The Strategic Advantages of APIs for SEO

Posted in

APIs are the greatest open secret in SEO! They allow us to broaden the scope of possibilities by easily accessing data from different sources or providing it to various tools. SEO professionals of varying technical abilities often use APIs to enrich strategic reporting, uncover insights, or even reduce errors and decrease implementation time by automating workflows. Let’s take a look at the different strategic advantages of APIs for SEO.

Automating Your Reporting

One of the most frequent uses of APIs in SEO is the automation of reports. SEO professionals often have many tasks to manage and very little time to spend on time-consuming reports. That’s why APIs can be handy in this case!

The basis of APIs in search marketing is Google Analytics. Most of the tools on the market provide a direct connection with Google Analytics built on the Google Analytics APIs. But, Google also provides marketers, not just software creators, with APIs dedicated to automating reporting.

For example, the Google Analytics Embed API allows you to easily create and embed a dashboard on a 3rd party website in a matter of minutes. Or, the Google Analytics Spreadsheet add-on makes it easier to access, visualize, share, and manipulate your data in Google Spreadsheets. Lastly, the Google Analytics superProxy allows you to share your Google Analytics reporting data publicly.

To go even further than just using Google Analytics, different methods involve a bit of Python, other APIs, and Google Sheets. These methods could assist companies that cannot afford to hire a Data Scientist or invest in a Business Intelligence (BI) tool to automate their reporting.

For example, this great post demonstrates three concrete examples of what it looks like to extract data from a platform with an API and to process this dataset with Python.

Finally, if you are an SEO professional, you probably have a crawler to analyze your website’s data. Even though these tools are a lifesaver in terms of time-saving and analysis, it is possible that you feel limited with the dashboards they are offering. If this is the case, you can use crawler APIs to pull data out of the tool and go further than what is currently available.

Now that we’ve seen how to use APIs to automate your reports, let’s look at how these same APIs can allow you to gather more and more data.

Increase Quantity and Breadth of Data

Another significant advantage of using APIs in SEO is using them to increase the quantity of data for reporting and analysis. To do so, all you will need is a couple of APIs, some Python code, and some determination.

One simple example is using the APIs for Google Analytics or Google Search Console. If you work in SEO, you’ve probably grumbled at the limit of 1000 lines of information. But this limitation, in part, only applies to the web interface. By working with the API instead of the interface, you can leverage much more website data.

For another, more involved example, let’s say that you are looking to automatically monitor your Lighthouse score for a set of URLs within a report. This article highlights a simple way to streamline your reporting workflows right within Google Sheets using Lighthouse’s API, Google Cloud Run, and an Appscript. It’s really helpful because it allows you to have data for different URLs within one place, accessible to several individuals — that’s pretty unique.

This example is specific to Lighthouse, but the same methodology could be used for other machine learning algorithms.

If you’re a busy SEO professional maintaining a social media presence, you may want to automate some of that process. Yet, current tools for automating social media publishing, like Buffer, have limitations. For example, most of them don’t automatically post on Instagram or publish some certain media formats. Well, that’s something you may be able to achieve using their APIs.

This post shows how it is possible to go quite far in the personalization of your automatic publications on your social networks with the Buffer API and a bit of code, be it in text or visual. Using this process, you will be able to access data and features which are not available with the most common tools.

You now know that it is possible to increase the volume of data analyzed and automate your reports through APIs. But what if you need to cross-reference specific data?

Blend Data From Different Sources

With APIs, you can blend data from different sources and cross-analyze information. This is specifically helpful for guiding content creation.

Content creation is concerned with many basics of on-page SEO: article structure, keyword placement, meta tags, title tags, alt text, headings, and much more. These elements and their main KPIs often need to be cross-referenced to audit or create a content strategy. This is where APIs can become a major asset, helping distribute data across multiple sources and tools.

Take, for example, you are an SEO professional trying to find your website’s content performance baseline. For this, you could cross-analyze the website’s data using your CMS’s API and data from Google Analytics. In this process, you will use the CMS API to pull data from each content URL that you’d like to analyze, along with its publication date, just like below:

You could then combine this data with the sessions per content and per day from Google Analytics, and gather all this key information into a Google Spreadsheet to calculate the “normal” number of sessions per day after publication. The full methodology is available here.

Other uses of cross-analysis can simply aim to give you better information by providing context for data. For example, finding correlations between on-page elements that might be ranking factors and actual rankings for your site’s pages will help you determine which SEO projects might have a big impact. To do this for every page in your website, you’ll want APIs to simplify and automate information collection: on-page data for each URL from a crawler, ranking information provided by Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools, information about organic traffic from an analytics solution, and so on.

Connect Tools to Produce a Workflow

APIs provide one additional main advantage to SEO objectives: connecting various tools to create workflows.

This aspect opens up an entire realm of previously inaccessible possibilities. What SEO professional has never dreamed of automatically detecting and submitting new URLs to search engines? To this day, for most search marketers, submitting URLs to search engines is a manual process that can take some time. However, it is possible to automate this task by allowing SEO crawlers to share information, through their APIs, with Bing and Google, using search engines APIs. This way, lists of new URLs found by an SEO crawler can be automatically submitted to search engines, removing the manual steps. This workflow allows search engines to schedule a new crawl of these pages and to index them faster.

API-based workflows, like the one in the example above, use the information obtained by one tool as input for action in another tool. Any case where you find yourself copying and pasting results from one tool to another is likely a good candidate for using APIs to create a workflow.

Maybe you should consider alerting developers by creating tickets or Slack messages when new HTTP error status codes are detected through a crawl or by other tools. Maybe you’ve been looking to automate the creation of tags for articles in your CMS based on frequently-searched terms in Google Search Console to create topic hubs and reinforce your internal linking strategy. Or, you could perhaps collect information about keywords or backlinks from a tool like SEMrush to pre-fill information in content briefs for your writers. These are just a few examples of short SEO workflows where APIs can provide big gains.

What Types of SEO Professionals Use APIs?

The answer to this question is very common in SEO: it depends! Some methodologies using APIs are accessible to all SEO professionals with a minimum of technical basics, even those who don’t necessarily know how to code. In fact, if you’re an SEO professional not already using APIs, it’s likely that you’re using a tool that is consuming them for you.

Some of the more advanced processes presented in this article are better fit for more data-oriented profiles such as Data Scientists, Data Analysts, or Business Intelligence Analysts. Others can be implemented by anyone or simplified with the help of connectors for Google Data Studio, services like Zapier, or platforms like Dataiku or Tableau Software.

Why Should You Use APIs in Your SEO Process?

In any case, one thing is sure: in the coming years, the field of SEO will see the emergence of practices to automate how we obtain, process, and use SEO data. Although we often hear more about machine learning models, NLP, and programming languages like Python, APIs are the means that allow these elements to work with the data they need. The role of APIs in this process, which we could call “Data SEO”, is indispensable.

But as we’ve seen in this article, APIs yield results whether or not you’re working with these more advanced Data SEO processes. From reporting, to the increasingly large volumes of data, cross-analysis, and new workflows, APIs open up new possibilities for automation and connection in SEO. They make it much easier for SEOs to obtain data, report on it, and bridge the gaps in workflows where data is transferred from one tool or one format to another.

This makes it possible not only to save a lot of time on recurring tasks but also to access otherwise inaccessible data. In turn, this helps you as an SEO professional spend more time and effort on strategy, allowing you to find the levers of success for your SEO process. APIs provide an opportunity that continues to evolve thanks to the talents of pioneering experts and the developments offered by the tools used within the SEO community!