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SEO

Choosing Keywords for SEO: Heads or Tails?

The old way of doing keywords for SEO was straightforward: people searched using keywords, and the more of those keywords were found on your page, the greater the chances it would rank well. The problem is, it was a race to the bottom.

Competitors were adding more keywords to their pages, trying to one-up each other. Over time, their content would be stuffed with so many keywords, it would become unreadable and create a poor user experience.

Then, black-hat SEOs (people trying to game the system) would hide keywords or create redirects from keyword-stuffed pages to the better ones.

Thankfully, Google caught on, and after a while killed off those surreptitious techniques. But keywords are still the main focus for SEOs. They are still important, but not in the same way we think they are.

Keywords are no longer the primary ranking factor. Google is more intelligent than ever, and it understands what the content is about, even when the content doesn't contain the exact keywords being searched for.

Things like topics, context, related keywords, and the connection between them are now far more important than just keywords.

Are Long-Tail Keywords Better?

To give you an example of how topics are more important than keywords, take long-tail keywords, i.e., keywords with little search volume that fall within the long end of the search demand curve.

Choosing Keywords for SEO: Heads or Tails? 1 | keywords for seo

They may seem like worthless keywords because they have little demand, but they can actually be quite powerful. By being more specific, they're also highly targeted. Plus, bounce rates will be lower and conversion rates will be higher.

Take “facelift,” for example:

  • “Facelift” (short head, 10,000 monthly searches)
  • “Facelift surgeon” (wide middle, 600 searches)
  • “Best facelift surgeon” (long tail, 150 searches)
  • “Best facelift surgeon NYC” (longer tail, 40 searches)

Ranking for a broad term like “facelift” may be an attractive goal for a plastic surgeon, but it is an audacious one. It will be incredibly tough. Plus, out of those 10,000 searches, you may get people who are interested in something else.

For example, they may be interested in a non-surgical facelift, a “vampire” facelift (i.e., microneedling), the history of facelifts, facelift creams, giving a facelift in the remodeling sense (e.g., “how to give my yard a facelift), etc.

But with a more specific keyword, like “best facelift surgeon in New York,” the chances are high that the little traffic you get from that longer phrase will be quite targeted and highly motivated.

Long-Tail Derivatives

However, a common misconception is that all long-tail keywords are longer (they have multiple words). Or that long-tail keywords are highly targeted or that ranking for long-tail keywords is easy. Not quite.

For example, take the keyword “rhytidectomy” (80 searches per month), the medical term for facelift. Or “threadlift” (60), the less invasive facelift alternative. Both are short and broad, but both are also long-tail (low demand) and both serve two completely different search intents.

Here's the issue: if a doctor in New York ranks well for “best facelift surgeon NYC,” chances are she may also rank high for “facelift surgeon” or even just “facelift.” In other words, if you try to rank for the longer tail keyword, you might still lose to the more topic-focused competitor.

Called “derivative keywords,” they're basically variations that derive from or closely match a parent topic. Since Google is smart at understanding content and relevance, going after derivatives or variations of an existing parent topic that a competitor ranks well for may be just as tough.

For example, a plastic surgeon may rank for “best facelift surgeon NYC,” but they may also rank well for “best facelift surgeon” and even “facelift surgeon.” In other words, the surgeon is ranking for both the parent topic, “facelift surgeon,” and for multiple derivatives, which may make it hard to rank.

Not all long-tail keywords are created equal.

The Tale of Many Tails

What I recommend is doing a SERP analysis.

Taking the same example, when you do a search for “facelift,” the top three results include two results from PlasticSurgery.org (i.e., ASPS, or the American Society of Plastic Surgeons) and one from Mayo Clinic. The rest is pretty similar.

Therefore, this tells you two things: the search intent, according to Google, is informational. People are looking to learn about the procedure. They may not be in the market for a facelift and just doing research.

Next, if you search for “facelift surgeon,” you get a mix:

The first result is still PlasticSugery.org, but now it's followed by a few plastic surgeons and private clinics. So either Google isn't sure about the search intent, or the ASPS is ranking for both the parent topic and its close derivative.

Now, taking a step further, when you do the same thing for “best facelift surgeon NYC,” ASPS (PlasticSurgery.org) doesn't appear in the results at all. This means that “best facelift surgeon NYC” is not a derivative of “facelift” and considered its own topic. It's a subtopic. This may be an opportunity.

Long-Tail Subtopics

Also called “topical long-tail keywords,” these are specific long-tail keywords that are considered as topics in and of themselves. They may be better and easier to rank for, too, than derivatives.

When I visit the topmost result, NewYorkFacialPlasticSurgery.com, it's not an informative piece of content. I get a press release about the doctor who was mentioned in a magazine and voted “best plastic surgeon in New York City,” which clearly highlights the keywords and several variations:

Choosing Keywords for SEO: Heads or Tails? 5 | keywords for seo

Now, you might think this site is ranking because of keyword density. But I bet you that, if you wrote a helpful piece that provided a list of criteria that go into choosing the best facelift doctor for a user's goals, titled “How to Choose The Best Plastic Surgeon in New York For You,” it would probably outrank this one.

(By the way, in most verticals, a better piece would be a comparison between multiple leading competitors. But that's not ethically allowed as doctors are prohibited from claiming superiority. So providing users with helpful tools to determine their goals may be the next best thing.)

My reasoning is, Google may feel the content is more relevant and helpful, and seemingly less self-serving than an award-winning mention in a press release.

Plus, you might still rank better if you had content addressing variations of the same long-tail keyword, such as: “What makes a plastic surgeon become the best in NYC?” “Best facelift NYC surgeon before and after photos.” “What are the best facelift questions to ask a plastic surgeon?” And so on.

Stop Chasing Tails

Don't go chasing long-tail keywords without first understanding search intent, learning who your competitors are, and discovering if the long-tail keyword is either a derivative or a subtopic. Because if you don't, you will be like a dog chasing its own tail, going nowhere fast.

So go for subtopics, but don't discount all derivatives, either. It might take time, but if you rank well with a recognized, authoritative piece of quality content for a derivative long-tail keyword that matches the search intent better than your competitors, you might eventually rank for its parent topic, too.

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SEO

5 SEO Principles to Follow in 2021: My Predictions

Predictions are fun. Not because it's an opportunity to flex my prognostication muscles (I certainly don't have any) but because it's an opportunity to share some insights into SEO principles and where we're going, which I think might benefit you.

Now, I'm nowhere near the level of experience of some of the SEO experts I look up to. I dabbled in SEO throughout my 30-year career and became serious about it only in the last five. But I do think I have an eye for trends and where they're heading. I see things that, to me, seem logical.

As 2020, which was for some the worst year ever, comes to a close, here are five of the biggest trends I see increasing in importance — concepts that we as SEOs need to pay greater attention to.

1. Growth of SXO

SXO (search experience optimization) is not a new concept. It's been talked about since 2015. But I believe that, as Google becomes smarter and more focused on providing the best possible relevance and value in search results, we need to align our content better with what users want.

