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How to Develop an SEO Content Strategy [Guide]

One of the most important steps in generating organic traffic to your site is creating content. If you want more traffic, you need more content. If you want to improve your traffic quality, you need to improve your content quality.

Let's assume your site is technically sound and the user experience is decent. If your rankings are less than desirable, the likeliest of reasons is that you have no content, useless content, poor content, or harmful content (i.e., content that's competing with or stealing from better content, dragging your rankings down).

So you need better content. But what's “better,” exactly?

What's an SEO Content Strategy?

To create good content, you need a good content strategy. As a plastic surgeon, you know your audience and your subject matter. The key is to know how to connect the two in a way that Google recognizes (i.e., it matches the search intent) and outranks competitors claiming those coveted top positions.

Creating content just for the sake of creating content is not entirely bad. After all, any content is better than no content. Right? Well, as the hackneyed expression in SEO often goes, “It depends.”

Without a clear understanding of what you need (or, better said, what your users need) and how it fits into the rest of the picture, you may be shooting yourself in the foot and hurting your rankings — the opposite of what you want.

Creating content is essential, but a content plan will give your efforts the momentum to succeed that creating content blindly doesn't offer.

It starts with performing some keyword research. But it's more than knowing what topics to go after. You want to analyze the search results to see what Google thinks and who you will be up against. Once done, you will be in a position to determine what to write, how to write it, and how to optimize it.

For example, as part of the 360° SEO audit that I perform on my clients' websites, I conduct a content audit and create an SEO content strategy around my findings. The result may be one of five tactics:

  1. Creating missing content,
  2. Improving existing content,
  3. Deleting needless content,
  4. Merging competing content, and
  5. Consolidating unproductive content.

In this article, I'll share what I do with my clients, explain what templates I use, and list a few tools that help me do this. (Read to the end, and I'll share with you my templates that you can copy and use for yourself.)

1. Keyword Research

Today, it takes more than knowing popular exact-matched keywords to rank, much less stuffing them into your content. In reality, doing so can do the opposite and hurt your rankings. Forcing nonsense into your content like “best facelift Ottawa price” will only make your content look robotic, idiotic, or both.

Google is more sophisticated than ever before, and it's getting better at understanding how humans communicate. With the help of natural language processing (NLP), Google's rapidly evolving artificial intelligence can derive greater meaning from online content. (By the same token, it's also getting better at detecting manipulation.)

Now, keywords are still important.

But the keywords that search engines retrieve from a page do not directly influence how well that page will rank. Sure, they may hint at what the content is about. However, Google uses machine-learning processes and neural networks to recognize and understand more, such as context and meaning.

It subsequently uses additional signals and ranking factors to compare what it finds to other possible search results.

So the goal in doing keyword research is not to find words to stuff into your content. It may have been the way SEOs did it for a long time, but today it's backwards. The goal in conducting keyword research is to discover:

  1. What topics your audience is searching for;
  2. How they search for those topics and why; and,
  3. What kinds of content they want, like, and prefer.

There are different ways to conduct keyword research. But here's what I do. For me, the easiest way to determine the above (i.e., topic, intent, and format) is to look for evidence from what's already out there. I start from an existing topic, idea, or result (let's call it a “seed”), and I drill down further to find more clues.

1.1. Start With The Problem

Top copywriters know that the success of a marketing message hinges on adequately answering three simple questions:

  1. Who is your market?
  2. What is their problem?
  3. How do they talk about it?

SEO is no different.

The answers to those three questions will guide you the rest of the way.

You likely know your market. If you've been practicing plastic surgery for a while, you probably know your market very well — including your market's complaints and concerns. The next question is to uncover how they talk about them.

For instance, what do they search for? What questions do they ask? And at what stage of awareness are they? In other words, are they interested in knowing more about the problem? The possible solutions? One solution in particular? One provider of that solution in particular?

Again, this is not about knowing what keywords to target. It's about knowing and understanding your market's search patterns. There are ample SEO tools to help you do that. But the easiest way is to go to Google and type in the problem they're experiencing, and you will be able to uncover three important clues:

  • What users search for;
  • What questions they ask; and,
  • What results come up.

In other words, look at autocomplete search suggestions in the search field, or scroll to “related searches” at the end of the page. Next, look at “people also asked,” which offers clues as to their motivation. Finally, look at what kinds of results come up, what those results offer, and who provides those results.

