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The Magic of Programmatic SEO

June 26, 2024

9 min read

In the digital age, visibility is currency, and businesses are in a constant battle to capture the spotlight. In the world of search engines, this means search engine optimization. Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is the art of optimizing online content for enhanced visibility and ranking in search engine results. Programmatic SEO strategies (or pSEO) are a new frontier of SEO, allowing savvy businesses to supercharge their digital presence with some clever coding and a bit of out-of-the-box thinking.

What is programmatic SEO?

Programmatic SEO is an approach to search engine optimization that leverages data, automation, and landing page templates to generate a large number of pages quickly and efficiently. Using programmatic SEO techniques, site owners can create a large number of unique landing pages that target a wide range of keywords.

Canva, Shopify, and Zapier are a couple of small businesses currently running programmatic SEO campaigns. In fact, you might’ve visited one of these pSEO pages without ever noticing. This is the idea: make a large number of hyper-specific pages designed to reach your target audience. But how do you make 1000 pages answering people’s specific search queries? They must do them all by hand, right?

Not quite! Instead, they plug a web page template into a database and do some fancy coding to, you guessed it, programmatically generate them 🤯 🪄

Let’s look at TripAdvisor as a case study. They successfully implemented pSEO to generate unique landing pages for just about every city on the planet. For instance, if you Google “best things to do in [your city]”, it’s likely TripAdvisor will be one of the top results. For this to work, they needed a large set of data and a web page template to fill with that data in a readable, useful way.

TripAdvisor has access to public ratings of attractions in cities across the globe. By sorting this data, they can organize it in a way that can be presented, dynamically, on a unique web page in a way that people will find useful.

Of course, while ‘best things to do in New York’ might garner hundreds of thousands of searches monthly, ‘best things to do in Humpty Doo’ won’t. That’s okay because we can tell you the best thing to do in Humpty Doo right now: go to the Humpty Doo pub.

This is all to say that while aiming for the phrases that most people are searching for is great, aiming for a whole bunch of phrases that people search for less regularly can be equally effective. 100 monthly searches on one phrase may not sound great, but if you’re ranking #1 on 100 specific search queries like that, that’s 10,000 impressions and potential click-throughs.

The pSEO philosophy is to throw your net wide and catch a thousand small fish.

Why use programmatic SEO?

Programmatic SEO is a cost-effective, scalable way to attract new customers and build your brand’s online presence. By allowing you to quickly generate thousands of unique landing pages that target low-competition, high-conversion keywords, pSEO can drive significant traffic at a low price.

Cost-Effective Customer Acquisition

Traditional SEO works. Doing it right, however, demands significant time and financial investment. pSEO, on the other hand, allows businesses to bypass the labor-intensive process of manual content creation and page generation, offering a cost-effective alternative for customer acquisition.

Scalability

With pSEO, businesses can generate thousands of unique landing pages in a fraction of the time it would take to produce them manually. This scalability is crucial for businesses looking to expand their digital footprint rapidly and efficiently.

Targeted Reach

Programmatic SEO enables businesses to target low-competition, high-conversion keywords effectively. By aggregating thousands of these low-volume keywords, businesses can drive significant traffic and conversions, making pSEO a powerful tool for targeted content marketing.

How does programmatic SEO work?

pSEO strategies combine existing data, automation, and strategic keyword targeting to generate and optimize pages at scale. Using tools like Airtable and programmatic page generators like Findable, site owners and content managers can quickly combine data points to create unique pages for websites.

And it begins with researching a ‘head term’.

Head term research

The fabled ✨ head term ✨ is the cornerstone of any successful pSEO strategy. But what is a head term? Well, let’s start with an example, then we’ll break it down.

Search 'apartments for sale in sydney' to see a live example of pSEO in action

Take, for example, the head term used by Realtor.com: “apartments for sale in {city}”. This term is typically a concise phrase consisting of a root and one or more interchangeable words, aimed at targeting various long-tail keywords. In the example above the root phrase is “apartments for sale in” and the interchangeable word is {city}, which is filled in from a database.

