can visit my “Resources” page on top if you want to know what tools I use.

  24. Rafi says:

    Hi Suneel,

    I realy appreciate the insighnts you have pasted in the blog. i was looking to build an web site sinsce long time.

    because of lac of knowledge and i was unable to do so.

    after reading your blogs, i am confident and will build website very soon.

    Thanks for the insights.

  25. James says:

    Hi, just went to see your bamboo niche website and my antivirus has blocked it. The warning is: HTML:Iframe-BNK [Trj]. Let me know when you fix this and I will take a look.

    Great article.

  26. J says:

    Hey Sunil, I notice this Bamboo website is not in the #1 position for the keywords anymore, and looks like it’s no longer “on the map” on Google. Does the pyramid structure still work? If so, then what caused your site to “disappear”. Thanks in advance, -J

    • Sunil says:

      hi J, yes the pyramid structure still works. if you think about it it is logical and that is what Cutts and the Google team preach. do what makes sense. this particular site was penalized by over optimization and really aggressive link building tactics involving “undiversified” anchor text usage. i have several other sites built in the same manner from a structural perspective that are doing well

  27. Chris says:

    Looks like an interesting idea, thanks for posting.

    I have a similar question to the previous poster – I too noticed that the Bamboo site was ranked really poorly – assumed some Google penalty, or that the idea stopped working.

    Can you explain what “undiversified” anchor text is.

    Also, I note that Norton flagged a Trojan on the home page of the Bamboo site. On closer examination, it seems to be an (almost) invisible iframe linked to another page on your site. Did this contribute to the de-listing, and what is its purpose?

    Did this contribute to the de-listing? Just wonder, as were just building our first blog site, hope that we can use the pyramid idea.



    • Sunil says:

      Hi Chris, see previous comment. Undiversified means the repetitive use of the same words/phrase as a link. As far as the iframe – let me look into this. nothing intentional was done to this tune, but I do use a template that I roll forward for new niche sites. I did at least in the past. tell us more about your business/site. what is it and how is it going?

  28. Christopher says:

    Thanks for the delete!

    At least it is confirmation that the high ranking for the bamboo site was more to do with Black Hat than Pyramid!

    I will move on now!

    • Sunil says:

      Christopher – not sure I understood your comment? My Bamboo site was one of the ones that was hit hard and has recovered only a little bit. much of this I suspect has to do with the aggressive link building I engaged in. what’s interesting is that some other niche sites that applied the same methods are doing very well. really hard to predict algorithm impact

  29. Kelly says:

    Hello. I just found this post (2 years later). Great info but I am wondering how this applies with the Google updates in the last couple of years. Any insight?

    • Sunil says:

      Kelly, the fundamental idea behind the pyramid model is still solid, as this is how engines like your site structured – natural flow of information. that said, one has to be more cautious in terms of anchors used to link / interlink within the site

  30. Cody says:

    Hi Sunil –

    One thing that I immediately noticed about your niche sites is the personas presented in the “About Me” section. These obviously aren’t you; are they VAs you’ve hired or simply fictional personas you’ve created to help sell the sites? Have you found this actually has a large impact on conversions or anything?


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