1.2. Start With The Competition

With this approach, you start by finding keywords people use to find your competitors. I'm talking about your known or direct business competitors, such as another plastic surgeon, cosmetic surgeon, medical aesthetic clinic, or non-surgical cosmetic service provider targeting the same audience you are.

Rather than starting with keywords stemming from your users' problems, you start with your competitor's website to get a list of all the keywords your competitor is ranking for. You can do this with multiple competitors, too.

There are plenty of SEO keyword tools out there that will give you a list of all the keywords a target domain or URL ranks for. My preferred one is Ahrefs, but you can use SEMrush, Moz, SEObility, SpyFu, WordStream, etc.

With Ahrefs, I enter the domain into its site explorer tool to see all its keywords. But I will also get other useful insights, such as their search volumes, the competitor's ranking positions for those keywords, and other search engine results pages (SERPs) I can use to find additional competitors or keywords.

At this stage, the purpose is not to find keywords to focus on or to compete with. It's to learn what people search for when they find your competitors and then see if those keywords make sense with your situation.

This leads me to the next step.

1.3. Identify Good-Fit Keywords

You now have a bunch of keywords. This next exercise will give you a good idea of which keywords to start with. The first step is to validate your findings to see which keywords you discovered are viable — because not all of them are.

The goal is to determine if the keyword is worth going after. In other words, you want to make sure that the content you will create to satisfy the search query is something you can and want to offer: a) it fits with what users are searching for, and b) it competes fairly with the results they get to choose from.

To help you, here's a simple formula. Think of finding keywords that you can focus on as akin to a laser. “Laser” is an acronym to remind you that the query and the content you will address will fit within your:

  • Location
  • Audience
  • Solution
  • Expertise
  • Reach

They should fit within your target location, your ideal audience, the solutions you offer, your realm of expertise, and your ability to meet their needs.

For example, a keyword may be out of reach if the SERPs are highly competitive, dominated by sizeable competitors, or too dissimilar because the search intent is unclear. Take “facelift,” for instance. Results range from Wikipedia and WebMD to car dealerships and home renovators offering “facelifts.”

Ultimately, pick keywords that are worth focusing on.

Use those keywords to seed additional content ideas, related topics, questions to answer, and keyword variations. Look at what's under “related searches,” “people also asked,” and “people also search for” (i.e., in Google's right sidebar knowledge panel) when looking up your keyword.

1.4. Assess Topic and Intent

Before going further, it's important to make an inventory of the tentative keywords. With each, identify the target topic and search intent.

The topic is where I associate the keyword with its main or parent topic, which, in most cases, is the surgical procedure. For example, “how long does a nose job take to heal” is associated with “rhinoplasty.” The page discussing the procedure is a pillar page at the center of a topical cluster, if you will.

Then, I associate the stage of the user's awareness to which the keyword aims to appeal. In marketing, they're often called “awareness,” “interest,” “consideration,” “evaluation,” and “decision.” In plastic surgery, I often label them as “condition,” “treatment,” “cost,” “results,” and “location.”

Here's what they mean:

  • Condition: the problem they're experiencing;
  • Treatment: the product (or service) that solves it;
  • Cost: the price or a price range for that solution;
  • Results: the proof (e.g., patient photos or reviews);
  • Location: the place, website, or contact information.
Typical content funnel and stages of awareness in plastic surgery SEO.
Typical content funnel and stages of awareness in plastic surgery SEO.

For example, with the earlier question, “how long does a nose job take to heal,” the intent is likely “treatment.” A person asking about the time it takes for a nose job to heal usually is searching for information about the procedure.

Here are some other examples:

KeywordTopicIntent
What causes stretch marks?AbdominoplastyCondition
Are breast implants safe?Breast AugmentationTreatment
How much does a facelift cost? RhytidectomyCost
micrograft before and after photosHair TransplantationResults
Metropolis Plastic Surgery ClinicDirectionsLocation

Keep in mind that some of these keywords can also have different topics and intents. For example, “Dr. Joan Smith” may be about the doctor (i.e., information about this doctor's treatment or results), or it may be about the location (i.e., information about this doctor's location to find her clinic or website).

Another common multiple-intent query is when it combines a search like “best” (e.g., best treatment, top doctor, most natural results) or “cost” (e.g., price, cheapest, financing) with “near me” (or the location name). For example, “best hair transplant surgeon near me” or “cheapest lip filler clinic in Metropolis.”

Seeing the search results that Google serves up is a good indicator of the search intent and the competitors you will be up against.

This takes us to the next step.

