Hi, I'm Tyler Willis and I've been helping businesses optimize their digital marketing and web development efforts for over 10 years. I excel at teaching and helping companies understand complex digital solutions, and applying them to their businesses.
When it comes to search engine optimization and growing your website traffic, creating new content is often the best way to go.
Google wants your content to help make their platform better, and will gladly share it with users if it's high-quality and relevant. And content can be shared and re-shared on social media.
But the problem is creating the new content. Maybe you struggle with coming up with new topics. Or maybe you just don't have the time or enough time to produce as much content as you'd like.
This is where programmatic SEO, as a strategy, can come in and be a major contributor to the success of your site.
What is programmatic SEO?
Programmatic SEO is a search engine optimization tactic to increase your website visitors by means of increasing your website's content in a programmed way.
Having and creating good, quality content is the most beneficial way to grow your website visitors over time. Consider that:
- Each new webpage indexed by search engines like Google present one or, perhaps, many new search results that could be returned to users searching for keywords that your site didn't return results for previously.
- A search engine's job is to delivery high quality, relevant content to searchers. If the content you produce is better than others, then search engines want to get that in front of users (and ranked highly in result pages).
But the issue is that we don't often have the time or money to create as much content as we'd like, as fast as we'd like to create it.
With programmatic SEO, you can generate potentially hundreds or thousands of individual webpages in the time that it would normally take to write a few blog posts. We can do this by leveraging categories, long-tail keywords and a database.
How does it work?
Despite throwing around terms like "programmatic" and "database", it's really not that complicated. The idea is to create some sort of content template that can be populated with the relevant, dynamic data based on the page being visited.
Start by considering a general topic or category related to your business. For example, let's say that you're a florist, so we'll make a list of flowers, such as:
We'll keep the list short for now, but the more extensive you make your list the more webpages you'll end up producing.
Next, we'll need to put together a content template. Something like:
"flower-name-plural are beautiful flowers that can make your front yard pop with color."
Instead of 'flower-name-plural', your content would be populated with the plural version of the flower's name.
How would the content know which flower to use to populate the content? This is where you'd leverage your page's URL. So, if the user visits a URL on your site like this:
... then the content would be populated with information related to the Tulip.
Creating quality programmatic SEO content
But you shouldn't stop with a list of just different flower's names. Can you imagine how boring that would make the content, or irrelevant? If you talk about how to care for the flowers, well you can say something about how much water and sunlight they need, but are all flowers the same? Of course not.
You also want to produce high-quality content, right? So that means our template needs to make sense for all flower types, and produce enough unique content so as not to be too-duplicated with our other pages.
This is probably the most time-consuming part of programmatic SEO - building your data. If you don't already know it all, you'll need to perform research and compile information for dozens or even hundreds or more different items (in this case, flowers).
Once you're done, you might end up with something like this for each item:
- Name: Tulip
- Plural: Tulips
- Color: ...
- Sunlight: ...
- Water: ...
- Temperature: ...
- Pruning instructions: ...
And maybe even more.
An example of a programmatic SEO campaign
We have a couple of very similar examples of this on our webpage about digital marketing. If you visit the page, you can see that it's just a list of text links (more on this later, but we don't expect many people to actually visit this page).
Since we sell digital marketing services, we want anyone searching for those services in various industries in New Hampshire to find us. So, we made a list of industries (e.g. electrician, accounting, attorney) and customized the content template (which you can see by clicking on one of those links) with the dynamic content we built for each industry (e.g. industry name, goals related to a business in the industry, challenges).
We place call-to-actions on these pages and other links to hopefully lead the page visitors to lead generation opportunities.
If you look down our list of industries that we've included thus far, you'll notice many less people ones, such as metal fabrication, paving, and restoration. It's important to keep in mind that, with programmatic SEO, the goal is not to produce 1 high-quality piece of content that we generate hundreds and thousands of organic clicks per year. Rather, the goal of programmatic SEO is to capture a high percentage of hundreds or thousands low-volume search queries.
Another example that leverages a dynamic list
Our client's service area for our digital marketing and website development services is New Hampshire, New England and the surrounding areas. So, we started collecting data about businesses in the area that we'd like to target (e.g. website address, industry, city) and put everything in a list ranking all websites by traffic received.
The list of fully dynamic and can be searched through by keyword(s), filtered by industry and city, and ranked by traffic volume, age of domain and more.
The best part is that each of these variations create a new URL. The full path looks like this:
When any of the sort, industry, city or search change, so does the URL and so does the page title and meta description.
This is a different take on programmatic SEO than what was described above (we're not creating a post template, but rather returning only the relevant websites based on the criteria selected), but it has generated over 50,000 URLs that we've submitted to search engines.
The challenges of programmatic SEO
While programmatic SEO is fairly easy to wrap your head around, it does require a bit of back-end experience, or access. You'll probably need some sort of database to hold your data objects.
You'll also to know how to populate your content model with your dynamic values. If you're not a developer, it might be challenging to figure all of this out (we can help!).
You also need to take the time to build the data which will likely involve research and making sure that everything is worded well (so that it will fit in well with the surrounding text).
We'd also recommend not populating your blog or navigation bar with these pages (it would fill it up quick!) but, like every new page on your site, you need to figure out when and how you can create internal links to some or all of this pages from other relevant pages on your site. This will help encourage search engines to index all of the new pages.
But you should start by creating a sitemap.xml file to house all of the new URLs from your programmatic SEO campaign and submitting it directly to search engines via Google's Search Console and Bing's Webmaster Tools.
Start your own programmatic SEO campaign
There's a programmatic SEO campaign (or multiple) that would work for any business. Think about who you're serving - the type of people, the type of companies, the industry. The characteristics of your products or services - materials, what they do.
Think about (or research) all of the possible keywords that you'd like to rank for, or if someone searched for them you'd love for your website to come up near the top.
If that doesn't help, we have started working on a list of programmatic SEO ideas that you can browse.
And here are a few others:
- Failory collected pitch decks from companies and used programmatic SEO to generate over 350 webpages
- Allison at Garden Auntie used the formula I outlined above with the flowers to generate over 40 webpages about growing different vegetables
- Zapier uses programmatic SEO to create unique webpages for pretty much every software integration imaginable