Case Study 2, Month 7: Upgrading Programmatic SEO Content & Updates
Hey there, LowFruits growers!
(Weird name, maybe? Or okay… ish? Let me know in the comments!)
Dim here with the May 2023 update for my programmatic SEO site case study with Yoyao.
But before we dive into the down-and-dirty details, I want to give you a couple of critical updates:
- I’m starting a weekly email newsletter for online publishers, and I invite you to sign up at Publetise.com. I will be dropping a lot of good stuff there, so don’t miss out.
- Watch out for the next quarterly Barbehow update, my LowFruits low-competition keywords case study, in July. The website is killing it in affiliate earnings, as you will see in the income report for the previous three months once the update goes live.
Now that we’ve gotten the updates out of the way, let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming.
May 2023 Metrics
With a fresh batch of programmatic content live and after Yoyao, a.k.a. Mr. Topical Maps, did some indexing magic in the previous month’s update, indexing is looking healthy.
Here’s what the “Page indexing” report in Google Search Console looks like:
As I’m writing this update, the site has 135 published posts.
113 of them are in Google’s index, and a majority of the ones that aren’t haven’t been crawled by Google yet—and I expect that number to go up once that changes.
The site now has 2 topical clusters with 24 entities, covered by 18 templates used to generate 135 posts.
If you’re new here or just don’t remember the terminology, here it is:
- A topical cluster is basically a category, like Cars or Pickup Cars.
- An entity is a single thing to write about, like Ford F-150 or Ford F-350.
- A template is a Google Docs file with variables for the name and features of the entity.
- Posts are the output of the template and the final pieces of content that users get to see, and the search engine bots get to crawl.
The Difference Between Programmatic vs. Regular Content
Producing programmatic content is similar, and yet different, to producing regular content.
You have to do your research to find a niche that’s broad enough to have plenty of topical clusters or topics, to write about, but also narrow enough to allow you to build up topical authority.
Then, you have to build up a spreadsheet of entities or things, along with their variations and their attributes.
For example, Ford releases a Ford F-150 truck every year, and the specs vary from year to year. The models also have different variants with different engines and features.
Next, you have to identify your strategy. Will you produce one post per model, or will you aggregate answers in a single post that covers all models of a specific make?
There’s no right or wrong answer; you should let the content that Google’s already ranking on Page 1 for your target terms guide you.
There are also technicalities, like selecting a web-based tool or WordPress plugin for your programmatic publishing process, documenting procedures for your authoring team, training them on how to use the tool, etc.
Last but not least, there’s the production. The posts need to be written, edited, fact-checked, and published.
It’s not a shortcut—and it isn’t guaranteed to work. But if it works, it can pay off big time.
The site is slowly but surely crawling its way up the SERPs.
This is what the “Performance” tab in Google Search Console has looked like for the past 12 months:
And this is the data for May 2023:
In April 2023, the site got 160 clicks from 12.8k impressions with an average CTR of 1.2% and an average position of 14.
In May 2023, it got 271 clicks from 25.4k impressions with an average CTR of 1.1% and an average position of 15.4.
The site is growing.
I’ve had seven-month-old sites with 100+ posts that have had much more impressive growth, but still, growth is growth, and it needs to be acknowledged.
Who knows? Maybe this site will turn out to be a late bloomer!
I attribute the reduction in CTR and average position to new content making its way to the lower end of the search pages. But there’s also work we can do—and, in the coming months, we will—to improve and optimize the existing content on the site.
One way to think about programmatic sites, especially in their first year, is as icebreakers, those special-purpose ships that clear the waterways for other boats to use.
But in this case, the site is clearing the waterways for itself. As soon as specific posts start getting impressions and traffic, it’s a good idea to return and make them better than the original template.
“Better” how, you might be wondering?
How to Upgrade Your Content
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Look at the search terms those posts rank for in Google Search Console, then add text, illustrations, or embedded videos to satisfy searcher intent better.
- Run your posts in an AI content optimizer, like Surfer, Frase, or some other tool, and ensure they cover all the entities that search engines expect to see inside.
- Build backlinks. To your home page, to special pages that link to the posts you want to rank, or to the posts themselves. Keep the links high quality and the anchor texts diverse so you don’t end up with a manual action on your site.
I’ve already built and sold one programmatic SEO site, and I’ve seen success with these methods.
Will Yoyao and I be able to pull it off this time?
And just how big can a programmatic SEO site grow?
We’re asking the same questions—and updating you monthly as we get the answers!
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.
Who We Are
Yoyao manages his portfolio of niche and authority sites, publishes the Niche Surfer weekly newsletter, and has a topical map service that helps sites build topical authority and drive organic traffic.
Dim started his first site in 2007, when he stumbled upon a blog about making money online. He’s been buying, growing, and selling sites ever since. Fast-forward to today, and Dim owns an indie media company and runs Publetise, a weekly email newsletter for online publishers.
Subscribe to Dim’s newsletter at Publetise.com