2. Competitive Analysis

Previously, I talked about using direct competitors as a starting point for doing keyword research. The goal is to uncover keywords and topics your competitors are ranking for, particularly those you are not ranking for, to give you some ideas for content to create with your SEO content strategy.

But in this step, the aim is to research your search competitors for those same keywords. They may or not be directly competing with you. Your biggest direct competitor may be outranked by a lesser one, too. You want to know who is outranking you, why they're outranking you, and what topics they're ranking for.

To accomplish this, you need to perform two types of competitive analyses: a SERP analysis and a gap analysis. Let's take a look at each one.

2.1. SERP Analysis

It's impossible to know exactly why competitors are ranking so well. After all, we don't work at Google. Even with Google's machine learning algorithms, including RankBrain (and now Skynet, sorry, DeepRank), it's nearly impossible for Google's engineers to know with 100% precision why a site is ranking well, too.

But a competitive analysis, particularly a SERP analysis, can give you a ton of clues about what factors help them rank.

There are known ranking factors that Google has officially revealed. There are estimated ones that SEO experts have discovered, some of which Google has publicly confirmed. But many are unknown ones that Google prefers not to reveal, of course, to prevent zealous SEOs from cheating the system.

However, you can make some intelligent guesses by looking at the content from these top-ranking results. Search for any clues, commonalities, and other correlational factors between them. A SERP analysis aims to see what you need to have and/or do to compete with and outrank these top performers.

Granted, outranking your competitors is not an overnight process. SEO is a long game, and it takes time and work. But done strategically and effectively, your efforts can gain traction faster. If and when you do eventually outrank these competitors, the resulting traffic can be significant, too.

What is a SERP analysis?

By searching for a term or topic you wish to rank for, you can see what kinds of results come up, and you can analyze those results to find common themes, obvious factors, and not-so-obvious ones with a little reverse-engineering. Many tools help achieve this, but you can also do it manually.

For example, say you're looking to rank for “best liposuction doctor in Houston.” When you search Google for this term — in a private browser window to avoid personalized results — and look at the top 10 results, ask yourself: what do they have in common? What stands out? What's different?

For example, look at the quality of each top result:

  • Is the content comprehensive, relevant, and helpful?
  • Is it well-written, accurate, credible, and up to date?
  • Was it written or reviewed by a medical professional?
  • Are the authors obvious and their credentials included?
  • Are referenced sources properly attributed and cited?
  • Does the content contain any supporting visuals?

Then, look at the quality of the user experience:

  • Is the site fast-loading, secure, and easy to navigate?
  • Is it easy to read without distractions (e.g., ads or popups)?
  • Is the design clean, modern, professional, and consistent?
  • Does the page include relevant links to other pages or sites?
  • Are the location details and contact information easy to find?
  • Are there any usability aids like a TOC or breadcrumbs?

And finally, look at the quality of the signals to the above:

  • A headline that's conspicuous, relevant, and helpful.
  • The number of words or minutes (i.e., content length).
  • The number of paragraphs, chapters, or sections.
  • The number of distinct headings and subheadings.
  • The number of supporting visuals and any captions.
  • The number of links to other pages or external sites.
  • The number of keywords or topics in all of the above.

Keep in mind that they're just examples and not comprehensive by any means. Sometimes, it isn't easy to see how or why a given result is more appealing to a user. Short of hiring an outside SEO consultant to help you, ask a friend, a staff member, or a patient to tell you what they think.

Also, some signals are less obvious and more technical, such as site structure, internal links, HTML tags, schema markup, backlinks from authoritative sources, crawlability, etc. SEO audit tools can help, but a glance can provide you with some apparent clues nonetheless.

2.2. SEO Gap Analysis

Performing a gap analysis is one of the most effective types of competitive research you can do for your SEO. It allows you to uncover gaps between you and your competitors, or gaps left by your competitors, that you can fill.

A gap analysis finds successful competitor keywords you lack, or it uncovers successful competitor content you can outdo (i.e., their content is outdated, incomplete, or poorly written). In other words, you want to find gaps you can fill that your competitors are ignoring or leaving behind.

Sometimes, you can fill gaps by creating new pieces of content or improving existing ones. A content audit will be helpful for this reason. (I'll return to this.)

When I do a gap analysis for clients, I start by performing a competitive scan to create an inventory of their current top search competitors. I have three options with the keywords I found earlier: I can select them all, pick a few that have a decent search volume, or pick a few I know my client is already ranking for.

