Programmatic SEO vs. Editorial SEO? How to grow with both

Aaron Marco Arias
Last edited on Jul 11, 2024

Are you reconsidering your SEO efforts and wondering what strategy to invest in? Is editorial SEO outdated and slow? Is programmatic SEO a surefire way to get blacklisted by Google?

In this post, we’ll:

  • Tackle some common misconceptions about both programmatic and editorial SEO.
  • Explore how combining Programmatic SEO and Editorial SEO can drive unprecedented results for your startup.

We'll also discuss practical steps to integrate these strategies and stay ahead in the fast-evolving SEO landscape.

Understanding Programmatic SEO

What Is Programmatic SEO?

Programmatic SEO involves using automated processes to create and optimize a large volume of pages. This strategy is particularly effective for websites that need to generate a substantial amount of content covering various long-string keywords and topics efficiently.

How Does Programmatic SEO Work at Postdigitalist?

In essence, programmatic SEO leverages the power of automation to produce and optimize content at scale, allowing us to cover a broad spectrum of keywords efficiently and effectively. Here's how we do it at Postdigitalist:

General Audit

If we've never worked with you before, we'll need to assess your website's current health and SEO standing before committing to a pSEO engagement.

Maybe there's a major technical SEO issue in your website that makes it very irresponsible to unroll a programmatic strategy. Maybe programmatic isn't aligned with how your customers buy. Before getting started, we'll make a throughout, in-depth SEO audit.

Interested? Request an SEO audit

Research & KW Strategy

If we find that SEO is right for you, we'll kick things off with thorough keyword research to identify pertinent keywords and phrases. Then, we'll organize these keywords into clusters according to topics and search intent. Each of these clusters is a potential programmatic collection.

Next, we'll present our findings and analyze them with you, in the light of your strategic goals and buyer personas. What collection has the highest potential ROI? Which one will be the most valuable to your audience?

Once we've decided which collection we'll produce, we'll move forward with data sourcing.

Data Sourcing

Data sourcing is the bedrock of a successful programmatic SEO strategy. Having the right data is key to creating spot-on, targeted content. By gathering accurate and thorough data, we can tailor each piece to match what users are really searching for. This not only boosts content quality but also makes it more relevant, helping it rank better on search engines.

But what does this actually look like in real life?

Let's say we're producing programmatic pages for a tool comparisons collection. Data sourcing in this context involves gathering comprehensive information about each tool, such as features, pricing, user reviews, compatibility, and support options. By leveraging APIs, scraping publicly available data, and integrating information from trusted databases, we can create detailed, accurate profiles for numerous tools. This meticulous data collection ensures that each programmatic page offers valuable, optimized content that aligns with users’ search queries, thereby enhancing user engagement and improving search engine rankings.

Content Template Writing

The subsequent step involves crafting a content template that your entire pSEO collection will share. This template will be filled with dynamic variables that will be substituted with specific data points, copy, and keyword variations. For example, a content template for local service pages may include placeholders for city names, service types, and other location-specific details.

Content Design

Once the content template's ready, we'll design the page's unique look and feel. Of course, it'll be aligned with your brand's pre-existing web design.  But we'll also incorporate elements that:

  • Make the content scannable and easy to consume
  • Resonate with your target audience's preferences and expectations.

Additionally, we'll design a collection index, which will:

  • Enable content discovery
  • Prevent orphan pages

Development

Now it’s time to put all of the pieces together! We'll develop your pSEO pages, set up the right CMS structures, and connect them to the right data sources.

We work with Webflow, which makes this process fast and easy.

Does your website run on a different stack? Do you want to leave this in the hands of your in-house dev team? No worries! We can serve as consultants during this step.

Proof-of-Concept

So, at this point, we'll probably deploy 10,000 landing pages - right?

