Weeks after my whole family got theirs, I finally got the vaccine. Speaking of which, if you search for “vaccine,” you're going to get different results. It's a pretty generic keyword. Google may only guess what you mean.
You may be searching for news about it.
You may be trying to learn about the risks.
Or you may want to book your appointment.
This is called “search intent.”
To understand why this is important to your SEO efforts, above and beyond “keywords,” let's take a closer look at what it is and how to optimize for it.
Actions Speak Louder Than (Key)words
More and more SEO experts are offering services beyond just Search Engine Optimization. Many offer User Experience Optimization (UXO) and Search Experience Optimization (SXO). The reason is simple: rankings don't matter if the results, such as your content, don't satisfy the searcher's query.
Search engines like Google use machine learning to pay attention to how people respond to search results. They try to gauge if the result meets their needs. For example, if someone types in “how to increase organic traffic to my website” into Google, this may happen:
They get a bunch of results.
They click on one of them.
They visit the page.
They scan the content.
They hit their back button.
They return to the results.
They choose the next link.
And so on.
This may signal to Google that the link they provided isn't what the user is looking for. So it could be either one of three things:
The content is bad,
The user experience is bad, or
It doesn't meet the user's search intent.
Called “pogosticking,” this back-and-forth process tells the search engine that the site is not meeting the user's needs. It's not providing good content or a good user experience or matching the user's search intent.
You may have great quality content and a fantastic user experience. But what if the content was simply wrong for what the user is looking for? What if it's perfect but delivered in the wrong way (e.g., they wanted video and not text)?
If you rank well, the mismatched intent will deliver poor quality traffic and inflate your bounce rate unnecessarily. But chances are you will not rank well, anyway, since Google uses machine-learning to know what people are looking for and serve results that match their intent.
What are “Long Clicks” and “Short Clicks”?
A bounce rate is calculated based on single-page visits, where users bounce out after visiting one page and without navigating to any other page on your site. Pogosticking may add to the site's bounce rate. But it doesn't mean the content is bad. Users may have read the entire article and left.
That's when the concept of “dwell time” comes in.
High bounce rates are not enviable. But pogosticking is important to pay attention to, specifically because it's indicative that the site is not relevant to the user's search. It doesn't match what the user is searching for.
This metric called “dwell time” provides context and indicates if the content was appropriate. A visitor who clicks on a search result and bounces back after a few seconds is called a “short click.” If they stay a lot longer and dwell longer on the page, even if they do bounce back, this is called a “long click.”
Both bounce rates and dwell times (i.e., short clicks and long clicks) are just two of many SEO signals that tell Google the content is a fit and matches the user's search and intent. In short, content is good, the user experience is adequate, and the result is relevant to their search.
The Three Types of Search Intent
Relevance is based on intent. There are three kinds of search intent (and a fourth, which is a variation). Your content should aim to match either one:
“I want to know” searches (informational)
“I want to go” searches (navigational)
“I want to do” searches (transactional)
The fourth is a variation of the third. When the transaction is a purchase, they are called “I want to buy” searches. Some SEO experts label them as “commercial intent” or “commercial investigation” searches.
However, the intent to buy may not be direct or immediate. The user may be unsure and doing some research. So the search is slightly more informational or navigational in intent (such as looking for sites offering reviews, for example).
Nevertheless, determining search intent is important because SEO relies heavily on how well your content matches the searcher’s query.
Let's take a look at each one with some examples.
The user is looking for information for educational purposes. They're not looking to buy (at least, not yet). They may be looking for more information about their situation, problem, or challenge. They're only researching this point.
Some of the searches related to your procedures may be:
“How long does a facelift take to heal?”
“Is abdominal plastic surgery safe?”
“Why do my breasts sag after pregnancy?”
“What types of liposuction are available?”
“Are hair transplants permanent?”
Many informational searches are formulated in the form of questions. But they can also be straight keywords or phrases, such as “lose weight” or “facelift surgery.” But the search intent may not be that clear (I'll return to this).
The user is trying to locate something specific, which is mostly a website, a location, or a business/clinic. It might be a URL, an address, a social media profile, etc. It's often based on a name, brand, product, service, or domain entered into a search form instead of directly into their browsers.
Some of the searches related to your business or services may be:
“Jane Smith, MD plastic surgeon Toronto”
“Dr. John Doe cosmetic surgery clinic”
“facelift post-op instructions Smith Surgical”
“phone number Dr. Linda Kent new clinic”
“nearest hotel to Eastern Surgical Centre”
By the way, the vast majority of branded searches are navigational. This is another reason you want to name your business, your services, and your processes, including your intellectual property. People may have heard about you or seen your name, but they're unsure how to get to your website.
This is where the searcher wants to do something, mostly to make a purchase. They've already decided they're ready to make a purchase or do something. So the search is related to taking that action. It can be buying, downloading, calling, hiring, ordering, registering, emailing, etc.
Some transactional searches might include:
“book a consultation with Dr. Smith”
“buy post-op cream Doe Surgical Clinic”
“subscribe to Laura Jackson, MD newsletter”
“get a quote for breast augmentation”
“download facelift pre-op instructions”
This is a variation of transactional searches where the user is looking to buy. But the user is unsure and either wants reassurances or wants to investigate further. It can be informational and navigational, too, to some degree.
Since it can blend all three, it's important to match this intent specifically. Sometimes, the answer can be from third-party site. For example:
“best bariatric weight loss surgery”
“Dr. Jane Doe plastic surgery reviews”
“top cosmetic surgeon Rochester”
“Botox for crow's feet near me”
“Dr. Smith before and after photos”
Therefore, the goal is to offer relevant content and optimize signals — including amplified third-party signals — that aim to help the user decide (e.g., comparisons, case studies, photos, testimonials, FAQs, etc.).
The Key is To Align Content With Intent
Ultimately, When it comes to creating content for any one of these types of queries, the goal may be to answer them directly. But you may have to do more than educate your audience with relevant content. You want content that targets, engages, and invites them, too.
For instance, if a user is conducting an informational search, they may or may not be in the market for your services. The user could be a student doing some research for school. It could be a tire-kicker. It could even be a competitor.
So the goal is to capture, educate, and retain your visitors, the right visitors, as much as possible, particularly if they're potentially ideal clients. For this, you need quality content, user experience, and SEO signals.
But it's also an opportunity to get them to enter your funnel, engage them further, prove your expertise, and invite them to invest in your services.
How Intent Alignment Improves SEO
So how you optimize for search intent? The process of discovering what Google thinks people want is a great tool for SEO research. It is often referred to as “SERP analysis,” where SERP, of course, stands for search engine results pages.
Now, I know you're a plastic surgeon, and you're not an SEO expert. But this is not about search engine optimization in a direct sense. It's about something a bit more fundamental: market research. It's about understanding what users are looking for, why they want it, and how to give it to them.
Understand that market research is the core of marketing. When I talk about “keyword research,” it's not about keywords in and of themselves. It's about understanding what your audience is looking for and why they're looking for it.
It's impossible to ask users what they want as they conduct their searches. So keywords are “observable traces” that users leave. They're artifacts, if you will.
Like uncovering dinosaur fossils during an archeological dig, archeologists can only make educated guesses about how dinosaurs lived, what they ate, what their migration patterns were, and what happened to them.
Similarly, keywords don't tell the full story. They certainly don't tell us what's on users' minds when they use them. But search engines are becoming more sophisticated in understanding what people want and why.
Using clickthrough rates and user behaviour (such as click length), combined with the power of natural language processing and machine learning, Google makes educated guesses on the intent behind the search.
So market research, in this sense, is keyword research.