In other words, it's about creating quality content, where “quality” is defined by the degree to which it matches both search intent and user intent (i.e., how users search and why) to deliver a more user-centric, SERP-to-satisfaction experience (a term I borrowed from SEO expert Izzie Smith, which I love).

2. Demand For UXO

Part of SXO is delivering an optimal user experience — from search experience to page experience. As Core Web Vitals and UX take center stage in 2021, there will be an increasing demand for UXO (user experience optimization).

This will give rise to a stronger need for user-centric UI/UX design audits, user journey analyses, and interactive design optimization. SEO and specifically technical SEO will likely involve a lot more UXO, too. It's not just about content but about making the content easier to find, parse, access, consume, and enjoy.

3. Rise of SFO

I've always believed the web is more than just textual content. When I wrote about where I saw copywriting was heading back in 2004, I predicted that the Internet would evolve to become more multisensorial and multifaceted.

SEO is no different. We need to develop what Jon Earnshaw at Pi Datametrics calls “your online ecosystem.” Take this screenshot from his video:

5 SEO Principles to Follow in 2021: My Predictions 6 | seo principles
Source: Pi Datametrics 2021 SEO Predictions video.

It's the difference between Google's search results from just a few years ago to today. SERPs are now vastly more diverse and feature-rich. Therefore, beyond just written content, we need to think about creating and optimizing content assets, like images, video, audio, emails, podcasts, structured data, etc.

I call this SFO (search feature optimization). The goal is to dominate features and not just rankings — e.g., featured snippets, web stories, carousels, site links, video cards, maps, knowledge panels, “People also asked,” Twitter cards, social media profiles, Google My Business, and so much more.

4. Importance of E-A-T

E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) continues to make shockwaves across the web. In December, we have witnessed a major Google core update, where the greatest shakeups were with websites dealing with “your money or your life” content, particularly medical websites.

Therefore, there will be a stronger focus on boosting quality signals, such as fact-checking, adding trust elements, and getting user feedback. I wouldn't be surprised if Google comes out with a verification badge allowing them to certify content providers. We see this already with Google Guaranteed seals.

5. Surge of Semantics

It's no secret that Google is becoming increasingly intelligent. With its various algorithms like Rankbrain, Neural Matching, NLP (natural language processing), and others, it's becoming more and more capable of understanding human behavior, and more adept at knowing what users are looking for.

But to help Google match your content with what users want, the demand will grow for stronger contextual and semantic matching. Therefore, the exigent demand for better content relationships, organization of ideas, and content clarity will be an even greater priority to meet in 2021. Case in point:

5 SEO Principles to Follow in 2021: My Predictions 7 | seo principles
Ruth Burr Reedy on Better Content Through NLP, Whiteboard Friday.

As Ruth Burr Reedy said in her latest video, Google will favor deeper but more direct knowledge. I agree in that I believe we will see a growing demand for deeper expertise, micro-topics, tighter topic clustering, more defined subtopics, better content relationships, and hyper-specific answers to questions.

There you have them 5 SEO Principles to look for in 2021.

To just to recap, my top five SEO predictions in 2021 are about seeing an increase in (or a greater focus on) providing the following:

  1. Higher content relevance and better user intent alignment;
  2. The need for user experience and user journey optimization;
  3. A stronger and more feature-driven content asset ecosystem;
  4. More trust elements, e.g., verifiability and approval signals;
  5. And the need for giving more context, specificity, and clarity.

I may be totally off and I'm sure there are lots of “it depends” (SEO's biggest mantra). But what do you think? Hit me up on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. If you have any predictions of your own, let me know, too.

Categories
SEO

What Does a Plastic Surgery SEO Consultant Do?

Many plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons have asked me, “What does an SEO consultant do, exactly?” I realize that maybe some clarification might be helpful. Plus, if you were considering hiring an SEO consultant to help strengthen your online presence and boost your traffic, this might give you some direction.

First, as I'm sure you're aware, a consultant is someone who consults, an expert on a particular topic who gives advice related to that topic.

An SEO consultant is no different.

A marketing consultant is often regarded as a generalist. They often use the label of full-stack marketer. These types of experts advise on everything related to marketing, from copywriting to coding. There's nothing wrong with that. Earlier in my career, I offered other marketing and digital marketing services.

However, today, I consult only on search engine optimization for plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic practitioners who hire me to get higher rankings, more targeted traffic, and greater revenues. But unlike an agency or typical SEO generalist, the way I approach SEO is a bit different.

As a plastic surgeon, you want a steady flow of leads. Since the plastic and cosmetic surgery are hypercompetitive fields, the demand is certainly there. The issue is who you're competing with for those top spots on Google, and how to outrank them. For that, you need a specialized, well-rounded SEO expert.

The SEO Tripod

If you want to rank, focus on your users. But if you want to rank higher, focus on your competitors. Because the goal is not to beat Google or its algorithms, but to outrank your competitors. The issue is, Google ranks and rewards those top performers based on not one but several rankings factors.

They generally fall into three categories.

I've often said that SEO boils down to two things, i.e., the quality of your content and the quality of the user experience. But I believe there's a third element, which I've talked about before. It's the quality of the signals to both of these. Having great content with great UX won't do you good if no one believes you.

With plastic surgeons and medical aesthetics websites, their content are mostly medical information. Medical falls in a category search engines call “your money or your life” (YMYL). For this reason, they need to factor in and amplify their E-A-T signals (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).

So provide good content and a good experience in consuming that content (i.e., available on a safe, secure, easy-to-use, easy-to-navigate, and fast-loading website), you've got a solid SEO foundation.

Next is to develop, optimize, and improve the signals that show you have quality content and a quality user experience. Like a three-legged stool or tripod, if you will, SEO needs all three. If you miss one of them, the stool will have a hard time standing up on just two legs.

Technical SEO refers to optimizations behind the website (e.g., server, coding, scripts, etc). On-page SEO refers to optimizations on the page (e.g., content, HTML tags, internal links, etc). Off-page SEO is optimizations off the site (e.g., backlinks, brand mentions, external signals, etc).

Leg #1: Technical SEO

Technical stuff affect mostly to the UX. While the goal is to ensure that your site is accessible, crawlable, and indexable by the search engines, it's more than just having good code or a good host. There's also site security, loading times, mobile-friendliness, site architecture, and so much more.

Of course, technical SEO aims to give search engine spiders the best possible “crawl” experience. But if you focus on your users and give users what they want, you will give Google what they want, too. Pretty simple.

Moreover, plastic surgeon and medical aesthetic websites are typically a little more challenging. They focus heavily on visuals, photos, and imagery, and they also focus on good design — after all, a website is often representative of the doctor or the practice behind it.

Remember the “Halo” and the “Horn” effect? Poor website designs often lead to the unconscious assumption there's a parallel. Users will likely tell themselves, “If they can't take care of their websites, how can they take care of me?”

From an SEO perspective, these heavy, visual-rich websites can be tricky in providing a good user experience. So a technical SEO expert will need to very cognizant of how this applies to plastic surgeons specifically when optimizing.

Leg #2: On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the content. And good content means it gives the user the information they want. When they're researching cosmetic procedures, not every piece of information they come across is the same. They want amazing information — information that's both relevant and valuable.