Not so fast. A proof-of-concept is then conducted to validate the strategy before rolling it out on a larger scale. Here, we deploy a small sample of pages and check their performance for a 4-week period. We'll want to check:

  • User engagement
  • Conversions
  • SERP positioning

Full Deployment

Did things go well? If so, we'll generate hundreds or even thousands of pages based on the content template, and unroll them slowly. The result is a collection of unique pages that are fully optimized for search engines, tailored to user intent, and aligned with your brand.

Constant Monitoring and Post-Launch Optimization

After the initial rollout, it’s crucial for us to monitor the performance of the generated pages. Analytics tools help us track rankings, traffic, and user engagement metrics. Based on the data collected, we make further refinements and adjustments to continuously improve SEO performance.

Pros and Cons of Programmatic SEO

Here are some key advantages and drawbacks to consider when weighing whether programmatic SEO is right for you:

Programmatic SEO Advantages

  • Scale: Programmatic SEO is the most cost-effective and convenient strategy for producing content at scale.
  • Efficiency: Automation reduces the time and resources needed for content creation.
  • Long-Tail Keywords: pSEO is perfect for targeting long-tail keywords that may not be worth the effort in editorial SEO.
  • Consistency: By using templates, you ensure that each generated page maintains a consistent format, structure, and quality, which preserves your quality baseline at scale.
  • Breadth: Programmatic SEO can cover a vast range of topics and keywords that may otherwise be overlooked, giving you a broader web presence.
  • Speed: Automated processes enable you to quickly respond to market changes or trends by generating relevant content on demand.
  • Data-Driven: Programmatic SEO leverages data to optimize content for specific queries, making the content highly relevant and tailored to user intent. Additionally, if you leverage original data, you're giving your content an edge that it wouldn't have otherwise. pSEO can turn "idle" data into engaged customers.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Reducing reliance on manual content creation lowers overall costs, allowing you to allocate resources to other strategic areas.

Programmatic SEO Disadvantages

  • Quality Control: Automated content can sometimes lack depth and originality. Especially if your content templates are very content-heavy and allow little variation.
  • User Engagement: High volumes of content may not always engage users meaningfully. It's not uncommon for large websites to have dozens (if not hundreds!) of pages with a very high bounce rate.
  • Risk of Duplicate Content: When generating a large volume of similar pages, there is a risk of producing content that is too similar, leading to potential penalties from search engines for duplicate content.
  • Technical Complexity: Implementing programmatic SEO requires a higher level of technical expertise than editorial SEO, which might be difficult for smaller organizations without dedicated resources.
  • Initial Setup Time: Setting up a robust programmatic SEO framework can take considerable time and effort before it becomes effective, delaying the potential benefits.
  • Over-reliance on Templates: Overusing templates may result in content that feels repetitive and less engaging to users, reducing the overall user experience.
  • Algorithm Dependency: Heavy reliance on search engine algorithms means that any changes in the algorithms can severely impact the performance of programmatically generated content, requiring constant monitoring and adaptability.

Exploring Editorial SEO

What Is Editorial SEO?

Editorial SEO focuses on creating high-quality, original content designed to establish thought leadership and build brand authority. This type of SEO involves in-depth articles, blogs, whitepapers, and case studies that resonate with your target audience.

How Does Editorial SEO Work at Postdigitalist?

At Postdigitalist, our approach to creating editorial content is methodical and results-driven, ensuring each piece resonates with our audience and contributes to our overarching SEO goals. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how we achieve this:

Research and Planning

The foundation of our editorial content process begins with comprehensive research. We identify trending topics, audience interests, and industry gaps to ensure that each piece of content is both timely and relevant. We utilize various tools to conduct keyword research and competitor analysis to pinpoint the best opportunities for content creation.

Content Ideation

With our research in hand, we brainstorm content ideas that align with our brand voice and objectives. This collaborative process involves input from our editorial team, SEO specialists, and subject matter experts. We prioritize ideas based on their potential impact, commercial relevance, and alignment with our target audience's challenges and goals.

Additionally, we meet with stakeholders to align around business goals and detect challenges where content can make a difference. For instance, sometimes we receive content ideas from our client's support team or salespeople. We work "on the field" and go beyond keyword research, to conceive content ideas that actually yield results.