Understand The Desire Behind Queries
Fundamentally, SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that search engines (and therefore users) can find your content. They must be able to read, crawl, and index your content, even before they decide how to rank it.
A tad oversimplified, of course. But that's what SEO essentially aims to do. SEO was (and still is to some degree) a technical process. In fact, if you look up the definition of SEO as far back as 10-20 years ago, you get something like:
“Search Engine Optimization is built on the foundation of information architecture and information retrieval.”
Market research, on the other hand, is what will help you rank higher. I often refer back to what my friend and top copywriter David Garfinkel, who said that the key to success in copywriting (and I could easily extrapolate that to SEO or any form of marketing in general) is to ask:
Who is your market?
What is their problem?
How are they talking about it?
If you know who your market is (which you likely do), you know their problem and why they want to solve it. But learning about how they talk about it can be uncovered by studying and reverse-engineering the SERPs.
Google's goal is to satisfy the user's search and to become more effective at doing so. They're already showing you the results they think will serve the users best. In addition to machine learning, they've done countless experiments, hired many sophisticated engineers, and analyzed petabytes of data.
They've done the research for you. So use it to your advantage.
If you want to improve your rankings, your goal is to know what users are looking for and to give it to them. But it's not enough. You also need to understand the intent behind what they want, i.e., the reason for their search.
Why? Because, as Google tries to identify what people are looking for and why, it serves results that more closely match what it thinks will satisfy searchers. So if your content doesn't align with intent, Google will not give you the time of day — and your users won't, either.
And therein lies the crux of the need for SERP analysis.
Think of it this way: the goal is not only to create content that your audience wants but also for the reasons they want to consume it.
Sounds a tad pedantic, I know. But it's actually quite simple. You can focus on keywords, for example, and try to successfully align your content's title and description (i.e., what shows up in SERPs) that match the user's query. This will undoubtedly increase clickthrough rates.
But what happens once they land on your site?
If they pogostick back to Google because your user experience (UX) is less than desirable, that's one thing. But if it's because your content fails to satisfy their query, even if the content is high quality and presumably what they're looking for, you've failed to satisfy their intent. You failed to meet their needs.
Plus, failing to match search intent can hurt you.
Google has publicly said they don't directly use click signals as ranking factors. However, Google engineers have stated that they do use click behaviour to help refine their search results. (“Refine” is an important hint.)
My personal opinion is that they use it in connection with other factors, such as going to the next result as opposed to conducting a new search (again, “short clicks” versus “long clicks”). How people engage with search results says a lot.
While click lengths may not necessarily impact your rankings, this data helps Google learn more about its users' search intent. It then refines its search results when analyzing what people are looking for in combination with other factors.
The refinement may cost you in rankings — other results that more closely satisfy the user's search will rise to the top. Naturally.
Also, consider that people may seek more than just information but also the format. How they want to consume the information is just as important as the content itself. They may prefer a video, podcast, infographic, or PDF.
Plastic surgery is a visual field. Visuals are key. If your content is only one long article when users are looking for photos, you may not meet their needs.
One of the reasons Google offers many new features, in addition to those traditional 10 blue links, is to provide the user with an idea of what they're getting. It's only my guess, but if Google offers video thumbnails, people know they're getting videos — not a link to a page that “may” contain a video.
Search Intent and User Intent: Why Both?
Nevertheless, if you know who your market is and what their problems are, next is to know how they talk about it, revealing their stage of awareness.
By knowing at what stage of awareness they happen to be, you can then serve them with content that directly meets them where they are and takes them to the next stage — and hopefully closer to becoming your patient.
This goes to the concept of the content funnel I talked about before. It's not always linear or perfectly compartmentalized. For example, it's different for someone who has had other procedures done or who is unhappy with their results instead of someone who never had plastic surgery at all.
But for now, the thing to remember is that a content funnel is based on content that appeals to a certain level of awareness and then graduating the user to a new level of awareness. The way to do that is to understand intent.
This brings me to the differences between search intent and user intent.
Search topic is what they're searching for.
Search intent is how they're searching for it.
User intent is why they're searching for it.
Remember that the stages of awareness are problem-aware, solution-aware, and product-aware (i.e., your solution). When studying the SERPs, this is where you can extract a decent amount of ideas and insights from your target market.
For example, problem-aware searches:
What (e.g., the problem, like “how to get rid of excess belly fat”);
How (e.g., informational search, long-form article, some visuals);
The above are just examples. But you can instantly see how clearer both the search and user intent are when the query is either longer or more specific.
Many plastic surgeons would love to rank well for generic “short head” keywords (i.e., words at the top of the bell curve in terms of demand, volume, and traffic). But ranking for those is extremely competitive and difficult, and the resulting traffic, if any, has no clear intent and may contribute to shorter clicks.
“Abdominoplasty” is a very generic term. Are people interested in getting one? Are they researching it and checking out who, where, and how much? Or are they just looking up the definition?
As you can see, it's impossible to tell. Chances are, if you analyze the SERPs, you might see that Google doesn't know, either, and the results may include a mix of informational, transactional, and navigational intent results.
But with a search like “best tummy tucks near me,” you now know for sure what the intent is and what kind of content will best match it.
Nevertheless, the goal is to research your market.
With a SERP analysis, you can do this by identifying the search topics your market is interested in (based on their stage of awareness), their search intent (what Google thinks they want), and the user's intent (what results come up, what do they offer, and how it helps the user).
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:
Creating missing content,
Improving existing content,
Deleting needless content,
Merging competing content, and
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:
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:
Who is your market?
What is their problem?
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:
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.
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:
What causes stretch marks?
Are breast implants safe?
How much does a facelift cost?
micrograft before and after photos
Metropolis Plastic Surgery Clinic
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.”
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:
The planner contains two key sections:
The status of the assignment and
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:
Create the content brief.
Assign the content brief.
Write the content draft.
Edit the content draft.
Complete any revisions.
Add images and styling.
Perform an SEO review.
Upload the content.
Add any internal links.
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:
(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:
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:
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.
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.
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].”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Primary Keyword: This is the main keyword that the content will focus on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
SEO is relatively simple: if your content is findable, usable, relevant, and helpful to your users, you improve your chances of getting traction and higher rankings on the search engines. But if there's one aspect that can significantly increase those chances, it's your site's content architecture.
I've often talked about creating good content as a foundational SEO strategy (i.e., it's relevant and helpful). But creating good content is not enough. That's why I've also stressed that creating a good user experience in consuming that content is just as important (i.e., it's findable and usable).
In fact, a hot topic in SEO is the upcoming Google update. This May, Google will start looking at — and ranking pages according to — specific user experience signals. These signals, called Core Web Vitals, include load speed, interactivity, and stability. Other vitals include safety, security, and accessibility.
However, those are primarily technical and design-related, and only a tiny piece of the UX pie, let alone the SEO pie. Content structure is another, and it's one that many SEO experts ignore, forget, or pass off as less important.
Disorganization is a Bad UX Signal
When I conduct plastic surgery SEO audits, I often find that the site's content is disjointed, with no apparent theme or structure. It's also hard to navigate, and finding information can be challenging.
Most plastic surgeons have websites that describe their surgical services. But these services are listed randomly and linked in no particular order. Sometimes, pages are tucked away and easy to miss.
Also, some of those sites contain unrelated content, such as the clinic manager's personal blog, pictures from the nurses' birthday parties, non-surgical alternatives (like dermal fillers and injectables), and the doctor's research papers published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
All these things, in and of themselves, are not bad. The issue is that the content is all over the place. There's no clear organization of ideas, or the navigation impedes the user journey, making it hard for the user to find the information they want. Here are some examples:
The navigation menu is large and overwhelming with countless links;
The menu contains just a few links, missing key sections or pages; or,
Navigation is fragmented across the page, forcing users to search.