The foundation of SEO is good content. It may not be what gets users to take action (although it certainly could). But good content is definitely what will get users to stick around, consume more, come back, build trust, and eventually book a consultation and buy from you.

For example, users want content that:

  • Describes the procedures specifically;
  • Tells them about the safety of the procedures;
  • Answers any questions or concerns they may have;
  • Explains who is a good candidate for the procedures;
  • And of course, an idea of the investment needed.

Creating good content is relatively simple. If it's fresh, useful, and relevant, chances are it will rank well. To do that, it obviously needs to be what users are searching for. But it's less about matching keywords (and stuffing content with them) and more about topical relevance.

Keyword research is not about finding what search terms they use but about discovering what questions people are asking. Your goal is to answer them. If your content does a good job at doing so and a better one than your competitors, you will rank higher than them.

But if you're not, chances are you're missing the third element.

Leg #3: Off-Page SEO

If you've done a good job at the first two, this is where a lot of the differentiation between you and your competitors can happen.

Off-page SEO refers to those signals that help to amplify the quality of the content and the user experience. I'm referring to E-A-T signals and authority-focused ones specifically. They are external signals that point out the level of authority of the site, the content, and its author (hence, “off page”).

So once you have done everything possible to rank well, such as taking care of technical SEO, having great content, being mobile-friendly, having a secure site, providing helpful information for your users, and so on, the next step is to increase the quality of the signals to the site and its content.

The most effective way is by promoting and sharing the content so that the world knows about it, talks about it, passes it around, and links to it.

Naturally earned and occurring backlinks and brand mentions are the strongest signals. But there's also reputation management (like patient reviews) and local SEO (Google maps and directory listings).

Many doctors find online reviews frustrating because beauty is subjective, so negative reviews are common. They're often hard to manage and remove, too.

But capturing all the citations possible and creating local accounts in key locations (such as RateMDS, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, Facebook Business, Bing Places, and others) provide an opportunity to:

  1. Get verified (possibly earning a trust seal and signal);
  2. Manage and proactively respond to reviews; and,
  3. Flag inappropriate ones more quickly and effectively.

Many of these are all part of something called Local SEO, which includes optimizing maps, listings, reviews, and more. Local SEO is one element of off-page SEO as it helps to boost your visibility and prominence locally.

SEO: A Tiered Approach

Some SEO experts tend to focus on one of these areas. Some are technical SEO experts (like web developers and coders). Others are on-page SEO specialists (many are content strategists). And some are off-page SEO experts (they do link building and content promotion among others).

A well-rounded SEO expert, or as I call them a 360° SEO expert, will focus on all three areas. Not all plastic surgeons need all three. Some already have great content, for example. But that's where an in-depth SEO audit can help. In fact, I offer SEO consulting services using a tiered process based on project phases.

I refer to them as the “Three Ps” of consulting:

  1. Probe
  2. Plan
  3. Pilot

The SEO Analyst

Based on my experience as an SEO manager working with digital marketing agencies, SEO jobs generally fall within three categories: the SEO analyst, the SEO strategist, and the SEO manager. Large or busy agencies will tend to have two or three of these types of professionals working in them.

For the SEO consultant, the job of “SEO analyst” is part of the “probe” phase.

It's the assessment phase, which is often performed as a multifaceted SEO audit, where I do a complete analysis. Just as every doctor, including every plastic surgeon, does, I need to diagnose first before I prescribe. So I must do this first before I make any recommendations.

(If an SEO service provider approaches you trying to sell you SEO tactics before doing any kind of assessment, don't walk… Run. Either they don't know what they're doing or they're spammers who will cause more harm than good.)

During this phase, I scrutinize your website's analytics and all the data available through analytical tools. Then, I draw conclusions, point out any errors or snags, and brainstorm ideas for improvement.

The SEO Strategist

This is the “plan” phase in SEO consulting work.

Consultants often refer to this step as roadmapping. While the probe phase uncovers issues, pain points, and opportunities, the planning phase is where I develop a roadmap to address them.

It's also the phase where I do topical research, analyze the competition, develop a content strategy, and more. I then put together a strategic action plan based on my findings. I call it my 360° SEO Strategy as I offer recommendations and an action plan with checklists that will address all three SEO levels.

Depending on the complexity of the project and the goals you want to achieve, it can be as simple as modifying existing content to a complete site overhaul. Some of my clients had projects that took several weeks. Others had substantial websites (e.g., 80,000 pages) that took several months.

In any case, you can bring this roadmap to your team to implement it in-house or you can outsource it. It doesn't matter either way, and I'll soon explain why.

The SEO Manager

This is the “pilot” phase. It's the phase where the plan gets implemented. I don't execute anything personally but I can steer the project. In other words, once I finish the SEO strategy, you may want some guidance and direction during its implementation — whether you deploy it internally or hire contractors.

Perhaps it's training your team on best practices. Perhaps it's quality assurance (QA) checks on your team's deliverables. Perhaps it's participating in supplier calls and emails. Or perhaps it's regular reporting and analysis to ensure key performance indicators (KPIs) are met.

Either way, my 360° SEO Advisory is a program where I pilot the project and provide ongoing guidance during its execution.

SEO Advisory vs Execution

Why don't I do any implementation work?

As a consultant who works in the best interest of his clients, I prefer to avoid any perceived conflict of interest as much as I can. And I do so by not having any financial incentives tied to the execution of my plan.

My goal is to help my clients objectively, regardless of who they choose to execute my plan with. It's the same fiduciary standard that licensed advisors must comply with. I see it no different in the SEO consulting space.

The role of the SEO consultant is that of a conductor — to direct SEO efforts from start to finish, from analysis to management. Some clients choose audits only. Other clients hire me as their SEO expert for months or even years.

Once the plan is deployed and fully delivered, you may choose to keep an SEO consultant on as an ongoing advisor to make sure all the buttons are pushed and knobs are adjusted moving forward.

Sometimes, SEO consulting services can be a bit cyclical, too — from analysis, planning, and execution, to rebuilding the plan again.

One client hires me to do an audit and strategy, and implements the suggestions internally. But either six months or a year later, they will rehire to do a new audit or simply to revise the work they've done.

Ultimately, any SEO consultant worth their salt is a true expert who understands and keeps up with the tools, technologies, and trends in the world of search marketing, including having an ear-to-the-ground awareness of algorithm changes, so that their clients can always be prepared.

I often say this to my clients: algorithms can change. Overnight. Search rankings are as volatile as stock prices. They can go up and down, and they can shoot up or crash down in a blink of an eye.

Sure, clients can lose rankings. There's no guarantee in SEO just as there are no guarantees in aesthetic medicine. But if you're in good hands, the losses will likely be minimized or mitigated by an expert SEO consultant.

Stated differently, the clients of an SEO consultant — someone who understands what users want, abides by Google's quality guidelines, and stays on top of changes — will always be better off than going at it blindly.

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SEO

5-Step SEO Content Strategy For Plastic Surgeons

If you're a plastic surgeon or cosmetic medical professional, and you want to build organic traffic to your website, you need content. But you also want content that attracts interested, qualified patient leads. Just adding content alone is not going to do this for you.