Outline Creation

Once a topic is selected, we develop a detailed outline. This outline serves as the blueprint for our content and includes key points, subheadings, data sources, and any relevant links. This ensures our content is well-structured, comprehensive, and engaging from the start.

Writing and Drafting

With the outline approved, our in-house writing team begins crafting the content. Each piece is written with a focus on clarity, accuracy, and value. We prioritize creating content that is informative and engaging, and aligns with our SEO strategy. The first draft undergoes several rounds of revisions to ensure it meets our quality standards.

Review and Editing

Our editorial team rigorously reviews each draft to ensure consistency, quality, and adherence to brand guidelines. This includes fact-checking, proofreading, and optimizing the content for SEO.

SEO Optimization

We apply SEO best practices to enhance the content's search engine performance. This involves optimizing meta titles, descriptions, and headings, as well as incorporating relevant keywords seamlessly within the content. We also add internal and external links to improve the page's authority and relevance.

Approval and Publication

Once the content has been thoroughly reviewed and optimized, our content lead sends it to the client for final approval. After approval, we publish the content on the client's website ourselves. This guarantees that no details get lost in translation.

Promotion and Distribution

To maximize the outreach of our client's long-form content, we develop a range of assets including newsletters, LinkedIn carousels, and short video scripts. These tools help us promote content across various distribution networks and enhance visibility.

Performance Monitoring

Post-publishing, we continuously monitor the content's performance using analytics tools. We track metrics such as traffic, engagement, and conversion rates to assess the content’s impact and ROI. Insights gained from this analysis inform our future content strategy.

Editorial SEO Pros & Cons

Wondering if editorial SEO is right for you? Here are some pros & cons you should have in mind:

Why you Should Invest in Editorial SEO

  • Topical Authority: Editorial content builds credibility and positions your brand as a thought leader across certain topics. This is key for both search engines and customers. And this is especially important if you're in a new or very specific niche. Content can pave the way for you to shape a category of one.
  • User Engagement: High-quality content tends to engage users better than pSEO and encourage sharing.
  • Enhanced Trust: In-depth, well-researched content resonates with readers, fostering trust and loyalty towards your brand.
  • Brand Affinity: Editorial content allows you to share stories, opinions, and ideals that users can relate to. That way, you can win customers' hearts by letting them know you share their values.
  • Better Conversion Rates: High-quality editorial content can effectively guide potential customers through the purchasing journey, leading to higher conversion rates.
  • Content Diversification: Editorial SEO allows for a variety of content formats, which can cater to diverse audience preferences.
  • Link-Building Opportunities: Valuable editorial content is more likely than pSEO content to earn backlinks from other reputable sources, enhancing your site's authority and search ranking.
  • Audience Insight: By consistently producing editorial content, you gain deeper insights into your audience's preferences, challenges, and interests, enabling more targeted and effective marketing strategies.

Why You Should Avoid Editorial SEO

  • Time-Consuming: Crafting high-quality content requires significant time and effort.
  • Scalability: It’s challenging to scale editorial content compared to programmatic content.
  • Higher Costs: The resources needed for producing editorial content, including skilled writers, editors, and subject matter experts, can be considerably higher than those for programmatic SEO content.
  • Slower Results: Unlike pSEO, which can sometimes yield quick wins with the right keywords, editorial SEO strategies usually take longer to show measurable results in terms of traffic and rankings. This can result in a good conversion rate with a low traffic volume.
  • Expertise Dependence: High-quality editorial content often requires in-depth knowledge and expertise, making it harder to produce without the right external contributors.
  • Inconsistency: Maintaining a consistent publishing schedule and quality standard can be challenging, especially if you face unexpected bottlenecks or resource constraints.
  • Reader Expectations: Once your audience becomes accustomed to high-quality editorial content, they may have heightened expectations, making it essential to continually meet or exceed those standards to retain their trust and engagement.