Sometimes, the content architecture isn't to blame. The issue is poor navigation. Other times (and it's most of the time), the issue is the lack of structure.
Introduction to Content Architecture
Organizing your content architecture is foundational to improving your site's user experience and SEO — both independently and interdependently.
Not only does an organized website offer a pleasant user experience, which sends good SEO signals, but it also creates topical relationships, makes related topics easier to identify, and provides meaningful context, all of which boost those signals considerably.
To explain how content architecture works in helping SEO, let's take a look at the most common ones. There are essentially five types of content architecture:
Flat (single tier) architecture;
Tunnel (sequential) architecture;
Pyramid (hierarchical) architecture;
Silo (topical/thematic) architecture;
Any combination of the above.
A flat architecture is where all the pages reside on the main level. All the pages seem to be on one single tier under the root domain. Depending on the situation, this allows for shorter URLs and can be an effective SEO practice.
A tunnel architecture is where there's a home page, and all subpages are only accessible in sequence. Many membership sites, ecommerce sites, graduated learning portals, and applications use this type of linear architecture.
It's also called “strict hierarchy” because there's only one way to access subpages, and that's from the main page. For example:
The pyramid architecture is the one that's the most common and the one Google has publicly stated it prefers on several occasions. (Although, the “silo” structure is related to the pyramid and better for SEO.) This structure uses a multilayered organization of ideas with multiple tiers like a pyramid.
The silo architecture is the one SEOs recommend, including me. The goal is to group content according to themes or topics. You can do this either physically (i.e., using folders and subfolders) or virtually (i.e., the structure is flat, but pages are grouped using breadcrumbs, navigation menus, and internal links).
Each silo represents a topical cluster (i.e., at the top is the head topic and child pages are subtopics), and each silo can have its own pyramid. For example:
Using the silo architecture, you can easily create content relationships that:
Make it easier for users to find information;
Make it easier for Google to crawl information; and
Give topics more context, weight, and relevance.
More importantly, silos make navigation more logical and orderly, and they reduce the time it takes for visitors to learn how to navigate the site. Either you group navigation menu items together according to silos, or you can direct people to pillar pages that drill down into more specific content.
Structural Changes = Site Migrations
If you have a small website (up to 100 pages), this will be fairly simple, depending on your content management system (CMS). For example, I've described the process of how to create a simple silo structure in WordPress.
But if your site is large (100 pages or more) or you plan on growing it, or if you need to carry out extensive redesign work to implement the changes, then hire an SEO expert to properly roadmap the switch and oversee its implementation.
Either way, changing your site's architecture is a process that requires careful planning and execution. Regardless of size, follow these important steps:
Research the important topics of interest to your audience for which they are actively searching. (Creating silos willy-nilly defeats the purpose and will work against you from an SEO perspective.)
Define the pillar pages and supporting pages (i.e., head topics and subtopics, or hub-and-spoke content, if you will) based on that research. (At this point, you may have a good idea of pages you need to create.)
Create an inventory of your current pages, audit the keywords for which each one is currently ranking, and define their relevance according to the topical map you've just created — i.e., do they fit within the clusters you've defined, or do they need to be updated, consolidated, or removed?
Connect the pages accordingly and in a way that makes sense to your users' journey (e.g., tiered folders, internal links, breadcrumb menus, navigation menus, landing/entrance pages, and so on).
Redirect any old pages to their new or consolidated pages;
Redirect former URLs to the modified URLs or page locations;
Update broken links and redirects to their new destinations;
And notify referring websites to update their backlinks.
If you're a nerd and want to get into the nitty-grittiness of data-driven content architectures, I highly recommend checking out my friend and SEO scientist Jim Thornton whose expertise on this is quite insightful.
Choosing Appropriate Plastic Surgery Silos
Most plastic surgeons will have their content grouped (or divided) into five content areas, or what I call the five “Ps” of plastic surgery:
People (e.g., doctors, staff, clinic, patients, postop photos)
Silos can be either one or a combination of the above.
Choosing the silos for your specific audience may depend on several factors. For example, a surgeon specializing in facial plastic surgery will have a different approach (let alone audience) than a full-body surgeon who also offers supplemental non-surgical services like Botox® injections.
There's also the question of personal preference.
For instance, do you prefer attracting an uninformed audience and educating them? Or do you want to go after an informed one who's shopping around?
Is your ideal patient someone who has had procedures done before (and they want more or want to fix what they had done)? Or is it someone who has never had anything done at all looking to have plastic surgery for the first time?
Consider Your Users' Awareness Level
So choose silos that present content in a way that matches what your users are searching for and delivers it according to their level of awareness.
I created a formula called OATH to remind me of what type of content will best respond to an audience's search query. OATH is an acronym that stands for oblivious, apathetic, thinking, and hurting. More specifically, OATH means:
Oblivious: they're unaware of the problem or its possible solutions.
Apathetic: they're aware but uninterested in any specific solution.
Thinking: they're interested and considering several solutions.
Hurting: they've decided on a solution and validating their choice.
The oblivious are the hardest ones to go after. They may be unaware of a problem (or the reason they have it), and they don't know how to fix it. They just started their research and will require the most education. They will be the ones who will take the most time until they've decided to approach you.
The hurting ones, on the other hand, are the lowest hanging fruit. They know what they want and how to get it. At this point, they're looking for information that will confirm their choice or disconfirm alternatives.
In terms of SEO and your choice of silos, the awareness spectrum's oblivious end will have a more informational search intent. In contrast, the hurting end will be more investigational or transactional, perhaps even navigational.
To give you some examples, let's take three areas (i.e., hair, eyelids, and abdomen) and the kinds of questions each awareness level will likely ask.
Educate the Oblivious
Your content will be primarily educational, answering questions like:
“Is baldness hereditary?”
“What causes droopy eyelids?”
“Does skin shrink after pregnancy?
Engage the Apathetic
Your objective is to help them understand the ways to solve their problem.
“Can I regrow my hair?”
“Is there a way to fix my droopy eyelids?”
“How to tighten my sagging tummy skin?”
Nurture the Thinking
Your goal is to provide information about the procedure they're considering.
“Are hair transplants permanent?”
“What are the risks of eyelid surgery?”
“Will I have scars after a tummy tuck?”
Assure the Hurting
Finally, your content aims to help them choose and validate their choice.
“Best hair transplant doctor in Toronto”
“Blepharoplasty before and after photos”
“Dr. Jane Doe abdominoplasty reviews”
Group And Link Content Accordingly
Deciding on the best architecture is easier when you know your ideal audience, what information they need, and how you want to approach them.
For instance, say you want patients looking to undergo their first procedure (i.e., they're aware or apathetic). Your silos may revolve around the problems they're encountering (e.g., wrinkles) or the body parts you treat (e.g., face).
But let's say your patients are more sophisticated or have had plastic surgery done before. Your silos, then, may revolve around the procedures you offer (e.g., rhytidectomy) or the people involved (e.g., before-and-after photos).
Sometimes, your silos can be a combination of both. For example, some of my clients have chosen a procedure-based architecture but include a navigation menu that lists the conditions such procedures treat.
Once you've made your choice, the next step is to define your silos and group your content around them. So if you choose procedures as your theme and mammoplasty as a topic, then your pages might look like this:
Keep in mind that, with a typical CMS, you have your main pages and your blog section. You can organize your pages under topical silos, set blog categories as silos for posts, and connect them by crosslinking with each other.
