B2B brands need to tap into SEO to support long-term, sustained growth. While traditional methods of SEO are still necessary to reach the right people and generate consistent leads, it takes time, skill, and consistent effort to build results. For some, programmatic SEO seems like a solution. Is it?
Programmatic SEO is a more complicated process that incorporates the use of machine learning and data to understand online behaviour, allowing for far more targeted, efficient advertising. It aims to hyper-segment this data and then publishes a large number of landing pages to address specific groups or individuals.
Perhaps the most prolific programmatic SEO can be seen with a simple travel-related search, such as “things to do in Las Vegas.” This pulls up dozens of sites but often will have some specific key players at the top, like TripAdvisor. That’s because this organisation has developed a landing page for each location. The same applies to B2B topics – they can be used to create numerous pages to dominate search engines, which ultimately promises to lower costs. Does it work? Is it better than traditional SEO techniques that are more focused on specific target keywords?
Before you invest in programmatic SEO for complex B2B topics, recognise the value and limitations of how it works and what it can provide to your growth needs.
Pros of Programmatic SEO
Programmatic SEO isn’t just the process of building out dozens of landing pages but typically involves using a specialised formulation of some AI resources and data to make expansion and building decisions. This promises to offer some key benefits, including the following.
Increased efficiency and scalability
What programmatic SEO aims to do is to prove an “easy” way to scale your SEO efforts. It utilizes a uniform structure that is designed to capture a partner search pattern.
For example, Gusto is a good example of the use of programmatic SEO in that it has pages and pages of data and information on payroll calculates that are designed for specific companies in specific states. It uses the same formula to set up each of these pages, which makes the work “easy” to do because you’re not relying on a human to develop unique pages for each of those topics. The result is that this:
- Allows for automation. That means it can typically be done at a rapid rate, allowing expansion quickly.
- It uses data-driven optimisation based on actual information and search insights.
- It allows for the efficient management of large-scale B2B campaigns that would otherwise be difficult for people to manage at this level of efficiency.
The second key benefit that programmatic SEO offers B2B companies is the flexibility to be far more agile in marketing campaigns. It offers the flexibility to adjust marketing strategies quickly. Imagine having to adjust this scale of pages and marketing efforts without automation. It would not be possible to react fast enough to achieve the best outcome.
With programmatic SEO, real-time adjustments are possible. That means it’s possible to make data-driven optimisations in real-time, allowing for faster adaption to changing market conditions or needs. This makes ongoing, updated optimisations more realistic.
Cons of Programmatic SEO
Often, those researching options for optimisation and improvements of their marketing efforts see just one side of the coin. There are benefits to programmatic SEO within the B2B world, but there are also complexities that it can introduce to your existing SEO strategies, and, in some cases, it is quite complex.
Programmatic SEO is quite complicated and technical. Without the investment in understanding what it is and how it works, it will be a costly mistake. It requires finding appropriate keywords, but also gathering incredible data, and then creating an effective template for pages that creates a strong internal linking process and publishing process. Consider some of the most common drawbacks of programmatic SEO.
Complexity of implementation
Perhaps the most common challenge is the complexity of the process. Implementing an effective strategy for complex B2B topics requires extensive technical expertise. Whereas with traditional SEO, most companies, marketing pros, and website developers can quickly and easily learn and build a strong marketing base, that’s not the case with programmatic.
It also requires more than just adding keywords to a simple WordPress blog post. There are multiple systems to invest in, link together, and manage to ensure that it works efficiently (and, in truth, effectively). Without insight into this area, it’s virtually impossible for companies to achieve efficiencies and reliable campaign results.
More so, it could interfere with the existing marketing strategies the company is using. This is a significant drawback for organisations that are using traditional SEO strategies with solid results. While “upscaling” to incorporate programmatic seems like the more efficient model for the long term, it will create alterations in optimisation that could impact the current growth and strong presence achieved through traditional methods.
Lack of human touch and creativity
It’s an understatement to say that programmatic SEO for complex B2B topics relies on automation, which often means using AI to create complicated, comprehensive pages. So what? Why is that a problem?
The ultimate goal of all SEO is to produce leads and/or sales. That means that you’ve wasted time and money, no matter how reliable your strategies are in driving people to your website if you cannot “make the sale” on the actual content page. A key component of that is the importance of adding human touch and creativity to each component of your project.
Most people have read an owner’s manual for an appliance. It’s boring and certainly, nothing that’s going to encourage you to take any action. The same applies to dozens of pages of content that are written by an artificial device. It’s going to be very static, very basic, and oftentimes quite boring.