To attract quality traffic, you need to create quality content.

And for that, you need an SEO content strategy.

Defining a content strategy for your website is a foundational component of search engine optimization (SEO) — and once the foundation is built and it's solid, the rest can follow and work far more effectively.

So let's look at how to build a content strategy.

1. Understand Your Market

Sounds obvious, but this is more than simply learning who you're trying to target. You need to know what their problems are, how they're talking about them, and what they're looking for in order to solve those problems.

In copywriting, there's a technique that goes:

“Always enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind.”

Robert Collier in The Robert Collier Letter Book

By doing so, your copy will connect with your audience, it will resonate more effectively with them, and it will have greater chances of being successful.

In SEO, it's no different. You need to create a content strategy that aligns with your patient's query and continues the conversation that's already going on in their mind. In other words, it matches the search intent as well as the user intent.

By doing keyword research, the goal is not to find keywords to stuff your content with. It's to understand your patient's thinking that went on when conducting their search so you can create valuable content that's relevant to them.

2. Define Your Content Architecture

During the first phase, a large part of the process will be to uncover topics (not search terms) your market is interested in and wants to know more about. While doing so, you will notice recurring themes, also called parent topics or umbrella topics, that various subtopics fall neatly under.

These are topical clusters.

The old SEO methodology was breaking a website into well-defined, isolated categories, often referred to as a “silo content architecture.” It still works today. But now that Google is becoming better at understanding context and not just content, a more effective technique is the hub-and-spoke architecture.

It's where pieces of content are interconnected through similar themes, ideas, or goals. Think of it as giving them labels instead of filing them under folders, like some email services for example.

The hub-and-spoke model centers around a single piece of high-value content, or “pillar content,” that covers a topic comprehensively and from which expanded content, subtopics, supporting content pieces, etc are developed.

The Five “Ps” of Plastic Surgery SEO

In my 30 years of being a marketing consultant with a large focus on cosmetic professionals and plastic surgeons, I've found that there are usually five major areas of content: Parts, Problems, Procedures, People, and Products.

The first three are the most common while the other two are optional and depend on the situation. They are:

  1. Parts: the body parts you treat (e.g., skin, face, breasts, hair, chin, forehead, stomach, legs, buttocks, nose, etc).
  2. Problems: the conditions you treat (e.g., psoriasis, drooping skin, sagging breasts, hair loss, rosacea, wrinkles, vitiligo, etc).
  3. Procedures: the treatments you offer (e.g., hair transplants, tummy tucks, breast augmentation, injections, liposuction, laser resurfacing, etc).
  4. People: the doctors and team members, including nurses, aesthetic professionals, and support staff (usually for larger clinics).
  5. Products: the products you sell (e.g., makeup and lotions, postsurgical compression garments, supplements, etc).

An effective website will appeal to all of these, but the first three (or at least the first two) will become the centerpieces around which the rest of the content strategy will be built. And they will connect with one another strategically for context.

For example, you might have a page on wrinkles and the various treatments for this condition. Each treatment mentioned is linked to its respective procedure page. Similarly, each procedure page might have a list of the various conditions this procedure treats.

This interconnection is part of the hub-and-spoke model.

One of my dermatologist clients had a website with content discussing the various procedures she offered. When I restructured and refined her content, and added a new navigation menu for all the conditions she treated, too, her organic traffic and leads nearly tripled.

3. Develop Your Pillar Content

Once you've defined your content architecture, next is to develop your pillar pieces or hubs, if you will.

It's too easy to write unfocused, self-serving content when you don't have a strategy. But having one will keep you from straying. This is where your research will come in handy, too. Knowing your market and how they search will give you a clear idea of who the content is for and why they should care.

I've met plenty of doctors who wrote their own content and their websites were unorganized, unclear, or untargeted. Either they were writing all over the place or their content sounded like boring academic papers written for their peers — or to make themselves look clever.

Your clients are your patients, not your peers.

So create content around the conversation that's going on in your patient's mind. A patient who just started conducting some research may be interested in understanding their condition (i.e., “problems”). Those who are more aware may be looking into options for treating their condition (i.e., “procedures”).

That's the key to conducting research. You want to understand what they're looking for and why. So focus on providing valuable content that's relevant and continues their internal conversation — and the journey they're on.

Choose high-volume, relevant keywords from your original research as your pillar topics. You can use complimentary keywords for developing additional content, either on the same page or later on.

In fact, you don't want to force-feed keywords into your content. Include them if they naturally fit, but the goal is the make the content valuable to the reader. If you do and you stay on topic, you will likely include, without knowing, related or similar keywords, anyway.

Variations, synonyms, and closely related keywords (often called “latent semantic indexing” or LSI keywords) will provide search engines with a good understanding of the content and its context — without having to stuff keywords that will corrupt your content and ultimately diminish its value.

Keyword stuffing will work against you. Guaranteed.

4. Add Supporting Content

Supporting content pieces are the spokes — subtopics that add value and depth to the main topic. Once you've defined your pillar content, you might have a list of related topics that expand on or support parts of the main one.

For example, say you offer tummy tucks and one hub piece is the procedure itself. Another hub piece might be the condition (i.e., sagging belly skin) or the body part (i.e., stomach, lower abdomen).

But spoke content might be blog posts discussing how to get rid of loose skin following a pregnancy or significant weightloss; what are some of the most common concerns about the procedure; how to select a tummy tuck doctor; what kinds of questions to ask when considering a tummy tuck; etc.

Your subtopics will delve into a question, concern, or issue that your patient is looking into, and hopefully, it will provide value and something authoritative that will lead them to investigate further and take the next step.

But invariably, it will contain related topical keywords, perhaps long-tail keywords that are less popular but far more relevant to your target audience.

When I specifically create an SEO content strategy for my clients, I create a list of pillar content topics and what they should be about or contain, along with a list of initial spoke content (such as three to eight articles). I also prepare an editorial calendar for content pieces to be delivered over time.

5. Link Everything Together

Of course, it's important to link all the content together. Aside from the navigation menu, doing so within the content will provide three major benefits:

  1. To create content relationships and add context;
  2. To increase dwell times and lower bounce rates;
  3. To boost signals through anchor texts within links.

The hub-and-spoke SEO content strategy helps to organize the relationship between pieces of content. Think of Wikipedia with its plethora of links to interconnected content pieces linked in specific, strategic parts of the article.

Similarly, interlinking articles together adds weight to your content by teaching the reader either the entirety of a particular topic or the depth of one or more of its parts. So add links between content pieces where it makes sense.

Also, when you subsequently promote your content (e.g., sharing it, posting it on social media, advertising it) or amplify it (e.g., repurposing it, extracting pieces from it, publishing in other formats), these internal links will also do double-duty, creating additional SEO signals.

So there you have it.

This is only a high-level look.

Ultimately, creating an SEO content strategy is not about developing content that will be picked up by Google. It's about providing value to your users at whatever point in their journey they happen to be, and subsequently helping them continue that journey on your site.

Categories
SEO

Uncover Gold in SEO Keyword Research

Previously, I talked about why using Google for your SEO keyword research is important. By understanding how your audience searches Google, and how Google answers their searches, can tell you a lot about search intent.

