Categories
SEO

Passages Ranking SEO With Structured Content

It was a busy week in the SEO world. Google updated its algorithms at the beginning of February, and I had a full plate working with my SEO clients.

Part of this algorithm update is passages ranking, which is now live in US and only affecting a small percentage of searches. Passages ranking is where you can rank based on passages instead of the entire page.

It's no different from the way it ranks pages currently.

However, the benefit is that Google can understand subtopics better and serve pages for more relevant queries. This is a major plus for many plastic surgeons, as most of their content is long, educational content for medical purposes. This makes structured content even more important.

For example, some plastic surgeons will have pages about facelifts as long as 3,000 words or more to cover all the aspects of the surgery (e.g., procedure details, risks, benefits, costs, results, photos, etc). A long-form article can easily rank for 20-50+ keywords as opposed to just two or three like most others.

In a recent interview, Martin Splitt from Google confirmed that passages ranking will help websites with long-form content by basing its rankings on sections of an article rather than the entire article.

You might have seen results in Google where clicking a listing will jump to the section of a page that contains the answer, highlighted in yellow. This is not the same, Google confirms. But it gives you an idea of how they find sections. It wouldn't surprise me if passage rankings will eventually behave similarly.

SEO For Passages Rankings

Should you optimize for passages ranking? Not really.

There's no actual way to optimize for this other than to keep creating great content. If an SEO approaches you trying to sell you on “passage ranking SEO,” it may not be legitimate or, more than likely, it may be just snake oil.

Passages ranking does not have a ranking factor. The goal of this algorithm is to understand content better and to help people get better matched results.

For example, a patient searches for “types of breast implants.” You can have either an article that discusses implants specifically, or a page on the more general topic of breast augmentation (with a section about implants further down) that hopefully is ranking well for those specific keywords.

Until recently, if you had a page about breast augmentation, Google may have indexed it for, say, 5-10 keywords. None of which might be “breast implants.” If a competitor has a page about implants, or a page about breast augmentation that ranks for the keywords “breast implants,” they will outrank you.

However, with passages rankings, you can have subtopics on the same page (say a section about “breast implant types” about a third way down the page), you might rank for that term now when before you did not.

But There Is Stuff You Can Do

When Google crawls your site and these long-form pages, it will try to find and understand subtopics. If your page is all over the place, with disjointed content that's unorganized or fragmented, you're making it hard for crawlers to identify and classify the information it finds.

The goal, therefore, is to group and organize content better on the page, and to delineate those sections clearly using headings throughout. Headings are excellent signals that tell Google what the following section is all about.

If, for example, you had a section on “breast implant types” and the content follows a heading called “What types of breast implants are available?” You are accomplishing three important SEO tasks:

  • You're using a header that may be the same or similar as the query;
  • You're identifying and isolating the section that contains the answer; and,
  • You're also differentiating it from everything else (like “surgery recovery”).

It’s the reason it took me a while to write this because, after the rollout, I wanted to wait to see what some SEO analysts I follow and some ex-Google engineers would say about it and suggest we should do.

So, is there something you can do? Yes.

If your current pages have content that's fragmented, edit or rewrite it to cluster the content around subtopics, and incorporate headers (e.g., H2, H3, H4, etc) throughout. (H1 should be for your headline.) That's it.

Structured Content Also Helps UX

Structuring your content semantically, and doing a better job at identifying subtopics in your content, will help not only your SEO but also UX (user experience). For one, people can find the exact information they want. And for another, it helps accessibility by creating “reading landmarks” on the page.

And UX is a ranking factor if not an influencer.

Plus, if a passage (subtopic) is more relevant than the parent topic of the entire page, it goes to reason that the passage makes the page more important to the user than an entire page, and therefore a more relevant search result.

One client asked me, “Should we create more content to cover all the subtopics, like writing individual blog posts? Or can we simply add to the same piece over time and grow just one page?”

I wrote about creating versus expanding content for SEO before. The answer is yes, but with some caveats and conditions. If the content is truly a subtopic and serves the same search intent, it may be a wise move to add to the primary “pillar” page, which you can expand and refresh.

Refreshed content is often better than fresh content. Now it's an opportunity to revisit your older pages and restructure the content, too, even if you don't do any significant rewrites. It's an opportunity to update the timestamp and signal to Google that the content is now fresh again.

Semantically Structuring Content

I've said it before: SEO used to be about optimizing content for machines, not humans. That worked to a large degree for a long time. But Google wants to give its users great content and a great search experience.

Writing for machines negates both.

Google is becoming increasingly sophisticated with its natural language processing (NLP) and deep learning algorithms (like “RankBrain” and its neural networks, also known as Google's AI). It wants to learn how to read and understand content like a human being does.

So it goes to reason that, by optimizing content for humans (as you should), you are also optimizing it for Google. There's no need to do passage ranking SEO. In fact, the best way to describe how to optimize for any ranking is something I read in an article on content intelligence (and I'm paraphrasing):

Structure shapes content by organizing it as objects rather than unstructured blobs. Semantics is the contextualization of content structures. They define the entities, associations, and relationships for a piece of content.

Other than rewriting content, here are ways to add semantics and structure to your existing content, which will also improve the user's experience:

  • Group content sections around subtopics or ideas.
  • Stick with about 3-5 paragraphs per content section.
  • Break sections up with margins and white spaces.
  • Add headers throughout and before each section.
  • Use shorter sentences and succinct headings.
  • Keep paragraphs short (about 4-5 lines deep).
  • Nest headings appropriately (i.e., don't use H4 after H2).
  • Add visuals where appropriate that relate to the subtopic.
  • Provide short, subtopic-appropriate captions to images.
  • Link content together with internal text and image links.
  • Insert a table of contents at the beginning (see below).
  • Include header anchor tags to “jump” to sections.
  • Add references and resource links at the bottom.
  • Identify the author (i.e., an “about the author” box).

Table of Contents and Jumplinks

You may have noticed a growing trend with long articles where they contain a table of content at the top, a synopsis or summary of the page, or a list of jumplinks to sections on the page by using header anchor tags.

TOCs, summaries (or TL;DRs), and section jumplinks are helpful. With long articles, they provide users with a quick, at-a-glance overview of what the page contains, but also a helpful way to jump directly to the section of interest (rather than having to wade through a bunch of irrelevant content).

Add a table of contents to long content. List your headings at the top of the article and even insert anchor links to jump to each section. For example, I use it in some long articles and some service pages, like my SEO consulting page.

But another indirect SEO benefit is that Google can display a menu of anchor links below your search engine results (SERP) listing. This will increase CTRs (clickthrough rates), which provides Google with positive feedback.

Passages Ranking SEO With Structured Content 1 | structured content
Example of jump menus under SERPs.

Remember that, when you increase CTRs, you indirectly inform Google that your listing is relevant, which has shown to indirectly influence your rankings.

Ultimately, even if the benefit of “optimizing” for passages rankings is not an SEO benefit in a direct sense, semantically structuring your content will help Google understand your content better. The more they do, well, you do the math.

Categories
SEO

4 Local SEO Tips to Boost Your Visibility Locally

Close to two-thirds of the Internet’s traffic is mobile, and that number continues to climb at a staggering rate. Google has adopted a mobile-only approach by indexing just the mobile version of your website and not the desktop one.

Since smartphones come with GPS, this mobile proliferation has proportionately increased the number of location-based searches. Statistics show that 46% of all mobile searches are location-related, with a 900% increase in “near me” searches, reported by Google, in just two years alone.

What does this mean?

It means that people looking for your plastic surgery practice or medical aesthetic clinic will most likely do so from their mobile devices. They are more qualified, too, as 78% of location-based mobile searches statistically end in a conversion (such as booking a consultation or a procedure).