Here are some other famous examples:

  • Tripadvisor - “things to do in {city}”
  • Glassdoor - “{job title} salaries”
  • Nomadlist - “best places to live in {city}”
  • Canva - “{use case} design template”
  • Eater - “best restaurants in {city}”
  • Airtable - “{use case} template”
  • Snyk - “{open source vulnerability}”
  • Nerdwallet - “best {credit card type}”
  • Porch - “top {job} in {city}”
  • Booking.com - “hotels in {city}”
  • DelightChat - “best {app type} for {app}”
  • G2 - “top {app} alternatives”
  • Payscale - “average {job title} salary”
  • Wise - “{currency} to {currency} exchange rate”
  • Zapier - “{tool} + {tool} integrations”

But it's not just global SaaS brands that can find success using programmatic SEO. Breweries Nearby by Ian Ruta stands out as an example of how with smaller businesses with limited resources can still net amazing results for their websites.

Using the "the complete list of breweries in {city} to visit" head term, Ian has built a programmatically designed directory of breweries that gets thousands of organic visitors monthly and ranks on the front page of Google for almost every city it targets. This is proof that anyone, even individuals and small startups can leverage pSEO to generate massive organic traffic for their website.

Want a more exhaustive list of head-terms to kickstart your pSEO journey? Check out our brainstorming list here for inspiration for your head term.

Validating your chosen head term

After brainstorming and settling on a few potential head terms, the next crucial step is validation. Before investing your time and resources into programmatically making your pages, you should make sure your head term is not only viable for a pSEO strategy but also capable of driving results for your business.

During the validation process, consider the following questions to evaluate the effectiveness of your head term:

  • Can the head term be adapted to generate a wide array of unique keywords?
  • Will the pages created for these keywords genuinely meet people’s search intent?
  • Do I have the data, or can I source the data, to be able to fill out the pages as required?
  • Is it possible to rank well for these keywords?
  • Will ranking for these keywords translate into significant traffic?
  • More importantly, will the traffic generated through these pages lead to business conversion?
Sort by volume on SEMrush to see how much search interest a keyword has

Getting your head term right is critical in ensuring the success of your pSEO campaign. Get your head term wrong or don’t validate it properly and you may be setting your pSEO up to fail from the get-go.

Data Collection

pSEO relies heavily on data. Businesses need to collect and organize data relevant to the keywords identified, which will be used to generate unique, valuable content for each page. Typically this would involve collecting the data and filling it into a table that will connect with your website in a way that won’t break later down the line.

As we discussed with Tripadvisor, they’re sitting on a big list of ratings on locations and can leverage it by sorting it by city and creating a unique page for each of them. But there are a million ways to p an SEO. Let’s break down some of the others.

Glassdoor has access to user-submitted data about salaries for jobs all around the world. As such they can create unique pages for people searching for the salaries of specific job types—even allowing further refinement based on city. Having a second variable word in a head term is known as a double-variable head term, in which two fields are interchangeable.

“SEO Specialist Salary Melbourne” and “Plumber Salary Sydney” are examples of double-variable head terms. These will typically have the lowest search volume but can cater to the very specific search requests of a very large number of people.

Here are some examples of single-variable head terms:

  • Tripadvisor - “things to do in {city}”
  • Glassdoor - “{job title} salaries”
  • Nomadlist - “best places to live in {city}”
  • Canva - “{use case} design template”
  • Eater - “best restaurants in {city}”
  • Airtable - “{use case} template”
  • Snyk - “{open source vulnerability}”
  • Nerdwallet - “best {credit card type}”
  • Booking.com - “hotels in {city}”
  • G2 - “top {app} alternatives”
  • Payscale - “average {job title} salary”

Here are some examples of double-variable head terms:

  • Porch - “top {job} in {city}”
  • Zapier - “{tool} + {tool} integrations”
  • Wise - “{currency} to {currency} exchange rate”
  • DelightChat - “best {app type} for {app}”

Where to store your pSEO Data?

pSEO data can be stored in databases like Airtable, Google Sheets, Monday, and Notion

You can use pretty much any type of database software you want: Sheets, Excel, Notion, Airtable, Monday, and more. One of the main considerations when choosing which database you want to use is whether it integrates with your tech stack, whether it’s a component of something you’re already paying for, and whether or not you’re willing to get your head around a new piece of software.

