daydream Editorial Team

Jul 9, 2024

Programmatic SEO (pSEO) vs. Traditional SEO

In SEO, two strategies have emerged to help businesses improve their online visibility and attract qualified traffic: programmatic SEO (pSEO) and traditional SEO. While both approaches aim to optimize a website's presence on search engines, they differ significantly in their methodologies and applications.

Defining key terms: programmatic SEO vs. traditional SEO

Generally speaking, programmatic SEO (pSEO) and traditional SEO are two strategies that live under the broader SEO umbrella. Most companies will use a mix of traditional and pSEO strategies to fulfill their broader SEO objective: to make their websites more visible and drive qualified traffic to their pages.

What is programmatic SEO (pSEO)?

Programmatic SEO (pSEO) is a strategy that combines automation and structured data to create a large volume of unique web pages optimized for long-tail keyword variations. For example, G2 uses its database of user reviews and a set of page templates to automatically build thousands of software review pages that fulfill different long-tail searches.

The core principle of pSEO is to capture search traffic from a vast set of relevant long-tail queries by creating high-quality content variations at an unprecedented scale. pSEO typically involves:

  1. Identifying a broad topic with substantial search volume and relevance to the business. For example, in the case of G2 above, the G2 team identified that people were broadly searching for B2B software reviews. 

  1. Generating a list of long-tail keyword variations of the core topic by combining the broad topic with modifiers. For example, in the case of G2 above, the G2 team identified that people were searching for comparisons of different software providers. They generated a list of thousands of search possibilities comparing software A to software B, C, and so on. 

  1. Creating a templated page layout that can be dynamically populated with data corresponding to each long-tail variation. For example,  in the case of G2 above, the team created a “compare page” template that can be dynamically populated with relevant data to fulfill the {software A vs. software B} search intent. 

  1. Creating a structured data set of each long-tail keyword + key details related to the core topic

  1. Merging the structured data with the template to produce hundreds or thousands of unique, keyword-optimized pages.  

What is traditional SEO?

Traditional SEO is a strategy that focuses on creating high-quality, in-depth, manually written content targeting a smaller set of broader topics. The primary objective of traditional SEO is to rank well for broad, informational queries and drive organic traffic from a wide audience. 

One of the most prolific examples of traditional SEO is HubSpot. HubSpot provides in-depth “pillar” pages that cover broad topics within its niche, such as “inbound marketing,” “content marketing,” and “sales strategy.” It also develops a network of related, more specific content pieces that link back to the “pillar” pages. For example, here’s Hubspot’s pillar page, “Instagram Marketing” which interlinks to other related in-depth guides such as “How to Write Good Instagram Captions.”With this approach, Hubspot’s content consistently ranks well for broad, informational queries related to marketing, sales, and business growth. The traditional SEO strategy has helped establish HubSpot as a thought leader in their industry, attracting a wide audience of marketing and sales professionals.

When should I use pSEO?

If your content roadmap involves creating hundreds or thousands of pages targeting specific long-tail keyword variations, this content is a candidate for pSEO. Think about it: if G2 were to create content for each of its software review comparison pages manually, its team would be working around the clock to write, program, and publish thousands of software comparison combinations. This process would be time consuming and costly. Conversely, pSEO offers the following practical benefits: 

  1. Speed and efficiency: By using templates and structured databases, teams can automate page production and create thousands of pages programmatically without overburdening content writers, designers, and other teams involved in publishing content. 

  2. Cost savings: Creating content for thousands of longtail keywords is prohibitively expensive. By automating the process, teams can greatly reduce the resources put into content development. 

  3. Dynamic and adaptable to changes: Hundreds to thousands of pages are created using a single template— this also allows for bulk editing when search algorithms adjust or when new optimization opportunities emerge. 

Below are a few use-case examples of businesses successfully deploying pSEO strategies.

  1. Wise: Generates localized landing pages for currency exchange rates and transfer routes between countries and currencies. They’ve generated over 385,000 pages using pSEO. 

  2. Canva: Creates template pages for various design categories, customized for different use cases, industries, and themes. They’ve created close to 23,000 page using pSEO. 

  3. Zapier:  Produces landing pages for app integrations, showcasing thousands of possible automation combinations between different software tools.

When should I use traditional SEO tactics?

If your content goals are tied to broader brand visibility and thought leadership (i.e., capturing “head” terms or popular keywords that drive high search volume relevant to your industry), traditional SEO is a more suitable strategy. Here’s why:

  1. In-depth research: “Head” keywords are often competitive and difficult to rank for on search engines. Traditional SEO utilizes writers who engage in in-depth research to optimize content based on your strategic goals for that particular topic. For example, Airbnb has successfully targeted the head term "vacation rentals" — a highly competitive keyword in the travel industry. Airbnb publishes blog posts and guides about vacation rentals, covering topics like advice for travelers on what to do in different destinations and tips for hosts on how to improve their listings and guest experiences. 

  1. Unique, authoritative content: Creating high-ranking content for competitive topics often requires unique perspectives and thought leadership. Traditional SEO utilizes writers who can engage with subject matter experts to produce unique and compelling content that keeps visitors on site and encourages backlinks from high domain authority websites. For example, Salesforce consistently ranks on the first page of Google for the highly competitive head term "CRM" (Customer Relationship Management).  Salesforce regularly publishes original research like the "State of Sales" and "State of Marketing" reports, which contain valuable data and insights about CRM usage and trends. This unique, expert-led content helps solidify their authority. 

Deciding how much to invest in pSEO vs. traditional SEO strategies

The decision to invest more in programmatic SEO or traditional SEO depends on a business's content and SEO goals and its available resources. While traditional SEO excels in building brand authority and capturing broad, informational queries, programmatic SEO is well-suited for businesses targeting long-tail keywords.

As the search landscape evolves, with an increasing emphasis on conversational queries and long-tail searches, your team might consider allocating a larger portion of your SEO budget toward programmatic SEO efforts. According to Moz, 70% of all search traffic comes from longtail searches — and this is only expected to increase as more people engage with chatbots, voice chat, and other AI-enabled search tools, which encourage more conversational queries (i.e., longtail searches). 

If you’re interested in working with us to launch your pSEO program and join our growing list of customers, including Notion, ProductHunt, and Tome, email us at [email protected] to start the conversation.

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© 2024 daydream Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2024 daydream Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.