Having a properly optimized site with great content may give you some visibility in the search engines. But if your location is not visible in maps or on mobile devices, you’re losing out on a significant portion of your potential patients.

Out of Map, Out of Mind

Geo-based search engine optimization, also called local SEO, is the practice of increasing your visibility in location-based searches. When people search for “plastic surgeon near me,” “plastic surgery [location],” or “who can I see for [procedure or problem]?” you want your listing to be among the first.

However, smartphones are not the only ones offering geo-based searches. Remember that 90% of desktop browsers are location-aware, and 93% of non-mobile search results with location intent will offer map listings showing up at the top of the page — also called “Local Map Pack” or “Three Pack.”

Local SEO three-pack example of plastic surgery in Toronto
“Plastic surgeons Toronto” result.

If you don’t appear in the top-three positions of location-based search results, you might as well not exist. That’s where local SEO comes in. It’s one of the most effective ways for your prospective patients to find you — and most often, one of the most ignored or underutilized.

This type of SEO comprises four areas. In order of importance, they are:

1. Your Website

Your website must list an exact address and perhaps have a page dedicated to helping people find you. But there are other signals that help search engines rank you according to your location. I’ll come back to this as it’s essential.

2. Map Listings

With major online maps, there are three of them: Google My Business (which includes Google Search and Google Maps), Bing Places (which covers Bing Maps), and Apple Maps (which appear in Siri and Spotlight searches). For the sake of brevity, check out this local SEO article on how to claim all three listings.

3. Data Aggregators

Data aggregators are local data collectors and providers. They scour the Internet for business information, clean it, and compile it. Some provide this data to others, such as websites, marketers, and providers (including GPS navigation devices like Garmin and TomTom). Here’s a look at the top 50:

WhiteSpark's listing of the top 50 local citations to claim for local SEO

4. Local Citations

Citations are any mentions of your listing on other websites. Technically, all the above are citations. But in this section, I’m referring to industry-specific (vertical) or service-specific (horizontal) citations. For example:

Are You Nearby, Relevant, and Valuable?

It's important to claim your listing in as many locations as possible, particularly in authoritative ones. Not only does it increase your visibility, but doing so also increases your ability to outrank your competitors.

Google My Business owns the lion’s share of map-based search queries, which is around 87%. With local searches, Google will rank your listing according to three factors: 1) relevance, 2) proximity, and 3) prominence.

  1. How close you are to the user when they search.
  2. How well your listing satisfies the user’s search.
  3. And how well you stand out from the others.

Obviously, the closer you are to the searcher’s location (proximity) and the closer it matches the searcher’s query (relevancy), the better the chances that your listing will appear. After all, you don’t want a tummy tuck when you’re trying to order pizza — although that might well be the case for some folks.

However, your ability to outrank your competitors in local listings depends mostly on how prominent you are. And prominence comes from external signals, like mentions and links from other sites.

According to Google’s guidelines:

“Prominence is based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business' local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so search engine optimization (SEO) best practices apply.”

Google scans the web to find citations of your business to determine its validity and trustworthiness. It looks for mentions of your practice and links back to your website. Each citation you claim (in a plastic surgery directory, for example) and each favorable review you earn becomes an implied endorsement.

Therefore, citations are important SEO signals.

Keywords Matter Where They Matter

You can optimize your listing with keywords in myriad ways. From the business categories you choose to list under, to the relevant topics you add in your description, these signals help search engines determine if you’re a match.

The worse thing you can do is add keywords to your business name, like “Dr. Jane Smith – Liposuction and Tummy Tucks.” Google prohibits the inclusion of keywords in business names, and it penalizes and suspends these listings when it catches them. Multiple suspensions can also lead to a permanent ban.

As a plastic surgeon, you can have your own listing (i.e., one as a practitioner on top of the one for your practice), provided that you're not the sole practitioner at the same location, or that you practice in separate locations.

But if you're a solo practitioner, you can only claim one listing. It makes sense because you don't want to compete with yourself and dilute your rankings.

However, if you're more prominent as a physician, and your name has more citations and mentions than the name of your practice, you can add it to the business name after a colon, like: “Plastic Surgery Clinic: Dr. John Smith.”

Nevertheless, your description gives you 750 characters to work with. So include relevant keywords there. You can also incorporate them in many other locations — including the services you offer, Q&As (you can add your own, too), posts to your listing, optimized images, and above all, reviews from clients.

Studies show that when customers include keywords in their reviews, Google associates them with your business. Just as adding more fresh content to your website increases the number of keywords you can rank for, the more reviews you get will increase the frequency of keywords, too.

In short, get more reviews.

Accuracy, Ubiquity, and Consistency

As I've said before, the key to dominating local SEO is to claim citations on as many platforms as possible. It doesn't matter whether you’re active on them. Not only do they amplify your visibility and increase your prominence, but they also prevent competitors from hijacking your listing.

Above all, they offer social proof. For example, your business might appear in the SERPs more than once. Beyond your website listed in the standard results and your business in the local map pack, you might also appear through multiple third-party listings such as the BBB, Yellow Pages, RateMDs, etc.

That's the power of being ubiquitous.

However, if Google can't find you because you misspelled your name, address, or phone number (or your “NAP”), or if it's inconsistent across platforms, then you will lose rankings because Google cannot confirm your prominence.

Your NAP is a signal. The more listings you have, the stronger the signal will be. But one discrepancy can dilute your signal, even if it’s a single misspelling.

Accuracy and consistency are key. Inaccurate listings can often be worse than having no listings at all. If Google can’t find you, what does that say about your clients? Use a tool like BrightLocal’s Free Listings Scanner to see if your listings hurt your rankings by confusing your clients. For example:

  • Is it “Dr. John David Smith” or “John D. Smith, M.D.”?
  • Is it “Smith Surgery Center” or “Smith Surgical Clinic”?
  • Is it “45 Somewhere Street” or “45 Somewhere St.”?
  • Is it “New York City,” “Manhattan,” or “NYC”?
  • Is your website with or without “www”?

It doesn’t matter what you choose, just make sure it’s the same everywhere.

Turn Your Website Into a Beacon

Earlier I said that your website is the number one priority with geo-based optimizations. Having a consistent NAP must start with your website, for it is the one Google will use to find other mentions and rate your prominence.

But location alone isn’t enough.

You can enhance your location signals by adding additional snippets of code to your HTML. These snippets are invisible to us, but search engines can read them. Called “schema markup,” this form of structured data helps identify you and your location — including your NAP and your geo-coordinates.

The one to use is the “local business” schema. It identifies you as a legitimate business operating in an actual location. As with the earlier section, make sure the contents are accurate and consistent with your NAP.

Many website content management systems offer tools and plugins that do this for you automatically. But you can (and should) add some manually, too. Use technical SEO’s local search schema markup generator. Once you add it to your site, test it with Google’s rich results tester.

It’s important to claim as many listings as possible, but choose one NAP you will use across all platforms. Having a consistent NAP profile is the key to geo-based SEO success. And it all starts with your website.

Ultimately, local SEO is no longer just an arrow in your marketing quiver. In 2021, it has become as essential as the bow itself. Because if your patients can’t find you in a location-qualified search, you might as well not exist at all.

Categories
SEO

Can Some Words Stop You From Ranking?

In 2002, I wrote about how words can change the meaning of a sentence. In it, I explained that choosing certain words, including formatting, can help give a sentence more impact and even change its meaning completely.

I titled the article: “It's not what you say but how you say it.”

At the time, I wrote it as a copywriter and from the perspective that words give meaning, and that your choice of words can change that meaning.

