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5 Things to Know About Programmatic SEO

5 Things to Know About Programmatic SEO


What do you need to do to get your programmatic SEO right? That’s what we’re discussing today with an in-house SEO lead, passionate about programmatic SEO, content, and driving growth at scale. She started her SEO journey at Wix and currently works in AI video generation at Synthesia. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Anna Uss.

In this episode, Anna will share five things to know about programmatic SEO, including:

  • Structure your programmatic asset to make sense for users and Google bots
  • Content production strategy
  • Use unique SEO metadata
  • Use structured data, FAQ schema, and breadcrumbs
  • Keep monitoring

5 Programmatic SEO Tips

Anna: Hey, everyone, happy to be here.

D: Thanks so much for joining. You can find Anna over at annauss.com. So Anna, today, you’re sharing five key things you need to know about programmatic SEO. But first, how would you define programmatic SEO?

A: Well, programmatic SEO is an emerging concept. A few years ago, when I just started doing it, there was not even such a word, we just had an idea. Now there is a more definite description that says that programmatic SEO is all about creating landing pages at scale to drive traffic from the longtail keywords. That’s how I would define it.

D: That’s good, very definitive. I don’t have any follow-up questions on that. I think that was fairly understandable for most people listening hopefully. So today, you’re sharing five key things you need to know about programmatic SEO. Starting off with number one, structure your programmatic asset in a way that makes perfect sense for the user and for Google bots. First of all, what’s a programmatic asset?

1. Structure Your Programmatic Asset to Make Sense for Users and Google Bots

\A: That’s the programmatic asset that you’re about to create. Let’s say you want to focus on integrations and there are millions of integrations with different combinations. What I mean by structure is how you map it out in a logical sequence that is easily crawlable, easily navigatable, and easy to consume by the user. For example, the logic is that on the end page that ranks for a longtail keyword, there’s integration x plus integration y, and the user ends up there. How do you structure it in a way that they can navigate back, where they can see all other types of integration off that integration x? Are there similar use cases that you can link through from the page? So missing out on that structure of how everything is connected. What is the first level, second level, and third level? And what is the path you want the user to take? That’s the structure. And I think this is crucial because a lot of people have an idea, they jump into creating that endpoint landing page, but then they didn’t think it through. How does it tie to their website structure? And how can a user navigate to that page from their homepage?

D: Understood, I would imagine that breadcrumbs have a lot to do with it.

A: Yes, but breadcrumbs are the end result. If you didn’t think through what would be the intermediate pages, whether there is a directory, whether there are categories, or you didn’t implement the URL structure, then you can’t use breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs are the final cherry on top. Let’s put it that way.

D: Understood. Unless you get your category structure right, then your breadcrumbs are going to be useless.

A: Exactly. And you will think that this is obvious. But in a recent project that I started, there was a main competitor and their URL structure was not optimal. So when I started reviewing the project, the first thing I said was that that competitor is doing really well, but if you change the URL structure and don’t take them as an example, you will have much better results. So we easily tweaked it and fortunately, we still had time to do that because the pages didn’t go live. But if you didn’t think it through and went live, it’s really hard to revert, because you would face thousands of redirects which no one wants to deal with.

D: Absolutely. No one wants to deal with but it’s sometimes that sticking plaster easy fix. Then everyone forgets about it until the SEO comes along and gets things running more efficiently.

A: Yeah, there are so many issues that are tied to redirect, because many times directs are implemented, but the internal links are not fixed. Or that the technical SEO due diligence is not performed, and you’re left with a lot of mess. So the redirects are there, you think it’s all good, then if you actually crawl the website, you will see that Google is being confused on multiple stages of crawling when the redirects are not smooth or implemented correctly. That’s why I’m saying that structure is so important, and I’m putting it first because getting your structure sorted is the first brick of that basement of building the success of the project.

D: Okay, I’m tempted to stick with this particular topic but let’s move on to number two, which is content production strategy.

2. Content Production Strategy

A: Yeah, this is a very interesting one because there are so many ways you can approach programmatic SEO. I wouldn’t say there is right and wrong, I mean there is clearly wrong when you’re putting bad content that is not useful for the user, etc. But in my recent experience, you can even go with simple pages. Previously, the biggest project I worked on, Snyk Advisor, has a very rich page that has multiple databases plugged into it. It makes tons of sense as it’s very high-quality content. In the more recent projects, we are creating simpler pages that mostly rely on modifiers. But for the user, it is still a very useful page. Because if the company has multiple combinations of integrations, plugins, etc, it’s really hard for the user to find the exact combination they want just by navigating through the homepage. And usually, people search for a specific combination of integrations. If you want to plug in your Google Sheets to your Notion, you will search for that. You’re not going to go to the website and try to navigate your way to that specific combination of integrations. So by creating that landing page, we’re facilitating and improving user experience. And that page doesn’t require that much new content. You can plug in some articles in there, some use cases, or some useful links on how to get started with that specific combination of integration. But the landing page itself is quite simple.

Again, there are two ways of looking at the content. You can have multiple databases plugged in and provide very rich content that provides you with new information and new insights. And at the same time, you can have a simple landing page that also fulfills the user needs. There are implications and consequences of having simple pages because you might have thin content or duplication issues, but you can still work with that. This is something that I find very interesting but this shouldn’t be a blocker. If you think that you can’t do programmatic because you can’t create human generated high-quality content for it for a thousand pages that shouldn’t be stopping you from trying that strategy. There are still workarounds, you can add FAQs, or you can add modifiers. That is all still working, useful, and a good strategy to try out.

