Some links on this page are affiliate links that will earn us a commission if you decide to purchase their product. If you purchase via one of these links be sure to comment below. We love being able to share the tools we love and hearing about their impact.
I spent some time searching Google (like an absolute dinosaur) today. I was trying to find which plugins and themes are best to use for someone wanting to create a website with the goal of driving SEO traffic through programmatically built pages.
I couldn’t find anything. So, to help you build programmatic SEO websites, I put together a list of my favorite themes and plugins.
I realize a lot of what I share here definitely deserves a deeper dive to provide greater insights. I have plans to do this, but please comment at the bottom of the post to let me know which topics you’d like more detail on and I’ll endeavor to provide more content.
What is Programmatic SEO?
Programmatic SEO is the process of building a dataset and creating web pages from that dataset at scale. SEO takes time and massive organic impact only occurs on sites with thousands or millions of pages. Writing thousands of pages one at a time would take years. How does a one-person band get to millions of pages with limited resources? Programmatic SEO.
How does it work? The following steps are typically required:
If you can do all the above in a low keyword difficulty niche then the opportunities for free clicks from our old friend Google are bountiful. I’ll save the detail of extrapolating the above piecemeal for another time. Today, I want to share the list of themes and plugins I use in WordPress to make this happen.
There are a number of incredible page builders on the market: Beaver Builder, Divi, Elementor, etc. but for the purpose of this post, I am using the WordPress native Gutenberg block editor. It’s been getting much better in recent years and there is a lot of plugin functionality to enhance WordPress’s native blocks.
Every WordPress instance needs a theme. Be that something entirely custom-built by a WordPress designer or something out of the box like the examples below. The functionality of themes varies significantly; a feature you appreciate in one might not be present in another.
While they have many differences, the two themes I use most at the moment are as follows:
You can build programmatic SEO websites with either of these themes and they both come highly recommended. If you want more control out the gate then go for the premium version of GeneratePress. If you like the idea of designing all your page templates from a single view rather than modularly then check out Kadence (also the free version is great but do check out the paid version too for more functionality).
Here are the plugins you will want to get in order to be able to begin building programmatic SEO websites. I’ll sort these in order of importance so you know what to get first and provide details for each one. I plan to deep dive into each of these in later posts too so be sure to sign up for my newsletter to stay in the loop.
WP All Import
WP All Import is the go to plugin for mass importing data from external sources into WordPress. The advantage in using this plugin combined with a Google Sheet/CSV data storage is simplicity. The more desirable method of managing data would be to use a SQL/NoSQL database. However, unless you know how to run SQL queries you might find yourself in hot water before too long. WP All Import is a great no-code solution for managing data and turning it into web pages. As long as you’re dealing with fewer than 50,000 rows then WP All Import should be a good solution.
With WP All Import you can do the following:
- Import data from a CSV file or XML file to WordPress
- Add data into predefined default fields or custom fields
- Import images from external URLs and save in the media gallery
- Setup chron jobs to run these imports automatically (ideal if you’re data needs real-time updating)
Pods (or Advanced Custom Fields)
I think that Advanced Custom Fields gets more press but Pods has been a great plugin for me too. The important part is what these plugins do and their primary functionality is a no-code solution for implementing custom post types. Custom post types are important for managing new taxonomies of data you want to create on your site. Default page types include “Pages” and “Posts”. So imagine you have a website listing homes for sale, you would want to create a “Homes” custom post type and these plugins are the ones to do it.
These plugins also provide crucial custom field additions. Custom fields are a feature within WordPress that allows you to add any type of data to a custom post type. You could add a string, number, boolean, images… numerous different types of data. Custom fields are critical for mapping the data from our database to our pages. Once we’ve added one of these plugins we have a simple interface for creating the post types and custom fields we need.
Gutenberg Blocks Plugins (for extended Blocks functionality)
I’ll list out my preferred blocks plugins here first:
- GenerateBlocks (definitely if you’re using GeneratePress)
- Kadence Blocks (definitely if you’re using Kadence)
- Otter Blocks
- Stackable Blocks (I use Stackable’s premium plugin to inject dynamic data from custom fields)
The image above is showing a selection of extended block functionality within WordPress. If you have used WordPress recently then you are probably familiar with blocks. The plugins recommended above provide additional functionality to a number of different ends.
The main functionality that blocks provides is the ability to add predefined and styled elements to your pages. When we add these blocks into modular elements (GeneratePress) or custom page templates (Kadence) we’re ensuring those predefined styles exist on every page and for every one of our programmatic data entries. If we combine these blocks with dynamic data from sources like custom fields, we’ve got the foundation of a programmatic SEO build.
Some of these blocks have features that overlap so you will want to spend time with each to understand which you need and which you do not. I will feature one of these block plugins that allow for dynamic values from custom fields; Stackable.
The Stackable plugin, the premium iteration, is one of the ways of being able to add dynamic values to blocks via custom fields. I use it for all my sites that need pages built at scale:
The ability to add dynamic data to your page elements is key to building programmatic pages in WordPress.
I’ve long considered SiteOrigin CSS to be the best plugin for managing style changes across your site. You can manually write CSS or use their visual editor to make CSS selections by clicking elements on the page and copying the selector.
A custom code manager like WPCode is useful for dynamically inserting code snippets across your WordPress pages. With WPCode, you can insert code snippets (PHP, HTML, JS, etc.) into specific page types or into distinct sections of pages. This is really useful for adding new features to pages dynamically without having to manually manage them.
Programmatic SEO is the best way to be able to create websites at scale that are SEO performant. This post covering which themes and plugins to consider is only a small part of the programmatic strategy, but it’s an important part too.
I’ll continue adding to this list but please do drop a note in the comments below to suggest any plugins you think I’ve missed or to recommend additional posts from me to go into more detail on any topics.