Google listings are great. But remember, there are five areas that can provide some great insights into organic rankings and search intent:

  • The search results themselves.
  • Search autocomplete suggestions.
  • “People also asked” after the first few results.
  • “People also search for” section further down.
  • Related searches at the bottom of the page.

As you type your search query, Google usually drops down a list of suggestions. But did you know that you can get suggestions for suggestions? (I know, sounds like something from “Inception.”) But here's how it works.

When I start typing “hire seo,” for example, I get the following list:

  • hire seo specialist
  • hire seo freelancer
  • hire seo expert
  • hire seo experts
  • hire seo content writer
  • hire seo agency
  • hire seo writer
  • hire seo services
  • hire seo copywriter

Sounds simple. But if you choose one of them, say “hire seo specialist,” then when I click on it I will go to the next SERP (search engine results page). There, I see the new term in the search field at the top. If I click on the search field at the end of the query and hit my spacebar, I get a new list of search suggestions:

  • hire seo freelancer
  • freelance seo specialist
  • seo freelancer salary
  • find an seo expert
  • seo freelancer jobs
  • seo freelancers
  • seo freelancer meaning
  • seo freelancer near me

Now you can see that the suggestions are quite different.

In the first search, Google thinks I'm looking to hire someone to do SEO. It gave me suggestions based on the assumption that I want to find someone in SEO to hire. That's a commercial investigation intent.

But in the second search, I get a mixed bag: I got some commercial intent but also some information intent, too, such as “SEO jobs,” “SEO salary,” “SEO meaning.” Not all about hiring but also about being hired.

The reason I bring this up is to prove a point: long-tail searches are far more powerful because they express intent. And remember, matching your content to the searcher's intent will help to increase your quality rating.

Let's say you're a plastic surgeon in Phoenix, Arizona. Among other procedures, you offer abdominoplasty (i.e., “tummy tucks”).

Trying to rank for “plastic surgery” by itself is going to be tough. It's desirable because the search volume is 110,000 right now. But fighting for that top spot is going to be as tough as learning how to sumo wrestle.

While walking a tightrope.

In clown shoes.

But if you were to write content around “tummy tuck,” that's better. Still tough, but a better one may be “tummy tuck cost Phoenix,” “Phoenix plastic surgeons that do tummy tucks,” “book consultation Phoenix plastic surgeon tummy tuck.”

(When I looked up the last phrase, I got “also asked” suggestions that included “mommy makeover,” such as, “how much does a mommy makeover cost in Arizona” or “in 2020?” These are great long-tail topic suggestions.)

Google's machine-learning algorithm no longer ignores stop words (e.g., prepositions, articles, conjunctions, etc). Stop words like “and,” “this,” “to,” “as,” “for,” etc provide context and search intent, such as “where can I book a consultation with a Phoenix plastic surgeon for a tummy tuck?”

You get the picture.

The point is this.

Yes, you can try to rank for generic keywords. But generic keywords will give you generic traffic. Shorter keywords are hard to rank for and very competitive. If you try to rank for them, one of four things will happen:

  • It will take you a very long time to rank for them if ever, and you will have to constantly work at it. It's an uphill battle.
  • If you don't rank well, you will get very little traffic because you're at the bottom of page number seven or 22.
  • If you rank well, you might not get as many clickthroughs because of the search intent mismatch (i.e., your title and description that show in the SERPs may not be what the person is looking for).
  • If you rank well and get some clicks, the traffic you will get might be completely unqualified and never convert. They may even be your competitors trying to check you out!

So don't be afraid of long-tail keywords.

Would you rather generate 0.1% of a short keyword with a volume of 5,000 searches per month? Or 5% of 100 long-tail keywords that have an average of 10-50 monthly searches each? The first will bring you just five visits, the second, 50-250. And these 50+ will be a lot more qualified.

Back to Google suggestions.

When getting suggestions, don't limit to end-loaded ones. You can get front suggestions, too. For example, after typing “hire seo company,” I go back to beginning of the search field (before “hire”) and hit the spacebar, and Google will then spit out a new list of suggestions that also include:

  • why hire seo company
  • should I hire seo company

Let's do it again: I choose “should I hire seo company,” click on it, and then on the next results page I place my cursor inside the search field at the end of “company,” hit spacebar, and I get these:

  • why hire seo company
  • benefits of hiring a seo company
  • questions to ask seo agency
  • benefits of seo company
  • why seo matters
  • benefits of hiring an seo expert
  • search engine optimization
  • seo agency benefits

You can do this with every search. And you can drill down and find the subsequent related searches with every page.

Now, you don't have to do all this manually. There are some tools that can help you. I use three of them, and they are browser extensions:

  1. Keywords Everywhere
  2. Keyword Surfer
  3. SEO Minion

These tools are useful in many ways, but the way that I use them is to give me a list of these suggestions as I search Google. That way, I don't have to do rabbit-hole detective work. They are usually found on the sidebar.

  • With Keywords Everywhere, I get trend data for the search (at the top), a list of “related keywords,” and a list of “people also searched for” keywords. I can easily export the lists into spreadsheets for reference.
  • With Keywords Surfer, I get keyword ideas, how similar they are, and their respective search volumes. It also gives me inline data, where it adds to each listing the estimated traffic and occurence of the keyword.
  • With SEO Minion, I get a SERP analysis, with the total number of results for the search term per category (i.e., number of organic results, ads, videos, local listings, images, product listings, etc), which I can export.

(When I do my competitive scan for SEO, I use SEO Minion for this purpose. It saves me a lot of trouble.)

Now, for related searches and questions under “people also asked,” I use AlsoAsked.com. Here's a look at my “hire SEO” example. You can easily spot the intent behind each question, and choose the questions you want to write content that answers them.

Drilling down questions about hiring SEO keyword research experts in AlsoAsked.com.
Example result using “hire SEO” in AlsoAsked.com.

Nevertheless, the real gold is not in the keywords.

Ultimately, I've said before that SEO keyword research sucks and keyword-first SEO is not what I'm advocating here. The key is to look at the search results and understand what they are telling you.

Look at the top results: the top three are best, the top five are good, but don't go past the first 10. The second page is where they hide dead bodies, anyway.

If the same-page results vary in terms of search intent, it means that Google may not know what you're looking for. Try to avoid the keyword. It's too generic. Go for search intent, not keyword. Go for what people want and what Google thinks matches that they want.

The more you do, the better the traffic.

Categories
SEO

Bottom-Up SEO Strategy: Why Keyword-First SEO is Wrong

I use tools for SEO audit research all the time. But one of the best ways to do research for SEO (and I've said this before but it bears repeating) is to go directly to the source: Google itself.

By using Google, you can do a search and find out what Google thinks you want. Tools help make the process efficient, but if you want to see quickly what Google thinks, going straight to the source gives you a ton of great information.

I mention this for two reasons.

First, Google actually tells us what they want.

It's called the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines. Now, it's only a guide. It doesn't tell the full story as Google doesn't want to give away the store for fear black-hatters find holes they can exploit or ways to game the system.

But the guide gives us a great understanding of some of the key metrics Google is looking for.

