What is Programmatic SEO? A Step-by-Step Guide with No-Code Tools

Sidra Condron
April 16, 2024
8 min read

What is Programmatic SEO?

Programmatic SEO is an approach to content creation that uses templates, structured data, and automation to generate and optimize pages at scale. Rather than manually writing each article, you create systems that allow you to produce hundreds or even thousands of pages with minimal additional effort.

This differs from the traditional content creation process, where each piece is created from scratch by a writer. With programmatic SEO, the majority of the content follows a predefined template and is populated dynamically using data from sources like spreadsheets or databases.

The key problems that programmatic SEO solves are:

  • Content bottlenecks that limit your ability to target a large number of keywords
  • Slow content production timelines
  • High content creation costs
  • Difficulty ranking for long-tail keywords at the bottom of the funnel

When implemented well, programmatic SEO allows you to drastically scale your content output and organic search footprint in a cost-effective way. Some notable examples of programmatic SEO in action include:

Zapier's Integration Pages

Zapier created over 25,000 pages targeting long-tail keywords around connecting different apps. These pages are dynamically generated based on the apps' integrations and help docs.

Copy.ai's Tool Pages

Copy.ai generated hundreds of tools and template pages programmatically using AI leading. These pages drove over 1M clicks per month.

How Programmatic SEO Works

At a high level, programmatic SEO systems combine three key components:

  1. Content templates - Instead of unique designs for each page, programmatic pages use a set template. This defines the structure of the page and what elements will be included.
  2. Structured data - The content for each page is stored in a structured format, often a spreadsheet or database. This allows the specific data points to be mapped into the appropriate sections of the template.
  3. Content automation - Automation tools are used to take the structured data and populate the content templates to generate the final pages. The pages can then be automatically published to the website.

The general process for implementing programmatic SEO looks like this:

  1. Keyword research and topic selection - Identify the topics and keyword clusters you want to target with your programmatic pages. These are often more bottom-of-funnel, long-tail keywords.
  2. Build content templates - Design the page template that will be used for the programmatic content. This should align with searcher intent and include the key elements needed to rank.
  3. Integrate data sources - Collect and structure the data that will be used to populate the content templates. This is often done in a spreadsheet or database like Airtable.
  4. Generate and publish content - Use automation tools to generate pages by combining the structured data with the content templates. Publish the pages on your site.

Some of the most common tools used for programmatic SEO include:

Pros and Cons of Programmatic SEO

There are significant benefits to taking a programmatic approach to SEO, but it's not without its challenges. Let's look at some of the key pros and cons:

Advantages of programmatic SEO

  • Ability to target a large number of keywords - Programmatic SEO allows you to create pages at a scale that would be impractical to do manually. You can target hundreds or thousands of long-tail keywords with templated pages.
  • Faster content production timelines - With the content production process systematized, you can generate large volumes of pages much faster than creating each one from scratch.
  • Lower content creation costs - Automating aspects of the content creation process reduces the manual effort involved, which lowers the cost of creating each additional page.
  • Improved ability to rank for long-tail keywords - Programmatic pages are well-suited for targeting the specific, long-tail keywords that are often less competitive but can still drive meaningful traffic.

Potential drawbacks of programmatic SEO

  • Requires significant planning and setup - Implementing programmatic SEO is not a quick process. It requires strategic planning to design templates and data structures that will create valuable pages.
  • Content can be repetitive - With programmatic content, there is a risk that pages become overly templated and repetitive. Additional work is needed to programmatically add variability and unique elements to each page.
  • Not well-suited for all content types - Programmatic content tends to be very targeted and bottom-of-funnel. It's not the best fit for thought leadership style content or more top-of-funnel topics.
  • Potential for quality issues at scale - When publishing a high volume of pages, it can be easy for quality issues to slip through. Robust QA processes are needed to maintain content quality.

Step-by-Step Process to Implement Programmatic SEO

Now that you understand how programmatic SEO works and some of the key considerations, let's walk through the process of actually implementing it for your own website.

1. Identify topics and keyword clusters

The first step is to identify the topics and keyword clusters you want to target with programmatic content. Keyword research is critical for understanding the search terms your audience is using and identifying opportunities to rank.

Look for keyword clusters where you can create content at scale. These will often be bottom-of-funnel keywords with lower individual search volumes. Tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush can help you analyze keywords and group them into clusters.

2. Analyze SERP intent and top ranking pages

Once you've identified target keyword clusters, analyze the SERPs to understand the searcher intent behind those queries and the type of content that is currently ranking on page one.

Look at the format and structure of the top ranking pages. Identify the key elements they include and how they address the search query. This will inform how you design your content templates.

3. Create a content template in Webflow or WordPress

Based on your SERP analysis, create a template that will be used for your programmatic content. The template should include:

  • Page title and meta description
  • H1 and subheadings
  • Body content sections
  • Images and multimedia
  • Calls-to-action
  • Related links

The template will define the structure for every page and what elements need to be populated with data. Tools like Webflow and WordPress make it easy to design page templates without coding.

For example, here's a simple template created in Webflow:

4. Build a database of content inputs in Airtable

Next, you need to collect and structure the data that will be used to fill in your content template. This is typically done by building a database or spreadsheet with a row for each target keyword/topic and columns for the various data points you want to include.

Airtable is a user-friendly tool for creating these types of databases. You can create a table with fields for things like:

  • Primary keyword
  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • H1
  • Introduction paragraph
  • Subheadings
  • Body paragraphs
  • Images
  • Call-to-action

5. Connect database to content template

Once you have your database and template created, you need to connect them so the structured data can be pulled in to populate the content on each page.