But since I've shifted from copywriting to SEO as my primary focus, I applied much of what I know about copywriting to SEO. They share a same goal: know your audience, the questions they're asking, and how to answer them.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that this morning an interested thread on Twitter started by some very respected SEOs regarding the use of “stop words.” Stop words are words like “in,” “at,” “the,” “this,” “and,” “ever,” “more,” “only,” etc.

For years, many SEO experts advocated the reduction in stop words to help rankings, such as their removal from URLs. And for while, this was true.

But with today's algorithms, I'm not so sure anymore.

Stop Words Impact Retrieval, Not Understanding

First, writing for SEO is simply writing for your user. SEO is no longer about stuffing keywords into your content, but about understanding your audience and writing for them. By giving them what they want (in the way they want it), you give Google what they want, too. SEO expert Alan Bleiweiss said it well:

Removing stop words can trim excess words and highlights keywords. But removing stop words can also make your content feel robotic, unreadable, disjointed, keyword-stuffed, and annoying.

Back then, the SEO reasoning made sense: search engines look for keywords and use information retrieval processes that look for and pay attention to them, such as TF-IDF or “term frequency and inverse document frequency.”

Without getting too technical (I may be a geek but I'm far from being a technical engineer), it means the number of times a keyword appears on the page, and how important it is in relation to all the other keywords on the page (and across a set of pages, such as the rest of the blog, for example).

That's where things like “keyword density” have become common practice.

TF-IDF is still important (to help in the extraction of keywords, for example). But it doesn't help to understand their meaning. The growing popularity of machine learning (or “artificial intelligence,” although that's misleading) has helped to improve the search experience by understanding keywords.

I've mentioned before that stop words are important for SEO. They give adjacent keywords context and therefore the sentence (or phrase) meaning. Sometimes, a stop word can completely alter the meaning of a keyword.

It's All In The (Search) Intent

Remember, SEO is about matching the reader's search. But while writing content that informs the reader is one thing, doing it in a way that specifically satisfies their search and provides value is another.

That is what SEO is becoming.

It's about matching the intent behind your patient's query and not just the query itself. It's what Google wants and the way Google is growing, as we see with its increasing sophistication in information retrieval and processing using natural language and machine-learning algorithms.

In plain language, it simply means that Google is getting better at reading and understanding information like a human being. Therefore, it makes sense to write for human beings, too, and forget all the search-engine trickery.

So, are stop words important in SEO? They should be, because we, as humans, use them all the time in natural speech. Will it help your rankings? Not directly.

But they likely have some influence.

The greater the match with the user's intent is, the greater the relevance given to a result will be. To determine this, Google pays attention to “implicit user feedback” such as user clicks and dwell times. This feedback helps feed machine learning, which, according to Google, influences ranking factors.

In short, we went from keyword-driven SEO to intent-driven SEO.

Use Natural Language. Naturally.

Back when the web was young, people were slowly adopting the Internet (and computers, too). It made sense to type in keywords into search forms because a) people were learning how to type and b) machines were rudimentary. Searches were entirely keyword-driven for this reason.

But today, we live in an Internet-connected, mobile-first world. We use smart devices, type in complete sentences, use auto-complete suggestions, or dictate queries using voice search into Google, Alexa, or Siri.

So stop words are now more important than they've ever been.

This is where search is going: retrieving content not based on keywords but based on user intent. Since stop words can alter the meaning (and therefore, the intent) of the query, it goes to reason that stop words have a role to play.

Here's an outstanding example.

Similar to my article about how formatting can change the meaning of a sentence, my favourite writing tool, ProWritingAid, just tweeted this example of the way stop words can completely alter the meaning of a sentence.

Can Some Words Stop You From Ranking? 2 | stop words
How stop words can alter the meaning of a sentence.

Provide great content that satisfies your patients' search and user intent, and you also provide a great user experience. In fact, creating keyword-stuffed gibberish you think Google wants will only kill the user experience.

So don't let stop words stop you from writing good, meaningful content for your users. Most times, they're more like “start words.”

Categories
SEO

How Will Video SEO Help Ranking?

One of my SEO clients, a plastic surgeon who specializes in facial cosmetic surgery, wants to increase traffic to his website with video seo. His site has something that most plastic surgeons and medical aesthetic practitioners have…

Videos. Lots of them.

We all know that visuals are essential in plastic surgery. Images are effective, but videos are more effective and credible. They engage more senses and dimensionalize the experience as opposed to an otherwise static image.

This plastic surgeon has multiple procedure pages with videos. But some pages contain many videos, such as before-and-after clips from hundreds of patients.

He doesn't host any of his videos and has them all up on YouTube. However, he doesn't embed them on his page or link to them directly. Instead, his page has thumbnail images of each video with “play button” overlays. When people click on a thumbnail, the video opens up in a fixed Lightbox popup window.

(Lightbox is a script that opens an image, audio, or video in a popup. It often dims the background and shows controls such as a close button in a corner.)

This is a good practice to a degree. The issue is that most videos in Lightbox popups are hard to use, especially on a mobile device. Texts and video controls are tiny and hard to click. If you accidentally click outside the tap area, you risk closing the popup and having to restart the video from the beginning.

This can become a user experience (UX) issue.

To Host or Not To Host (Videos)?

Lightbox may be helpful on a desktop. But it may not be as helpful on a mobile device. Google is looking at UX as a ranking factor and has recently moved to mobile-only. So if a piece of content is unusable on a mobile device or creates more issues, it may be wise to avoid them.

I told him to embed his videos directly on his pages. However, for a page with many videos, using thumbnails that link to them is a good practice. But using Lightbox (this one in particular as there are many types), for mobile, is not.

So when I told this plastic surgeon to avoid using Lightbox windows and embed videos on the page, he wondered if it would be better to host the videos directly on his server instead of YouTube.

A popular opinion among SEOs is that it's better to host your own videos. That may have been the case before (that self-hosted videos are better for SEO). But I'm uncertain that it is true now. In fact, with many of my clients, I'm seeing that it's becoming less and less true.

It is better to have videos hosted elsewhere.

Even if you hosted your own videos, chances are you're using a content distribution network (CDN), which caches your videos at multiple locations around the world for faster loading. (If you don't use one, you should.) Using a third-party platform to host your videos does not differ from using a CDN.

Entirely hosting and embedding your own videos will hurt your pagespeed. With UX soon becoming a ranking factor, slow loading times will hurt your SEO, too.

Embedding Videos Helps Improve SEO

Hosting your videos on an external platform such as YouTube, Wistia, Vimeo, Vidyard, and so on, and then re-embedding them on your website, is like a CDN. Embedding your videos will also boost your rankings for four reasons:

  1. You engage viewers and therefore increase dwell times, lower bounce rates, and reduce pogosticking (i.e., when users bounce back to Google, which tells Google that your content did not satisfy the user's query, which may affect your ranking for that query in the future).
  2. The video provides additional content and adds context (and vice versa, meaning that the surrounding content gives the video with additional context, too), which will both help SEO indirectly.
  3. Aside from YouTube SEO or video SEO (which is a topic deserving its own article for another time), a properly optimized video will include keywords, brand mentions, and links back to your site in the video's description.
  4. By having backlinks and brand mentions from wherever you host the video, and embedding the same video on your site, it will give you relevancy and an SEO boost to your brand.

Third-Party Platforms Help UX

Also, an added benefit is that external platforms have sensors that can detect a viewer's device, browser (or app), and connection speed, and will autoselect the appropriate video size and quality, thus improving the experience.

However, if you have a page with a lot of videos, embedding them will slow the page loading time, even if they're externally hosted. So it might be best to use thumbnail images, just as my client has done, and link the images to the videos.