I've said before that, to rank well, you need to create quality content. But how you define quality is based on relevancy and value to the user. It's not about just posting a piece of content you think is good. It's about posting a piece of content that's good in the eyes of your audience. Not Google.

For example, according to the rater's guidelines, Google has human raters who measure the effectiveness of the search results using two criteria: Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating.

That's what I meant by “relevance” and “value.”

Your content is considered “quality content” if it's relevant to the user who did the search on Google (i.e., it matches their search intent and therefore meets their needs), and it's valuable to them (i.e., it's helpful, insightful, actionable, etc). The more value it offers, the greater its page quality rating will be.

Quality, in terms of the raters guidelines, is based on a host of factors and subject to interpretation. That's why “quality content” is subjective. The only way to measure it is to ask, “Does this content match what the user is looking for and really helps them?”

To rank on the search engines, the goal is simple: aside from user experience (UX), simply provide good content — content that users find relevant and valuable. And to rank higher on the search engines, simply provide better content — content that's more relevant and more valuable than others.

No, it has nothing to do with length (e.g., number of words). It has nothing to do with sophistication (e.g., academic-level language). And above all, it has nothing to do with keywords (e.g., forced inclusion or keyword stuffing).

So the two things that you need to pay attention to that will make a world of difference in your SEO audit, as a plastic surgeon or aesthetic practitioner, are these:

  • User search intent (UI),
  • Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT).

Understanding and matching your content to UI adds to its relevance while providing content that has stronger EAT adds to its value. The better these two are, and the better it can do so in relation to other results that come up for the same queries, then the better the chances of ranking higher will be.

The second reason is that it turns SEO upside down.

Last week, amid all the Black-Friday/Cyber-Week hoopla, I watched two videos that I suggest you watch, too.

The first one was an old presentation from 2016 by Google Engineer Paul Haar who discusses how Google works. The part of his talk I liked best is when he discussed “scoring signals.” It's a great peek “behind the curtains” (just a little) to see how queries are rated over at Google.

But what struck me from that talk is that human raters are not the only ways they gauge the quality of a result. They use live experiments. Specifically, they conduct A/B split tests. All. The. Time.

When you consider that there over 3,000 queries per second, split-tests can reveal a lot of information. And when we use Google, we are not only tapping into the Internet Zeitgeist but also getting a better understanding of how users use Google and what they want.

Google does a lot of different split-tests, but the one that caught my attention is when they do it is to serve two different results for a query.

They see how many people click on one result in the top spot for a certain query. They swap it for another for the same query and compare clickthrough rates (CTRs). One getting more clicks than the other may indicate that one result more closely matches what people are looking for.

The second video was more recent.

Grow and Convert are SaaS content marketers and SEO audit experts, and they really focus on content and the quality of your content when it comes to optimizing for the search engines and boosting conversions. I like their approach because I despise backlink begging, which is the riskiest part of SEO.

Their approach, which I'm a big fan of, is called “pain-point SEO.”

Typical SEO does this:

  1. Find keywords based on assumptions,
  2. Select highest volume keywords, and
  3. Create content around those keywords.

But Grow and Convert flips that on its head.

  1. Find out what pain points users have,
  2. Create content around solving them, and
  3. Find keywords to map content to user intent.

I absolutely love this approach.

Granted, they use this for SaaS companies. But this could very well apply to plastic surgeons and cosmetic medicine, too.

Prospective patients conduct a lot of research before approaching a cosmetic surgeon. They're trying to fix a problem, gauge the effectiveness of various solutions, choose a solution, and find the best provider of that solution. These are part of the stages of awareness (i.e., my OATH formula).

Here's the video that I'm talking about. It's an interview with Bernard Huang, the co-founder of Clearscope. Bernard describes a simple truth: that different queries deserve different optimizations that appeal to the user.

He reveals how to rank using this flipped approach, which drives the concept of creating quality content over other SEO audit approaches like keywords or backlinks.

In essence, it's user-first SEO audit rather than keyword-first SEO audit — the way most SEOs have been doing it for ages.

User-first SEO is also the way I've been doing SEO and the approach I've been trying to hammer so often through my own content. In fact, watch the video. It's amazing. Bernard shares his desktop and does live experiments to prove his point. You also get to see how a user-driven SEO expert thinks.

Now, he does get a little geeky, but the point is this.

You can learn what users want (and what Google thinks they want) by looking at what Google is doing and paying attention to what results it provides (and in the order it provides them) to determine intent-driven topics to write about.

Simply, it's a bottom-up approach. And it's better.

In short, create good content users want and provide a good experience users appreciate, and you will have patients beating a path to your door.

Categories
SEO

What is SXO (Search Experience Optimization)?

Search engine optimization (SEO), in the sense most people think about SEO, is becoming less about optimizing for the search engines and more about optimizing the user's search experience (SXO).

It's called “search experience optimization” or SXO.

SXO is not a new concept.

I've said that SEO boils down to creating quality content on a website that delivers a quality user experience. But this is nothing new. It has been a topic of discussion among SEO consultants since the early 2010s.

The issue is, how do you measure quality? Quality is subjective. What you think is “good” may not be good according to your users. Good content goes beyond just matching the user's query. It needs to meet the user's expectations, too.

And that goes beyond SEO.

SEO, in its purest sense, is optimizing your website for the search engines. Meaning, you make sure your website can be found, crawled, indexed, and used. In short, it meets Google's guidelines to be included in its index.

SEO, in the marketing sense (the way most people think of it), is optimizing your content to increase your chances of having your website come up in search results. You do this by creating content around search terms and topics that matches the user's query.

But how well does it match the user's expectations?

That's where SXO comes in.

Your website may be ranking well because you have good content. But it also has to be relevant and valuable to the user. And the more relevant and helpful it is, compared to all other alternatives, the higher you will rank. But high rankings don't always translate into quality traffic.

The way to look at it is, give quality content and a quality user experience (in consuming that content), and you will attract quality traffic. But to get more quality traffic, you need to meet their expectations. And you need to do it better than all other alternatives.

This is where you need to think about how your users search. You need to understand your users, what they're searching for, and how they search.

So good old market research, in other words.

From Google's perspective, these things are determined by a number of different metrics, such as analyzing click behaviors. For example, clickthrough rates, dwell times, pogosticking, “next clicks” (when people bounce back to Google and choose a next listing), and a host of other metrics.

Matching search intent is the key.

Doing so will provide the best search experience to your user. The greater the match, the greater the signals. But it doesn't end there.

A greater user experience affects search experience, too. If your content is top quality and, in essence, presumably satisfies the needs of the searcher, but the user bounces back because the site is unusable, unreadable, or unsafe, it will affect the search experience.

Therefore, the quantity (and quality) of your traffic will increase in proportion to the quality of your content and your user's experience. Again, “quality” here is defined by how well it matches the user's query and their expectations.

So how do you optimize the search experience (SXO)?

First, look to match the search intent and the user's level of awareness. Both are important. In other words, ensure your content responds to the kind of search they're making and meets them at their current stage of awareness. (For more on this, visit my OATH formula on stages of awareness.)

