What is Programmatic SEO? Examples and How to Implement It
- 1 What is Programmatic SEO?
- 2 Programmatic SEO Examples
- 3 How to Implement Programmatic SEO?
- 4 What Websites Work (or Don’t Work) for Programmatic SEO?
- 5 Final Thoughts
In my journey with SEO I’ve always been trying to find a balance between scalability and quality. As we progress and publish more content, we tend to become more laxed when it comes to the quality of the content we’re putting out.
In comes programmatic SEO. What do sites like Tripadvisor, Zillow, and Car and Driver have in common?
They’re all made using programmatic SEO and by the end of this guide, you’ll understand how to duplicate what they do in your own niche.
What is Programmatic SEO?
Programmatic SEO is a means of creating a ton of pages using data you’ve compiled and templates you’ve created. Using automation and data-driven technology you can create an entire website with thousands of pages in a short amount of time.
The goal is for each page to use the same template but the information within to be different based on the topic.
Think of a website that contains information on a number of similar topics such as states, cars, drinks, lawn mowers, anything really. If you can capture hundreds or thousands of pages worth of data and create a template, you can publish an endless amount of webpages in a short amount of time.
If this sounds complicated, don’t worry, it’ll become more clear as you continue reading.
Programmatic SEO Examples
To help you understand what I’m talking about, take a look at these programmatic SEO examples.
Bestplaces.net is a website that provides you with information on various states and locations throughout the United States. This information is useful for people who want to learn more about somewhere to decide if they want to move there.
Here’s a page for Vermont:
Now let’s take a look at a page for West Virginia:
Notice anything about these pages?
They’re set up exactly the same with the only differences being the information within. You can bet that as you navigate through the page all of the same topics are covered such as economy, cost of living, weather, housing market, and so on.
Using automation tools and outsourcing, the owner of this website can gather all of this data about every single state, build a template, and quickly publish a page for all 50 states in a short period.
Creating each one of these pages individually and making them all look different would take a long time. Programmatic SEO allows you to do it quickly so you can rank for more keywords.
Now when someone searches things like climate in Vermont, job market in Vermont, best places to live in Vermont, and so on; this page has a chance of earning that first page ranking.
Multiply that by hundreds of keywords for each state and you now have a website that didn’t take too long to create and is ranking for thousands of keywords. Programmatic SEO makes this all possible.
Another great and even more advanced example of this is Zillow.com. Zillow is automatically synced with the MLS in every state so when a new listing becomes active, the information is populated into Zillow for SEO purposes. That’s why Zillow ranks for almost any location-based real estate search.
If you Google “homes for sale in Dallas Texas” you get the three most popular real estate search engines:
All three of these sites are automatically populated with listings in Dallas and every other city so they can rank for pretty much any search.
You can do this in any niche that has this scalability potential.
How to Implement Programmatic SEO?
You might be looking at this ready to click away and move on to something easier. Relax, this isn’t as hard as it looks and it doesn’t require a massive budget and team of developers. There are ways to do programmatic SEO simply and affordably.
Get a Ton of Keywords
The first step is to do a lifetime’s worth of keyword research to amass a diverse list of keywords related to your niche or business.
Start with seed keywords based on your industry. For example, if you run a professional moving business, you might want to rank for primary terms like:
- Best movers in [city]
- Moving to [city]
- Moving companies in [city]
Think of how many options you have. There are over 108,000 incorporated cities in the United States just to give you an idea.
From there, you’ll need a keyword research tool. I recommend Ahrefs for its ease of use and amount of data.
If you use the keyword explorer, you can even enter open-ended phrases and Ahrefs will provide the results based on total search volume.
Now you can just work your way down the line and scoop up all of these seed keywords.
Keep in mind that these keywords are highly competitive so you’ll want to pair them with long tail modifiers.
If your primary keyword is “movers in Boston,” you can add modifiers like:
- Affordable movers in Boston
- Cheap movers in Boston
- Car movers in Boston
- Piano movers in Boston
- Apartment movers in Boston
- And so on…
I recommend continuing until you have at least 50,000 keywords depending on your niche. After you do a little research you’ll begin to understand how deep you can go down the wormhole before you run out.
Keyword grouping tools like SE Ranking and Keyword Cupid can help you identify keyword clusters and organize keywords much faster by exporting them directly to a spreadsheet.
Create Landing Page Templates
The next step is to determine what information is most important to accomplish a certain goal and create your template.
If we go back to the “best places” example:
This side-by-side comparison is an example of their template. It’s going to look the same for every single page and this is all the important information you would want to know if you planned to move to these states.
