When creating a content strategy, the most common process is to brainstorm a list of possible ideas to blog about and to create an editorial calendar around them. And for some plastic surgeons, that’s perfectly fine.
Some content is better than no content. Right?
But when I work with doctors who have a lot of content but a lackluster online presence with very little organic traffic, the issue comes down to the fact that they don’t have a strategy in the first place. Plastic surgeons who know and value the potency of SEO will have a strategy they follow.
I’ve written about creating a high-level content strategy before. However, one thing I failed to stress in my SEO content strategy article is the process of defining the goal before strategizing content.
Since the success of any content strategy is determined by how well it reaches specific goals, setting goals should be the first step. For example, what is the content supposed to do? Is it to build traffic? Grow an audience? Increase awareness? Generate leads? Qualify those leads? Produce sales?
I know this sounds simplistic. But in reality, the lack of a clear goal is often why even the most effectively constructed content fails.
More importantly, the reason that answering this question first is essential is that it will drive the rest of the strategy. In other words, it will not only allow you to measure your content’s effectiveness but it will also drive a variety of key elements that need to be taken into consideration in the process.
Specifically, there are five critical elements to keep in mind:
- The audience;
- The intent;
- The awareness;
- The topic; and,
- The format.
Knowing who you’re writing for is pivotal — not just in general but with every piece of content. Are you offering information about facelifts to a 55-year old C-level executive woman? A hair transplant to a 35-year old divorced man? Or laser skin resurfacing to a 21-year old with acne-prone skin?
Defining the audience with each piece of content will determine how to present the topic and how to better align the idea with their intent. Your audience may vary greatly — and for each procedure type, too. Therefore, each content will need an intended audience and appeal to that audience, too.
This doesn’t mean that each piece will have a different language or style. Each piece needs to maintain a consistent brand and voice. Your voice will develop an affinity with your chosen audience, and consistency is key when it comes to building authoritativeness and trustworthiness. (More on this later.)
Are you creating content to help a person make a decision about a certain procedure? Or are you simply providing basic information to someone at the beginning stages of their research? Either way, you can find out what they want or need by knowing what and how they search.
There are three types of search intent:
- To go (navigational intent).
- To know (informational intent).
- To do (transactional intent).
- “Dr. Smith plastic surgeon Toronto.”
- “How long do breast reductions last?”
- “Dr. Smith consultation phone number.”
Some SEOs will also include a fourth, “to buy,” which is “commercial intent.” But they can be transactional or investigational (or a combination of both), such as, “Dr. Smith breast implant reviews.” Searchers are either looking to buy or conducting an investigation before going ahead.
Search intent is important to know so that your content can satisfy that intent. The more it does, not only the greater the traction (and the greater the quality of the traffic you generate) will be, but also the greater the chances your SEO benefits will spill over because it’s meeting Google’s quality guidelines.
Sometimes, knowing the search intent is not enough. A search term may not necessarily reveal the reason behind it. So it’s also important to know the user’s intent — i.e., not just what information the user wants but also for what purpose. In other words, why they want it or what they intend to do with it.
The best way to know is either to do one of three things:
- Research the questions they’re asking.
- Look at long-tail keywords or phrases.
- See what Google thinks (i.e., SERP analysis).
(In the case of the latter, you simply use the search term and see what Google thinks the search intent is. If the types of results are scattered or don’t fit, choose a newer or more specific search term.)
User intent will vary depending on the stage of awareness your audience happens to be in. I usually put them in one of four, which I call “OATH” (i.e., oblivious, apathetic, thinking, and hurting), such as:
- Are they aware of the problem? The real problem?
- Do they know all the options available to solve it?
- Are they aware of your solution to the problem?
- Do they know what makes your solution the best?
For example, take the search term “breast augmentation.” Alone, it doesn’t say much. The search intent may be informational. But to what end? Is it to learn about the procedure? Is it to find out who offers them? Is it to compare alternatives? Or are they shopping around for prices?
But a search for “What size of breast implants is right for me?” The search intent is the same (informational), but now we have a bit more of an understanding of why they want to know more about breast implants.
So never just focus on what they’re searching for. Learn why, too.
Remember, if your information can impact a person’s wealth or welfare, it’s what Google calls YMYL, or “your money or your life” pages, such as medical content. As such, it needs to demonstrate, above everything else, a certain level of E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).