On a desktop, Lightbox is fine. But on a mobile device, skip the Lightbox and open the video in it's own window, or have the Lightbox open the video as a fullscreen window. This way, the video is bigger, easier to see and manipulate, and prevents any accidental closures.

But one best practice is to embed just one video on that page and link the rest. Embedding is important for the reasons I expressed earlier. But also, Google only shows one video per page in the SERPs. So choose your best video and embed it on the page, and you can use linked video thumbnails for the rest.

Incorporate Additional SEO Signals

Add a video transcript to the page. Not only does it provide an additional modality for those who prefer to read, but also it creates additional content, context for the video, and keywords that may rank for more queries.

Also, add links within the transcript to other pages on your site.

Transcripts provide an opportunity to increase Internal linking and SEO signals. When linking, choose anchor texts that connect with their related pages. This will create topical relationships and pass on equity to those pages.

Speaking of transcripts, to increase your videos' visibility and help Google better understand them, add video schema markup to your page's HTML. It's a snippet of code that will contain all the important data about your videos, including the titles, descriptions, and transcripts, as well as URLs:

  • The embed URL (the externally hosted video such as YouTube);
  • The content URL (the locally hosted video file, such as an MP4);
  • The thumbnail URL (the image, whether or not you host locally).

Create a Map To Your Videos, Too

Finally, create an XML sitemap file to all your videos.

Just like a typical sitemap file that lists all the URLs of all your pages (with WordPress, most SEO plugins will create one for you automatically), create a sitemap of all your videos. This will help Google find your videos faster.

Coincidentally, last week Google has just clarified their position about videos: “Videos embedded from other sources have the same SEO value as videos natively hosted on a website,” according to Google’s John Mueller.

So if you were wondering if hosting your own videos may provide some SEO benefit, now you know it doesn't matter. I would add that the added UX benefits and SEO signals you get from hosting them elsewhere (e.g., more engagement, lower bounces, less pogosticking, etc) will more than likely help your SEO.

Categories
SEO

Silos and Bios: Two Key Expertise SEO Signals

Does your site communicate expertise? Expert content does, of course. But other times, certain key expertise SEO signals that have nothing to do with content are just as important, particularly in the eyes of the search engines.

I recently completed an SEO Audit for an SEO consulting client who suffered from a precipitous drop in traffic last year, particularly around May 2020. A look at this site's Google Search Console revealed that the drop occurred around May 5th, with average daily search impressions being cut in half.

This coincided with a major Google Core Update on May 4th, 2020.

Google updates its core algorithm a few times a year. This major update specifically targeted websites or content related to a person’s health, wealth, or welfare, often referred to as YMYL pages (i.e., “your money or your life”). Aside from travel, health websites were among the hardest hit.

According to Google and engineers in the SEO community, this update was largely in response to the COVID pandemic. Specifically, Google targeted websites offering medical and financial advice, products, and services in an effort to fight disinformation and exploitative/predatory practices.

Many sites were affected. However, Google’s May 2020 algorithm update had very little impact on medical websites with strong E-A-T signals (i.e., expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). Some even received significant boosts in rankings and saw their search traffic doubling almost overnight.

After completing a deeper investigation, I concluded that this client's significant drop most likely was caused by poor E-A-T signals.

In fact, as a cosmetic medicine and SEO consultant and advisor, I've found that strengthening E-A-T is the greatest priority with regards to SEO, and the one aspect that can create the greatest impact for doctors.

So I offered my client some recommendations to improve the quality of their content and E-A-T signals. There are quite a few. But let me list two of them in this article, which are signals I encourage you to add to your website, too.

(Please note that some of these are personal opinions and preferences, and not absolutes based on actual ranking factors. But they have been proven to help. One client with whom I've applied this strategy enjoyed a 400% traffic increase.)

1. Content Architecture

During my audit, I noticed that the site had a “flat” architecture. That is, all the pages seemed to be on a single tier (under the root domain). Depending on the situation, this allows for shorter URLs and can be an effective SEO practice.

However, while I did find a blog index page, there is no discernible blog section. Blog posts reside at the same level with the all the main pages. They all seem to blend together. While this is not bad, it makes it difficult to identify which URLs are blog posts and which ones are pages.

So I recommended creating a separate blog section and a second tier. Having a distinct blog provides a number of benefits, from isolating blog posts from the rest of the site (which is helpful in tracking and analytics) to improving the user experience. Some have reported that this change alone improved traffic.

There are two ways to accomplish this.

Create a Blog Subdirectory

My client's site uses WordPress as its CMS. Therefore, accomplishing this is relatively simple. Set your WordPress permalinks from /%postname%/ to custom with /blog/%postname%/. Here’s how the site structure would look like:

michelfortin.com/
michelfortin.com/page1/
michelfortin.com/page2/
michelfortin.com/page3/
michelfortin.com/blog/
michelfortin.com/blog/post1/
michelfortin.com/blog/post2/
michelfortin.com/blog/post3/

Although not essential, the blog directory can be renamed to something helpful to the user, such as “tips,” “resources,” “content,” “articles,” “education,” etc (except for “news,” which should be reserved for news, press releases, and media mentions). It can also contain keywords, like “plastic surgery tips.”

Set a Category as The Base

If you choose this option, first make sure you don't have a category name that conflicts with plugins, scripts, or other directory names. For example, if you have a category named “liposuction” and you have a page named “liposuction,” you might want to change the category to “liposuction surgery.”

If there are no conflicts, then set your permalinks from /%postname%/ to /%category%/%postname%/. This will make blog posts appear under their primary (or single) category folder. For example, the structure would then look like this:

michelfortin.com/blog/
michelfortin.com/category/post/

Single blog posts would look something like this:

michelfortin.com/category1/post1/
michelfortin.com/category1/post2/
michelfortin.com/category2/post3/
michelfortin.com/category2/post4/
michelfortin.com/category3/post5/
michelfortin.com/category3/post6/

Since categories contain keywords, this will help add some additional keywords to the URLs. Granted, the jury is still out on whether this is a ranking signal, but it does provide search engines with better context, which does help.

If you have a post assigned to multiple categories, only one will be used. WordPress by default sets the primary category as the one with the lowest ID number. But you can also specify another category with the help of plugins. There are some category plugins and SEO plugins like Yoast and Rank Math.

Content Siloing For SEO

This is part of an SEO philosophy called a “silo site architecture.” Content silos provide a better user experience and give Google more context. Silos organise the content into groups; make navigation more logical and orderly; and reduce the time it takes for visitors to learn how to navigate the site.

Here’s an example of what a blog post would look like:

domain.com/blog/are-breast-implants-permanent/

If the above has “breast augmentation” as its primary category, it will become:

domain.com/breast-augmentation/are-breast-implants-permanent/

The blog is not the only section that can be organized into silos. The website may have multiple pages that fall under a certain category, too.

For example, many plastic surgeons have a series of pages organized around a certain criteria, such as the “conditions” they treat, the “treatments” they offer, and/or the “areas” of the body they focus on. So if “facelift” was a master topic as a procedure, child pages might look like this:

example.com/facelifts/facelift-surgery/
example.com/facelifts/facelift-recovery/
example.com/facelifts/facelift-cost/
example.com/facelifts/facelift-photos/

However, this should be done with care. I recommend first mapping all the URLs and then properly redirecting old URLs (i.e., via 301 redirects) to prevent losing any page authority. Then, search and replace internal links to their new destinations, and a final crawl to check for broken links.

2. Author Credentials

Google's raters are people who gauge the quality of a site's content to help confirm if Google's algorithms are doing a good job. They do so by looking at a website's level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Any information that can affect a person’s health or welfare has to be written or reviewed by someone with medical expertise. According to Google:

“Medical advice or information should be written or reviewed by people with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.” “Specific medical information and advice (rather than descriptions of life experiences) should come from doctors or other health professionals.”

Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines

After Google's 2018 core algorithm update (i.e., the “medic update”), medical and health websites showing no proven expertise have lost considerable rankings because of their lack of E-A-T. With COVID and Google's attempt to fight disinformation, the core update of May 2020 went even further.

A key signal is the author information as it helps Google identify a) the author of the content and b) the author’s credentials. To do this, there are two important things you must have to a web page that Google specifically looks for.

  1. First, include something that describes the author and their credentials. Either have the name of the author at the top linked to a bio (e.g., an “about” page containing all the credentials, such as education, degrees, accreditations, certifications, years of experience, etc), or have an “about the author” section at the end of the article.
  2. Second, add schema markup code that identifies the page (i.e., article), the person who wrote it (or reviewed it), and their level of expertise. There are several schema markup properties to include, such as “physician” and “plastic surgery,” among others. I'll come back to this.

Be Conspicuously Credentialed

To help Google’s crawler find and identify the author information on the page, make the name and bio easily findable by conspicuously pointing it out.

Add the article’s byline and link near the top and close to the article’s title. Or add an “about the author” box at the bottom of the article that's clearly distinct, such as wrap it with a border, place it in a coloured background, or separate it by a divider to set it apart from the rest of the article.

For example, I Googled “best plastic surgeon Toronto” and this page came up. Scroll to the bottom of the post, and you will see this:

Silos and Bios: Two Key Expertise SEO Signals 4 | expertise seo
Dr. Mulholland's bio at SpaMedica.com.

The above example clearly identifies the author and their credentials, and a bio separated by a divider. It includes links to this doctor’s Google Scholar and Wikipedia pages, which offer a an extra level of authority and expertise SEO.

If the article is written by a staff member with expertise, such as a certified cosmetic nurse injector, the same applies: add a bio with (or linked to) their credentials, including the nurse's education, experience, accreditation, etc.

Articles can be written by someone else with no medical or related expertise, such as a reporter or freelance writer, as long as they have been reviewed by a credentialed professional and indicated as such.

For example, if you have an article that was written by a staff member and they claim authorship, Google prefers that the content be reviewed by a person with medical expertise. For example, add something like “this article was reviewed by Dr. Smith” near the article, with a link to their bio just like the author.

E-A-T Supported By Schema Markup

Finally, schema markup code is a piece of JSON-LD code you can add to the page HTML. It’s a language meant to identify and describe the content and its author. Schema is not a ranking factor but by providing additional context it helps Google more accurately assess the content's level of expertise.

A WordPress plugin such as Schema Pro, Yoast SEO, or Rank Math can do this automatically for you. Or you can (and should) add some manually.

Plugins are helpful but limiting. So adding extra schema markup manually can help. Use Google’s markup helper tool. Then, test the markup (either the code or the page it’s on once published) with Google's rich results tester.

Reason is this: plugins will add “local business,” “organization,” or “person” schema. But there are different types of local businesses, such as “medical business” and “plastic surgery” as well as “physician.” I also recommend adding the following snippets as part of “person” schema:

  • “reviewedBy” (if written by someone else),
  • “sameAs” (other bios on social or authoritative sites),
  • “affiliation” (such as memberships in associations),
  • “award” (such as any industry-related awards),
  • And “alumniOf” (their education).

Adding these extra pieces of data may seem simple or unnecessary. But they provide extra signals that Google needs to identify the site's level of expertise.

If you're a plastic surgeon, cosmetic surgeon, or medical aesthetic practitioner, these signals are not just important but also vital. Competitors who may have less content than you but more clout and authority will likely outrank you.

Categories
SEO

Content Creation or Content Expansion? SEO Experts Confirm

Last week I was very busy completing a few 360° SEO Audits for two plastic surgeons, and one of them asked a very good question. After I recommended content creation on a weekly basis (about three times a week), he asked: “That's a lot of content, can I add it all to the same web page?”

In essence, what the client was asking is if it's possible to add to existing content instead of creating three new pieces each week.

Here's what I said.


Creating Doesn't Mean “From Scratch”

To clarify, when I suggested creating three new content assets each week as a best practice, it was a recommendation and not an obligation. Moreover, an asset doesn't always have to be a blog post or textual content. It can be a long-form video, an infographic, a podcast episode, etc.

With every long-form video or audio you produce, including those of which you were a part (such as an interview or a podcast on which you were a guest), you can add it to your blog as an embed.

(If they turned off the ability to embed the recording, or if the recording is hidden or walled in some way, you might want to ask permission first.)

But don’t just add the recordings. Transcribe them, polish up the transcripts, add them to the page, and insert internal links to other content in your blog as you would normally do with other content.

A transcript creates additional content you can use as captions for your videos or for creating additional standalone content pieces. I personally use a tool called Otter (relatively cheap). You can also use Descript or Screechpad.

Secondly, “new” content creation doesn’t have to be new content.

It can be a refresh of an existing piece of content. You take an older piece and rewrite it, expand it, update it (e.g., add or update any references, statistics, citations, and supporting images), and add new internal links to existing content (particularly if you have new posts since its original publication).

Finally, redate the piece to the current date so that it brings it back to the top of your blog index and signals Google that your content is updated.

Add New? Or Expand The Old?

Now, as far as the question about whether it's best to add to existing content or create new ones, the answer is that it depend from an SEO perspective.

If it’s the same topic and it makes sense to the reader and improves the user experience, that’s acceptable and even recommended. You are, to a degree, doing the “refresh” that I indicated earlier.

But if they’re widely diverse subtopics, I don’t recommend it — unless you are creating a pillar page and making it as comprehensive as possible.

If the search intent for a subtopic is different from the intent for the main topic, then you risk cannibalizing your content. (Although, that might change with the upcoming passages ranking algorithm.)

With the hub-and-spoke content model, the spokes are pieces of content that help to support the main pillar content, creating a topical cluster. If subtopics are too different, you’re likely confusing the reader (and Google), and you might be diluting the other subtopics on the same page.

The question to ask is, is the topic for the additional content a subtopic of a main/parent topic? If so, you can add it to the main piece. If it can stand on its own (the subtopic can be its own topic), or if it can have more than one search intent, then it might be better off as a separate piece.

Search Intent is The Key

Remember, there are four types of search intents: 1) informational, 2) investigational, 3) transactional, and 4) navigational.

Navigational intent is when people are looking for you, your business, or your website. For the sake of this example, I'll refer to the first three as your aim is to build content that drives people to the site who may not know you.

For example, take “facelift surgery” as a topic. The search intent is likely informational. (I could have used the term “facelift” by itself, but it's a little misleading. “Facelift” is often used in a non-surgical context, such as “giving your website a facelift.” So let's say “facelift surgery.”)

People who search using this term likely want more information about facelift surgery. Any subtopic that falls under both the same topic and search intent can be added to the same page, like “how long does a facelift take to heal?”

However, if someone searches for “top facelift surgeon near me” or “best facelift surgery [city],” that’s investigational search intent. The person is now past the information stage and they’re thinking about having it done.

Since the intent is different, adding a piece around that subtopic to the main page would be confusing and possibly counterproductive. It may better to write a separate piece, either about an award or survey where you were voted as the best, or about tips on how to find the best surgeon for one's situation.


What Other Expert SEOs Say

I believe this is the best approach. To be sure, I conferred with other SEO experts for their input. I'm a member of an SEO mastermind community called Traffic Think Tank, which is frequented by some of the world's top SEOs, including SEO directors from companies like Shopify, HubSpot, LendingTree, Moz, and others.

