Kelsey Reynolds

Sep 5, 2023

3 Types of Content for Getting Started with Programmatic SEO

a graphic on a pink background displaying a robot with a little pen, ready to write content for programmatic SEO.
a graphic on a pink background displaying a robot with a little pen, ready to write content for programmatic SEO.
a graphic on a pink background displaying a robot with a little pen, ready to write content for programmatic SEO.

When a business unlocks organic search as a user acquisition channel, possibilities tend to open up everywhere. Leads tend to be more qualified, more often; new product pages get indexed and discovered more quickly; and press can start to take off.

It’s no wonder so many companies start a blog early on. Organic search is a strong acquisition channel that’s likely to endure, even in the age of AI.

High-quality long-form content creation — which is essential to success with SEO — can be expensive and very time consuming to produce, however. Keyword and competitive research for a single article can take hours, and then there’s the expense of hiring writers and editors and maintaining a blog or knowledge base.

Enter, programmatic SEO — a faster, more agile way to create tons of relevant content. For many companies, programmatic SEO Is the key to rapid organic growth.

But what kind of content should a company produce with programmatic SEO? This is a common question we receive at daydream. Generally, we think of three categories of article topics that are a great fit for getting started:

  1. The Field Guide: articles that introduce readers to products and services in your field

  2. The Internal Explainer: articles about a product or service you have internal data on

  3. The Comparison: articles that differentiate your product or service from the competition

These articles fit neatly into what we call “The Programmatic SEO Sales Enablement Funnel.” While readers might not follow the sales funnel neatly, all of these articles are a good fit for finding readers via organic search at any stage in the buyer’s journey. Plus, they’re great article types to have around for your sales team to share with leads at each stage of the sales funnel.

In this article, we’ll explore each type of article and how to generate hundreds or thousands of new, lead-generating pages with programmatic SEO.

Wait, what is programmatic SEO?

Programmatic SEO is a strategy for scaling content that involves using head keywords and modifiers to create dozens, hundreds, or thousands of search optimized web pages.

SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization, an acquisition strategy, not a method of content production. Sometimes business owners or marketers say they need to “do SEO,” but that’s a misnomer. What they really mean is that they need to create web content designed to attract traffic from search engines like Google or Bing.

Optimizing that content for search means making it more likely that people will discover the content when they search relevant terms. When a television broadcaster produces content titled “Live TV to watch in Austin, TX,” they’re hoping that people searching Google for live TV to watch in Austin will land on their page. They’re targeting keywords like “tv in Austin, TX” or “what’s live on TV in Austin, TX.” In this case, “doing SEO” involves creating one page that presents a reader with live television to watch and doing competitive research to make it likely that that content will rank on Google for relevant search terms.

Programmatic SEO, however, is a method of content production that relies on general SEO as an acquisition strategy. Rather than producing one article about live television programming in one city, you’d use data to produce pages that offer live television options in ten cities, all the cities in a state, all the cities in a country, or even all the cities in the world, depending on the data at your disposal.

To “do programmatic SEO,” you need to have:

  • a head keyword, like “live tv to watch”

  • a modifier, like [CITY], to make your full title “live tv to watch in [CITY]”

  • original data, which in this case would look like live TV programming in each city you’re targeting

The daydream team did almost exactly this exact example for Flixed, a site dedicated to helping users find the television content they want to watch — be it on streaming or live TV. We created around 1.5K programmatic pages targeting local channel availability, which ended up ranking for 30K keywords and generating 22.5K monthly visits.

While the TV availability example requires a lot of data, the use cases for programmatic SEO can actually be much simpler and require far less data. We’ll dive into those use cases later in this article.

Before you get started, though, we have two points of caution to offer.

1. Not every business is a good match for programmatic SEO

Personally, I’m a big believer that most businesses are good candidates for programmatic SEO. I’ve spent my career helping businesses create content for organic search — both in-house and as a freelancer — and I’ve seen it work for sites in tons of different industries.

You’ll know your business could be a good fit for programmatic SEO if you can easily come up with head keywords and modifiers that feel related to your business.

But before you invest in programmatic SEO, you need to make sure you’re ready to invest in finding good data sources and building strong templates. Programmatic SEO works when it adds value to what’s already readily available on the internet. If you don’t have the time or ability to invest in creating value, you won’t have success with programmatic SEO — or any organic content program.

2. Programmatic SEO doesn’t have to be spammy, but it can be

Some people think all programmatic content is spam, but that’s an extremely limited view. I blame that impression on the lack of understanding many businesses have about how to produce high-quality programmatic content.