This can be done in a few different ways:

  • Webflow CMS - If you're using Webflow, you can import your data directly into Webflow CMS and dynamically link it to your template.
  • WordPress + Advanced Custom Fields - For WordPress sites, you can use a plugin like ACF to create custom fields that map to your data points. You can then dynamically populate those fields.
  • Zapier integration - Zapier can be used to automatically send data from Airtable into your CMS. For example, you could have a Zap that creates a new page in Webflow every time a new row is added to your Airtable database.

6. Generate and publish pages

With your template and data connected, you're ready to generate your actual pages. If you're using a CMS with dynamic page functionality, this can be as simple as clicking "Publish."

If you're using an external automation tool like Zapier, you'll set up a workflow to create a new page for each row in your database and populate the content using your template structure.

7. Monitor rankings and performance

As with any SEO initiative, it's important to monitor the performance of your programmatic pages over time. Use tools like Google Search Console and Ahrefs to track metrics like:

  • Rankings for target keywords
  • Organic traffic to programmatic pages
  • Bounce rates and time on page
  • Conversion rates
  • Content decay

Based on the performance data, identify opportunities to iterate and improve your page content. Update the copy, add new sections, or adjust the target keywords based on what you're seeing.

Programmatic SEO Best Practices and Tips

As you implement programmatic SEO for your own site, keep these best practices and tips in mind:

Focus on query intent, not just keywords

When implementing programmatic SEO strategies, it's essential to focus on understanding and addressing the intent behind user queries, rather than solely targeting specific keywords. While keyword research is still valuable, creating pages solely for the purpose of targeting certain keywords can lead to content that lacks substance and fails to truly resonate with your audience.

Prioritize quality over quantity

While leveraging programmatic SEO techniques allows you to scale content production efficiently, it's crucial not to compromise quality for the sake of publishing a higher volume of pages. Ensure that every page you create is of high quality, providing substantial value to your target audience. Aim to deliver a engaging and informative user experience on each page, rather than churning out thin or low-quality content solely for the purpose of increasing your page count.

Use semantic variations in content

To avoid issues with repetitive or duplicate content, which can negatively impact your performance, it's important to incorporate semantic variations and synonyms throughout your copy. While your programmatic page titles and H1 headings should be topically similar, avoid using identical phrasing across multiple pages. Instead, strategically vary the language and word choices to maintain topical coherence while preventing duplication and differentiate your content.

Leverage internal linking between pages

Improve the overall site architecture and user flow between your programmatically generated pages by implementing a strategic internal linking strategy. Within the body content of each page, include relevant links to other related pages on your site. This practice not only helps users navigate and discover additional content of interest but also facilitates the flow of link equity throughout your site, boosting the discoverability and ranking potential of your programmatic pages.

Add unique value beyond aggregation

While it's tempting to simply aggregate or compile information from various sources when generating programmatic content, it's essential to go beyond mere aggregation and provide unique value to your audience. Include your own proprietary data, insights, or perspectives that differentiate your content from generic or widely available information. Share your expertise, industry knowledge, or original research to establish authority and credibility within your niche.

QA content for errors and inconsistencies

To maintain a high level of quality and consistency across your programmatically generated content, it's crucial to implement a rigorous quality assurance (QA) process before publishing. This process should involve thoroughly reviewing each page for potential errors, inconsistencies, or issues. Look for things like incorrect company names, broken links, factual inaccuracies, or instances where the tone or voice deviates from your brand's established style guidelines.

Try RivalFlow AI to Optimize Your Programmatic SEO Content

If you're investing in programmatic SEO, you want to ensure that your templated pages are as high-quality and comprehensive as possible. But how do you know what information to include or what questions your content should answer?

That's where RivalFlow AI comes in.

RivalFlow AI analyzes your existing content and compares it against the pages that are currently outranking you on the SERPs. It identifies the gaps between your pages and your competitors', then provides specific, actionable suggestions for how to improve your content.

With RivalFlow AI, you can:

  • Fill in missing subtopics and sections that competing pages cover
  • Expand thin content to be more comprehensive
  • Generate new content ideas to include in your programmatic templates

Best of all, RivalFlow AI integrates seamlessly with your existing content workflow. You can easily import pages from your CMS, make the suggested changes, and re-publish.

Sign up for a free trial of RivalFlow AI and start optimizing your programmatic SEO content today.

Consider Programmatic SEO for Your Business

Programmatic SEO can be a game-changer for businesses looking to drastically scale their organic search footprint without breaking the bank. By combining content templates, structured data, and automation, you can publish landing pages at a pace that would be impossible doing it manually.

However, implementing programmatic SEO is not a quick or simple process. It requires significant planning and preparation to design the right templates and data structures. And you still need quality checks in place to maintain content standards.

If you're considering programmatic SEO, use the step-by-step process laid out in this guide to start putting the pieces in place. Identify target topics, analyze SERP intent, build your templates and databases, and start publishing.

And don't forget to optimize your programmatic pages with RivalFlow AI. With AI-powered content suggestions, you can ensure your pages are as comprehensive and high-quality as possible.

To recap, here are the key takeaways from this guide:

  • Programmatic SEO uses content templates, structured data, and automation to publish pages at scale
  • It's ideal for targeting a large number of long-tail keywords in a cost-effective way
  • Programmatic SEO requires significant planning and setup to implement
  • The key components are keyword research, content templates, structured databases, and automation tools
  • Best practices include prioritizing quality, using semantic variations, internal linking, and robust QA
  • RivalFlow AI can help optimize programmatic content by identifying gaps and suggesting improvements

Now it's time to put these principles into practice. Follow the steps outlined here to start implementing programmatic SEO for your own business. And sign up for a free trial of RivalFlow AI to take your content to the next level.