What is programmatic SEO?

    Programmatic SEO is the automated and systematic method for developing website content at scale.


    Last Updated: March 26, 2024

     by Lari Numminen.

    When I help clients with search engine optimization, the one topic that creates most confusion is programmatic SEO. Let's go through what it is and how it can be used with some real life examples.

    What is programmatic SEO? 

    Programmatic SEO is the automated or otherwise systematic development of website content at scale. This process can result in tens (or even hundreds) of new web pages created at the same time in order to answer a large number of interrelated search queries.

    Below we see an example of a programmatic SEO campaign I recently created. In this case, over 450 individual web pages were created automatically in the Webflow CMS by using a database of company information hosted on Airtable. 

    Example of programmatic SEO

    In the above example, it would have taken tens (or hundreds?) of hours of manual copy paste to create each individual web page. Through a programmatic approach the web pages were all created and maintained automatically.

    What is programmatic SEO all about?

    As search engine optimization becomes more data-driven and automated, many content creators use more sophisticated methods for creating content on their website.

    The goal of programmatic SEO is to automate the creation and optimization of web pages in areas where there are many interrelated, but distinctive topics that people research on search engines.

     By creating more content in an efficient way, programmatic SEO reduces manual and repetitive work for the content creator.

    Answering long-tail queries more accurately

    Programmatic SEO is not for everyone. It's typically used in areas where there are  many interrelated so called "long tail" queries or high volumes of uniquely valuable data.

    Take for example a website directory that uses programmatic SEO to create different web pages for local business services in different cities. By using programmatic SEO that references a local business database, they can create individual listings of business services in different cities. 

    - Long tail topics are themes where the person using a search engine is looking for a very specific piece of information. For example, "a pet dental service in London."

    - High volume opportunities come when you have a large amount of unique data that can be relevant for answering people's searches online. In the B2B SaaS space the typical examples are listicles or comparisons where you have a way to give views on many different software services. 

    Programmatic SEO vs technical SEO

    Programmatic SEO and technical SEO are two distinct aspects of search engine optimization, each focusing on different elements to enhance a website's search engine rankings and user experience. Here's how they differ:

    Programmatic SEO:
    • Focuses on automating the creation of web pages to target a wide range of long-tail keywords and search queries.
    • Utilizes software or scripts to generate content and pages en masse, aiming to capture traffic across numerous specific topics or questions.
    • Main goal is to scale content creation efficiently, covering more topics and queries than could be feasibly managed manually.
    Technical SEO:
    • Involves optimizing the technical aspects of a website to improve its foundation and performance in search engine results.
    • Concentrates on website speed, mobile-friendliness, site structure, security (HTTPS), indexing, crawlability, and structured data.
    • Aims to ensure the website can be easily crawled and indexed by search engines and provides a good user experience.

    While programmatic SEO is about scaling content creation to target many queries, technical SEO ensures the website’s technical foundation supports and enhances its visibility and usability. Both are crucial for a comprehensive SEO strategy, addressing different needs for achieving optimal search engine rankings and user engagement.

    Very basic steps for getting started with programmatic SEO

    Programmatic SEO is something that is better done with experienced help. If you're looking to test out the concept yourself, you can follow these simple steps:

    1. Keyword research: Identify long-tail keywords and search queries relevant to your niche. You can use tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to find similar groups of keywords that could be programmatically targeted.
    2. Template creation: Design content templates for pages targeting these keywords. Ensure they can be dynamically filled with unique content. You can start with a simple Excel or Google Spreadsheet. If you want to reference the template I suggest using Airtable.
    3. Automation software: Use or develop software that can generate web pages from your templates, inserting relevant content for each keyword. Webflow has some pre-built automation techniques. For Wordpress you can find many plug ins to enable automatic web page imports.
    4. Content generation: Once you have a reliable database of unique information you can import this to your CMS. Automatically generate content for each keyword based on the template you have designed. Ensure it's valuable and unique to avoid duplication issues.
    5. SEO optimization: Don't forget to optimize these pages for SEO with proper title tags, meta descriptions, and structured data. Tip: You can add these elements straight into your database to avoid repetitive work.
    6. Internal linking: Automatically add internal links to and from these pages to enhance site structure and SEO. It may be helpful to create category pages in addition to individual pages to help your users navigate the different programmatically created pages.
    7. Monitor and update: Regularly monitor the performance of your pages and update your strategy as needed. You can use tools like Seo Surfer to evaluate the quality of your web page template and update in bulk all similar page templates once you have made improvements.

    Risks of programmatic SEO done poorly

    The main danger of programmatic SEO lies in its potential to produce a vast quantity of low-quality, thin, or duplicate content if not executed with a focus on value and relevance. Such practices can quickly draw penalties from search engines like Google, which are increasingly sophisticated in identifying and demoting content that doesn't contribute meaningfully to user experience.

    Websites that rely heavily on automated content creation without stringent quality controls risk being labeled as spam, which can lead to significant drops in search rankings or even complete deindexing. This outcome not only diminishes the site's visibility but also its credibility and trustworthiness among users. Not only that, the overuse of programmatic SEO tactics without a balanced and thoughtful content strategy may result in a poor user experience, further impacting a site's performance and reputation negatively.


    Programmatic SEO is an efficient way to scale up search engine visibility, but you need to know what you're doing.

    When done effectively, programmatic SEO can automate the creation and optimization of web pages to target a vast number of long-tail search queries, aiming to increase a website's visibility in search engine results, drive more organic traffic, and capture potential customers at various stages of the search intent funnel.

    Lari Rounded 200x200

    About the author

    As a growth advisor I help B2B and SaaS companies accelerate organic growth. As a CMO I was able to 22x organic traffic within a year using generative AI in SEO. Could I help you achieve superhuman growth?