Choosing a topic your audience is looking for is not just for SEO purposes. Expertise is a form of topical authority. Your knowledge on the topic shows that you know what you’re talking about, and the extent of your knowledge shows that what you’re talking about is authoritative.
Your credentials are important signals. But demonstrate your expertise by covering the topic in depth. Your authority is implied in this case and therefore more effective. As I always say, implication is more powerful than specification.
You don’t have to cover it all in one fell swoop. That’s what creating a content strategy is about — you can cover the topic gradually, over time.
In the hub-and-spoke model, your pillar content is the hub, and supporting content pieces are the spokes around the hub — creating what is often called a topical cluster. Therefore, when you do create a content strategy, you will be able to interlink the subtopics together in an intuitive and logical way.
Using the previous example, i.e., “What size of breast implants is right for me,” Google will likely determine that this person is looking for advice on the topic of “breast augmentation.” Some subtopics might be “breast surgery candidacy criteria” or “breast implant cup sizes.” You get the idea.
To learn about topics that interest your audience, you need to do topical research and not just keyword research. Queries are often conversational phrases and questions. That’s why questions are so powerful.
Use SEO tools like Ahrefs (Keywords Explorer) or SEMrush (Keyword Magic Tool) to learn about the questions people ask around a topic. Or use a website like AlsoAsked.com and AnswerThePublic.com, or a Q&A site like Quora.com, Reddit.com (there’s a plastic surgery subreddit), and Answers.com.
Clusters are important. For the more in-depth the coverage on the topic is, the greater the chances your content will rank well — and the greater the chances that the content will capture related searches, too.
Format has two components: the modality and the methodology.
- Modality is the way the content is consumed. For some it’s a blog post, for others it’s a downloadable app. For some it’s photos, for others it’s videos. For some it’s podcasts, for others it’s a slide presentation.
- Methodology is the way you present your content. You may, for example, decide on writing a simple blog post. But how will address the content in that post? Will you present it as an interview? As a story? As a tutorial?
“Modality” comes from “mode of communication.” Some people prefer to consume their information by reading it, while others prefer watching it, listening to it, or applying it.
“Method” comes from the “method of presentation.” Here are some examples of presentation methods you may choose from to create content with:
- Answers to questions
- Patient success stories
- Common myths debunked
- Formulas and templates
- Case studies to learn from
- Bad examples to avoid
- Competitive comparisons
- Explainer videos and demos
- Webinars and livestreams
- Resource roundups
- How-to tutorials
- Graphs and charts
- Ebooks and whitepapers
- Editorial commentaries
- Expert/client interviews
- Original research findings
- Glossaries and terms
And so on. This list not exhaustive, but as you can see there are a variety of methods you can present information. You might offer content that your audience is used to, or you might offer content in a different and better way. You might even offer the same content but using different methods.
Understand what your market wants or how they best consume information is helpful to the degree that it will increase engagement with your content, great visibility, natural backlinks, and more qualified traffic to your website.
When you add all of these up, you get a much clearer understanding of:
- Who you’re targeting (audience),
- What they’re looking for (intent),
- Why they want it (awareness),
- What to give them (topic), and
- How to give it to them (format).
Here’s an example:
- Middle-aged mothers with stretch marks.
- Searching for possible “mommy makeover”.
- Knows options, interested in tummy tucks.
- Wants to know about tummy tuck scarring.
- A blog post with pictures of possible scars.
Therefore, the goal, in this case, is to create a blog post that targets women looking for a “mommy makeover” to reduce loose skin left after a recent pregnancy. But they’re concerned about scarring related to tummy tucks (after all, they want to get rid of stretch marks), and they want some reassurance.
The goal is to get them to book an initial consultation.
Therefore, the content may discuss how scarring is minimal but only with the right candidates and in the right situations, which can only be determined with an initial consultation (or a virtual one, which is common in this era of COVID).
Obviously, a lot of this information will be implied and come naturally for doctors who write their own content. But when developing a content strategy where other team players are involved, or if the content is being outsourced to outside writers, it may be wise to go through this exercise for their sake.
When doctors outsource their content, sometimes they either get poorly written articles or well-written ones that miss the mark. Often it’s because the writer wasn’t aware of these five critical elements.
If you’re using an SEO content template like this one, adding a few lines to describe these will go a long way in getting content creators to understand what you’re looking for — and above all, what your audience is looking for.