The key is to create contextual relationships between your content where it makes sense. Other than menus, choose select keywords in your content as anchor texts from which to link. Think of Wikipedia, where links go to other articles that delve deeper into particular subtopics.
Following the above example, you might have blog posts under the “breast surgery” category that link to/from the above pages, such as:
Ultimately, if you have a website right now and want to improve your visibility, authority, and traffic, and if your content is all over the place with little to no structure, consider organizing your content under silos.
When it comes to plastic surgery SEO tools, I use tools that help improve E-A-T signals (i.e., expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) from Google's Quality Raters Guidelines. These SEO signals are vital when it comes to the content offering expert advice from a professional.
My industry is definitely targeted. As a medical SEO consultant specializing in plastic surgery, search engines highly scrutinize my clients' websites because many of them contain medical information.
A good example of this is May 2020's algorithm update, where Google's attempt to fight disinformation after COVID started had created some havoc with some medical information websites that lacked E-A-T.
Many cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons were affected. In fact, I'm currently working with a new client who saw a drop in traffic after that update.
For one, I add structured data to my clients' websites. Structured data, supplied by code called “schema markup,” is data that only Google (and Bing) can read. It offers additional information about the page beyond the content users see.
Google wants to make sure medical content is written or reviewed by someone with authority and expertise — not some tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy blogger dispensing home remedies to fight life-threatening diseases transmitted by alien lizard people bent on population control. 😉
I use TechnicalSEO.com’s schema generator to create custom structured data — data that helps identify the site owner, content author, and/or medical information reviewer (using the “reviewed by” schema, for example).
Moreover, structured data is more than just adding “local business” schema. I use advanced and custom structured data to include review schema, how-to schema, and local citations, such as BrightLocal.com, as there are many.
All of these help create and amplify E-A-T signals.
Content and Intent Alignment
Above all, the key to SEO is to align content with search intent and user intent (i.e., how people search and why they need the information they're searching for). So I focus on creating and marketing higher quality content that more closely matches the user’s wants and needs.
Search intent is about what the searcher wants. They either want “to know” (informational), “to go” (navigational), or “to do” (transactional). Some SEOs consider another one, “to buy” (commercial), but that's another type of transactional intent and more applicable to ecommerce SEO situations.
Search intent is less about the user and more about what Google thinks the user is searching for. Why is this important? Because Google may think a user's query has informational intent. But if you're optimizing for transactional intent, it's like trying to swim against a raging current. You'll never get any traction.
The way to align your content is by doing two things:
Or create content that answers your audience's questions.
To find ideas for these, I start by learning what kinds of questions people ask. I often refer back to my friend and copywriting coach David Garfinkel, who said that the key to success in copywriting is to ask:
Who is your market?
What is their problem?
How are they talking about it?
These three questions apply to SEO (or, more specifically, content writing) as they do to copywriting. As a plastic surgeon, you certainly know who your market is and what their problems are. But you want to know why they want to solve it. To do that, the key is to learn how they talk about it.
(Contains) “for example,” “so that,” “perhaps,” or “maybe.”
Confirmation (“To Verify/Validate”)
“Were,” “will,” “might,” “may,” “is,” “did,” “am,” or “can.”
(Verb followed by) “with,” “without,” “for,” “not,” or “since.”
(Contains) “about,” “regarding,” “quite,” “just,” or “indeed.”
(Adverbs like) “really,” “exactly,” “precisely,” or “absolutely.”
Evaluation (“To Assess/Consider”)
“Describe,” “show,” “list,” “explain,” “compare,” or “tell me about.”
(Contains) “like/or,” “between/and,” “versus,” or “as opposed to.”
(Contains) “best,” “top,” “rated,” “review,” “most,” or “proven.”
Remember, “search” intent is based on what they're searching for (or, better said, what Google thinks they're searching for). But “user” intent is based on understanding why users want what they're looking for.
Finding questions is only a starting point. They give me ideas about content the audience is interested in. But now I need to know how Google interprets the query, which will help me choose specific topics (and not keywords).
This is a bit of a backward way of doing keyword research. Rather than looking for keywords to write content around, I find out their pain points or questions first. Next, I create a content plan that meets those needs. And then, I match the content with specific queries. Let's call it user-focused SEO.
So before I create the content, I type those questions directly into Google or use search engine results (SERP) analysis tools like Ahrefs.com. I want to see what top results come up. Those are my competitors — they may or may not be direct competitors, but they occupy positions I'm aiming for.
It also shows search intent. This is critical because you don't want to swim against the current. Google's results may be for a different query, aimed at a different awareness stage, or filled with fierce competition.
For example, the term “facelift” is also used in home renovations and car engineering. It would be utterly useless trying to optimize for such a broad term.
Another example: larger educational sites (like WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and Wikipedia) may dominate the top results. If so, the competition will be tough to outrank. Granted, it may be a viable query to optimize for, but it will also be extremely challenging to outrank these highly authoritative competitors.
Instead, I look for variations of the same question (or a longer-tail question) and repeat the process until I find a question that has potential. Often, the SERPs provide a ton of clues that go beyond the traditional blue links.
Using Google I can see, at a glance:
Search suggestions (e.g., autocomplete suggestions in the search form, “related searches” at the bottom, “people also asked” near the top, and “people also searched for” below the right knowledge panel); and,
Search features (e.g., ads, featured snippets, image carousels, videos, maps, knowledge panels, podcast episodes, news stories, product showcases, business listings, reviews, and so on).
Reverse-Engineering and Skyscraping
Google offers a good indication of what they think the search intent is. If the query is viable, the competition is easy, and the intent is right, Google will guide you in what type of content to create and the format to create it in.
By looking at the top results, I review their content length, style, and format, which can be a number of things (e.g., videos, visuals, documents, listicles, checklists, Q&As, tutorials, guides, roundups, and so on).
I also want to see what makes my competitors rank and try to outrank them. It's called the “skyscraper technique,” as if you're adding on to a skyscraper or building a new one that's taller than your competitors.
But I also use the term “skyscraping” to mean building better content or user experiences (UX). It makes sense: what if the competitor's content is quite long already? Studies show that length is not as important as you think.
I also want to see why a certain competitor is getting a lot of traffic. By using SEO tools, I can see all the keywords for which a competitor's site is ranking and all the other pages that are performing well.
This is where I do a gap analysis. I want to see if there are any content gaps in my client's site or gaps in the competitor's site my client can exploit and build content with. Are they ranking for any keywords that my client is not?
Don't Forget Your Own Backyard
Finally, one of the most important steps in SEO is to look at what you already have. Outranking competitors is the goal, but you don't necessarily need to create new content. You can see if your existing content is good enough or underperforming by conducting a content audit.
I use Ahref's plugin to determine what I need to refresh, consolidate, or prune. For example, with each piece of existing content, it tells me if I need to update it, merge it with another (to reduce keyword cannibalization, among others), or outright delete it (i.e., it's deadweight and diluting SEO signals).
Finally, I use my favorite WordPress plugin, RankMath.com. It helps me to add schema code to each page I create (both automatically and custom), suggests internal linking opportunities to build content relationships, creates sitemaps (including video and location sitemaps), and so much more.
But the driving feature of this plugin is its content SEO scoring system. It guides me in optimizing content by offering a checklist of items to optimize for.
I don't follow the score too strictly. It's only arbitrary, and doing so can make your content feel robotic or unusable. I'd rather focus on my audience and on delivering good content.
But it's a great reminder of on-page SEO elements I can optimize beyond the content itself. For example, it reminds me to add alt-text in images, insert internal links, write better meta-descriptions, add a table of contents for longer posts, use short paragraphs to help readability, and so on.