2.2.1. Choosing Viable Competitors

I then take those selected keywords and run them through a search. I copy the top 10 results for each keyword into a list. I might end up with hundreds of results. If I start with 50 keywords, for example, I will end up with 500 results.

However, not all the results that come up will be a LASER fit. So I either copy only the results that do fit, or I make sure to prune the list later.

Admittedly, this can become tedious.

I have done it more times than I care to count. Sometimes, I still do. But today, many SEO tools — like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz — can do this for you and save you a lot of time. Many of them have a gap analysis capability, too.

When I do it manually, I collect the numbers for each domain (i.e., number of visitors, keywords, and backlinks) and import them into a spreadsheet. It allows me to sort according to size and identify the winningest competitors with the most traffic, authority, and traction in the search engines.

From the remainder, I pick 10 of the most viable competitors. By “viable,” I mean domains (and not just the page that came up in the results) with a decent number of visitors, keywords, and backlinks.

As with the direct competitor earlier, I run each domain through an SEO tool to uncover all the other keywords they're ranking for. I filter out any branded terms, such as keywords containing competitor names, trademarks, or locations. I also filter out anything obvious that's doesn't fit within my client's LASER focus.

Finally, I combine all of the keywords into a list.

2.2.2. Choosing Viable Terms/Topics

I group keywords according to ranking disparity:

  • High-range keywords are those for which my client is not ranking at all.
  • Mid-range consists of keywords for which my client is ranking but poorly.
  • Low-range are those for which my client is ranking in the top 10 or 20.

Next, I determine the keyword's potential (high search volume) and its difficulty level (low ranking barrier). Most SEO tools offer some keyword difficulty score. It varies from tool to tool, but it's simply a gauge of the level of competitiveness of a keyword and the strength of those competitors.

The more competitive a keyword is, and the stronger and more authoritative the competitor, the greater the challenge it will be to rank for that keyword.

However, both disparity and difficulty can present some opportunities.

I might find a high-range keyword with potential. If the difficulty is low, it might be an easy gap to fill. Conversely, if there's a low-range keyword but with a high difficulty score, it might still be worth going after — it depends on how low the range is and how much work is required to outrank these competitors.

Whether you choose to start with low-hanging fruits, remember that the greater the disparity and the higher the difficulty score, the harder it will be to rank. It's not impossible, of course. But it may take a lot of work and time — not to mention perseverance in dealing with volatility and changes along the way.

This leads me to the next step, which is conducting a content audit.

3. Content Audit

It's easy to assume that all you need is fresh content and good keywords for that content. But it may be wise to perform an SEO content audit first to see if there's any existing content that can be updated, improved, consolidated, or amplified with a new focus or keyword.

It's an opportunity to identify high-value content (i.e., content with traffic, backlinks, or conversions) and prune any deadweight pages that not only fail to offer any value but also may be hurting your overall rankings.

Google has confirmed that some SEO signals are page-specific while others are site-specific. Either one may affect the other. While Google did not specify which particular signals, many tests conclusively show that low-quality pages can lower the overall perception of a site's quality and authority.

In short, one page can drag an entire site's rankings down.

So if your plastic surgery site contains a bunch of your favourite recipes, and they provide no value or get little traffic, you might want to consider deleting those pages or repurposing them to a separate site.

By conducting an SEO content audit before you create a new content strategy, you can see what's working, what to do with what's not working, and what to include in your content plan. I call this process “assess, assign, and associate.”

  1. Assess the content's search performance.
  2. Assign a value and action goal to the page.
  3. Associate relevant terms to specific pages.

3.1. Assess Search Performance

First, a powerful SEO tool at your disposal is Google's Search Console. It can provide you with an enormous amount of data and insights. If you haven't set it up yet, do it now or have your team do it if they haven't already.

With GSC, you can easily identify:

  • Your most productive content on the search engine,
  • The most common keywords users find you with,
  • Your most linked content (both internal and external), and
  • Any issues and manual penalties you need to address.

Within GSC's “performance” section, select the timeframe. I typically use at least the last 12 months to account for seasonality, holidays, and trends. Then, export the results to a spreadsheet, which will contain multiple sheets.

The two important sheets are “pages” and “queries.”

“Pages” are the URLs that appeared in Google, and “queries” are the keywords that summoned them. Each sheet will contain the same metrics: the number of times it appeared (impressions), the number of times users visited the result (clicks), the clickthrough ratio (CTR), and the average position in the SERPs.

