Anush Bichakhchyan

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January 18, 2023

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10 min read

Programmatic SEO: building the strategy. Part 2

Programmatic SEO : A comprehensive guide

If you missed the introduction of programmatic SEO, the trends influencing it, and the benefits to watch out for, here is the first part. 

The second part of the programmatic SEO deep dive will be focused on practical implementation.

How to do and how not to do Programmatic SEO?

To present the process, let’s get back to the example we discussed previously. 

With no further delay, let’s get started with programmatic SEO. 

Keyword research for programmatic seo

1. Find your keywords

The end goal of keyword research is to have a list of long-tail keywords that are closer to user search intent and have low keyword difficulty, with which your chances of ranking will be higher. A long-tail keyword consists of several components that we are about to break down.

First of all, bring out all the main keywords you are using and carry out a competitive analysis to find out which ones are running programmatic SEO, how they are performing, and what you can learn and earn from their strategies. 

*Use Google Sheets to collect all your data.

 

Head Terms

Start keyword research by determining the head terms. It means your long-tail keyword needs to have a broad type of content that can be modified with secondary keywords, creating new long-tail keywords. A head term is a broad category for which you are ranking or attempting to rank. In our example, our head term could be “[destination 1] vs. [destination 2],” “tour prices,” “hotels in,” etc. You can search for head terms using the keyword research tools you're used to. Sort them into a list.

 

How to find head terms

You may probably have your own strategies for keyword research, but these steps are helpful as well.

  1. Analyze niche websites: Find competitor websites with a similar audience. Also, check their indexed pages by searching “site:example.com” on Google.
  2. Analyze niche communities: As far as your goal is to satisfy the user’s intent, you can join communities as part of your research strategy and track their search and post patterns.
  3. Use Google Search Bar: Track interesting keyword patterns. Use Keywords Everywhere or a similar tool to get instant search volume and complexity insights.
  4. Research Google Search Console: Scrap data from your website to determine keyword patterns your website is ranking for. 

Also, use SEO tools to “spy on” competitors; pay attention to Google’s “People also ask” form. 


Verify the Head Term

Sometimes keywords turn out to be a failure for programmatic SEO, and before getting to the next step, it is mandatory to validate head terms. 

  • Analyze existing content ranking for the head terms you have found. Does the content answer user search intent?
  • Analyze the domain authority of those pages ranking for the head term. Are they popular or small niche websites?
  • Check out whether the head is scalable, i.e. can be turned into a long-tail keyword, and allows the creation of hundreds of pages if needed. Can those pages be created automatically? After all, one of the features of PSEO is scalability. 

If you are going to invest huge resources in a programmatic SEO campaign, you can automatically create a couple of articles and watch their performance. If they receive traffic, you can continue.

* Don’t use head terms without checking the SERP. 


You now have one component of your final keyword. Let’s add more elements to turn head terms into long-tail keywords and target specific user searches. 

 

Modifiers 

Head terms have a higher search volume. Consequently, the competition is also high and the likelihood of getting traffic is low. The best way to answer a user’s search intent is to specify search queries with modifiers. 


Primary modifier

In our example, we have tour prices for the head term. The primary modifier for this one will be “tour prices + in [destination name].” With this combination, you can have thousands of variations. 

tour prices + in [destination name] vs [destination name]. In this example, we have two primary modifiers. 


Secondary modifier

The secondary modifier usually describes the head term. In our example, we will have the following picture:

tour prices + in [destination name] + from $[min price]

cheap + tour prices + in [destination name]

hot + tour prices + in [destination name]

tour prices + in [destination name] + from $[min price]

In the last two examples, secondary modifiers carry less information, therefore their significance is lower. However, you can use those modifiers in the meta descriptions, image alt texts, and captions to target similar long-tail keywords.  


One of the tactics for searching modifiers and long-tail keyword ideas is the “Alphabet Soup Method," which involves typing your keyword or phrase and adding a letter for auto-complete. Move to the next letter, writing down the suggestions, until you have a list of new keywords generated by Google's predictive search engine. 

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You get the logic, right?

2. Collect data

Now that you have your head terms, primary and secondary modifiers, it's time to check them on SERPs, enter them into your Google Sheet, and start creating content. Content creation may be the most time-consuming process. If you already have data, you will save tons of time on content scraping by jumping straight to composing pages. If not, you can always go the other way through data scraping or gathering manually. In any case, even if you don’t have available data and your strategy has proven successful in keyword analysis and small tests, the cost of collecting data, even manually, will be worth it. Make sure it is structured in a way that can later be converted into actionable requirements for your tech team to implement the logic of the content generation for the pages. 

Not getting enough traffic? 

What about experimenting with programmatic SEO? 

3. Design landing pages

how to design landing page

How to design a landing page for programmatic SEO?

Our pages will be automatically generated, but what we need to do is design a template—the structure of the landing page with images, text, a call to action, contact information, and FAQs. 