Google’s spam policy states that spammy auto-generated, or programmatic, content is:

content that's been generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value; instead, it's been generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings and not helping users.

This is not the type of content we’re talking about in this article. To keep your programmatic content out of the spam pile, you absolutely must:

  1. source from original data or combine existing data to say something new

  2. cite your sources

  3. provide unique value to readers on each individual page

If you simply scrape other websites an duplicate their content without citing sources or create gateway pages to trick Google, your domain authority will tank pretty quickly. Plus, your site will start to feel spammy and your brand will start to degrade.

What makes a topic a good fit for programmatic SEO?

Put simply, the best topic for programmatic SEO is both:

  • reproducible with data, meaning you can produce at least ten similar pages with the same head keyword

  • something you’re an expert on, so you have original data you can pull from

If you have an article idea that seems to fit within that criteria, it might be a good fit for programmatic SEO.

Some articles, though, like profiles of your team or case studies about your customers’ successes, are not a good for programmatic SEO. They can be made into series, so they might feel reproducible, but they’re not built from data. They’re best researched and written by people.

To help you identify content you might be able to produce with programmatic SEO, let’s dive into each of the three article types, how to make them work, and some examples.

Field Guides explore related products and services

A Field Guide is a programmatic SEO article series that positions your brand as an expert in your field by explaining related products and services. Think, articles by a marketing agency that explain all different types of marketing — from content marketing to brand marketing to SEO. Or, one article about each type of endangered species by a wildlife conservancy organization.

The goal of the Field Guide is to find people in your target audience before they fully know they’re looking for your product or service. This searcher has an interest in marketing or knows they need to do some marketing, and they’re looking to learn about marketing types. Or maybe they’re concerned about an endangered species they saw on a TV program, but they aren’t yet thinking about make a donation to a conservancy group.

In most cases, the content you generate for this audience would be considered “top-of-funnel.”

This type of programmatic content needs to be extremely informative and well-sourced in order to rank and succeed in educating users on the topic at hand. The better-sourced the content, the more likely your company is to come off as an expert. For this type of content, you’ll rely on a lot of outside sources, and you’ll cite and link to them, which can be great for content promotion and networking.

How to do it

If you have a sales team, our number one tip is to start by asking them what they wish customers knew about your niche before those customers came in as leads. Often, they’ll say something like, “We wish they knew what a SaaS integration could actually do for them,” or, “It’d be great if they already knew how to refer to the problems they’re having.”

That conversation with your sales team is often enlightening — and sets you up for producing content sales can actually use! If you don’t have a sales team, you might be close enough to your product or service to know what you wish customers knew before they came to you.

The end result of this conversation is usually a list of potential topics, like:

  • what is [type of tool, product category, service]

    ex: “what is [generative AI]?” or “what is [a Brazilian wax]?”

  • benefits of [type of tool, product category, service] for [customer type]

    ex: “benefits of [gratitude journaling] for [teens]” or “benefits of [accounting software] for [freelancers]”

  • X types of [type of tool, product category, service]

    ex: “5 types of [power drills]” or “3 types of [project management tools]”

The best part of these articles is that you can produce a lot of them — at the end, you’ll introduce your reader to your product or service, but you don’t need to have internal data on each and every topic. You could (and should) produce content about products, problems, services, tools, etc. that your company doesn’t offer or solve for. The goal is to educate your leads and help them see you as a knowledgeable resource.

Any of the above would be a great candidate for a Field Guide programmatic SEO series. You can then make a list of your modifiers, collect any internal data you have, and either start generating content on your own or reach out to the daydream team to see how we can help you speed up content production and maintain your content.

Internal Explainers rely on internal data

An Internal Explainer is a programmatic SEO article series that relies on your company’s internal data to generate content. Think, one article explaining each of your SaaS product’s integrations. Or, one article for each of the coffee blends you sell at your coffee shop.

The goal of the Internal Explainer is to target searchers who are already looking for products or services you sell. They might not know to search your brand’s name, but they already know that they’re looking for a tool that integrates with something else in their tech stack, or they know they want to drink coffee from Costa Rican beans.

In most cases, the content you generate for this audience would be considered “mid-funnel.”

Your reader is probably getting close to making a purchase, but they’re not quite sure where to go to do it. Presenting them with a really in-depth guide to how your product or service works is a great way to stand out from your competition. They won’t need to book a call with anyone or spend any money to understand key aspects of your company.