3.2. Assign Page Value and Goal

The goal of this next exercise is to create an action plan for your existing content. First, however, consider the following three important caveats:

  • Duplicate URLs: If you see different URLs pointing to the same page, you will want to combine them, provided the content is unchanged. (If the content is different, leave them alone.) Combine the total impressions and clicks, and from those, recalculate the CTR.
  • New pages: If you have recently published or significantly updated content, it might not have had enough time for Google to index it, much less send traffic to it. You might want to ignore anything new or updated in the last six months. Just mark these pages as “to skip.”
  • Conflicting results: If you have pages that perform poorly in the search engines, have no backlinks, and get little traffic historically, but they do convert, the reason may be: tougher competition, wrong search intent, poor E-A-T signals (i.e., expertise, authority, and trust), lacklustre user experience, hidden technical issues, etc. Just mark these as “to review.”

Now that that's out of the way, next is to look at what needs attention.

3.2.1. Lowest Performing Pages

Start with the pages that have the least amount of impressions and clicks. Compare them against your analytics. Look at how much traffic they get, but you also might want to check their bounce rates, backlinks, and conversions — even social media shares. The metric you choose is up to you and your goals.

  • If the value is negligible, then mark the page as “to delete and redirect.”
  • If the value is acceptable, then look at the queries for this page:
    • If the queries make sense (i.e., they fit within your LASER focus and have some decent search volume), mark the page as “to revise.”
    • If the queries don’t make sense, mark the page as “to reassign” (i.e., to give it a new topic or keyword focus) or “to combine” the page with another, depending on the topic and intent (see above).
  • Finally, if the page has considerable value, then mark it as “to review.”

Before going further, check to see if there are any pages with duplicate or competing content, such as two or more low-performing pages targeting the same or similar search terms. If so, they're probably causing SEO signals to split and cannibalizing each other's rankings.

If both bring some value, mark these as “to combine.” It will consolidate both the content and their signals. But if one brings little to no value, mark it as “to delete and redirect,” and mark the other according to the above criteria.

3.2.2. Highest Performing Pages

Next, look at your top performers. If they have a high number of impressions or clicks, and the page is ranking well, then mark it as “to keep.”

But if there's room for improvement (i.e., high impressions and clicks but low rankings), then mark it as “to review” or “to revise.” In other words, update the content, but consider other SEO factors, too — such as backlinks, E-A-T, user experience, search intent, etc. — that may need attention as well.

Ultimately, a high-performing page with thin, outdated, or unproductive content will benefit significantly from a content refresh and/or expansion. If it no longer fits within your LASER focus (you've since changed locations, for example), then mark them as “to revise” or “to combine” with another piece.

Here's an example from personal experience.

My client is a hair transplant doctor. He has a page about an older hair grafting technique that's now outdated, and he no longer performs it. However, the page is ranking well and still driving a lot of traffic.

To avoid risking the loss of traffic, we decided to keep the page, add content, and convert it into a review of the older procedure, which some competitors still perform. We also added why the latest techniques are better — with links pointing to the newer technique page to pass any link equity.

3.3. Associate Relevant Terms

You now have an action plan on what to do with your existing content.

Starting with the “to reassign” pages, go back to your list of keywords from your initial research at the beginning. See if any of the viable keywords you've found can be associated with these pages. If not, decide on a new course of action.

With those marked “to revise,” you can choose to refresh and update the content. But with those pages to which you want to expand and add content, assign relevant keywords on which the expanded sections will focus.

For instance, if one of your chosen keywords happens to be a subtopic of a page slated for revision, append a new section to the page covering the subtopic. By making an existing topic more comprehensive, you increase engagement, SEO signals, and of course, keywords for that page.

However, if the search intent is different, it may be more effective as a distinct page. Or if the subtopic has enough value to be the main topic by itself, with a distinct cluster of subtopic pages that support it, assign a new page for it, too.

For example, one of my clients offers facelifts. The page about the procedure includes upper and lower facelifts. Research shows that “neck lifts” in his area is a popular search term for which the search competition is relatively weak. As such, we associate the term with a new but separate page.

With the remaining keywords, assign them to new content you want to create. It's the fourth and final step, which is about SEO content planning.

4. Content Planner

This part is where you bring it all together.

When I create a content planner, I use an editorial calendar. It's a spreadsheet template that allows me to create and oversee all the content assignments. At a glance, I can see the content in production, assess where they are in the production chain, and review the deliverables.