Bottom line, I use many tools to help me, but they are only tools and not meant to be exact processes to follow. In fact, some of the best SEOs out there who have a history of producing astonishing results tend to have their own set of practices and processes using a combination of SEO tools.
In the end, this Tweet from Dave Gerhart sums it up pretty nicely:
It was a busy week in the SEO world. Google updated its algorithms at the beginning of February, and I had a full plate working with my SEO clients.
Part of this algorithm update is passages ranking, which is now live in US and only affecting a small percentage of searches. Passages ranking is where you can rank based on passages instead of the entire page.
It's no different from the way it ranks pages currently.
However, the benefit is that Google can understand subtopics better and serve pages for more relevant queries. This is a major plus for many plastic surgeons, as most of their content is long, educational content for medical purposes. This makes structured content even more important.
For example, some plastic surgeons will have pages about facelifts as long as 3,000 words or more to cover all the aspects of the surgery (e.g., procedure details, risks, benefits, costs, results, photos, etc). A long-form article can easily rank for 20-50+ keywords as opposed to just two or three like most others.
In a recent interview, Martin Splitt from Google confirmed that passages ranking will help websites with long-form content by basing its rankings on sections of an article rather than the entire article.
You might have seen results in Google where clicking a listing will jump to the section of a page that contains the answer, highlighted in yellow. This is not the same, Google confirms. But it gives you an idea of how they find sections. It wouldn't surprise me if passage rankings will eventually behave similarly.
SEO For Passages Rankings
Should you optimize for passages ranking? Not really.
There's no actual way to optimize for this other than to keep creating great content. If an SEO approaches you trying to sell you on “passage ranking SEO,” it may not be legitimate or, more than likely, it may be just snake oil.
Passages ranking does not have a ranking factor. The goal of this algorithm is to understand content better and to help people get better matched results.
For example, a patient searches for “types of breast implants.” You can have either an article that discusses implants specifically, or a page on the more general topic of breast augmentation (with a section about implants further down) that hopefully is ranking well for those specific keywords.
Until recently, if you had a page about breast augmentation, Google may have indexed it for, say, 5-10 keywords. None of which might be “breast implants.” If a competitor has a page about implants, or a page about breast augmentation that ranks for the keywords “breast implants,” they will outrank you.
However, with passages rankings, you can have subtopics on the same page (say a section about “breast implant types” about a third way down the page), you might rank for that term now when before you did not.
But There Is Stuff You Can Do
When Google crawls your site and these long-form pages, it will try to find and understand subtopics. If your page is all over the place, with disjointed content that's unorganized or fragmented, you're making it hard for crawlers to identify and classify the information it finds.
The goal, therefore, is to group and organize content better on the page, and to delineate those sections clearly using headings throughout. Headings are excellent signals that tell Google what the following section is all about.
If, for example, you had a section on “breast implant types” and the content follows a heading called “What types of breast implants are available?” You are accomplishing three important SEO tasks:
You're using a header that may be the same or similar as the query;
You're identifying and isolating the section that contains the answer; and,
You're also differentiating it from everything else (like “surgery recovery”).
It’s the reason it took me a while to write this because, after the rollout, I wanted to wait to see what some SEO analysts I follow and some ex-Google engineers would say about it and suggest we should do.
So, is there something you can do? Yes.
If your current pages have content that's fragmented, edit or rewrite it to cluster the content around subtopics, and incorporate headers (e.g., H2, H3, H4, etc) throughout. (H1 should be for your headline.) That's it.
Structured Content Also Helps UX
Structuring your content semantically, and doing a better job at identifying subtopics in your content, will help not only your SEO but also UX (user experience). For one, people can find the exact information they want. And for another, it helps accessibility by creating “reading landmarks” on the page.
And UX is a ranking factor if not an influencer.
Plus, if a passage (subtopic) is more relevant than the parent topic of the entire page, it goes to reason that the passage makes the page more important to the user than an entire page, and therefore a more relevant search result.
One client asked me, “Should we create more content to cover all the subtopics, like writing individual blog posts? Or can we simply add to the same piece over time and grow just one page?”
I wrote about creating versus expanding content for SEO before. The answer is yes, but with some caveats and conditions. If the content is truly a subtopic and serves the same search intent, it may be a wise move to add to the primary “pillar” page, which you can expand and refresh.
Refreshed content is often better than fresh content. Now it's an opportunity to revisit your older pages and restructure the content, too, even if you don't do any significant rewrites. It's an opportunity to update the timestamp and signal to Google that the content is now fresh again.
Semantically Structuring Content
I've said it before: SEO used to be about optimizing content for machines, not humans. That worked to a large degree for a long time. But Google wants to give its users great content and a great search experience.
Writing for machines negates both.
Google is becoming increasingly sophisticated with its natural language processing (NLP) and deep learning algorithms (like “RankBrain” and its neural networks, also known as Google's AI). It wants to learn how to read and understand content like a human being does.
So it goes to reason that, by optimizing content for humans (as you should), you are also optimizing it for Google. There's no need to do passage ranking SEO. In fact, the best way to describe how to optimize for any ranking is something I read in an article on content intelligence (and I'm paraphrasing):
Structure shapes content by organizing it as objects rather than unstructured blobs. Semantics is the contextualization of content structures. They define the entities, associations, and relationships for a piece of content.
Other than rewriting content, here are ways to add semantics and structure to your existing content, which will also improve the user's experience:
Group content sections around subtopics or ideas.
Stick with about 3-5 paragraphs per content section.
Break sections up with margins and white spaces.
Add headers throughout and before each section.
Use shorter sentences and succinct headings.
Keep paragraphs short (about 4-5 lines deep).
Nest headings appropriately (i.e., don't use H4 after H2).
Add visuals where appropriate that relate to the subtopic.
Provide short, subtopic-appropriate captions to images.
Link content together with internal text and image links.
Insert a table of contents at the beginning (see below).
Include header anchor tags to “jump” to sections.
Add references and resource links at the bottom.
Identify the author (i.e., an “about the author” box).
TOCs, summaries (or TL;DRs), and section jumplinks are helpful. With long articles, they provide users with a quick, at-a-glance overview of what the page contains, but also a helpful way to jump directly to the section of interest (rather than having to wade through a bunch of irrelevant content).
Add a table of contents to long content. List your headings at the top of the article and even insert anchor links to jump to each section. For example, I use it in some long articles and some service pages, like my SEO consulting page.
But another indirect SEO benefit is that Google can display a menu of anchor links below your search engine results (SERP) listing. This will increase CTRs (clickthrough rates), which provides Google with positive feedback.
Remember that, when you increase CTRs, you indirectly inform Google that your listing is relevant, which has shown to indirectly influence your rankings.
Ultimately, even if the benefit of “optimizing” for passages rankings is not an SEO benefit in a direct sense, semantically structuring your content will help Google understand your content better. The more they do, well, you do the math.
Does your site communicate expertise? Expert content does, of course. But other times, certain key expertise SEO signals that have nothing to do with content are just as important, particularly in the eyes of the search engines.
I recently completed an SEO Audit for an SEO consulting client who suffered from a precipitous drop in traffic last year, particularly around May 2020. A look at this site's Google Search Console revealed that the drop occurred around May 5th, with average daily search impressions being cut in half.
This coincided with a major Google Core Update on May 4th, 2020.
Google updates its core algorithm a few times a year. This major update specifically targeted websites or content related to a person’s health, wealth, or welfare, often referred to as YMYL pages (i.e., “your money or your life”). Aside from travel, health websites were among the hardest hit.