Having these templates will make it easier for you to populate the pages with data.
The important thing to remember is to go deep with your data but not so deep that you become crippled by the information. Know where to draw that line.
Great templates cover multiple topics, answer multiple questions, and provide unique data that isn’t readily available everywhere else. While each page is a template, it should still be uniquely valuable.
You run the risk of being flagged for spam or duplicate content if each page is thin and doesn’t provide anything of value to your audience.
Identify and Gather Data
This is where the rubber meets the road. If you can’t find a way to gather the data you need at scale, you’ll struggle to accomplish your goal at the pace you’re looking for.
The fastest way to do this is by using a data scraping tool and compiling all of that data for each primary topic in Airtable. There are a number of data scraping tools and they all do the same thing so it’s not too important which one you choose.
I recommend using Airtable to organize your data because you can connect it with Whalesync which allows you to literally create thousands of pages in a matter of minutes if you have all of your data in the right place.
As you can see in the example above, this is a site reviewing home warranties at scale. All of the same criteria applies across each review with the template but the data will vary from warranty to warranty.
If we go back to the moving examples and you are trying to target the most transient states because you want to find which state has the most people moving, you can use data.gov.
You’ll likely have to do some digging to find what you want but I was able to find census data and other information on that site.
City-data.com is another great source for location-based information. The image above shows the population decline in Flint Michigan due to the water crisis and other issues over the years.
So at this point, most of the work is complete. Using Whalesync, you can now populate all the fields in your template automatically and update them as necessary. Whalesync even integrates with WordPress so the data can then be transferred directly to your WordPress template.
Write Content at Scale
One step that wasn’t covered much to this point is the content on each page that isn’t necessarily “data-driven.” For example, for Best Places, the data might be that July is the hottest month of the year but you’ll still need some way to produce content that conceptualizes that.
If you don’t want to do the writing yourself, you could either outsource the job or use ChatGPT to do it for you.
While most of the content on the site will be uploaded from the data scraper, you’ll want additional content to help fill out the page so it doesn’t appear too thin.
For example, if you’re a moving company creating a bunch of location pages for all the moving destinations across the country, you might want a section about factors that impact moving costs.
Here’s what ChatGPT came up with:
Distance: The distance between the current and new locations is one of the most significant factors affecting moving costs. Longer distances generally require more fuel, time, and possibly additional accommodations for the moving crew.
Volume and Weight of Belongings: The amount of stuff being moved directly impacts the cost. More items or heavier items may require larger trucks, more labor, and additional resources to ensure safe transport.
Type of Move: The type of move plays a role. There are different types of moves, such as local moves (within the same city or area) and long-distance moves (across state lines or farther). Long-distance moves tend to be more expensive due to factors like fuel costs and driving time.
Packing Services: If you opt for full packing services provided by the moving company, the cost will be higher. This includes the cost of packing materials and the labor required to pack and unpack your belongings.
Special Items: Items that require special handling, such as fragile artwork, antiques, pianos, pool tables, or large appliances, will add to the moving cost due to the expertise and care needed to transport them safely.
Time of Year: Moving costs can fluctuate based on the time of year. Peak moving seasons (spring and summer) tend to have higher costs due to increased demand, while moving during off-peak times might be more cost-effective.
Not too bad, right?
Build Links at Scale
Lastly, you need links. Many of the websites I’ve talked about so far use “ego-bait” as a way of generating links. Take Tripadvisor for example.
Have you ever seen a website that says “Tripadvisor Recommended”? If you have a large database of information and your name carries a little weight, you can create a badge that people put on their site with a link pointing back to you.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that luxury so you’ll need to rely on the data. The good news is, data gets linked to quite a bit to back up claims so if you can publish enough content containing a wide assortment of data, chances are you’ll earn some links from that.
What Websites Work (or Don’t Work) for Programmatic SEO?
Programmatic SEO works best for websites with scalable information that can easily import data with as little maintenance as possible. Some examples are:
- Content publishing sites
- Real Estate
- Travel and hospitality
- Location-based pages
Some examples of websites that don’t work well for programmatic SEO are:
- Single page websites
- Specialized or narrow niche sites
- Personal blogs
- Non-search traffic websites
Programmatic SEO is something that a lot of people struggle to understand but it can be a powerful option if your business fits into the right categories. You don’t need to be a technical genius to figure this out and there are a lot of tools and plugins to help you along the way.
Get started by compiling a huge list of keywords, build out some templates, and see if you can find the right combination of automation tools to make it efficient and affordable.