The people who can access and use the planner will depend on whether my client creates the content personally or not, or whether they create it internally by their staff or externally by outside writers. In other words, it depends on the level of control they wish to retain over the deliverables.

Here's a look a screenshot of one I've recently created for a plastic surgeon, where I obfuscated the links for obvious reasons:

Screenshot of Michel Fortin's SEO Content Planner for plastic surgeons.
Screenshot of Michel Fortin's SEO Content Planner for plastic surgeons.

The planner contains two key sections:

  1. The status of the assignment and
  2. Details about the deliverable.

4.1. Content Assignment

The section at the beginning of the planner is about managing the assignment. The first columns are for the dates the content is due and to keep track of the status of the assignment, which consists of a series of 10 steps:

  1. Create the content brief.
  2. Assign the content brief.
  3. Write the content draft.
  4. Edit the content draft.
  5. Complete any revisions.
  6. Add images and styling.
  7. Perform an SEO review.
  8. Upload the content.
  9. Add any internal links.
  10. Promote the content.

The aim is to provide an at-a-glance look at what’s going on and the expected timeframe. Some doctors I work with publish new content quite frequently and from multiple sources. Therefore, this section is helpful to keep tabs on things.

4.2. Content Deliverable

The next section contains high-level content details.

It starts with information about the chosen keyword that the content will focus on, the keyword's difficulty score, the potential monthly search volume, the main topic it falls under, and the search intent it will appeal to.

Then, there's the content type and format. The format can be a written article, an audio or video recording, an image, a document, an app or interactive piece of content, or a combination of these (e.g., a video to embed on a page with a written transcript and commentary).

But the type of content to create, which is about its style and structure, is a matter of preference. However, as with the format, it should be based on the earlier competitive analyses. If all the top results seem to be listicles, creating one may be a good idea to meet the searchers' needs.

Here's a list with some examples:

  • Case study: it's a self-contained story of a patient's journey, which may include the patient's chief complaint, the doctor's assessment, the procedure (some plastic surgeons will include photos or footage of the procedure with the patient's consent), and how the results turned out (some surgeons will include patient testimonials).
  • Comparison guide: it's a comparative look at the pros and cons of two or more entities, such as different procedures, products, philosophies, tools, and so on. It might include a rating system to help the user in a decision.
  • Expert guide: the most popular type and the one I most often assign, an expert guide is typically a long-form content piece on a specific topic. It may be a tutorial, a how-to guide, a demonstration, a checklist, or a content series. Essentially, any long-form content is an expert guide.
  • Expert roundup: it's a piece of content with insights from a list of chosen experts on the same topic. The style can vary, too (e.g., tips, ideas, reviews, or predictions, even short soundbites).
  • Infographic: It's an informative visual, with charts, icons, illustrations, graphs, statistics, diagrams, etc. It explains an important topic or provides a quick, easy-to-understand overview. The ideal purpose is to create share-worthy content, particularly on social media.
  • Interview: it's either a formal interview or a conversation piece between two or more people. It may include a series of questions and answers, a critique or hot seat, or an informal “fireside” chat. The author can be the guest or the host (i.e., the one asking or responding to questions).
  • Landing page: it's a page that's intended to drive a specific action. Every page on the Internet is technically a landing page. But in this context, it's a focused page intended to engage the user and drive a certain action.
  • Listicle or list piece: it's content structured as an itemized list, such as bullet-point content, checklists, countdowns, or roundups. You often see these as “top 10” lists, for example, such as “top 12 reasons to have lip injections” or “seven common types of breast implants.”
  • Local lander: it's a landing page but for local SEO purposes. It includes contact details, location information, even geocoordinates of the practice or clinic. It can be about a region, city, or street (such as “Harley Street” in London). It can also be for service areas or multiple offices — as long as each page is distinct and relevant to the user.
  • Product or service: it's a description of a product or service, and the style can vary greatly depending on the search intent. It might describe the procedure for informational purposes, a buying guide for investigational purposes, or an ecommerce store page for transactional purposes.
  • Template or tool: it's content that's interactive to some degree. It can be a poll, survey, app, assessment, formula, diagram, form, calculator, etc. For example, a doctor offers before-and-after patient photos, as most plastic surgeons do. But hers are recorded with a 360° camera, allowing users to interact with the image and view them from different angles.

It's worth noting that a piece of content doesn't have to fall neatly into any of these content types. It can also be a combination of any of them.

4.3. Content Outline

The final section of the planner contains details about the content itself.