Their thinking seems to be in alignment with mine.

Even some SEOs on Twitter responded, and this is what they said:

As they said, cannibalization is less of an issue if the two or more pieces, vying for the same keyword, target different search intents.

And then, Britney Muller, someone I've been following for a long time who is a senior SEO data scientist and worked at Moz, added this:

Finally, one thing to keep in mind.

Is Long Content a Ranking Factor?

There’s a lot of debate about content length with SEO. Some say longer pieces rank better. But Google has expressly stated that word count is not a ranking factor. Any benefits are typically correlational and not causal, because long-form content will likely increase the incidence of keywords, tags, links, etc.

Not only that, but also long-form content tends to offer “more substantial, comprehensive, and complete information on the topic,” which is what Google looks for according to its Quality Raters Guidelines.

So from a user experience perspective, the argument can be made that sticking with existing content can provide more comprehensiveness to the article.

I also surmise that the upcoming passages ranking, where parts of a page (such as subtopics) will rank differently than the page itself, is going to make it easier for a long-form piece of content to serve multiple intents.

We will have to wait and see.

For now, the point remains: when it comes to content creation, it is always better to provide comprehensive information on a topic — whether it's in one long piece or it's in multiple pieces that are properly interlinked to indicate a relationship (i.e., a topical cluster).

Either way, more content, and better content, will always serve you well.

Categories
Audits

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com

Time for another mini SEO audit on a random plastic or cosmetic surgery website. But this time, I want to focus on hair transplants. If you don't know, hair restoration was the very first type of client I worked with back in 1992.

In trying to find a website as randomly as possible, I did the same thing as last time: I turned on my VPN, chose USA as my country of choice, and Googled “hair transplant surgeon.” I then clicked to page four of the SERPs (search engine results), I scrolled down a bit, and I selected a site at random.

Site Selected For This Quick SEO Audit

As strange as this might sound, I literally clicked on a result without paying attention. The URL I clicked on is HairTransplantation.com by Dr. John Kiely. (Talk about a keyword-driven domain name! Let's see if it helps him.)

Remember, this audit will be brief. My 360° SEO Audits go far beyond this. But it might give you some insights you can apply to your own website.

So without further ado, here we go.

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com 5 | quick seo audit
Mini SEO audit on HairTransplantation.com.

SEO Crawl and Overview

A crawl with Screaming Frog's SEO spider, I found 108 pages. However, 16 are redirects and six are 404s (page not found errors). At first glance that might look odd or bad, but a closer look reveals that the redirects are from a few pages that have trailing slashes to versions of the pages that don't.

That's actually a good thing, and here's why.

A trailing slash is the slash at the end of a URL. The jury is still out on whether trailing slashes help rankings. But the important thing is to choose one protocol and to be consistent with the rest of the website.

Consistency is key in SEO. With different versions of the same URLs, if they're not canonicalised (i.e., a canonical tag is piece of code that tells search engines which URL is the definitive address for that page), you risk having Google index multiple versions of the same page and cannibalizing your rankings.

Specifically, the result is that this will either confuse Google or force it to split ranking signals across the various addresses, diluting the ranking power of what really is just one page. For example, look at the 12 URLs below:

http://www.domain.com
http://www.domain.com/
http://domain.com/index.php
http://www.domain.com
http://www.domain.com/
http://www.domain.com/index.php
https://domain.com
https://domain.com/
https://domain.com/index.php
https://www.domain.com
https://www.domain.com/
https://www.domain.com/index.php

All these URLs are pointing to the same page.

That's why adding redirects and canonical tags is crucial. But in a perfect world, there shouldn’t be any redirects at all. Use redirects only for pages that no longer exist — pages you renamed, moved, or deleted. Don’t use redirects internally when a simple search and replace can do the job.

Of course, have redirects if other sites link to the wrong URL (which is one the reasons I recommend setting up a Google Search Console account), so you can find out if any backlinks are leading to 404 errors. But when doing an internal crawl like I just did, there shouldn't be any redirects.

Back to the audit.

Regardless of redirects to pages without trailing slashes, there doesn't seem to be a predominant protocol because I can see that the site has pages with trailing slashes and some without. It's not terrible but it is confusing and may also lead to issues down the road, such as when adding pages or links.

Location, Location, Location

The 404 errors seem a little odd, which prompted me to investigate further. The URLs of the missing pages seem to be similar to pages that already exist on the site. They have the same titles but with different city names appended to the URLs (e.g., “hair-loss-baltimore” and “hair-loss-washington-dc”).

Now, this tells me three things.

First, the site is trying to optimize for multiple locations. There's nothing wrong with that. But I think the clinic may have moved or switched from Washington-Baltimore to Rockville-Townson at some point. So the crawl found lingering links to older locations (or removed pages) that they have not yet updated.

Second, I manually visited pages similar to the 404s (e.g., “hair-loss-rockville-md” and “hair-loss-townson-md”). They seem to be the same page but with two different cities. This means there are duplicate content issues, which are not good for SEO. This may indirectly penalize your rankings.

To confirm my suspicions, I looked up other pages:

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com 6 | quick seo audit
Duplicate content will hurt your rankings.

Every page has keyword-based links that lead to duplicated pages for different service areas around the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area. Duplicate content is the bigger and more important issue, but keyword stuffing and repetitive internal location links are far from good practices.

Let me be clear. Building out multiple pages for each service area is actually a good practice, and I recommend it, too. But each page should be different. They can be similar but they should not be exact verbatim copies.

Think of Your User, Not Google

Also, there's no need to stuff entire site with location links, too. Just have one master location list or page with links to individual locations. If you link to the location list or the master location page on an indexed page (or in your sitemap), Google will find it and crawl all the subsequent location pages.

For example, a website could have a page called “locations” such as:

/locations/ (listing all locations)
/locations/location-one/ (first location)
/locations/location-two/ (second location)
/locations/location-two/sublocation-one/ (e.g., district)

Like the example above, you can create sublocation- or community-specific pages, as long as you serve those areas and put unique content on them.

(Remember, they only allow you one Google My Business listing per physical location, not service area. But you can create landing pages for each area.)

Just optimize each landing page with specific information about that area. If you can, add reviews or testimonials from people in that area. If you can add directions from that area to your clinic, add them, too.

There's no need for duplicate content. To quote Moz.com:

There's a real danger of putting up a bunch of weak, silly content for every city your company serves, and this would downgrade user experience and the overall quality of your website. Rather, come up with a plan for making those landing pages incredibly useful and persuasive, so that they truly do serve users, while also signalling to search engines that you have relevance to this target community.

Moz.com Staff

Don't Overoptimize

Finally, there's the third point. Looking at other pages, I noticed something peculiar. The site has over-optimized pages with location-stuffed content. This reminds me of old-school SEO with keyword-stuffed content that makes the page unreadable and kills the user experience.

Here's an example:

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com 7 | quick seo audit
Over-optimized content is a sign of poor SEO.

Every page seems to have this issue. Every page seems to have an introductory paragraph that's stuffed with keywords, including locations. This type of SEO doesn't work anymore. Or better said, it's no longer necessary. Google is now intelligent enough to understand the context and content of the page.

Of course, it's helpful to include pointers that help Google along, such as schema code, alternative text for images, proper internal linking, appropriate descriptions (without repeated keywords), and so on.

But filling the site content with locations is bad for the user experience — and your rankings. Avoid stuffing your page with too much of the same thing (e.g., the same links, keywords, locations, photos, whatever).

Redundant Pages

In that initial crawl, and based on my discovery above, I wanted to see how similar or dissimilar was the content. I found several redundant pages.

Here's just one example.

