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Programmatic SEO: How to increase search traffic with no-code tools

By Luciano Viterale · June 20, 2023
Hero image with an icon of a magnifying glass (search)

When I first started building out my personal blog, I wrote over 100 articles in a two-year span without really generating enough traffic (or revenue) to justify the investment. I eventually realized this strategy was flawed, and if I wanted to scale, I needed to explore programmatic SEO. With no-code tools, I was able to get it done. 

Here, I'm going to dive head-first into the world of programmatic SEO and show you how you can get started without any coding knowledge. 

What is programmatic SEO?

Programmatic SEO is a way to create a bunch of SEO-optimized web pages at once, using existing data and pre-programmed rules. The purpose is to help a website drive more traffic and increase revenue by making relevant (and usually bottom-of-the-funnel) pages easily accessible to your potential customers—but at scale. 

And that's the core of programmatic SEO: scale. 

Examples of programmatic SEO

There are loads of examples you might have already come across, without even realizing it was programmatic SEO: Nomad List, Trip Advisor, and my personal favorite, Zapier

Zapier (whose blog you're on right now) demonstrates one of the best programmatic SEO strategies out there. And it's part of what helped Zapier scale and generate revenue from its organic traffic. Of course, Zapier has a unique use case. Since it's an automation tool that helps people connect thousands of apps, they're able to roll out individual pages for every single app they support, along with every combination of apps.

It's powerful because they can capture users facing an exact problem, at the perfect time, that they're uniquely equipped to solve—(say it with me) at scale.  

Let's take a look at an example.

If you were interested in all the tools that could integrate with Google Sheets, you might search "google sheets integrations" on Google. And Zapier would likely rank in the top position, or close. If you click the link, you'll be sent to the individual app page.

Zapier's Google Sheets integrations page

The page breaks down all the possible integrations you can build with Google Sheets by leveraging Zapier. Sure, it's a broad term, but it's reaching the right people. And it doesn't end here. Since Zapier pages are database-driven (i.e., programmatic), they can go one level deeper and have a page dedicated to each specific integration. 

For example, maybe you've done some additional research, and now you want to integrate Google Sheets with a Notion page you've created. You might then search "google sheets and notion integration," and there will be Zapier again, within the first couple of results. 

Zapier's Google Sheets and Notion integrations page

The purpose of this page is to help you integrate Google Sheets and Notion in a frictionless way. You have a problem ready to be solved using Zapier's solution. Because it's programmatic, there's a page for every type of Google Sheets integration Zapier supports: Google Sheets + Trello, Google Sheets + Slack, and Google Sheets + HubSpot—the list goes on. 

This is replicated across every tool that Zapier supports, which equates to thousands upon thousands of programmatic pages. 

It's clear how this is nailing the goal of programmatic SEO: leveraging content to solve your customers' problems at scale.

The challenges of programmatic SEO

Programmatic SEO isn't a universal solution—everyone would be doing it if it were. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you're considering it as a strategy.

  • Programmatic SEO isn't suitable for every business. The content on the page has to be relevant and helpful, and if your business doesn't lend itself to offering this kind of content, it will be wasted effort.

  • You can inherit a lot of tech debt and content debt. The more pages you have, the more pages you have to maintain. This goes for the developer side of things as well as the content side, needing to be sure the content on the page is up-to-date at all times. 

  • Generative AI is changing things. With the uncertainly surrounding generative AI and how it will affect SEO, it's possible programmatic SEO will become less and less valuable as time goes on.

  • You can't know if it will work until you try. When building a programmatic SEO strategy for one of my businesses, I started by affiliating with other blogs that already had similar pages to the ones I had in mind. I was able to better understand how well they converted, which hedged my risk significantly and gave me enough data to work with.

How to create programmatic SEO pages

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to programmatic SEO, but I'm going to walk you through the process I used—it's easy to replicate and requires no code.

Step 1: Keyword research and content planning 

Identifying keywords is the foundation of programmatic SEO. You'll need to find the head term and modifiers so that you can gauge whether there's enough search volume for keywords that are relevant and profitable. You don't need to find keywords with thousands of searches a month (though that would be nice). Instead, try to find thousands of keywords with some search volume since they're likely to be less competitive.  

You can do this by researching your competitors, auditing customer feedback, and reviewing your jobs-to-be-done. Keyword research tools make this even easier.

Continuing with the Zapier example, it would look something like this:

  • Head term: [Tool 1] and [Tool 2] integration

  • Modifiers: Google Sheets, Trello, Slack (and so on—every app Zapier supports)

  • Pages: Google Sheets + Trello Integration, Google Sheets + Slack Integration, Google Sheets + Slack Integration, and so on.