That may not always be important for, for example, a website about car batteries for commercial trucks. Yet, if you are selling your legal services to high-end clientele or you are trying to persuade a company to utilise your manufacturing services, you need to engage with and connect with the actual human reading the page.
This can be a costly limitation to a company’s SEO efforts if they do not adjust their strategies for it. Any lack of human touch and creativity creates dull content that’s not memorable. It doesn’t build your brand nor help encourage your readers – who likely have dozens of other alternatives – to invest in your services.
Potential for data inaccuracies and biases
Another complicated and disappointing feature of programmatic SEO is that it lacks any human observation. That is, the only way for it to work efficiently is to pull data from other online sources. Do you know if all of those sources are accurate? If, for example, you were creating a website about various manufacturing additives and provided inaccurate information on one of those pages, could it cause a liability issue? Could it be an embarrassing inclusion that leads would-be customers to believe your company is lacking in experience?
Data inaccuracies are coupled with the risk of biases. Ultimately, information must be factual to be valuable and to meet all compliance requirements (especially in certain industries). With programmatic SEO, you are certainly creating quantity, but there’s the ongoing risk of a lack of accuracy and legitimacy that must be considered.
Risk of over-reliance on automation
Automation brings efficiency to your operation. However, if you rely too heavily on it as a sole component of your SEO strategy, without enough human oversight, this can lead to incredible missed opportunities. It can also create a lack of adaptability without that human oversight.
Automation is just that – it is automatic and without a lot of hands-on updating. The problem with this is that if you do not have someone managing the SEO campaigns and gathering data on the industry, recognising changes in market conditions, or looking forward in the market you are in (rather than the backwards-only view that AI can provide), you’re missing opportunities to capture your target audience.
One of the worst outcomes of this isn’t just a drop in traffic or a lack of new leads but an impact on the brand’s reputation. For example, to be a thought leader within your industry, you absolutely must put focus on what’s new, coming, and growing. If your content is lacking in real insights, that leads to costly losses in brand integrity.
Technical, duplication, and cannibalisation
Another key concern is the technical limitations that come with programmatic SEO. These can lead to more challenging issues, and it is often much harder to find a resolution to these concerns. Ultimately, mistakes and challenges here, especially those you do not catch, can lead to poor website performance and a limited ability to rank.
For example, when adding hundreds of pages of content (or more) to a website, this could lead to a slower crawl speed, especially if the content is of “low quality”, which means it will take Google quite a bit of time to index those pages (there’s no fast result here especially when modifications are taking place consistently).
Keyword cannibalisation is another serious implication of this form of SEO. It occurs when you are trying to rank for a specific keyword on your website, and you use that keyword on multiple pages like programmatic encourages. Doing that doesn’t seem like a problem, but ultimately, each one of these pages is competing for the same keyword, and that drops your overall ability to rank high in the search engines for it. The Search Engines don’t know which page to rank higher for the keyword, and that may mean a drop in ranking which ultimately means lower website traffic occurs.
There’s also the risk of tapping out your crawl budget, a specific allowance of crawls that Google will assign to a website based on whether it is a new site and based on other factors like update frequency, the number of pages on the website, and the link authority assigned to it.
What Can You Do to Make Programmatic SEO Work?
Is the investment in programmatic SEO worth it to your organisation? For organisations, it comes down to a few specific things. This form of optimisation isn’t one to write off, but it’s not one to simply make a move to and forget it. Here are some insights into how to find a balance between your programmatic SEO and other SEO strategies to ensure the best possible results, especially when dealing with complex B2B scenarios.
Allow it to inform your decisions
Utilize programmatic SEO as a tool to gather data. Use it to inform you about the options. Then, make human-based decisions. This will allow the tools to do the “hard work” that is often time-consuming for you, like research and data collection, but allows for humans to make decisions and include this information as part of their holistic SEO strategy.
Ensure your content isn’t duplicate
These are two core issues that limit the success of such campaigns. Ultimately, be sure that any page templates you use and text snippets are kept clean and not repeated dozens of times. You don’t want Google to ban your site for duplicate content.
Improve the quality of the content
Poor content does not turn website visitors into leads, and that is a costly mistake for any organisation. You must create a website that is user-friendly, easy to read, and simplistic to navigate. Otherwise, you could be losing the target audience you’ve put all of this effort into generating.
The main goal of programmatic SEO is to attract search engines and a very targeted B2B audience to your site. Use it as a starting point, a component of your efforts, but don’t allow it to overstep factors like your brand integrity, your engagement with site visitors, and your overall reputation for being accurate and responsible. Finding this balance means investing wisely in these areas and also continuing to invest and structure the proven strategies of traditional SEO for B2B organisations.