There are five topics (e.g., hair loss, hair restoration, hair transplant, hair transplant clinic, and hair transplant surgery), which are obviously used as keywords. But each of the five has nine separate locations. All nine appear to be the same duplicated page with maybe just one distinct paragraph.

Therefore, there are 45 pages in total when five pages covering the five topics, and perhaps nine for each location, would have sufficed. This means there are 30-ish pages that are redundant and useless, diluting ranking signals and likely causing the site as a whole to lose rankings.

After removing all the redundant pages, duplicate pages, 404s errors, and redirects, I'm left with 31 total pages. Some are very thin in terms of content, too. In my experience, this is inadequate. This site needs more content.

In fact, the blog shows only 10 blog posts that are over five years old. Frequency, recency, and consistency are three key SEO signals that help Google to notice, crawl, and hopefully rank your content. Fresh content posted regularly and often (at minimum one new post a week) is a good practice.

SEO Analysis Estimate

I don't have access to this site's Google Search Console to determine if the site is getting poor traction because of the issues I mentioned above — such as duplicate content, stuffed locations, over-optimizations, and so on. But looking at their estimated traffic in Ahrefs.com, I can make some fair assumptions:

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com 8 | quick seo audit
HairTransplantion.com gets only 56 visitors monthly.

The site only gets about 50-60 visitors a month on average.

This is relatively low for a plastic surgeon's website (which typically averages around 500-2,000 visitors monthly in my experience). It may be because of content that's over-optimized, duplicated, unusable, inadequate, or something else. However, I'm certain the issues I've discovered are not helping.

One final thought about locations.

Having multiple locations can be a good practice for a service provider having a large enough demand within those areas and offering a repeat service. For example, plumbers, exterminators, restaurants, car dealers, even dentists may benefit from ranking for specific locations.

But it's not so much the case with plastic surgeons, particularly a surgeon who only does hair transplants. It unnecessarily reduces visibility.

In my experience, the best and most renowned surgeons have patients that come from near and wide, even well outside their main geographic areas. Some fly from all over the world to receive treatments from these experts.

When claiming your Google My Business listing, you can only claim your actual, physical location. This will help rank your clinic or practice in the local pack (i.e., the pack of Google Map listings that sometimes appear at the top of on search results). But location-specific pages can rank in the main results.

By focusing all your pages on specific locations, which can be helpful for many service providers, can be limiting and counterproductive (particularly if you want to expand your reach), and may hurt your rankings in other locations.

Conclusion

I'll stop here since I've covered so much already.

In essence, the initial crawl revealed some major issues, and this site needs work. I recommend a complete revamp with a new content architecture to fix all the issues I found, along with properly rewritten content.

Short of redoing the site architecture, I recommend creating a location listings page and area-specific landing pages, and killing off all the redundant ones. I suggest fixing all the redirects, removing the 404s, choosing a single sitewide protocol (i.e., trailing slash), and removing all the repetitious content.

Finally, I recommend adding more quality content — both to the main pages to beef up the thin content and as articles to the blog section.

Again, please remember that I base my recommendations on just an initial crawl. I didn't do a keyword audit, a technical SEO audit, or a competitive audit. There's so much more that I could analyze, which I typically do when I perform a comprehensive 360° SEO Audit service. But hopefully this was helpful.

Categories
SEO

When Moving Your Site, Don’t Leave Your SEO Behind

A recent client has hired me to audit their SEO. The main issue was pretty clear from the start: they had recently undergone a rebrand and moved their site to a new domain. But they failed to redirect the old site properly to the new one. In short, the SEO site migration was poorly executed.

The result is a significant loss in rankings and traffic.

Often, moving to a new domain is perfectly fine, provided you do it carefully and plan it properly. The reason is to ensure there's no loss of traffic, authority, and rankings. Otherwise, it can lead to irrecoverable losses — not to mention the loss of your audience's trust and goodwill.

If you're planning on redesigning or rebranding your site, particularly if the purpose is to improve your SEO, here are some things to consider.

First, the simplest way to move your site is to do a domain-to-domain redirect. It will carry over any URL parameters to the new site automatically. If someone tries to reach domainone.com/page for example, they will easily go to the same page on the new domain, i.e., domaintwo.com/page.

But sometimes, it's better to do a page-by-page redirect, simply because you may wish to keep parts of the old domain active, reuse the domain in the future, keep certain functions (such as mail servers), or move to a new architecture where you plan to rearrange and/or rename pages.

In the latter's case, however, I don't recommend doing it all together.

Migrate Your Site in Stages

Some plastic surgeons prefer to do it all in one fell swoop: they want to move to a new domain, do a rebrand (and redesign the site to match the rebrand), and switch to a new content architecture — particularly if it's recommended for SEO purposes. They want to get it all done.

However, in my experience, it's better to first move to a new domain that maintains an identical architecture, and then launch the new site.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. It's easier to do a bulk domain-to-domain redirect, which reduces server load. You can do this with regular expressions (RegEx) that simply tell the server to redirect and load the same folder/file on the new domain.
  2. If there are too many redirects that point to different pages, and/or if there are too many new pages appearing at once, Google may interpret that as a completely new site, and you might lose rankings and traffic.
  3. Above all, if you move to a new domain and revamp the architecture simultaneously, it will be difficult to determine the reason for the losses in traffic (i.e., whether it was the migration or the change in architecture).

If you absolutely must, then do so. But I recommend you do any changes to the architecture after the move. This way, you can start by pointing the old domain to the new one first, and then do internal redirects to new pages on the new domain either after the move or once you relaunched the site.

Thus, if someone tries to access a certain page on your old domain, they will go to the same page on the new domain first, and then the internal redirect will load the new page based on the revamped architecture.

But if you can do it in stages, do so. It will be more effective, more manageable, and less risky. In fact, I suggest you either clone the site to its new domain or switch the domain name. Then activate a domain-to-domain redirect.

This way, should anything go awry, switching back is easy.

(I typically use Cloudflare for this process. Adding all domains to Cloudflare, I can do a site-to-site switch within the DNS records as easily as flipping a switch. Plus, I do bulk domain redirects using Cloudflare's “page rules.”)

Of course, once you're done, do a search-and-replace sitewide and within the database to ensure to canonicalize the URLs with the new domain. (Go back to my SEO migration checklist for more details. A post-move crawl can identify any old remaining URLs that you need to switch.)

Telling Google You're Moving

If a site moves and no redirects are in place, this creates several issues. When Google notices 404 errors, at first it will do nothing. It suspects that this may be temporary. It will wait for a few days to see:

  • If the cause of the missing pages was a glitch;
  • If the site owner submits a change of address; or,
  • If the site eventually redirects the missing pages.

Over time, if Google doesn't encounter any redirects, it will consider your pages as dropped, which will lose your rankings and any momentum you've gained.

So after putting the proper redirects in place, I also recommend submitting a change of address to Google to make sure there are no losses. You can do this by registering both domains with Google Search Console. Once the move is complete, start the process under “change of address” in settings.

GSC also gives you a list of all the external incoming links (i.e., backlinks) you will need to update. It's above “settings” on the left sidebar in the above screenshot.

Often, an incoming link points to a page that has been long switched, renamed, or moved, and, unbeknownst to you, leads to a 404 (“page not found” error). Therefore, GSC will allow you to create any additional redirects you may need.

Change-of-Address Benefits

Doing a site move signals Google that the site is now on a new domain. Not only does GSC offer tools and reports that help you track your move and measure its performance, but also it helps to identify and fix issues that may occur.

A site move is much like an insurance policy. It will preserve several things:

  • The integrity of backlinks;
  • The site’s current rankings;
  • Any potential domain authority;
  • And the user experience (UX).