Before you continue, I highly recommend validating whether this strategy is going to work. You can do what I did and work with affiliates that are already ranking for these pages, or you can run Google Ads on the specific keywords. There's no point rolling this out if you can't generate a return on your investment. 

Step 2: Design your page template

Before you can begin building the database of content, you need to know what the page will look like (so you know what content you need). The goal should be to meet the user intent and ensure your page is complete, accurate, and helpful. If you skip this step, you run the risk of Google no-indexing these pages.

I personally use Canva Whiteboard to create wireframes of what I envision the pages will look like, including the specific pieces of content required. But you can use any sort of wireframe or design tool that works best for you.

Luc's design in Canva Whiteboard
This is an example from my personal Canva Whiteboard.

You can upload screenshots of other sites that are performing well and find ways to improve and add your unique spin (while still ensuring the page has a great user experience). The more detailed you are in this step, the easier the rest of this exercise will be. 

Step 3: Identify and collect your data 

This step is going to be different for every site. 

Some sites might not have dynamic content, whereas others (like investing sites) have content that needs to be updated every day. You need to be careful not to create thin content, so make sure you've done the research to ensure you have something substantial and unique.

There are multiple methods of collecting data with varying degrees of complexity. The main methods include scraping websites, hand collecting private or hard-to-access data, manual entry, or curating user-generated content.

Triggers and actions from Zapier's Google Sheets and Trello integrations page
An example of unique data from the Zapier website

For Zapier, a major part of the unique data are the triggers and actions for each app. These are dynamic and could be updated frequently—they're also completely unique to the Zapier website.

Step 4: Build the database with content and labels

Programmatic SEO can be executed in many different ways, using many different tools, but I've found Airtable to be the easiest option, especially because the product is designed for users that have minimal database or coding knowledge.  

In this step, you'll use Airtable to start building out the specific fields mapped to each piece of content you want on the page. This should also include the metadata—things like the page title, URL, and description. Since you already have the page template created in Step 2, this should be relatively straightforward: you're just creating a field for every piece of content on the page. But straightforward doesn't necessarily mean quick—it'll take time since you'll have hundreds of rows to populate. 

An example of an Airtable database from Whalesynch
An example of an Airtable database from Whalesynch

Images can be a large part of an SEO strategy, so if you want to create custom images at scale, you can use a tool like Placid or Banner Bear (both of which integrate with Airtable).

Step 5: Build the CMS collection and page template

In my case, the website I'm posting to is hosted on Webflow. Once you have an account, you'll start creating a specific CMS collection with the associated fields for each piece of content you want to appear on the page. Make sure to reference your Airtable database to ensure each field is populated. 

The fields in Webflow that will be populated from Airtable

This step can be tricky if you have obscure custom fields, but the good news is that the Webflow documentation is incredibly detailed and accurate. 

Step 6: Connect the database to the website 

By this point, the hard work has already been done. At this point, I use Whalesynch, a highly specialzed SaaS tool that offers deep two-way integrations between Webflow, Airtable, and Postgres. It's an essential tool for building no-code programmatic SEO websites.  

With Whalesynch, the content of your Airtable database will populate the corresponding fields in Webflow—and continually update them whenever your Airtable database is updated. All you need to do is follow the prompts to make it happen.

Step 7: Test the site and make adjustments if required

Once everything is set up, be sure to test whether the site is working in different browsers and devices. You want to ensure everything from the page content to the metadata is structured appropriately so that you give your site the best chance of ranking. 

Try programmatic SEO

Programmatic SEO isn't a silver bullet, but it can be lucrative if executed correctly for the right business. The steps in this guide are high-level, but no-code tools and processes like the ones I describe here don't require extensive knowledge or hours of coding. It's something that can be executed in a week if you dedicate the time to the research and follow the prompts. 

If you want to play around with it, journaling is a niche with a great opportunity, I think. The head term is "journaling for" and the modifier is the use case such as "gratitude" or "stress." For example:

  • Journaling for stress

  • Journaling for gratitude

  • Journaling for mindfulness

  • Journaling for beginners

  • Journaling for positivity

There are hundreds of modifiers you could target, and since this type of content doesn't require specific data points, you could write the content yourself (or with the help of AI) to populate each of the fields. Just be sure you have a clear path to monetization. Good luck!

Related reading:

  • 6 Google ranking factors you can actually do something about

  • How to optimize content for search intent

  • How to rank #1 on Google by analyzing weaknesses in search results

  • The best SEO content optimization tools

  • How to do keyword research on a budget with Keywords Everywhere

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