With Findable, we’ve chosen Airtable. It’s the gold standard for programmatic SEO as it is rich with features and has a robust plugin community. Plus, Findable Airtables come preloaded with all the useful coding you’ll need for your pSEO strategy. Just plug your data in and watch it populate to your website like magic!

Page Generation

This is where we get into the weeds of pSEO. Generating the pages at scale is complex and can typically involve running into a myriad of different problems. For those less technically experienced, the idea of connecting your data to your website can feel overwhelming. Without the right know-how, a million things can go wrong.

Thankfully there are solutions for this. Without Findable this would involve coding and some fancy formatting of your database. You would also need to build a corresponding CMS collection and manually code a way to sync them—or pay for an automation tool, which aren’t typically, let’s just say, fit for the job.

With Findable however, the heavy lifting is done for you, all you need to do is plug your data into our existing templates and our automations will magically start transforming it all into live pages on your website ready to start getting clicked.

Ongoing Maintenance

🎺 cue sad trombone music 🎺

Unfortunately, just like standard SEO, pSEO isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it solution. To get the most out of your pSEO campaign, you’ll want to be constantly monitoring, optimizing, and updating your pages. I know what you’re thinking, if you’re able to programmatically generate a thousand pages, how could you possibly be expected to manually monitor and optimize them?

Thankfully, you don’t need to—at least not initially. Once your pSEO campaign is off the ground, an effective way of managing it is to look at the pages that are doing well and work on improving them. If only a few of your pages are ranking at the beginning, focus on those, make them the best they can be and use that additional domain authority on your website to hopefully bring the other pages up in line.

Maintenance is important for both regular and programmatic SEO content, but the pSEO crew has a little advantage. The great thing about programmatic SEO is that content updates can be done—you guessed it—programmatically ✨

If you notice a keyword needs changing or a layout adjusted, programmatic SEO allows you to make these changes across all relevant pages quickly and efficiently.

Looking for programmatic SEO tools to help you create and maintain your campaigns? Check out our library of free and premium SEO and pSEO tools.

Does programmatic SEO work?

While Programmatic SEO is a powerful tool, it’s not without its challenges. Implementing and maintaining a pSEO strategy requires careful planning, continuous effort, and a deep understanding of SEO principles to avoid pitfalls that could harm your brand's image and reputation. Here are the biggest challenges people face when building their pSEO campaign.

Setup complexity

Setting up programmatic SEO isn’t a walk in the park. It requires a meticulous approach to keyword research, data collection, and tool/software selection. Identifying the right low-competition keywords that align with your business goals while also providing value to your audience can be a daunting task. Collecting and organizing your data can also present a major hurdle, but once that’s out of the way, you’re nearly on your way toward a successful pSEO-enriched website!

Maintenance demands

Programmatic SEO isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it solution. The digital landscape is dynamic, with search engine algorithms and user behaviors constantly evolving. This reality necessitates ongoing maintenance and optimization of the pages generated through pSEO. Continuous monitoring, updating, and tweaking are imperative to ensure that your pages not only maintain but improve their rankings over time.

Brand image risks

If not executed meticulously, programmatic SEO can inadvertently harm your brand image. For instance, generating pages with thin or duplicate content can lead to penalties from search engines, affecting your site’s overall SEO performance. Poorly designed or irrelevant pages can also lead to a negative user experience, which can tarnish your brand’s reputation in the eyes of potential customers. Ensuring consistency in quality and relevance across all generated pages is crucial to upholding your brand image and trustworthiness.

The best pSEO tool on the web

Programmatic SEO is indispensable for businesses seeking to thrive online, offering them visibility, efficient resource utilization, and a competitive edge. But getting it right isn’t easy. At Findable, we specialize in navigating the complexities of pSEO, guiding businesses to unlock their potential for unmatched online growth and visibility.

Reach out to our team today to learn more about how you can get your pSEO journey started.

Hrefnir

Head Wizard @ Findable

Create pSEO campaigns with Findable
Easily generate 1000s of SEO-ready pages using Findable’s no-code programmatic SEO (pSEO) solution. Built to rank, SEO 2.0 ready pages with the wave of a wand.

Templates to build your pSEO campaign

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Reporting, indexing & much more

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