When I first started out in the 90s, I wanted to showcase my work. So I posted critiques in discussion forums with the hope that prospective clients would see my work and hire me. I also did it because I loved doing it.
Today, I’ve decided to do it again. I’m going to randomly select plastic surgery websites and do a quick, high-level SEO audit on them. Hopefully, you will learn something you can apply to your own website.
I select these “auditees” at random. That sounds too much like “oddities” (aren’t we all?), but at least it’s better than “victims.” Anyway, I just typed in “plastic surgery” into Google and selected whatever came up.
Since I’m in Ottawa, OttawaPlasticSurgery.com was the top one.
Granted, I’m picking a highly ranked website that may have hired an SEO consultant or agency already. It’s going to be educational nonetheless. Plus, I didn’t plan this and I’m writing it as I critique the site for the first time.
I want to be completely agnostic. No stats, no inside knowledge, no connections. Plus, everything is public knowledge. So by posting this publicly I’m not stepping on any toes or crossing any lines.
If it’s already doing well, there might not be much here. (And if there is, I’ll say so.) But I prefer to pick websites I’ve never worked with. Next time I’m going to select a deeper SERP (search engine results page) like page three or seven, and randomly throw a virtual dart at one.
Second, this is only a really brief audit.
My 360° SEO Audits go far beyond this, sometimes resulting in 20-50 pages (or 2-3 hour videos). But it might give you some insights into how I work, what I find, how I think, and how you can apply these to your website.
Here we go.
Using Screaming Frog SEO spider crawler, I found a few things.
- The site crawled 188 internal HTML pages in total. However, some of these pages are redirects and contain mixed versions:
- Redirects are pointing to their proper versions, which is good. However, they are sending mixed signals and create unnecessary redirect chains. I would do a full sweep, search-and-replace, and change everything to “https://www” (since that version is the canonical one).
- I also see there are 24 redirects. Many of them are improper base folders, likely based on a switch in taxonomies. Same idea with the previous point, which is that it may be wise to fix those URLs internally. For example:
- /case-study/ and its subpages redirected to /case-studies/
- /treatment/ and its subpages redirected to /treatments/
- Using BuiltWith.com, I see they’re using WordPress, which might explain the issue. Typically, custom post types are not properly configured, where the plural is the taxonomy name and the singular is used for individual pages. Either way, this needs to be fixed.
- The site contains 404 errors (dead pages or pages that were changed), which should be redirected, and the internal links should be updated.
- There are also five internal redirects. Redirects are good as they help Google and backlinks point to the proper page. But if the links are internal, they should be corrected as internal links are strong signals.
- The site seems to have a multitude of duplicate meta-descriptions tags. While they’re not ranking factors, they do help clickthrough rates (CTRs), which do indirectly contribute to higher rankings.
- Finally, 14 of the pages are wrongly canonicalized, meaning they are telling Google that other pages are the correct pages to index but they link to nonexistent pages, probably from a development site of the previous designer that were not properly updated:
After deleting all the errors and redirects, we’re left with 140 indexable pages. The most content-rich are treatment pages that describe the procedures, including expectations, case studies, and FAQs at the bottom. Each treatment comes with a clear call to action to “request a consultation.”
About 70 pages are case studies. Lots of proof with before-and-after photos, but the content is thin and weak. There’s a short paragraph describing the patient and their case, but I would have expanded on that a bit more.
I would perhaps 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. It would also create a lot of good content with keywords for better visibility.
Visually, the user interface (UI) is good. The site is well-designed and easy to navigate on both my desktop and smartphone. The navigation is focused on body parts, with submenus leading to procedures.
(Remember the “5 Ps of Plastic Surgery“?)
Let’s take a look at what some SEO tools say.
According to Ahrefs.com, the site is getting about 895 visitors a month, which is not bad but not great, either. At its highest point, it was getting around 1840 visitors. So traffic has literally dropped by 50%.
It might be the sign of a Google algorithm update, a website migration, a new competitor, or a change in content structure. (Without access to the analytics, it’s hard to tell. I would investigate this further if this was a full SEO audit.)
There are over 1,180 keywords indexed for this website. That’s not optimal. I usually shoot for 10 keywords per page (as an average ratio, not a goal). So about 1,400 keywords in total. (The exception being ecommerce sites.)
However, this website has 118 keywords on the first page. Just a cursory look at their keywords, they have a mix of branded traffic and non-branded traffic.
Non-branded terms are highlighted in green, while branded terms occupy the topmost rankings. This means that the intent is navigational, either for research or for trying to reach the site or doctor in question.