D: I’m shocked that I didn’t hear the two letters AI when you were discussing content. Why is that?

A: I’m very careful about that. One thing that we are going to try is to use Chat GPT for generating unique content for the FAQs. But I would never boldly recommend to anyone to just copy paste that content to your landing page. Even if you are using technologies to fast forward that process, I would still advise to review it, write it as it is, and make sure that it is factually correct, makes sense, and represents your brand correctly. What do you think about it?

D: Well, I think it’s a rapidly changing area. I think it’s an area that you have to experiment with. But there’s certainly no black and white answer for that at the moment. Where we’ll be in three to five years time is anyone’s guess. But at the moment I think that SEOs looking after larger enterprise websites have to find a way of testing the use of AI without it potentially negatively impacting their high traffic pages.

A: Agreed. One thing that could be tried here, and something I want to experiment with as well, is let’s say we’re testing the FAQ section with question/answer content. One page can have the same exact answer as the other 20 pages, as a bucket, then the next bucks would have modifiers in there, and then the third one would have AI generated content. And it would be interesting to see if that makes a difference on how the pages are performing.

Also, when you’re launching something new, there is less of a risk to fail. If you’re working with an enterprise website, and you suddenly change the whole strategy 180 degrees, that’s a huge risk. But if you’re launching something new, I think it’s a good playground to test out those theories and tools.

D: And what about metadata? Can you use AI to generate content and metadata? Because your point number three is making sure you use SEO metadata and make sure that it’s unique.

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3. Use Unique SEO Metadata

A: Yes, and by that, I mean that it shouldn’t be overlooked. Because if you’re dealing with programmatic SEO pages, the H1, H2, etc. titles are the main assets you’re working with. And that’s what I mean, make sure you include modifiers. You’re not just saying best integration and that’s what every page says. You need to include the integration name, you need to make sure that your titles and the structure of the page makes sense. I’ve seen cases where there was inaccuracy on page markup and that can be a crucial factor for programmatic SEO failure.

But to answer your question, in this specific case, I would work more on figuring out the pattern. What should be the pattern for H1, H2, etc.? And you don’t really need AI generation for that.

D: By pattern do you mean that you could get away with using ‘best’ in the H1 or using ‘top’ in the H2s? Or has there got to be some kind of rotation? Is it a bad idea to use the same modifier at the same stage on each page?

A: By modifier, I mean, the specific thing this landing page is about. If it is an integration, it is an integration page, if it is an open-source package, it is an open-source package page. If it is something else, then it is something else. So by a pattern, I mean there is a phrase, and you insert a modifier in that phrase that is specific and unique to that landing page. And to define that pattern, you analyze the search results, you see what works, and what are those landing pages about. If those landing pages, say, “Build Your something,” then you would probably use a similar kind of sentence intent. If the pages say, “Five ways to do X,” you would probably phrase it around that intent. Analyze the SERP, define your title, and then embed the modifier in there.

D: And point number four, utilize structured data, FAQ schema, and breadcrumbs.

4. Use Structured Data, FAQ Schema, and Breadcrumbs

A: Yes. I feel schema is a very powerful SEO asset that a lot of people implement and some people underestimate. There are so many types of schema. FAQ schema works really well for programmatic SEO because you can implement it at scale. Breadcrumbs are very useful for navigation, indexing, and explaining the structure of your assets. Another schema that I recently tried was ‘sameAs’ and I don’t have the results of that yet. I was just super excited about that type of schema because there was a great talk on Brighton SEO in April on that. And it will be so interesting to see if that actually delivers results. But in general, I’m super excited about schema because you can implement a site-wide, or assets-wide on similar types of pages and you can scale it. Everything at scale is really powerful, right?

D: Absolutely. As long as you’re monitoring and that’s point number five.

5. Keep Monitoring

A: Correct and there are a few ways to monitor your efforts. The small sites can use Screaming Frog. Bigger sites and I mean if you have hundreds of thousands of pages, then you will probably need some more sophisticated software. In my previous company, we used Lumar (formerly Deepcrawl). And that was really helpful to see the insights for a large website and to spot those issues. One of the things we saw is that our assets are actually not being called fully. I knew from the internal resources that we have 2 million URLs, but the crawler could only reach 500,000 URLs. So from that intel, we then pinpointed the problem, improved the internal linking, and reached literally double the organic traffic just by improving the crawlability of the assets. And that is something you can do with software like that. But for a smaller website with hundreds or a few thousands of pages, you can usually use Screaming Frog for that same reason to analyze that.

D: And Search Console?

A: Yes, exactly. Google Search Console is also very powerful because why won’t we use tools given by Google? And there I have a tip. If you have a large website, add additional properties of subsections. For example, yourdomainname/blog as a separate property, and yourdomainname/docs as a separate property. As simple as it sounds, it gives you valuable insights into how that specific section of the website is performing. And you can also see the indexing of that specific section and the errors in that specific section. Because if you have a large website, and you have just one property for your domain, it will be tough to spot the issues and where they happen.

The Pareto Pickle – Structured Data and Schema Markup

D: Let’s finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?

A: I already mentioned it, but I would answer structured data and schema markup. And there are so many types of structured data that you can implement, and it brings really good results. It’s very easy, it is very scalable, and you can see immediate results in the SERP.

D: I’ve been your host, David Bain. You can find Anna over at annauss.com. Thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.

A: Thank you so much for having me.

D: And thank you for listening.

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