In other words, your content may be educational and the user does an informational search on the topic you're covering. But if your content is intended for a product-aware (hurting) audience when the user is unaware of the problem or the solution (oblivious or apathetic), they'll leave.

Second, make sure the process of finding and consuming that content is smooth, unhindered, and easy. Usability is more than just having a “good” website. User experience (UX) is a major ranking factor and Google is paying more attention to signals than ever before.

In fact, UX signals (like page speed, mobile-centric design, HTTPS security, obtrusive interstitials, safe browsing, etc) are not only going to help SEO, but they will also affect SXO, too.

Google has introduced a new set of UX metrics called Core Web Vitals that you will need to be aware of. Google will soon be implementing a new algorithm called “Page Experience Update,” rolling out in May 2021, that will affect rankings and CTRs across the board.

Google will add warning labels to its search results telling users if the sites have a good or bad SXO page experience.

As you can imagine, people seeing a not-so-good warning beside your link will avoid it or hesitate, even if it's ranking well. So this will eventually affect CTRs, which in turn will affect traffic quality and rankings.

But it can also affect their perception of you.

Think of it another way.

If your website has a bad experience (or a bad experience warning), the traffic you will get may well be perfectly qualified for the content and even for your business. But the bad experience will make them think twice or create a “horn effect” (I call it the ketchup stain) that will impact their perception of you.

In other words, a poor search experience will create cognitive dissonance that will affect their perception that will pervade other areas, including the decision to buy or recommend you. Conversely, a site with a good warning will likely create a more favorable perception.

Here's the best advice I've heard when it comes to SXO:

Aim to end the search.

Doing so takes into account that you have good content on a good website that matches the user's intent and expectations.

But don't just give the user no reason to go back to Google. Give the users a reason to stay, too, which will increase dwell times.

Optimize for the search experience, not just the search engines.

Categories
SEO

SEO and The Law of The Vital Few

If you've been a follower or subscriber for some time, you likely know that I often talk about SEO and the fact that it really boils down to two things:

  1. The quality of your content, and
  2. The quality of your user experience.

In other words, provide good content on a good website. What's “good” is relative. It's content that's relevant and valuable to your users (i.e., it matches their search intent and it's helpful to them), and delivered on a website that's fast, secure, and easy to use (i.e., the content is easy to find and consume).

Focus on those two things and you're golden. The more I think about it, the more I realize why I say this so often. It's actually for three important reasons.

First, it's to simplify.

SEO is something that can be complex and, too often, made complex by some SEO experts (and unnecessarily so). After all, there are several hundreds of ranking factors. So SEO can be a lot of work. But in most cases, it's doesn't have to be that complex. It's not some esoteric doctrine.

Second, it's to enable.

SEO often stops people from putting out good content for fear they won't get noticed. Many of my clients fail to publish their insights because they're misled by the expectation that they need to know, master, and apply SEO. But knowing SEO doesn't require coding backflips.

Third, it's to empower.

SEO, like any other marketing effort, abides by the “law of the vital few.” That law, also called the 80/20 rule, says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. Similarly, 80% of your best rankings will come from applying 20% of SEO practices. So there's no need to focus on everything.

In all my 30 years as a copywriter, marketer, and SEO consultant, I've never applied what most people think of SEO to my own site. I primarily focused on putting out good content my audience wants on a website that's easy to use.

Of course, I've done and continue to do keyword research. But it's mostly about researching my market and learning what my market is searching for — not words to stuff my content with.

Speaking of which, this brings up an important point.

In order to help simplify SEO, I have recommended the use of plugins like Rank Math and Yoast. While they're helpful, they are only guides – not goals. They should help you and not imprison you.

Otherwise, if you do everything they suggest, it will make your content robotic, contrived, or unreadable. You don't need to do backflips like trying to jam keywords into headers, titles, paragraphs, image descriptions, etc.

That's so 2005. Even 2015.

But SEO is not like that, at least not anymore. In fact, I've often said that SEO is not about keywords but about topics — topics your audience is interested in and are asking questions about.

You should never use these plugins with the expectation that you need to have a 100% score. The score is arbitrary and based on guesses using outdated SEO techniques like keyword stuffing.

It's like trying to increase your batting average by looking at the top hitters in baseball and emulating them. You use the same colored bat, wear the same branded gear, and chew the same flavored gum. But all of these things will do nothing to contribute to improving your batting average.

As the Bible says, no one can serve two masters.

If you write for the search engines, your content will be useless to your audience. But in today's SEO, you don't need to choose. You can write for both the search engines and your users by focusing on your users. Both you and Google serve the same master, anyway. You both share the same client.

So focus on your audience. Give good content they want and serve it to them on a good website that they will trust, appreciate, and come back to.

In fact, when I was doing research, I stumbled onto this quote:

“I’d be remiss not to mention that those plugins (despite big promises) do nothing significant for SEO other than helping you define a meta description.”

Brendan Hufford

I agree 100%. In fact, Brendan Hufford and I think a lot alike.

I've known about him for a while but never dove into his stuff — until last week when I was creating my list of SEO experts to follow. It's actually quite amazing. His style, like mine, is focused on simple strategies that move needles instead of all the idiosyncratic complexities and nonsense some SEOs tout.

Brendan is an SEO Director of a digital agency in Chicago, the creator of several SEO courses, and an avid podcaster. His course, SEO For The Rest of Us, teaches the same things I do. His approach resonates with me and I enjoy his style.

He, too, says that SEO boils down to offering quality content and a quality user experience. One key difference (although, I agree with it) is that, unlike my two, he talks about a third element. He says that SEO boils down to:

  1. Your website,
  2. Your content, and
  3. Your authority.

“Website” refers to the quality of the user experience (e.g., speed, accessibility, usability, security, etc). “Content” refers to the quality of your content (e.g., relevance and value to the user and their search).

But Brendan's third one, “authority,” refers to backlinks.

I'm not a fan of building backlinks, which is why I avoid talking about them. To be clear, I'm for backlinks as they are important. But I prefer to attract them rather than ask for them. After all, if the content and the website are good, chances are they will attract backlinks naturally.

Which is what Google wants, anyway.

But authority is definitely important, and I agree.

However, I would call it “the quality of your signals” rather than “backlinks,” because authority can refer to any signal, both internal and external (including implied backlinks such as brand mentions, reviews, reputation, citations, credentials, etc) that signal authoritativeness.

But that's where I think we diverge slightly. I often said that building credibility is more important than building backlinks. Although, to be honest, I took his SEO For The Rest of Us course, and his backlink outreach process is far superior and a lot less spammy than any other technique I've seen.

Nevertheless, this is only one of several things we share in common — including funnels and levels of awareness. I might go over them in a future installment.

In the end, the key point is that SEO is not that complex.

It's easy to some degree, and in some cases it's a lot of work. But it's certainly simpler — a lot simpler than what many make it out to be.

Categories
SEO

My Favorite SEO Experts (2021)

There are some people I follow religiously in the SEO space. These SEO experts are quite active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. There are too many to mention, so I'll list some now and I might add more later.

Keep in mind that some of them have email newsletters and podcasts, too. I tend to be subscribed to all of them. I recommend you visit their websites, and subscribe to their blogs, podcasts, or email newsletters, too.