Also, since they are called “Ottawa Plastic Surgery” and it’s in the URL itself, people looking for the topic, not the location, may stumble onto the site. It’s a good thing, but it’s hard to tell if the intent is navigational or not.
Using filters, I excluded the doctors and proper names from the list. The site seems to have about 50 top-10 keywords, with varying degrees of traffic. After I remove location names, i.e., excluding keywords with “Ottawa” in them, I’m left with 17 keywords. None are in the top three positions.
This tells me that the traffic is either largely navigational or investigational. In other words, people are aware of the procedure and they want to get to (or to learn more about) the doctor, the clinic, or the specific procedure.
What does this mean?
Their traffic is already either middle or bottom of the funnel (i.e., users are already aware of the problem, the solution, and the procedure). And this site seems to be catering to that traffic well with the number of case studies, before-and-after photos, and FAQs. So their content is relevant.
Looking at their pages for which they are ranking, the bulk of the highest-ranked URLs are treatment pages. Since I already determined in my initial walkthrough that the treatment pages were the most content-rich, this would make sense.
According to their sitemap XML page, their blog has 30 URLs. I exported a list of all the URLs that were already ranking, and excluded any core pages, treatment pages, and case study pages. Of those 30 blog posts, only five blog posts are getting search traffic, and it’s barely any traffic at all.
EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It is the strongest ranking factor for medical websites. Typically (although, not always), these are usually defined by signals about the author, website, and content:
- Expertise: the author (of the site’s content) has a bio that lists credentials, is recognized in their field, has practiced for a number of years, etc.
- Authoritativeness: the website has links from authoritative websites, valid brand mentions, good external reviews, a positive reputation, etc.
- Trustworthiness: the content is fact-checked, peer-reviewed, well researched, well documented, accompanied by seals of approval, etc.
As far as OttawaPlasticSurgery.com goes, the site does have very strong EAT signals. Each doctor has a page with a bio that lists their credentials, board certifications, even medical research experience. However, Dr. Silverman’s bio has a dead link to a reviews website that’s a 404.
(I would add an author’s bio at the bottom of each blog post and incorporate author schema markup on all articles, even treatment pages, as signals that the content was written or reviewed by a medical professional.)
The site also has 4.6k backlinks, which is pretty healthy. Some of them are strong websites with high authority ratings, such as BBB.org (Better Business Bureau), RateMDs.com, 411.ca, and Medicard.com.
By the way, I’m getting a sense that this site has hired a PR or agency since there are also many press releases, too.
Doing just a quick technical audit, the site is scoring 43%, which is low. There are 777 issues, 184 of which are critical errors. I’ve pointed out some of these errors earlier, including the 404s, the redirect chains, wrong canonical URLs, the mixed versions, and the duplicate meta-description errors.
There are 553 warnings, which are not critical but, if addressed, do help. For example, there’s a lot of missing data, such as alternative texts for images, H1 headers, and open graph data (for sharing such as social media).
This is where the website needs work the most. Page experience (a subset of UX) is going to become a full-fledged ranking factor officially as of May, 2021. If it’s not fixed by then, it might hurt rankings let alone the user experience.
Looking at this initial test shows that the site takes 13 seconds to load and a full 18 seconds before one is able to interact with it.
Having so many photos, which is a vital part of a plastic surgeon’s website, can be incredibly memory intensive. Proper multipoint caching, script deferral, image optimizations, and a content distribution network (CDN), among others, would dramatically improve the performance.
Of course, this audit doesn’t include the full picture. For example, I didn’t cover the competition, keyword research, link profiles, local SEO, 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.
For example, the biggest missed opportunity is the blog. Developing high-quality content that’s relevant and valuable is often the best way to increase visibility, traffic, and interest. Some of the best-performing plastic surgery websites tend to have at least 100 articles or more.
Plastic and cosmetic surgery are rife with questions — questions about costs, photo appraisals, risks, recovery times, and more. For example:
- How many plastic surgeons are there in Ottawa?
- Should I go to a cosmetic surgeon or a dermatologist?
- Who are the best plastic surgeons in Ontario?
- Are breast implants safe?
- What questions should I ask before getting liposuction?
- Who are the best cosmetic surgeons for gynecomastia?
- Is plastic surgery painful?
- Is cosmetic surgery noticeable?
- How do plastic surgeons remove stretch marks?
- What are the side effects of plastic surgery?
These are only 10 of about 200 questions.
Good content with strong visuals that answer these questions can drive highly targeted users who are just beginning their research. Plus, plastic surgery articles can be easily shared on, and amplified through, social media, where most of the visual-seeking targeted audience hangs out.
Hopefully, this was helpful. Please let me know if you would like to see more.