Time for another quick SEO audit of a plastic surgery website. After my last SEO mini-audit on OttawaPlasticSurgery.com, some of you have commented saying how helpful it was. So I’ve decided to do another one.
But this time, I picked one at random.
Here’s how did it: I turned on my VPN and chose “United States” as my country of choice. The VPN will randomly route me to anywhere in the country. In a private browser, I Googled “plastic surgeon,” jumped straight to page three of the SERPs (search engine results pages), and picked the first one on the list.
This SEO mini-audit will be on Dr. Gunnar Thors from Midwest Plastic Surgery Specialists. Remember, this audit will be brief. My 360° SEO Audits go far beyond this. But it might give you some insights you can apply these to your website.
Using Screaming Frog SEO spider crawler, I crawled the site and found a few things. Here are some of my first-glance observations.
- The site took a very long time to crawl. Usually, that’s an indication that pages are taking a long time to load or there are many redirects.
- The site contains 154 total internal pages.
- 51 pages are redirects. Most are 302 (i.e., temporary redirects) and not 301 (i.e., permanent redirects). 302 redirects are fine when a site is in transition or it’s for a limited time. But in this case, they are leading to permanent pages in what seems to be a new patient photo gallery.
- There are eight 301 redirects. I would fix these and change the internal links to the proper URLs. There’s one 404 page, which needs to be fixed.
- Aside from the home page, there are remaining 103 pages:
- There’s a single author page, which is a typical WordPress “author” page. I would set this to “noindex,” although it’s not essential. Also, the site’s author is not Dr. Thors but a staff member, which reduces E-A-T signals (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).
- There are an “about us” page and various subpages. The parent page is a 301 redirect, which is likely from the navigation menu. (I’ll come back to this.)
- There’s a blog section that contains only one blog post, “Welcome to our newly designed website,” dated 2017, and three empty category pages. Obviously, this is suboptimal.
- There are various procedure pages divided into five sections or body parts, including breast, body, face, skin, and men.
- There’s a contact page set to “noindex” (i.e., it’s blocking Google). Preventing a contact page from being indexed is not optimal. It might give a poor user experience signal or restricting important location-based information (such as for local SEO schema code).
- And finally, there’s a patient before-and-after photo gallery, which seems to have two major sections: the gallery page with links, and the photo section containing a number of individual pages.
- The photo selector on the main gallery page (which is also linked from the navigation menu) appears to load dynamically. But it’s poorly designed and the culprit behind the 302 redirects. It doesn’t even work.
- When I click on the left menu to choose a procedure I wish to see, nothing happens. Even in different browsers. This is not good.
- Also, the problem with 302 temporary redirects is, if access to any of the gallery pages is from this page only, any “SEO juice” will not carry over to the new pages since Google may think they are temporary.
- Plus, the gallery pages, which are dynamic, are canonicalized to the main page. So it’s telling Google to only index the canonical URL, stopping Google from accessing the actual photo pages. It might be confusing or blocking Google from further access.
- To make sure, I went to Google, typed in site:drthors.com, and it gave me 70 pages. Since the site has 103 crawlable pages, this means that 30 pages are not indexed by Google.
- Before-and-after photos usually drive a tremendous amount of traffic for plastic surgeons, but the new gallery may not be getting the full SEO benefit. Some gallery pages are indexed. But Google may have failed to crawl all the remaining pages.
- Finally, the site appears to be responsive but the patient photo gallery doesn’t work on my mobile, either. This can lead to user frustration.
Overall, the site is simple. But it contains very thin content. The procedures have some content, but there are no blog posts or articles, and the photo gallery pages have no content at all, other than a title and short description.
As I normally suggest with case studies and before-and-after photos, I would add details about that case’s recovery time, some anonymous info about the patient (i.e., lifestyle, career, pregnancies, etc), or details to make the reader understand and identify themselves more with the case.
You can also tell that the site has been optimized by someone who used older SEO tactics, creating a few hard-to-read pages with keyword-stuffed headings and content. This outdated SEO technique is not a best practice.
The navigation menu is poorly designed. Most of the main links are dead and used for the purpose of opening up submenus. But the submenus don’t open unless the main links are clicked on (rather than hovering over them).
The main logo at the top, which is clickable, is self-referring. So it only refreshes the page instead of going back the home page.
In other words, the site may appear to be a scam or at least not provide a good and safe enough user experience, which may explain why the search engines would rather avoid sending users to it.
Finally, and this may be more of a personal preference, the various “body parts” pages have mixed content. For example, they have a combination of surgical and non-surgical procedures (e.g., facelift and Botox® on the face page, for example). This seems confusing to me.