According to Google and engineers in the SEO community, this update was largely in response to the COVID pandemic. Specifically, Google targeted websites offering medical and financial advice, products, and services in an effort to fight disinformation and exploitative/predatory practices.
Many sites were affected. However, Google’s May 2020 algorithm update had very little impact on medical websites with strong E-A-T signals (i.e., expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). Some even received significant boosts in rankings and saw their search traffic doubling almost overnight.
After completing a deeper investigation, I concluded that this client's significant drop most likely was caused by poor E-A-T signals.
In fact, as a cosmetic medicine and SEO consultant and advisor, I've found that strengthening E-A-T is the greatest priority with regards to SEO, and the one aspect that can create the greatest impact for doctors.
So I offered my client some recommendations to improve the quality of their content and E-A-T signals. There are quite a few. But let me list two of them in this article, which are signals I encourage you to add to your website, too.
(Please note that some of these are personal opinions and preferences, and not absolutes based on actual ranking factors. But they have been proven to help. One client with whom I've applied this strategy enjoyed a 400% traffic increase.)
1. Content Architecture
During my audit, I noticed that the site had a “flat” architecture. That is, all the pages seemed to be on a single tier (under the root domain). Depending on the situation, this allows for shorter URLs and can be an effective SEO practice.
However, while I did find a blog index page, there is no discernible blog section. Blog posts reside at the same level with the all the main pages. They all seem to blend together. While this is not bad, it makes it difficult to identify which URLs are blog posts and which ones are pages.
So I recommended creating a separate blog section and a second tier. Having a distinct blog provides a number of benefits, from isolating blog posts from the rest of the site (which is helpful in tracking and analytics) to improving the user experience. Some have reported that this change alone improved traffic.
There are two ways to accomplish this.
Create a Blog Subdirectory
My client's site uses WordPress as its CMS. Therefore, accomplishing this is relatively simple. Set your WordPress permalinks from /%postname%/ to custom with /blog/%postname%/. Here’s how the site structure would look like:
Although not essential, the blog directory can be renamed to something helpful to the user, such as “tips,” “resources,” “content,” “articles,” “education,” etc (except for “news,” which should be reserved for news, press releases, and media mentions). It can also contain keywords, like “plastic surgery tips.”
Set a Category as The Base
If you choose this option, first make sure you don't have a category name that conflicts with plugins, scripts, or other directory names. For example, if you have a category named “liposuction” and you have a page named “liposuction,” you might want to change the category to “liposuction surgery.”
If there are no conflicts, then set your permalinks from /%postname%/ to /%category%/%postname%/. This will make blog posts appear under their primary (or single) category folder. For example, the structure would then look like this:
Since categories contain keywords, this will help add some additional keywords to the URLs. Granted, the jury is still out on whether this is a ranking signal, but it does provide search engines with better context, which does help.
If you have a post assigned to multiple categories, only one will be used. WordPress by default sets the primary category as the one with the lowest ID number. But you can also specify another category with the help of plugins. There are some category plugins and SEO plugins like Yoast and Rank Math.
Content Siloing For SEO
This is part of an SEO philosophy called a “silo site architecture.” Content silos provide a better user experience and give Google more context. Silos organise the content into groups; make navigation more logical and orderly; and reduce the time it takes for visitors to learn how to navigate the site.
Here’s an example of what a blog post would look like:
If the above has “breast augmentation” as its primary category, it will become:
The blog is not the only section that can be organized into silos. The website may have multiple pages that fall under a certain category, too.
For example, many plastic surgeons have a series of pages organized around a certain criteria, such as the “conditions” they treat, the “treatments” they offer, and/or the “areas” of the body they focus on. So if “facelift” was a master topic as a procedure, child pages might look like this:
However, this should be done with care. I recommend first mapping all the URLs and then properly redirecting old URLs (i.e., via 301 redirects) to prevent losing any page authority. Then, search and replace internal links to their new destinations, and a final crawl to check for broken links.
2. Author Credentials
Google's raters are people who gauge the quality of a site's content to help confirm if Google's algorithms are doing a good job. They do so by looking at a website's level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Any information that can affect a person’s health or welfare has to be written or reviewed by someone with medical expertise. According to Google:
“Medical advice or information should be written or reviewed by people with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.” “Specific medical information and advice (rather than descriptions of life experiences) should come from doctors or other health professionals.”
After Google's 2018 core algorithm update (i.e., the “medic update”), medical and health websites showing no proven expertise have lost considerable rankings because of their lack of E-A-T. With COVID and Google's attempt to fight disinformation, the core update of May 2020 went even further.
A key signal is the author information as it helps Google identify a) the author of the content and b) the author’s credentials. To do this, there are two important things you must have to a web page that Google specifically looks for.
First, include something that describes the author and their credentials. Either have the name of the author at the top linked to a bio (e.g., an “about” page containing all the credentials, such as education, degrees, accreditations, certifications, years of experience, etc), or have an “about the author” section at the end of the article.
Second, add schema markup code that identifies the page (i.e., article), the person who wrote it (or reviewed it), and their level of expertise. There are several schema markup properties to include, such as “physician” and “plastic surgery,” among others. I'll come back to this.
Be Conspicuously Credentialed
To help Google’s crawler find and identify the author information on the page, make the name and bio easily findable by conspicuously pointing it out.
Add the article’s byline and link near the top and close to the article’s title. Or add an “about the author” box at the bottom of the article that's clearly distinct, such as wrap it with a border, place it in a coloured background, or separate it by a divider to set it apart from the rest of the article.
For example, I Googled “best plastic surgeon Toronto” and this page came up. Scroll to the bottom of the post, and you will see this:
The above example clearly identifies the author and their credentials, and a bio separated by a divider. It includes links to this doctor’s Google Scholar and Wikipedia pages, which offer a an extra level of authority and expertise SEO.
If the article is written by a staff member with expertise, such as a certified cosmetic nurse injector, the same applies: add a bio with (or linked to) their credentials, including the nurse's education, experience, accreditation, etc.
Articles can be written by someone else with no medical or related expertise, such as a reporter or freelance writer, as long as they have been reviewed by a credentialed professional and indicated as such.
For example, if you have an article that was written by a staff member and they claim authorship, Google prefers that the content be reviewed by a person with medical expertise. For example, add something like “this article was reviewed by Dr. Smith” near the article, with a link to their bio just like the author.
E-A-T Supported By Schema Markup
Finally, schema markup code is a piece of JSON-LD code you can add to the page HTML. It’s a language meant to identify and describe the content and its author. Schema is not a ranking factor but by providing additional context it helps Google more accurately assess the content's level of expertise.
A WordPress plugin such as Schema Pro, Yoast SEO, or Rank Math can do this automatically for you. Or you can (and should) add some manually.
“sameAs” (other bios on social or authoritative sites),
“affiliation” (such as memberships in associations),
“award” (such as any industry-related awards),
And “alumniOf” (their education).
Adding these extra pieces of data may seem simple or unnecessary. But they provide extra signals that Google needs to identify the site's level of expertise.
If you're a plastic surgeon, cosmetic surgeon, or medical aesthetic practitioner, these signals are not just important but also vital. Competitors who may have less content than you but more clout and authority will likely outrank you.
Last week I was very busy completing a few 360° SEO Audits for two plastic surgeons, and one of them asked a very good question. After I recommended content creation on a weekly basis (about three times a week), he asked: “That's a lot of content, can I add it all to the same web page?”
In essence, what the client was asking is if it's possible to add to existing content instead of creating three new pieces each week.
Here's what I said.
