A Guide to Programmatic SEO

As AI reshapes the SEO game, businesses that embrace a data-driven approach will likely find more success than those that stick to traditional editorial methods. Our expert lays out the basics of programmatic SEO to help you get started.

Written by Nick O'Brien
Published on Jun. 28, 2023
A Guide to Programmatic SEO
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Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of many fields poised to undergo significant change in the wake of recent artificial intelligence (AI) advancements. As AI has already started reshaping the webs landscape, it is challenging traditional best practices of SEO like never before. The advent of AI-powered tools like ChatGPT and Bard has led to the suggestion that the reign of editorial, content-driven SEO may be at its end. A shift in platform is occurring that could potentially disrupt the SEO methods businesses have relied upon to drive organic traffic.

What Is Programmatic SEO?

Programmatic search engine optimization (SEO) is a specific type of data-driven SEO that targets Google’s ranking criteria of relevance, quality, and usability. It allows you to create high-quality, user-friendly content with specific niche relevance for your future customers, in a scalable way.

Predictions of SEOs demise, however, like many alarmist forecasts throughout its history, are premature. SEO has survived and thrived amid a flurry of Google algorithm updates. Its longevity and persistence are a testimony to the dynamism and adaptability of its practitioners. The key lies in continuously learning and adjusting strategies according to the evolving trends. Despite what you may have read about SEO, it’s anything but passive. The best SEO engines are a product of weekly measurement and fine-tuning. Optimization over time is just as important as the design of the engine itself.    

Your business's unique strengths and offerings should guide your SEO strategy. In todays highly data-driven marketplace, the key competitive advantage lies in proprietary data. Consider my company, TeachMeTo, as an example. Our platform boasts the largest unique network of coaches for sports like golf and pickleball, and our database contains those coaches background information and reviews and also integrates with their calendars. 

By using this data, we can enhance our visitors' experience in novel ways, thereby securing high ranks for valuable SEO terms like “pickleball coach near me.” Google’s ranking criteria have five components: meaning, relevance, quality, usability, and context. If you understand your customer, then you can address meaning by writing in the same language they use when describing their needs. As an SEO leader, context is out of your control because it’s based on your user’s personal history.

That leaves relevance, quality, and usability. The question you have to answer is, “How can I best create high-quality, user-friendly content with specific niche relevance for my future customers, all in a scalable way?” I argue that the answer can be found in a specific type of technology-enabled SEO.

The process of harnessing technology to assemble this data innovatively and efficiently is called programmatic SEO. By using this method, we can create a much larger quantity of high-quality pages than with traditional, editorial SEO, which is the practice of researching, writing, and publishing keyword-rich articles designed to reach future customers. 

Integrating programmatic SEO into your business's digital strategy has three crucial steps.

3 Steps to Building a Programmatic SEO Plan

  1. Identify your unique, valuable data source.
  2. Develop a page template structure.
  3. Launch as many variants as possible.

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1. Identify Your Unique, Valuable Data Sources

Uncovering your unique, valuable data begins with a thorough understanding of your user demographics and their needs pertaining to your product or service. This is a critical first step in a programmatic SEO strategy, and it involves deep user research.

For instance, at TeachMeTo, our users want to enhance their sports performance by hiring a coach in their vicinity who most suits their needs. In this context, relevant data includes detailed information about the coaches, such as their location, availability, pricing, specializations, years of experience, and possibly even their teaching style.

Beyond this basic information, consider what extra data could enrich the user experience. Could reviews or ratings from previous students be valuable? Would integrating with the coaches calendars for real-time booking be beneficial? By meticulously collecting and consolidating these data points, we can craft a unique and personalized user experience that sets us apart from competitors.

 

2. Develop a Page Template Structure

The next step involves translating the data youve gathered into a cohesive and user-friendly page structure. Here, you design unique landing page templates that specifically cater to your customers needs and search intentions. The goal is to provide a seamless browsing experience that makes the most valuable information readily accessible to your users.

To achieve this, carefully consider how to present your data in a user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing way. This could mean designing filters for users to easily sort and find coaches based on location, availability, or skill level. Or, it could mean incorporating dynamic elements like interactive maps or calendars.

Remember, the more unique, tailored, and useful your information is, the more likely it will resonate with users and search engines alike, thereby improving your pages ranking over time in search results.

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3. Launch As Many Variants As Possible

Once youve built a robust database and a versatile template, youre poised to generate thousands of unique page combinations. This is where the “programmatic” in programmatic SEO comes into play: using technology to automate and scale the creation of these pages.

For example, TeachMeTo currently has an array of pickleball pages that are segmented with unique results for every city in the U.S. These pages provide localized information that is highly relevant to users in those specific regions.

Consider the potential for expanding this approach further. We could segment by other criteria like coach specialization or availability. The more granular you can get with your page variants, the more likely you are to cover a wide range of search queries, catering to the diverse needs of your potential customers. This, in turn, amplifies your visibility and ranking potential in search engine results.

No SEO strategy is foolproof or definitive without proper measurement and iteration, however. The journey doesnt end with the launch of your pages; it only begins. Use tools like Google Search Console and SEMRush to monitor your performance, understand your progress, and find strategies to augment your indexation and rank. The real rewards start flowing when you crack the top 10 results in key terms. 

Moreover, programmatic SEO is a way to future-proof against algorithm changes and prepare structured data that’s easily accessible by ChatGPT and Bard. These tools are intelligent, certainly, but they also get things wrong. In order to provide a consistent user experience, these large language model interfaces use plugins, a type of native application that allows the models to reference proprietary, real-world data from other companies.

Instead of making their best guess about what information to share, the models are able to send requests via plugins and provide actionable, real answers. In the future, if you ask ChatGPT “Find me the best pickleball instructor in San Francisco,” a TeachMeTo plugin would be able to supply a direct link to the highest-rated instructor in the city. This is just one example of how structuring your data in a search-friendly way today can help you prepare for the changes to come.

SEO may be a dynamic and challenging field, but it’s not going anywhere.

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