Each content assignment has a content brief, a tentative title, and an optional online editor or SEO template. It's either a live document such as Google Docs or an online content editor that measures different SEO signals — such as the number of words, keywords, images, chapters, headings, and so on.

If my client uses WordPress, some SEO plugins like Rank Math and Yoast provide this functionality inside WordPress's editor. I don't follow these to the letter. But they're useful guides and reminders of what to include. If they don't have WordPress, there are several SEO writing tools available:

There are also a few all-in-one SEO content tools that include everything from keyword research to competitive analyses to shareable online editors, like Clearscope, MarketMuse, Topic, Outranking.io, and my favourite, Surfer SEO.

(All the steps I described in this article are doable within SurferSEO, including competitive analyses. I'm an affiliate, but I use it a lot and recommend it.)

In any event, when I create a content planner for my client, they can share a link to the SEO content brief with their writer, whoever that may be. If they invest in an online editor such as Surfer SEO, they can send that link, too. Otherwise, once the draft is delivered, we run it through the SEO template for review.

I've included a blank template for you. It's a Google Sheets document, but you will need to save a copy. I've included about 20 content assignments as dummy text to show you how it works.

One important point I need to stress.

Remember that today's SEO is not about stuffing keywords into a document. It's about providing the user with helpful, relevant, quality content.

Keep in mind that all these guides and templates are not hard rules etched in stone. Moreover, while they remain largely keyword-based, modern SEO writing tools incorporate the latest technologies such as NLP to understand the content better. They look for the meaning behind keywords and not the keywords alone.

Nevertheless, next is the last step: details of the content assignment.

4.4. Content Brief

The purpose of creating a content brief is to give your writer some instructions, resources, and guidelines to follow. It helps to speed up the process, reduce risks, minimize misunderstandings, and lower costs by saving on research time.

There are countless ways to create content briefs. Mine is only one of literally a billion results on Google. Also, I call it an “SEO content brief,” but it's not about writing for the search engines. It's always about writing for the user. Some SEOs prefer to call them “SEO-focused” content briefs for that reason.

Regardless, what follows is a template I use that's similar to what other SEO experts use. But I modified it to fit my plastic surgery clients. Here's a screenshot:

How to Develop an SEO Content Strategy [Guide] 1 | seo content strategy
Screenshot of Michel Fortin's SEO Content Brief for plastic surgeons.

It contains two sections, similar to the content planner.

4.4.1. Admin Details

At the top, I highlight the due date, the target word count, and the website address. The latter may sound odd to you, but when you outsource 20, 50, even 100 pieces of content, some to the same writers, or some for clients with multiple websites, keeping track is challenging but important.

Before I go any further, here are a few important things to remember.

  • So far, you researched your keywords and analyzed your competitors to see what works, what's missing, and what gaps you can fill.
  • Then, you validated the topics you want to target, defined the intent you're going after, and confirmed the competition you're up against.
  • Also, you learned what appears to rank well and what the search engines are looking for to find any commonalities and clues.

All that information will come in handy at this point because each content brief will consider and incorporate much of these findings. For example, you will factor in the common number of words, headings, images, and other commonalities you uncovered during that research.

Consequently, when developing your instructions and content guidelines, you will need to refer to your earlier research to increase your chances of appealing to your users and competing for those top spots.

4.4.2. Article Details

Now, here are the content brief's details:

  1. Title Suggestion: When I create content briefs, I include a headline as an idea, but it may change depending on the final draft. Sometimes, after the writer does their own research, they come up with a different angle that warrants a more appropriate headline.
  2. Suggested Slug: I suggest a URL for the article, which may or may not include the main keyword. If the content strategy is part of an upcoming change in the content architecture, I provide a URL as a reference.
  3. Article Description: I give the writer a general idea of what the content is about, what it should say, and what it's supposed to do. For example: “Create a 15-point listicle about the different questions the reader should ask their plastic surgeon about [procedure].”
  4. Target Audience: I describe the profile of the intended audience. For example: “Successful businesswomen or executives in their late 30s to mid-40s.” I may also include links to helpful references.
  5. Tone of Voice: I describe the content's tone and brand voice, possibly with examples. For instance: “Use a conversational but professional tone.” “The author is a medical doctor with a unique approach to patient care.” “Avoid humour or any language that might seem offensive.”
  6. Main Topic: This is the general topic with a link to the parent page. For plastic surgeons, it's typically the procedure (e.g., “blepharoplasty”). It can also be about the condition (e.g., “ptosis”) or body part (e.g., “eyelids”). It can also be about a topic cluster that encompasses related subtopics.
  7. Related Topics: I list other relevant topics to include and questions the content should answer. I refer to my earlier research where I got some ideas based on “seed” keywords and SERP analyses.
  8. Competition: I usually list select competitors from the top five to 10 search results for the main keyword, and I include their links, titles, SERP positions, and word counts. I also add anything specific worth looking into.
  9. Source Suggestions: I suggest resources as a starting point for their research. I also add any quotes, statistics, studies, or data to include (or to look for). I remind them to cite their references. I may also offer links to additional competitors or similar content I like as examples.
  10. Primary Keyword: This is the main keyword that the content will focus on.
  11. Other Keywords: I recommend additional keywords to consider, including synonyms, variations, or related words. I list at least five or more. I also suggest incorporating these in headings.
  12. Meta-Description: I ask the writer to compose a compelling description of 150-160 characters and incorporate the main keyword and, if possible, the main topic. Since this description will likely appear in search results, I point out that it should entice searchers to click but not use clickbait.
  13. Content Structure: I give the writer an idea of the structure, such as what to include in the introduction, the number of subheadings, a suggested content outline, anything that's specifically important, and so on.
  14. Internal Links: I provide links to any internal pages I want to include. For example: “Insert a minimum of three links to [page] and [page].” I also suggest using keywords or topically related words as anchor texts.
  15. Keyword Placement: I guide the writer on incorporating the keywords into the content. For example, I might say: “include the main keyword in the introduction,” “create subheadings using secondary keywords if possible,” or “insert relevant keywords in image captions when appropriate.”
  16. Supporting Visuals: I specify to include a specific number of visuals with a brief description (50-125 characters) of each image, with appropriate keywords, which will become alternative texts.
  17. Guidelines: I cover important guidelines to follow. For example, “keep paragraphs short,” “start with a story,” “add calls to action,” “never force keywords into the content,” and so on. I want to be as specific as possible to avoid any surprises and unnecessary revisions.
  18. Comments: Any final comments or considerations the writer should know about, I add them here. It's also an opportunity to mention what to avoid or watch out for, such as any sensitive issues, compliance information, even regulations to be aware of.

When the content brief is ready, upload it to your website, a cloud drive, or your preferred collaboration tool. Insert a link to it in the SEO content planner.

I included an SEO content brief template you can use. It's a Google Doc, which you will need to save as a copy. Use it as a guide, and take whatever fits your goals, practice, and management style.

5. Final Thoughts

Any plastic surgeon who wants to improve their visibility and increase their rankings will need to create relevant, helpful, high-quality content.

However, knowing what content to create and what elements to include will gain more traction than otherwise. Moreover, learning what to avoid, reduce, or remove can be just as productive, if not more so — from bad-fit keywords and unfair competition to deadweight content that's just bogging your site down.

In the end, one of the keys to improving your chances of winning at SEO is having a solid content strategy and making intelligent decisions. Some of those decisions come from researching what users want and how they want it. Others come from employing inductive reasoning in studying proven winners.

Finally, keep this in mind.

Creating an SEO content strategy is not some one-size-fits-all approach. You can follow the steps above and use the downloadable templates. However, remember that these are mine based on what I do, and they're only guides to help you. Make them fit with your goals and approach.

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

SEO Content Creation Strategy For Plastic Surgeons

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 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.

The Audience

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.)

The Intent

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:

  1. To go (navigational intent).
  2. To know (informational intent).
  3. To do (transactional intent).

For example:

  1. “Dr. Smith plastic surgeon Toronto.”
  2. “How long do breast reductions last?”
  3. “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 Content Creation ““““““““““““benefits will spill over because it's meeting Google's quality guidelines.

The Awareness

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:

  1. Research the questions they're asking.
  2. Look at long-tail keywords or phrases.
  3. 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.

The Topic

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.

The Format

Format has two components: the modality and the methodology.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Putting it All Together

When you add all of these up, you get a much clearer understanding of:

  1. Who you're targeting (audience),
  2. What they're looking for (intent),
  3. Why they want it (awareness),
  4. What to give them (topic), and
  5. How to give it to them (format).

Here's an example:

  1. Middle-aged mothers with stretch marks.
  2. Searching for possible “mommy makeover”.
  3. Knows options, interested in tummy tucks.
  4. Wants to know about tummy tuck scarring.
  5. 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.