Creating Doesn't Mean “From Scratch”
To clarify, when I suggested creating three new content assets each week as a best practice, it was a recommendation and not an obligation. Moreover, an asset doesn't always have to be a blog post or textual content. It can be a long-form video, an infographic, a podcast episode, etc.
With every long-form video or audio you produce, including those of which you were a part (such as an interview or a podcast on which you were a guest), you can add it to your blog as an embed.
(If they turned off the ability to embed the recording, or if the recording is hidden or walled in some way, you might want to ask permission first.)
But don’t just add the recordings. Transcribe them, polish up the transcripts, add them to the page, and insert internal links to other content in your blog as you would normally do with other content.
A transcript creates additional content you can use as captions for your videos or for creating additional standalone content pieces. I personally use a tool called Otter (relatively cheap). You can also use Descript or Screechpad.
Secondly, “new” content creation doesn’t have to be new content.
Finally, redate the piece to the current date so that it brings it back to the top of your blog index and signals Google that your content is updated.
Add New? Or Expand The Old?
Now, as far as the question about whether it's best to add to existing content or create new ones, the answer is that it depend from an SEO perspective.
If it’s the same topic and it makes sense to the reader and improves the user experience, that’s acceptable and even recommended. You are, to a degree, doing the “refresh” that I indicated earlier.
But if they’re widely diverse subtopics, I don’t recommend it — unless you are creating a pillar page and making it as comprehensive as possible.
If the search intent for a subtopic is different from the intent for the main topic, then you risk cannibalizing your content. (Although, that might change with the upcoming passages ranking algorithm.)
With the hub-and-spoke content model, the spokes are pieces of content that help to support the main pillar content, creating a topical cluster. If subtopics are too different, you’re likely confusing the reader (and Google), and you might be diluting the other subtopics on the same page.
The question to ask is, is the topic for the additional content a subtopic of a main/parent topic? If so, you can add it to the main piece. If it can stand on its own (the subtopic can be its own topic), or if it can have more than one search intent, then it might be better off as a separate piece.
Search Intent is The Key
Remember, there are four types of search intents: 1) informational, 2) investigational, 3) transactional, and 4) navigational.
Navigational intent is when people are looking for you, your business, or your website. For the sake of this example, I'll refer to the first three as your aim is to build content that drives people to the site who may not know you.
For example, take “facelift surgery” as a topic. The search intent is likely informational. (I could have used the term “facelift” by itself, but it's a little misleading. “Facelift” is often used in a non-surgical context, such as “giving your website a facelift.” So let's say “facelift surgery.”)
People who search using this term likely want more information about facelift surgery. Any subtopic that falls under both the same topic and search intent can be added to the same page, like “how long does a facelift take to heal?”
However, if someone searches for “top facelift surgeon near me” or “best facelift surgery [city],” that’s investigational search intent. The person is now past the information stage and they’re thinking about having it done.
Since the intent is different, adding a piece around that subtopic to the main page would be confusing and possibly counterproductive. It may better to write a separate piece, either about an award or survey where you were voted as the best, or about tips on how to find the best surgeon for one's situation.
What Other Expert SEOs Say
I believe this is the best approach. To be sure, I conferred with other SEO experts for their input. I'm a member of an SEO mastermind community called Traffic Think Tank, which is frequented by some of the world's top SEOs, including SEO directors from companies like Shopify, HubSpot, LendingTree, Moz, and others.
Their thinking seems to be in alignment with mine.
Even some SEOs on Twitter responded, and this is what they said:
As they said, cannibalization is less of an issue if the two or more pieces, vying for the same keyword, target different search intents.
And then, Britney Muller, someone I've been following for a long time who is a senior SEO data scientist and worked at Moz, added this:
Finally, one thing to keep in mind.
Is Long Content a Ranking Factor?
There’s a lot of debate about content length with SEO. Some say longer pieces rank better. But Google has expressly stated that word count is not a ranking factor. Any benefits are typically correlational and not causal, because long-form content will likely increase the incidence of keywords, tags, links, etc.
Not only that, but also long-form content tends to offer “more substantial, comprehensive, and complete information on the topic,” which is what Google looks for according to its Quality Raters Guidelines.
So from a user experience perspective, the argument can be made that sticking with existing content can provide more comprehensiveness to the article.
I also surmise that the upcoming passages ranking, where parts of a page (such as subtopics) will rank differently than the page itself, is going to make it easier for a long-form piece of content to serve multiple intents.
We will have to wait and see.
For now, the point remains: when it comes to content creation, it is always better to provide comprehensive information on a topic — whether it's in one long piece or it's in multiple pieces that are properly interlinked to indicate a relationship (i.e., a topical cluster).
Either way, more content, and better content, will always serve you well.
When it comes to creating content about plastic surgery, writing blog posts (i.e., articles) is the easiest way. But visual content is just as important, if not more so. In addition to written content marketing, visual content marketing is a critical component to a medical aesthetic professional's online success.
Any content is important. As a plastic surgeon, you're an expert in your field, and prospective patients want to make an informed decision. When it comes to SEO, as it should be with the content itself, the fundamental goal of written content is to help the people you're targeting.
However, most plastic surgeons or their staff create visual content, such as videos, photos, and graphics. And they should. Most of them post these on visual channels (like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etc.) instead of their own blogs.
So how do can you do SEO when your content is not text-based and it's published outside your blog or website?
1. Metadata is Your Friend
Every piece of non-textual content you create (or better said, capture) has metadata attached to it, such as time, date, location, equipment used, etc. Most digital recording devices nowadays automatically add metadata to your captures, whether it's a $3,000 camera or a $500 smartphone.
But many recordings today can have additional metadata added. Most of the time, it's done when the recordings are added to another medium — such as when it's uploaded to Google Photos or YouTube, for example.
Incidentally, if you turned off metadata (such as location) for privacy purposes, you should turn it back on. Some people hate being tracked, and I understand that. But this information is ideal for SEO.
For example, when uploading it to Google My Business or Facebook (Business), it adds more pseudo-content for local SEO purposes. When people type “plastic surgeon near me” into Google, your photos may appear (or your listing with a lot of geotagged photos may appear) more often as a result.
Nevertheless, you can add more metadata. On a blog, those things include alternate text (called “alt-tags”), titles (or “title tags”), captions, and even the filename itself. For instance, when adding content to a website, rather than uploading it directly, save it, rename it, and upload it with its new filename.
It's not about stuffing keywords in either the metatags or filenames. It's about including descriptive information for accessibility so that search engines know what the file is all about. So include keywords in the graphic, photo, or video, both in their filenames and tag data.
But don't force them. Just be descriptive. Be helpful, not robotic.
Like all forms of SEO, metadata comes down to helping your audience and giving them what they're looking for. You want to describe your visuals in order to help — not outsmart the search engines.
Remember, metadata is about the user and aims to make the visuals better understood by users. Yes, they're for search engines, too. But search engines aim to help users (your users) by giving them better information — and therefore, a better experience. Stuffed text will only work against you.
2. Channel-Based SEO
The second-largest search engine in the world is YouTube. Just like Google, YouTube has its own search queries, topics, keywords, rankings, velocity (i.e, based on how much traffic, engagements, and likes a video gets), and of course, audiences. So it needs its own SEO, too.
In fact, almost every content sharing platform is a search engine itself. So whether you're uploading photos, videos, clips, graphics, or stories (like Reels, LinkedIn Stories, Twitter Fleets, TikTok, or any visual asset you upload to the web), you will also need to optimize those, too.
Optimize their descriptions, tags, labels, comments, and more. So be descriptive, add keywords, insert links, use hashtags, and so on.