First off, if you want to see who I follow in one fell swoop, here's my Twitter list of SEO experts and SEO organizations. There's about 300 in total. So let me just point out some of my favorites to follow in 2021.


Updated December 22, 2020.

Marie Haynes

I've known about Marie for a few years, and I've also known that she lives and works just minutes from me (in Ottawa, Canada). But I recently subscribed to her paid newsletter and podcast (there's a free one, too), which offers truly the most usable “search news you can use.” Aptly titled.

Lily Ray

A drummer like yours truly and a DJ, too, Lily Ray is a big proponent of EAT (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness), which I appreciate. I've been shouting for ages that EAT is a fundamental component of SEO for medical professionals. Lily not only an expert but an SEO nerd when it comes to data.

Glenn Gabe

Glenn is another SEO nerd who knows Google updates like the back of his hand — or knows how to decipher them. His blog is always chock full of deep insights and analysis, and I learn so much from them. It's like having someone on the inside at Google within being on the inside.

Aleyda Solis

Creator of the SEOFOMO newsletter, Aleyda Solis is the creator of one of my favorite YouTube shows called “Crawling Mondays.” It's a weekly show where Aleyda and her SEO guests discuss the latest and greatest tools, strategies, and trends in the world of search marketing.

Kevin Indig

A seasoned SEO specialist who has worked with some of the biggest SaaS companies in the world (and is now the new SEO director over at Shopify), Kevin Indig has an informative newsletter that offers some great insights combining technical SEO and content-driven SEO.

Brodie Clark

An award-winning SEO expert, Brodie Clark is someone who understands aspects of SEO that many people overlook, such as user experience (UX), web stories, featured snippets, Google Discover, and more. Like many of the experts here, Brodie is a frequent contributor to several industry newsletters.

Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard doesn't publish often, but when he does the SEO world rumbles. His Google ranking factors post is probably his best work and one I often turn to when I need to stay on top of things. He's also a popular and prolific contributor and guest on SEO podcasts, newsletters, and websites.

Traffic Think Tank

One of my recent mastermind groups, Traffic Think Tank, put together by SEO heavyweights Ian Howells, Nick Eubanks, and Matthew Howells-Barby (who's also the VP of Marketing at HubSpot), is a mind-blowing repertoire of SEO articles, tutorials, videos, and networking opportunities.


Updated November 20, 2020.

Ryan Stewart

I've been a fan and follower of Ryan for years. Check out his blog, too. His content never ceases to impress, and his SEO Blueprint Training is probably the de facto training in the world of SEO. With his successful agency, Webris, his specialty is in more advanced SEO, like using BigQuery.

Barry Schwartz

Back when I mostly did copywriting, I have always stayed on top of SEO. Barry was someone I followed since then. He's a major staple in the SEO community, and his YouTube channel is a must-subscribe when it comes to SEO news — from Google updates, news, and interviews with other SEO experts.

Ruan Marinho

If there's anyone I listen to who can say it like it is, with no fluff or sugarcoating, even if it's controversial, it's Ruan. I consider him to be one of the best experts on local SEO, and his videos always seem to teach me something new — and I've been at this for a couple of decades, now, so it's saying something.

Brian Dean

Brian is my favorite YouTuber. The reason is simple: he knows how to capture my attention, make his point, and move me to action. Owner of Backlinko, which is an SEO newsletter I highly recommend, Brian provides some of the best, step-by-step SEO tutorials I've ever seen. A must-subscribe.

Nathan Gotch

Nathan is another SEO channel I enjoy. Although he doesn't post as frequently, his videos are still filled with front-to-back advice. His approach, much like what I try to do, is to tackle something as complex as SEO and distill it into clear, simple language. His SEO checklists are also amazing, too.

Kristina Azarenko

I need to shout out to my fellow Canadian experts, too. Kristina is someone I've followed for a while — both on her site, MarketingSyrup.com, and on LinkedIn. If her new YouTube channel, SEO Follow, is anything like the content she puts out on her blog or LinkedIn, then it's going to be a must-watch.

John Lincoln

John owns an agency called Ignite Visibility. Every week he does a video roundup of all the latest digital marketing news, including SEO. John is the guy I listen to when I want to keep my finger on the pulse of what's going on. I know a lot, but if there's something I may have missed, John will let me know.

Sam Oh

The YouTube face of Ahrefs, one of my favorite SEO tools that has a blog too, Sam's videos are always full of great SEO tips and tutorials. Some of them are essentially meant to help you use their tool, but even so, his videos are filled with usable information and insights about SEO.

Chase Reiner

Another Local SEO expert YouTuber, Chase has a ton of how-to videos, including several paid courses. What I like the most with Chase is that sometimes he does SEO work, live on camera, and explains what and why he does it, as he does it. His blog is also filled with great content.

Craig Campbell

This Scotsman is always full of surprises. He does provide a lot of tips for SEO, and some of them are envelope-pushing. I don't ascribe to some of what he says, but I love his no-BS style, which is refreshing and insightful. He also does a lot of presentations with SEMrush, one of my favorite SEO Tools.

Andy Crestodina

The owner and founder of another successful digital marketing agency, Orbit Media, offers a newsletter, blog, and YouTube channel with tons of ideas on all things digital marketing. His SEO videos offer best practices and insights in a way that's easy to understand and implement.

Bruce Clay

Here's another expert whom I've been a follower of for many years. Bruce Clay, often known as the grandfather of SEO, publishes some of the best, easy-to-understand content in the world of SEO. More importantly, his articles often address “what to do when” questions, which I love.

Chris Dreyer

If there's anyone who's a perfect example of power positioning by dominating a niche, it's Chris. He's an SEO expert that specializes in personal injury lawyers. His YouTube channel offers great information that any professional can apply. His Rankings Podcast (one the same channel) is one I listen to as well.

Google Search Central

Of course, there's Google Search (formerly Webmaster) Central. John Mueller, the spokesperson for SEO over at Google, offers a ton of videos on SEO. But the interesting part is that many of his videos are Q&A sessions with a lot of SEO experts, some of who I've mentioned here.

Search Engine Land

This newsletter is a must-subscribe if you're an SEO expert or someone who wants to be on top of all things SEO. If there's any news, changes, or predictions in the world of SEO, this daily newsletter will let me know. It's one of the many newsletters I never skip on.

Search Engine Journal

If there are any must-have newsletters in the SEO world, Search Engine Journal is the biggest one. And by “biggest,” I mean by the amount of content they put out. They publish a lot of how-to tutorials, tips, and strategies that I often bookmark because they're so good.

SEMrush Live

I already mentioned the Ahrefs blog and YouTube channel. Similarly, SEMrush is another that has a blog as well as a YouTube channel. But their channel is often for livestreams, such as their recent “5 Hours of Technical SEO,” that feature many of the experts I already mentioned here.

The Moz Blog

Originally created by Rand Fishkin, one of the earliest experts in the world of SEO, Moz is an SEO tool much like its competitors SEMrush and Ahrefs. But Rand used to do his “Whiteboard Fridays,” which are now done by SEO guest experts since Rand left to focus on his new startup SparkToro.