The Synergy of Programmatic and Editorial SEO

While programmatic SEO excels in scale and efficiency, editorial SEO shines in quality and engagement. Combining these strategies can create a balanced approach that leverages the strengths of both.

In this section, we'll explore how to build a strategy that combines both programmatic and editorial SEO.

Understand When to Leverage Each Strategy

Editorial SEO plays a pivotal role in shaping and amplifying your brand identity. By creating in-depth, thought-provoking content, you position your brand as a leader in your niche, thereby building authority and trust. This strategy is particularly effective for forging deep connections with your audience, as high-quality editorial pieces often resonate more profoundly, encouraging repeat visits and fostering brand loyalty. Furthermore, editorial SEO complements Account-Based Marketing (ABM) by providing tailored content that addresses the specific needs and interests of high-value accounts, thereby nurturing and strengthening these critical relationships.

While editorial SEO excels in narrative and engagement, programmatic SEO (pSEO) is best suited for scalability and efficiency.

pSEO is ideal for objectives such as:

  • Achieving rapid visibility across niche search terms
  • Acquiring free and trial users, who see their use case reflected in a programmatic piece/resource
  • Driving higher overall traffic to your website

Understand Your Customer's Journey - and Create Content Accordingly

Understanding the customer's journey is essential because it allows you to tailor your content strategy to meet the needs and expectations of your audience at various stages of their buying process. By mapping out this journey, you can determine where programmatic SEO (pSEO) or editorial content will have the most significant impact. For instance, pSEO can be highly effective during the awareness stage, where potential customers are searching for specific solutions and quick answers. Conversely, editorial content is better suited for the consideration and decision stages, where in-depth, engaging content can build trust and provide the detailed information needed to influence purchasing decisions.

Imagine a tech company launching a new software solution. At the awareness stage, pSEO might be used to generate traffic through keyword-optimized blog posts and FAQs about common challenges. A great example of this type of asset would be a collection of templates designed for different use cases.

As prospects move into the consideration stage, a series of well-researched editorial articles, case studies, and whitepapers can be published to offer more profound insights, demonstrating the software's expertise and reliability. Finally, at the decision stage, customer testimonials and detailed how-to guides in editorial format can provide the final push, easing any reservations and showcasing proven success.

Be on the Lookout for Keywords with High pSEO Potential

When you conduct your regular keyword research, stay on the lookout for keywords that may signal potential programmatic SEO collections. For instance, if you see that customers are looking for a tool comparison for a certain use case, maybe you could develop an entire collection of tool comparisons.

Of course, whether this idea is valuable will depend on the search volume and potential ROI of alternative iterations. For instance, "Monday vs. Asana for product development" may be a good long string keyword (we don't know, we didn't check) - but "Monday vs. Notion for product development" may not be such a good option.

Either way, stay on the lookout for pieces that may turn into full programmatic collections. And remember: Programmatic content is not opinion-driven. It's best approached as data aggregation.

Conduct Small-Scale pSEO Experiments

When you find a keyword with programmatic potential, don't hesitate to turn it into a small-scale pSEO experiment. Write the first piece as if it were a content template, and iterate across 2-3 pieces to find if the collection's concept is actually promising.

Key Takeways

  • Balanced Approach: Combining programmatic and editorial SEO strategies allows for scale and engagement, leveraging the strengths of both.
  • Audience Connection: Editorial SEO builds authority and trust, fostering deeper connections with the audience through high-quality, in-depth content.
  • Scalability and Efficiency: Programmatic SEO excels in achieving rapid visibility and scalability, ideal for capturing niche search terms and driving higher overall traffic.
  • Customer Journey Alignment: Tailoring content to various stages of the customer's journey ensures that programmatic SEO and editorial content have the most significant impact.
  • Keyword Opportunities: Regular keyword research can uncover high-potential keywords for programmatic SEO collections, driving targeted traffic.
  • Experimentation: Conducting small-scale pSEO experiments can validate the potential of programmatic content collections and optimize strategy.

Get in touch today, have a full Content Operation running in under 3 weeks.

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