I would separate those out to make it clear to the user, or perhaps organize and label the content, which would also help rankings. If someone searches for non-surgical injections and lands on a page with surgical procedures instead, the search intent is mismatched and the user will leave, confused.
Let’s take a look at what some SEO tools say.
According to Ahrefs, the site is getting about 77 average monthly visits, which is considerably low. A decent plastic surgery site, even if not properly optimized, should be getting at least 300-500 visitors a month.
Traffic has been rather steady, and judging from when the site was redesigned (spring of 2017), it didn’t do anything remarkable as traffic has in fact stayed the same, mildly increased, or even decreased.
The keywords for which the site is ranking is very telling. First, there are 2-3 branded keywords (Dr. Thors and Midwest Plastic Surgery). But the rest (about 20 or so) are keywords related to a single page on the site that shows “thank you notes” (testimonials) from patients.
The majority of the rankings for “good” keywords (i.e., terms that have volume and are targeted) are only found on page five and higher (position 51+), such as “best plastic surgeon illinois,” “breast augmentation illinois,” “tummy tuck results near Chicago,” “botox injections for men,” etc.
This explains why these “good keywords” have brought zero traffic. They include 45 search terms for a variety of facial procedures (a mix of surgeries and non-surgical injections), 39 for breast-related procedures, 24 for skin (mostly non-surgical skincare), 9 for liposuction, and 14 for tummy tucks.
E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, is the strongest ranking factor for medical websites. In this case, the doctor’s “about” page has a strong bio with good credentials. But there’s no indication that he wrote or approved the content on the site.
Also, his many credentials and certifications should have some external links to the licensing bodies, schools, or associations mentioned.
In my initial crawl at the beginning, there are only five external links, most of which are skincare lines. The lack of external links can often be a poor signal. It’s always a good practice to link to external resources, citations, or websites that complement the site’s content. It’s also a good user experience signal, too.
To paraphrase John Donne, “No website is an island.”
Since the site only has 154 total pages (150 according to SEM Rush, which I assume are 100 main pages and the photo gallery, and the rest are redirects), this means that almost every page on the entire site has issues. In fact, the software found three healthy pages only. Errors include:
- 53 broken internal links
- 36 duplicate title tags
- 19 pages with duplicate content
- 18 errors found in the sitemap
- 7 pages blocked/inaccessible
- 1 page not found (404 error)
Surprisingly, the site is not bad from a Google Lighthouse scan. The biggest snag being the page load speed. According to Google, it takes almost nine seconds to load on a mobile device. Simple caching and image optimization could cut page load time by about half.
According to BrightLocal, there are 13% correct local listings, 40% are found but incorrect, and 47% are missing altogether. This means that the NAP Profile (i.e., name, address, and phone) are all inconsistent. For example, “MidWest” or “Specs” (rather than “Midwest” or “Specialists”), and so on.
When it comes to local SEO, the most important thing is to be consistent. Your NAP profile must be the same across all local listings, citations, and business directories. Otherwise, it will diminish the strength of the signals by confusing search engines, let alone users.
According to Ahrefs, the three biggest competitors are:
- https://www.chadtattinimd.com/ (400 visitors per month)
- https://www.lakeshoreplasticsurgery.com/ (1,200 visitors per month)
- http://northwesternplasticsurgery.com/ (1,400 visitors per month)
As you can see, traffic is 3-10 times higher than that of DrThors.com. Just a cursory look at each website, it’s easy to why. For example, ChadTattiniMD.com has 600 crawlable pages, 100 of which are blog posts with good content. Similarly, the others have just as much content, too.
So it goes to reason that, to compete in his pace, Dr. Thors would benefit from a lot more content around relevant topics.
This is only a brief audit. It doesn’t include any competitive analysis, keyword research, backlink profiles, and so on. I typically include these in my 360° SEO Audit and 360° SEO Strategy programs for plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine. But this quick, high-level audit offers a good deal of information.
I believe this site has four major issues that need to be addressed if it has any chance at driving an acceptable level of traffic.
- The site definitely needs more content. Proper keyword research, a competitive gap analysis, and a SERP analysis will give many clues as to what kinds of content people are looking for.
- EAT signals are lackluster at best. The lack of privacy and security, and poor authoritative signals, indicate that the site is not as trustworthy as Google (and users) would like.
- The user experience needs to be addressed. Short of a complete redesign, the various UX elements such as the navigation menu, the photo gallery, and the various poorly accessible parts of the site should be fixed.
- Finally, conducting a proper sweep and correction of all local listings, and claiming all the citations possible in this local area, would vastly improve this site’s presence. Otherwise, it’s competing against some fairly large clinics in Chicago and clinics with far more visibility.
Hopefully, this was helpful. Please let me know if you would like to see more.