How to Do a Programmatic SEO Proof of Concept
We're big fans of programmatic SEO. But, while it's very cost-efficient, implementing it is usually expensive and time-consuming.
So, there's something very important you must do before preparing a semi-automated workflow with tons of templates & data and publishing thousands of optimized pages. We're talking about a proof of concept.
In this post, we'll share:
- An overview of programmatic SEO
- Why you should do a proof of concept
- How to do a programmatic SEO proof of concept, step-by-step
Without further ado, let's get started!
What Is Programmatic SEO?
Programmatic SEO is an SEO tactic that consists of creating pages with a similar structure and targeting keywords with the same head term. These pages share the same template but are filled with carefully curated dynamic content.
For instance, let's say you want to dominate the "WordPress plugins" niche. It'd make sense to create programmatic pages targeting keywords such as:
- “WordPress SEO plugins"
- "WordPress image optimization plugins"
- "WordPress directory plugins"
At this point, you may have noticed something: These keywords have a head term and a modifier. In this case, the modifier is placed in the middle. But, in most cases, it’ll be placed after the head term.
Although similar, these keywords target different search intents and help you to position yourself as a leader in your category. And these pages could easily give the user what they want through a curated selection of data. So, they'd be easier to create than other types of content, such as long-form posts.
Does Programmatic SEO Work?
In short, yes. As we examined when discussing ideal publishing frequency, Google likes large volumes of valuable content. And leading startups (like Zapier and Mubi) use programmatic SEO to achieve that.
If you’re looking for examples of programmatic SEO in action, we recommend checking out:
- Zapier’s apps & integrations directory
- Mubi’s films directory
- TripAdvisor’s “things to do in” pages
Programmatic SEO is a great way to target long-tail, specific keywords that attract qualified traffic. And, as with all content creation, to grow with programmatic SEO, it’s essential to:
- Make sure you’re targeting actual user needs
- Focus on content quality over quantity (even when quantity is the goal)
- Prevent content duplication and make sure every page offers unique value
- Leverage AI & automation intelligently, using it to complement human work, not replace it
Why You Should Do a Proof of Concept
In short, you should do a proof of concept to make sure your plan is worth investing in. If you choose a head term, put in the work to elaborate thousands of pages, and finally find out that the search term wasn’t worth competing for, you’ll have wasted tons of time and money.
In short, doing a programmatic SEO proof of concept is in line with the growth marketing philosophy of being open to failing, but making sure that failure is fast & cheap.
How to Do a Programmatic SEO Proof of Concept, Step-by-Step
We’ve already taken a quick look at the basics of programmatic SEO and explained why you should do a proof of concept. So, let’s dive into it.
We recommend you:
- Carefully assess user needs
- Analyze potential data sources
- Choose your head term
- Structure your content
- Publish, promote & wait
Let’s take a look at each step, shall we?
Assessing User Needs
First, you should look for user needs that can be addressed through programmatic content.
Programmatic content is usually great for:
- Tool collections
- Specific tips (e.g.: “How to calculate [X] on Excel”)
You’ll want your programmatic content to:
- Target similar needs
- Target needs that can be addressed through the same content structure
- Be built on the same collection of data
Analyzing Potential Data Sources
It’s extremely important to understand what type of data will you intend to use for programmatic SEO. At the end of the day, the answer to this question will:
- Determine the viability of your project
- Affect the workload that the project will require
We usually work with:
- User-generated data
- Research results
- A collection of tools/resources compiled ad-hoc
- A curated collection of existing original content
- A combination of content types
Choosing your Head Term
Once you have a couple of potential concepts, do some keyword research to check which one’s more viable.
At P✧D, we use Ahrefs for keyword research. So, here’s how we go about testing the viability of a programmatic SEO concept:
Let’s say we’re working on a programmatic SEO collection for a directory covering fast-food restaurants. We’d go on Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer tab and do a phrase match search for the term “fast food restaurants in”.
Using phrase match instead of term match makes it possible for us to only see keywords that include the words “fast food restaurants in” in exactly that order.
Then, we’ll look for relevant keywords with:
- Low-mid difficulty
- Mid-high MSV (monthly search volume)
If the most relevant keywords with the head term we chose have those characteristics, the concept may be worth implementing.
For this search term, that’s exactly the case. So, we’ll:
- Save all relevant keywords into a list
- Share them with our client and analyze which ones to use for an initial test
This decision is usually the result of a combination between SEO goals and business priorities.
If we don’t find that the search term’s viable, we usually try a couple of similar alternatives.
Structuring the Content
Design a common structure for your programmatic content.
You’ll eventually fill your programmatic SEO templates with dynamic data. And this dynamic data will be your content’s source of value. So, you’ll want to:
- Use consistent grammatical structures
- Set a clear difference between static and dynamic content
- Always rely on the same data points
Make sure that:
- Your content and headings always target the desired long-tail keywords
- Your word count is high enough for the page not to be thin content
- You’re including so much dynamic content that you’re not incurring in duplication
Semi-Automating Content Creation
At this stage, you probably won’t be automating content creation. But you should already understand what your programmatic SEO workflow would look like. This is key in case your test produces good results.
Additionally, it may be best to approach the entire project with semi-automation in mind. We recommend you write your first programmatic page as a template. That way, you can make sure your structures are solid and iterable enough.
Publishing, Promoting & Waiting
Once your first programmatic page is ready, it’s time to share it with the world. Publish it, promote it, and wait.
How Can You Make Sure It’s Working?
In short, you can check if your programmatic SEO test is working by taking a look at your Google Search Console and checking if:
- The page in question has received significant* traffic
- You’re ranking for the keywords you were targeting
*How you define “significant” will depend on your website’s current organic traffic & positioning.
But, when should you check for results? It will also depend. You can encourage Google to index your new piece of content faster by submitting it to Google Search Console. But results may take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. We’d recommend you check anywhere from 3-5 weeks after posting.
If your first attempt at programmatic SEO doesn’t work, try again. We usually recommend conducting up to 3 tests before giving up on programmatic SEO altogether.
In this post, we explored how to do a programmatic SEO proof of concept.
Programmatic SEO is an effective way to target precise, long-tail keywords that attract qualified visitors. But, before investing in it, try a proof of concept to ensure your strategy is effective. A proof of concept involves:
- Evaluating user needs
- Assessing data sources
- Selecting a head term
- Designing an iterable content structure
To evaluate the results, keep an eye on your Google Search console during the next few weeks after posting.
While very promising and effective, programmatic SEO isn’t easy to implement. So, you’ll probably need a strategic partner to help you navigate through every step of the process. From ideation to SEO research and technical implementation. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the right place.
Let’s conquer your niche together. Book a free consultation today.