Every channel needs its own form of SEO, from Twitter to Google My Business. Pay attention to the content you add, from the bio of your channel's profile to each asset you upload. Include keywords and links (especially links back to the website) to double your amplification (I'll come back to this).
Create new content with SEO in mind, whether it's the title, the description, the filename, or the surrounding content (including headers, copy, links, additional keywords, etc). In fact, there are three things to keep in mind:
Keywords don't have to be broad or popular with high search volumes. They can be long-tail, indirectly related, or ultra-specific keywords.
Focus on the user, not the search engines. Don't stuff your content with keywords. Focus on topics and what users want, and describe it to them.
Include your name and brand names (such as proprietary names of your services, products, or processes, which is my number-one SEO tip).
Incidentally, content in proximity is just as important as metadata or descriptive data. For example, when uploading content to a visual platform, remember that you have the ability to add descriptions, comments, even tags and related content — such as linking suggested videos or other related posts.
This information also helps to expand your visibility, too.
On YouTube, your videos will show up as related videos on other people's videos. On Instagram, it will be recommended as part of the “Explore” page. On Google, your Web Stories will be suggested in “Discover” (i.e., the personalized content feed on Android devices, Google pages, and Google apps).
For videos, one tool I recommend is TubeBuddy, which allows you to do keyword and tag research, on the fly, as you upload your videos. On Instagram, make sure your photos are properly described, tagged, and captioned with keywords — and don't forget the advanced settings (hidden alt text), too.
3. Bring it Back Home
Finally, remember that your goal is to get people back to your website (or at least to come forward and book an appointment with you). But for SEO purposes, it's to attract qualified patients to your practice or clinic.
While your goal is to use other platforms as a way to share and amplify content from your website in order to increase signals back to your website (and hopefully earn authoritative backlinks), you can also do the converse — i.e., amplify your third-party platform content through your website.
In other words, you can bring content back to your website. You don't need to duplicate everything. Many of these websites allow you to embed their content, which allows you to add a piece of code and incorporate content from their platform back on your website.
However, some may offer you the ability to embed carousels or galleries. That's not what I mean. Embed either one or a few select pieces on a blog post, but add surrounding, descriptive content. Offer deeper, richer content — perhaps a story behind the visuals. Above all, include links to other pages.
For example, one plastic surgeon often posts on Instagram. He uploads videos that are either before-and-after clips, patient testimonials, or videos of actual surgical procedures. He then takes a video from IG, embeds it on his website, and describes the procedure in depth with additional content around it.
He turns it into a case study to describe that specific patient's situation (e.g., what was their issue, what makes them a candidate, what results to expect, etc). He also links anchor texts back to his main service page — the one that describes the procedure (like “breast augmentation,” for example).
This process creates strategic internal links, signals to his key procedure pages, and topical clusters, which all help SEO — including the social media signals.
If you do this with videos, transcribe your videos (using a tool like Descript, Otter, or Screechpad), which will then fill your blog post (and therefore, your website) with keyword-rich and/or topic-focused content that will add SEO as well as bring more context to the visuals (and vice versa).
Ultimately, these are some ideas that will help use non-text-based content and third-party content for SEO purposes that will enhance your visibility, drive traffic, and increase traction with ideal patients.
So with visuals and third-party platforms, don't forget metadata, keywords, and links to each other for bilateral amplification and stronger SEO signals.
When it comes to plastic surgery or medical aesthetic SEO, the best SEO content is content that answers the questions people ask — people who are within your market. It will generate the most qualified traffic, in other words.
The more you know your market, the less you will have writer's block. Because knowing your market well enough will always provide you with many content ideas — such as commonly asked questions you regularly answer.
Questions are great for FAQs. But they're also tremendously valuable for developing content that search engines (and its users) will love.
If you've been a plastic surgeon or clinic owner for some time, chances are you will have a good grasp of the types of questions your patients and prospective patients ask. But sometimes, even with the best of us, writer's block can happen. Maybe we have an idea but we don't know how to express it.
That's where content ideation can help.
Content ideation exercises may provide you with actual content ideas to write with, or they can provide you with the inspiration you can draw from. In my experience, especially from when I worked as an SEO director at a local agency for a few years, there are three methods that I've resorted to with success.
Numbers and lists;
And idea generators.
The easiest way to uncover questions you can answer is by looking for those based on question words. They're questions that start with “who,” “when,” “where,” “what,” “why,” “how,” “how long,” and “how much,” as well as with verbs such as “can,” “does/do,” “am I,” “is/are,” “will/would,” and “shall/should.”
For example (and these are actual questions people ask):
When does eyelid surgery bruising go away?
What are breast implants made of?
Why are botox injections better than surgery?
Which nose job should I get?
Where are facelift scars located?
Who is the best plastic surgeon in Chicago?
How effective is laser skin resurfacing?
How long does it take to recover from surgery?
How much does it cost to have a butt lift?
Can a facelift help with acne scars?
Am I a good candidate for liposuction?
Are hair transplants permanent?
Will a facelift get rid of wrinkles?
Would a breast reduction help back pain?
Should I get a chin implant?
You can search Google by typing in a question word along with a topic, such as “why facelift” or “does breast implant.” You will get a list of results — either in the search results themselves, in the search suggestions (before hitting “enter”), or under the “people also asked” panel further down the search results page.
People love numbers and lists. I suspect it's because numbers are specific and allow the reader to know, beforehand, what they're about to read. Plus, lists are great as they help simplify the content by arranging them in bite-sized chunks.
You can simply type in a number, a list type qualifier, and the topic into Google, and you will get a ton of ideas. For example, “15 questions,” “16 things to know,” “Top 5,” “8 trends,” etc, followed by the topic. For example, when I typed in “top 5 facelifts,” I get the following results:
Top 5 reasons to get a facelift
Top 5 cosmetic surgery procedures
Top 10 most common plastic surgeries
Top 5 advantages of a minilift
5 best plastic surgeons in the USA
Top 5 most common myths about facelifts
5 top things you need to know when choosing a surgeon
You can change either the number or the qualifier (or both) to get more results, like “20 questions,” “8 things,” “7 best,” “11 trends,” etc. You even drop the number to see what comes up, like “questions facelift” or “trends lip injections.”
However, the problem is that it might be too generic and the results might be all over the place. So, qualify it more, like “questions to ask doctor,” “common questions about facelifts,” or “questions people need to ask.”
Either these will give you a brainstorm of ideas to write about, or you can use the same idea but outrank it by using the skyscraper technique. In other words, write something similar but add more content, more research, more insights, more photos, more tips, etc. By doing so, your article might rank better.
Third but not least, you can also use idea generators. There are quite a few of them out there, and they're mostly free to use. For example, there's:
Now, these are not idea generators specifically, but they are idea goldmines. For example, look at question-and-answer sites like Quora.com, Answers.com, reddit.com, and social media in general.
There are plenty of niche-specific forums and groups on social media where people can join, ask questions, and provide answers. While the objective in many cases is to become a helpful participant and gain exposure, I like to use them to get ideas. Just sitting on the sidelines can become a goldmine.
Let's not forget the comments section on social media public pages, especially those of your competitors, where people ask questions either from one another, from the page owner, or from the original post author.
The most popular medium for plastic surgeons is currently Instagram. It's relatively easy to follow plastic surgeons, look at their posts, and read the comments. Sometimes, it can become a goldmine of content ideas.
For example, I follow (and tell my clients to follow) hashtags related to their field — such as #plasticsurgeon, #plasticsurgery, #medicalaesthetics, #facelifts, #breastaugmention, and so on. Look at posts that use these hashtags and read the comments. They will give you a wealth of ideas.
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