With domain authority, the age of the domain (i.e., how long the domain existed and remained with the same owner) is an important ranking factor. You will lose some of that when moving to a new domain.

As for UX, if someone searches for your old brand name (i.e., a navigational search intent, such as someone searching you to find your site), Google will list the new domain in its search results instead of the old one.

Speaking of ranking factors, Google ranks sites based on several factors. Key signals influence some of these factors, including E-A-T signals (i.e., expertise, authority, and trust). EAT is not a ranking factor per se. But it can influence your rankings as it influences the perception of the site's experience and quality.

  • Expertise mostly comes down to the content and its quality — the quality of your content, your knowledge, your credentials, and so forth.
  • Trust mostly relates to user experience (UX), such as site security, page load speed, navigation, user journey, and so on (i.e., signaling that the site is trustworthy and not a scam).
  • But authority comes from signals outside the site, such as backlinks, brand mentions, and other external signals that prove authoritativeness (such as links from social media, Google Maps, industry and business listings, reviews and reputation signals, and more).

Backlinks are vital to SEO and page errors are bad for UX. So preserving those links and the integrity of your site is important. There are also brand mentions, also called “implied links,” which include your brand name and even unlinked domain names. Site moves will help preserve those, too.

Remember that moving a site requires planning. There's no one perfect way to migrate a site. But there are plenty of ways to screw it up. Just remember that Google is also there to help you. So use them to your advantage.

Categories
SEO

Visual Content Marketing Starts With SEO

When it comes to creating content about plastic surgery, writing blog posts (i.e., articles) is the easiest way. But visual content is just as important, if not more so. In addition to written content marketing, visual content marketing is a critical component to a medical aesthetic professional's online success.

Any content is important. As a plastic surgeon, you're an expert in your field, and prospective patients want to make an informed decision. When it comes to SEO, as it should be with the content itself, the fundamental goal of written content is to help the people you're targeting.

However, most plastic surgeons or their staff create visual content, such as videos, photos, and graphics. And they should. Most of them post these on visual channels (like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etc.) instead of their own blogs.

So how do can you do SEO when your content is not text-based and it's published outside your blog or website?

1. Metadata is Your Friend

Every piece of non-textual content you create (or better said, capture) has metadata attached to it, such as time, date, location, equipment used, etc. Most digital recording devices nowadays automatically add metadata to your captures, whether it's a $3,000 camera or a $500 smartphone.

But many recordings today can have additional metadata added. Most of the time, it's done when the recordings are added to another medium — such as when it's uploaded to Google Photos or YouTube, for example.

Incidentally, if you turned off metadata (such as location) for privacy purposes, you should turn it back on. Some people hate being tracked, and I understand that. But this information is ideal for SEO.

For example, when uploading it to Google My Business or Facebook (Business), it adds more pseudo-content for local SEO purposes. When people type “plastic surgeon near me” into Google, your photos may appear (or your listing with a lot of geotagged photos may appear) more often as a result.

Nevertheless, you can add more metadata. On a blog, those things include alternate text (called “alt-tags”), titles (or “title tags”), captions, and even the filename itself. For instance, when adding content to a website, rather than uploading it directly, save it, rename it, and upload it with its new filename.

It's not about stuffing keywords in either the metatags or filenames. It's about including descriptive information for accessibility so that search engines know what the file is all about. So include keywords in the graphic, photo, or video, both in their filenames and tag data.

But don't force them. Just be descriptive. Be helpful, not robotic.

Like all forms of SEO, metadata comes down to helping your audience and giving them what they're looking for. You want to describe your visuals in order to help — not outsmart the search engines.

Remember, metadata is about the user and aims to make the visuals better understood by users. Yes, they're for search engines, too. But search engines aim to help users (your users) by giving them better information — and therefore, a better experience. Stuffed text will only work against you.

2. Channel-Based SEO

The second-largest search engine in the world is YouTube. Just like Google, YouTube has its own search queries, topics, keywords, rankings, velocity (i.e, based on how much traffic, engagements, and likes a video gets), and of course, audiences. So it needs its own SEO, too.

In fact, almost every content sharing platform is a search engine itself. So whether you're uploading photos, videos, clips, graphics, or stories (like Reels, LinkedIn Stories, Twitter Fleets, TikTok, or any visual asset you upload to the web), you will also need to optimize those, too.

Optimize their descriptions, tags, labels, comments, and more. So be descriptive, add keywords, insert links, use hashtags, and so on.

Every channel needs its own form of SEO, from Twitter to Google My Business. Pay attention to the content you add, from the bio of your channel's profile to each asset you upload. Include keywords and links (especially links back to the website) to double your amplification (I'll come back to this).

Create new content with SEO in mind, whether it's the title, the description, the filename, or the surrounding content (including headers, copy, links, additional keywords, etc). In fact, there are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Keywords don't have to be broad or popular with high search volumes. They can be long-tail, indirectly related, or ultra-specific keywords.
  2. Focus on the user, not the search engines. Don't stuff your content with keywords. Focus on topics and what users want, and describe it to them.
  3. Include your name and brand names (such as proprietary names of your services, products, or processes, which is my number-one SEO tip).

Incidentally, content in proximity is just as important as metadata or descriptive data. For example, when uploading content to a visual platform, remember that you have the ability to add descriptions, comments, even tags and related content — such as linking suggested videos or other related posts.

This information also helps to expand your visibility, too.

On YouTube, your videos will show up as related videos on other people's videos. On Instagram, it will be recommended as part of the “Explore” page. On Google, your Web Stories will be suggested in “Discover” (i.e., the personalized content feed on Android devices, Google pages, and Google apps).

For videos, one tool I recommend is TubeBuddy, which allows you to do keyword and tag research, on the fly, as you upload your videos. On Instagram, make sure your photos are properly described, tagged, and captioned with keywords — and don't forget the advanced settings (hidden alt text), too.

3. Bring it Back Home

Finally, remember that your goal is to get people back to your website (or at least to come forward and book an appointment with you). But for SEO purposes, it's to attract qualified patients to your practice or clinic.

While your goal is to use other platforms as a way to share and amplify content from your website in order to increase signals back to your website (and hopefully earn authoritative backlinks), you can also do the converse — i.e., amplify your third-party platform content through your website.

In other words, you can bring content back to your website. You don't need to duplicate everything. Many of these websites allow you to embed their content, which allows you to add a piece of code and incorporate content from their platform back on your website.

However, some may offer you the ability to embed carousels or galleries. That's not what I mean. Embed either one or a few select pieces on a blog post, but add surrounding, descriptive content. Offer deeper, richer content — perhaps a story behind the visuals. Above all, include links to other pages.

For example, one plastic surgeon often posts on Instagram. He uploads videos that are either before-and-after clips, patient testimonials, or videos of actual surgical procedures. He then takes a video from IG, embeds it on his website, and describes the procedure in depth with additional content around it.

He turns it into a case study to describe that specific patient's situation (e.g., what was their issue, what makes them a candidate, what results to expect, etc). He also links anchor texts back to his main service page — the one that describes the procedure (like “breast augmentation,” for example).

This process creates strategic internal links, signals to his key procedure pages, and topical clusters, which all help SEO — including the social media signals.

If you do this with videos, transcribe your videos (using a tool like Descript, Otter, or Screechpad), which will then fill your blog post (and therefore, your website) with keyword-rich and/or topic-focused content that will add SEO as well as bring more context to the visuals (and vice versa).

Ultimately, these are some ideas that will help use non-text-based content and third-party content for SEO purposes that will enhance your visibility, drive traffic, and increase traction with ideal patients.

So with visuals and third-party platforms, don't forget metadata, keywords, and links to each other for bilateral amplification and stronger SEO signals.