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Case Study

Programmatic SEO Case Study


Manually creating pages at scale to grow your site visibility isn’t feasible and takes a long time. However, there is one tactic that you can use to help speed up and scale up the process without compromising on the quality of the content that is produced.

The answer: programmatic SEO.

Objective

The main objective was to grow visibility for keywords that would generate revenue for the client at scale.

Website History

The client provides a platform for businesses to secure and manage open-source development processes that utilize custom combinations of tools and platforms.

Issues Holding Website Back

The main challenge for this campaign was to boost the search visibility of the website for keywords that would generate more revenue. However, ranking a handful of service or product pages for such terms was not enough.

Instead, we needed to devise and execute a long-term SEO strategy that would allow the site to rank for thousands of relevant keywords without the need to optimize each page manually.

The solution, programmatic SEO.

Course of Action

Find out how you can overcome these challenges for your own website by following the steps outlined below.


Generating Content Through Programmatic SEO

Traditional SEO aims to improve a website’s search engine visibility by creating high-quality content and keyword-focused landing pages and blogs. This approach effectively builds keywords, links, and mentions, provided that the content is well-crafted and valuable to the end user.

But a programmatic approach can help achieve this on a larger scale.

What is Programmatic SEO?

Programmatic SEO (or pSEO) utilizes automation to create landing pages at scale with the aim of ranking them within Google’s search results pages. Each page targets its own unique keywords, but follows a uniform template that is created using automated tools and a database.

Realtor.com is a great example of a website that uses pSEO.

A Google search for keywords like “houses for sale in [location]” results in the following kind of pages.

Los Angeles

LS

New York

NY

Both pages are identical in terms of the template, but the content (i.e. the properties) change.

There are almost 20,000 cities, towns and villages in the USA. It’s near impossible for Realtor.com to create a page for every location manually. Instead, they use programmatic SEO.

Pros and Cons of Programmatic SEO

Here are the key benefits of adopting a programmatic approach to your SEO:

  • Efficiency: Automating the creation of similar pages improves efficiency and speeds up content publication.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Leverages data analytics to automate the delivery of useful information to users.
  • Scalability: Easily scales content creation, targeting a large pool of keywords simultaneously.
  • Time-Saving: Frees up time for strategic planning and higher-level SEO tasks.
  • Low Competition Keywords: Simplifies ranking for low competition keywords, boosting search visibility quickly.
  • Earn Backlinks: Increased page creation enhances the chances of earning organic backlinks.
  • Cost-Effective Long Term: Although initial investment in tools can be high, this approach is cheaper than manually creating each page.

Before you do, consider the following:

  • Lack of Personalization: Automation might lead to a lack of a personal touch in SEO, impacting user experience. Ensure your pages add unique value.
  • Programming Experience Required: Building rich page templates and integrating data sources requires coding skills. If you lack programming experience, hire developers and specialists from sites like fiverr.com.
  • Risk of Overreliance on Automation: Excessive reliance on automation can lead to potentially missing out on providing unique value to your target audience.
  • Dependency on Data Quality: The effectiveness of automated content relies on the accuracy and quality of your data inputs.

Despite these drawbacks and without the need for coding, you can still implement pSEO within your website.

How to Generate Content Through Programmatic SEO

Below we’ve outlined the steps necessary to produce pages at scale using programmatic SEO.

Find Scalable Keywords

Targeting hundreds or thousands of similar keywords using a single page template is essential for success with programmatic SEO. You can find relevant keywords with multiple variations using tools like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

For example, if you had a fitness website, you might use terms like “best exercises” as your seed term to find scalable keywords.

Click on the Matching Terms report. This shows a list of relevant keywords to your seed entry.

Matching Terms report

Go through the results and identify any patterns within the keywords to see which of them can be scaled.

Clustering by terms can help identify groups of keywords that might be of interest to you.

Keyword Groups

In this case, many keywords follow patterns like “best [body part] exercise” or “best exercises for [body part]”.

Keywords

This suggests that there’s lots of opportunity to rank for a range of keywords that focuses on exercise for different muscles and body parts.

Identify Modifiers

In our exercise example, the keywords can be split into two categories: head terms and modifiers.

The head term is the top-level category of the keyword that you’ll aim for i.e. best exercise.

The modifier turns the head term into a long-tail keyword (a highly specific keyword that has lower search volume) i.e. best back exercise

You could potentially narrow them down further by adding a secondary modifier: for [fitness level]”. For example, best back exercise for beginners.

This will present you with a long list of keywords to create programmatic pages for.

Identify the Search Intent

Next, you will need to identify the type of content that users will find useful and helpful for your target keywords i.e. think about what it is they’re trying to achieve.

Check the top ranking competing pages for your target keywords to see what kind of content they’ve included.

For example, here’s a top result for the keyword “best back exercises”.

Deadlift exercise

The page provides useful information about different exercises, but primarily includes instructions with images on how to perform them.

Identifying the search intent by looking at the competition will help guide your own content and allow you to provide your target audience with the right content that they’re looking for.