The user-friendly, simple, yet the eye-catching design is the first thing users like or dislike. I mean, you can have up-to-date content, keywords, and images, but if the design is not professionally implemented if the colors are off, or if the design has accessibility concerns, your programmatic SEO campaign is close to failure. 

It would not be unnecessary to repeat it to make your pages SEO optimized.

  • Add keywords in the meta title and meta description
  • Add alt text with a keyword to images
  • Add outbound links to resources
  • Add internal links
  • Optimize page speed
  • Optimize page URL
  • etc

*Don’t cut corners on the time to be spent on designing and optimizing the template. 

4. Define comprehensive requirements

Once you have determined your head terms with primary and secondary modifiers, it is time to gather or create content. For programmatic SEO, you will need a general abstract text with variables matching your head term and information for the head term. The logic picks the pieces of content and puts them wherever required to create page content.

Let’s give an example of how we put together all the data we have for our long-tail keyword. For the long-tail keyword "tour prices + in [destination name]," we need to create general text and determine the places of input for each head term and modifier. 

 

Content requirements

  • Keywords in Url (eliminate stop words in Url and make it short)
  • Title
  • Meta title
  • Meta description
  • Post Title
  • The main text, dynamically created based on your data
  • First H2 title
  • Image
  • Image alt text

The content is dynamically generated by acquiring content from spreadsheets. Because template development differs from platform to platform and tech stack to tech stack, there are no hard and fast rules. 

 

Landing page design requirements

  • Hero
  • Text boxes
  • Social shares
  • “Related pages” section
  • CTA

 

SEO techniques and considerations for programmatic website

Programmatic SEO is still SEO only for dozens of pages. Take care of the following elements:

  • Page speed
  • Keyword in H1
  • Breadcrumb navigation
  • Schema markup
  • XML Sitemap
  • Internal linking
  • Cloudflare Page Rules
  • Redis to cache database queries

5. Create pages at scale

Companies mostly ignore this part, opting for easy-to-scale simple pages. Still, if you really want to be heard above the noise, you’d better put in enough effort not to make the pages look like half-empty doorway pages because we already know what may happen with web pages with thin content. If you have to put lots of resources into producing 100,000 pages (probably with thin content), instead go for 100 quality pages, taking care of their content, visuals, and internal links. 

*Often, SEO specialists forget to connect pages with internal links and end up with multiple orphaned pages. To avoid confusion, incorporate an interlinking system into your pages.

A programmatic SEO campaign requires a software engineer to maintain and dynamically generate pages based on data. If you have an in-house developer, things get much easier. If not, you can always find a reliable partner to handle your project from A to Z.

Let’s make your programmatic SEO campaign rock!

Performance management

After your landing pages are successfully published, it's time to monitor their performance. Be focused on several KPIs:

Search rankings: Give time for your landing pages to rank (at least a few weeks) before you can see impressions and make any judgments. Use Google Search Console or another tool to monitor the changes.

Organic traffic: It is the main goal of your campaign, so keep tracking the results through Google Analytics. 

Backlinks: You can also combine your programmatic SEO campaign with outreach for backlinks and add this criterion to monitoring.

Website performance: Whether you are running PSEO or not, website performance should be at 90+. Use Google PageSpeed Insights to identify and optimize any slow performance.

Missed anything? Programmatic SEO checklist to finalize

Programmatic SEO is an effective strategy, but it may not be applicable to a small, niche brand with specific information for keyword variations. Still, PSEO is not absolute; there is always space to be creative, attract your audience at their earliest stages with unique content, and position your brand as an invaluable advisor. Let’s stick to the idea that PSEO is applicable to any product/service and really do our best. Here is a checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

  • Find keywords that can work with variables within your niche
  • Carry out competitor analysis (including competitor keyword analysis)
  • Conduct keyword research and define your keywords
  • Determine and verify your head terms 
  • Find modifiers that work
  • Test your keywords by posting several articles
  • Wait
  • If validated, continue campaign implementation
  • Design a template for your landing pages
  • Collect data to be included in landing pages
  • Take care of SEO, data, and technical requirements for landing pages
  • Develop landing pages 
  • Monitor performance and optimize/delete slow-performing pages

Sounds promising?

Let’s talk
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FAQ

What are the key components of a programmatic SEO strategy?

Vector

The key components of Programmatic SEO:

  • Long-tail keywords
  • Relevant content
  • SEO optimized pages
     

Programmatic SEO is built around your long-tail keywords and content so that they answer a user’s search intent as precisely as possible. 


 

How can I get started with programmatic SEO?

Vector

Programmatic SEO is applicable to those websites that have or may have tons of content to control. To start with programmatic SEO, carry out a competitive analysis to understand which of your competitors are already doing programmatic SEO and how successful they are.

How to do programmatic SEO:

Vector
  • Carry out competitor analysis 
  • Conduct keyword research and define your keywords
  • Determine and verify your head terms 
  • Find modifiers that work
  • Test your keywords by posting several articles
  • Design and develop a template for your landing pages
  • Collect data to be included in landing pages
  • Monitor performance