How to do it

Once again, turn to your sales team. Or, turn to your product or service catalog. Either place is a great start for understanding what you could generate content about. If you have a sales team, ask them what makes potential leads drop off. If leads are abandoning ship before learning which of your products is the right fit for them, you’ve hit on something.

If you’re looking through your catalog for inspiration, look at each of the product or service categories you offer, and consider which one is the most complicated, with the most offerings. This is probably a good place to start.

You’ll end up with a list of topics that looks something like this:

  • X things to know about [specific product type, service niche]

    ex: “10 things to know about [chicken eggs]” or “5 things to know about [marketing a small business]”

  • how to know if [specific product type, service niche] is a good fit for [customer type]

    ex: “how to know if [landscape design] is a good fit for [homeowners]”

  • why [company customers] love [specific product type, service niche]

    ex: “why [parents] love [Uppababy strollers]”

You’ll notice that instead of simply naming a product or service category, like we did with the Field Guide article topics, we’re naming specific products or services. The internal explainer should be as specific as possible. Rather than writing about all the SaaS integrations that are remotely related to your product or service, as we did with our Field Guides, you’d only create content about the specific SaaS integrations that work with your product, for example.

Any of the above topics would be a great candidate for an Internal Explainer programmatic SEO series. You can then make a list of your modifiers, and start collecting internal data. Internal data is key here. You might want to compile a CSV file with customer reviews and feedback on each of the subjects you plan to write about, so you can create really original content that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the web.

Then, either start generating content on your own or reach out to the daydream team to see how we can help you speed up content production and maintain your content.

Comparisons position you amongst the competition

A comparison is a programmatic SEO article that aims to set your product apart from your competition. It’s the most straightforward of the above article types, and usually comes in the form of “[Target Company] vs. [Competitor],” or even, “[Competitor] alternatives.” Think, articles that compare your SaaS platform to each of your competitors’ platforms.

The goal of the Comparison article is to attract customers who are looking to make a purchase but aren’t sure whether they should work with you or your competitors. If you’re trying to enter a crowded market, producing articles in this type can also help you attract customers who are looking for alternatives to your more-established competitors.

To some companies, this can feel like a risky type of article to produce. Stakeholders wonder, “should I really be naming my competitors and calling them out?” But this is actually an extremely common article type with very little risk if you use publicly available data to draw your comparisons.

SaaS companies like Mailchimp produce lots of comparison articles to set themselves apart from the competition, so they can rank in Google search when potential customers search for their competition.

The key in producing content like this is to rely on reviews to show what customers’ real experience is, and to not disparage your competitors. Instead, you want to position your competitor as a good fit for customers outside of your target demographic, and your own product or service as a good fit for your target customer.

In most cases, the content you generate with this article type would be considered “bottom-of-funnel.”

Your reader is probably considering you or your competitor for a purchase, and it’s your job to sway them in your direction. Apart from being useful for organic search acquisition, this is among the most impactful content you can pass along to your sales team. If a lead ever says to them, “But how is your product different from X?” they can look through your existing content to find the appropriate article and send it right over.

How to do it

Of the three article types in this guide, ideation for the Comparison is by far the simplest. All you really need is a list of your competitors. You probably know this list inside and out, and all you have to do is write it down. You can also use keyword research tools like Ahrefs to find a list of your organic search competitors and add them to the list. You’ll either want to format your articles as:

  • [Target company] vs. [Competitor]

  • [Competitor] alternatives

In the first article example, you get to frame your company as a better version of each of your competitors. This is a great article type to start with if people search for you about as much as they search for your competitors, or if your sales team often hears about a single competitor.

The second example, “[Competitor] alternatives,” is a great fit if you aren’t yet quite as established in your field as many of your competitors. This article type is slightly less conversion-oriented than the first, as you’ll present several alternatives, your own company among them, and readers might choose another of the alternatives instead of your brand. But this is a great way to pick up traffic from searchers who might not (yet) be aware of your brand at all.

You can then collect any internal data you have, customer reviews, and start looking at where publicly available data on your competitors might be. Then, either start generating content on your own or reach out to the daydream team to see how we can help you speed up content production and maintain your content.

Get started with programmatic SEO with an explainer, guide, or comparison article series

The three article types we’ve explored in this guide — the Internal Explainer, the Field Guide, and the Comparison — are each great ways to get started with programmatic SEO at each stage of the buyer’s journey. You don’t need to get started with all three at once — and there are actually technical advantages to releasing articles slowly, rather than thousands at a time.

Start thinking about what type of content you’d like to produce first, and then join the daydream waitlist or subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about how we can help.

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© 2024 daydream Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2024 daydream Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.