Find Relevant Data

When it comes to finding relevant data, there are two main options:

  1. Private Data - data collected about your business, service or product offerings through surveys, customer insights etc. We recommend collecting as much private data as possible as this is what will help provide unique insights and set you apart from the competition.
  2. Public Data - using public data sources that are licensed for commercial use is less time consuming than using private data, but it means that your information isn’t going to be unique. Here are some great places where you can find commercially licensed datasets:
    • Google Dataset Search - combines datasets from a number of different providers.
    • Kaggle - primarily used as training data for AI and machine learning models, but they can also be used to provide additional data points.
    • Government Datasets - government websites like data.gov (US) and ons.gov.uk (UK) have many free datasets that cover a wide range of industries and topics.
Build a Template for Your Landing Pages

Once you’ve selected your keywords and gathered the relevant data, the next step is to build out the template for your programmatic pages.

For the purpose of this case study, we’ll use a simple keyword example: life expectancy + in [country], with a database built on Google Sheets.However, to create a more professional and useful programmatic template, you should enlist the help of a web developer.

This is the sample template that we’ll be using for this case study.

ChatGPT is great for building out the keywords for each of your pages. For example, we first asked it to generate a list of all countries in the world (alphabetically), and then append these to them to “life expectancy”.

These keywords were imported into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tool.

ahrefs export

After exporting the keywords, add them to the “Keyword Data” tab in the template. Keep the following columns:

  • Keyword - the target keyword
  • Difficulty - the keyword difficulty
  • Volume - the search volume for your target location (i.e. United States).
  • Global volume - the global search volume for the keyword
  • Traffic potential - the total organic traffic that the top ranking page for your target keyword receives from all the keywords that it ranks for.

In the second tab of the spreadsheet, you can store all of the information from your dataset.

In the third tab, build out the content of your page by combining the information from the first two tabs.

Here’s a simple Google Sheets formula that pulls the relevant data from the Keyword and Life Expectancy Data tabs into a single tab.

                        = A2 & " is a " & 'Life Expectancy Data'!B2 & " country with a life expectancy of
                            " & 'Life Expectancy Data'!C2 & " and a total population of " & 'Life Expectancy Data'!I2 & ". 
Here is some more information about " & A2 & ":
 - The Adult Mortality (the probability of dying between 15 and 60 years per 1000 population) in " & A2 & " is " & 'Life Expectancy Data'!D2 & ".  
 - In 2015, there were " & G2 & " deaths of children under the age of 5, with " & 'Life Expectancy Data'!E2 & " of these being infant deaths. 
 - The average Body Mass Index (BMI) of " & A2 & " is " & 'Life Expectancy Data'!F2 & ".  
 - " & A2 & " has a GDP of " & 'Life Expectancy Data'!H2

                    

When populated with the data, a full sentence will be created:

India is a developing country with a life expectancy of 68.3 and a total population of 1395398. 

Here is some more information about India:  
 - The Adult Mortality (the probability of dying between 15 and 60 years per 1000 population) in India is 181.  
 - In 2015, there were 1100 deaths of children under the age of 5, with 910 of these being infant deaths. 
 - The average Body Mass Index (BMI) of India is 18.7.  
 - India has a GDP of 1613.18878

It’s worth mentioning that the content generated above isn’t representative of what you should include in your pages, but it illustrates how to build out such pages at scale. In reality, you should consult with a developer who’ll be able to create a richer template and layout that allows you to provide a better experience for your audience.

Optimize Metadata

If you’re creating pages at scale, you’ll also need to ensure that the metadata (i.e. URLs, page titles, H1 headings and meta descriptions) is optimized for your target keyword.

The “Page Builder” has columns with formulas that automatically generate the URL, page title, H1 heading and meta description for your pages.

  • URLs should be concise and describe what the user (and Google) will find on the page.
  • Page titles should be engaging and descriptive so that users are compelled to click through from the search results page.
  • H1 headings should also be engaging and descriptive.
  • Meta descriptions can be effective in compelling users to click onto your page instead of your competitors as they’re displayed in the search results. Ensure they describe what your page is about and that you also include some relevant terms.
ahrefs export
Publish the Content

The last step is to publish the content onto your website. How you do this will depend on the content management system that your website is on, but here are a few tools that you can use to make this process as possible.

  • WP All Import - for importing (and exporting) to WordPress and WooCommerce websites.
  • Zapier - set up a Zapier integration if your website is on Webflow
  • Softr - a great tool for if you want to build your website straight from the Google sheet.

After publishing your pages, remember to monitor their progress and make any adjustments based on their performance.

As mentioned before, the example in this case study is a very simple taste of what you can achieve with programmatic SEO. With the help of a developer, your pages will look and offer much more value!

Index the Content

A hidden step after publishing, is to ensure that your pages have indeed been crawled and indexed by Google. There are two ways that you can do this:

  1. Internal Linking - add internal links to, from and between your programmatic pages so that Google’s crawlers are more likely to discover them.
  2. XML Sitemaps - add your programmatic pages to an XML sitemap and upload them to your Google Search Console. This will help encourage Googlebot to crawl and index your pages sooner.

Results

We created just under 500 pages through programmatic SEO for this client over the past year.

During this time, the organic traffic grew by 37.9% from 173.5k to 239.3k sessions.


Organic Traffic Growth

Visibility within the top 10 positions of Google increased from 0 to 1,923 keywords in the past twelve months.


Keywords Growth

Without doing any link building ourselves, the site also received 700+ referring domains as a result of the programmatic SEO efforts.


Referring Domains

This includes backlinks from authoritative sites like Microsoft, Oracle, Google and more.


Referring Domains

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