Many plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons have asked me, “What does an SEO consultant do, exactly?” I realize that maybe some clarification might be helpful. Plus, if you were considering hiring an SEO consultant to help strengthen your online presence and boost your traffic, this might give you some direction.
First, as I'm sure you're aware, a consultant is someone who consults, an expert on a particular topic who gives advice related to that topic.
An SEO consultant is no different.
A marketing consultant is often regarded as a generalist. They often use the label of full-stack marketer. These types of experts advise on everything related to marketing, from copywriting to coding. There's nothing wrong with that. Earlier in my career, I offered other marketing and digital marketing services.
However, today, I consult only on search engine optimization for plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic practitioners who hire me to get higher rankings, more targeted traffic, and greater revenues. But unlike an agency or typical SEO generalist, the way I approach SEO is a bit different.
As a plastic surgeon, you want a steady flow of leads. Since the plastic and cosmetic surgery are hypercompetitive fields, the demand is certainly there. The issue is who you're competing with for those top spots on Google, and how to outrank them. For that, you need a specialized, well-rounded SEO expert.
The SEO Tripod
If you want to rank, focus on your users. But if you want to rank higher, focus on your competitors. Because the goal is not to beat Google or its algorithms, but to outrank your competitors. The issue is, Google ranks and rewards those top performers based on not one but several rankings factors.
They generally fall into three categories.
I've often said that SEO boils down to two things, i.e., the quality of your content and the quality of the user experience. But I believe there's a third element, which I've talked about before. It's the quality of the signals to both of these. Having great content with great UX won't do you good if no one believes you.
With plastic surgeons and medical aesthetics websites, their content are mostly medical information. Medical falls in a category search engines call “your money or your life” (YMYL). For this reason, they need to factor in and amplify their E-A-T signals (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).
So provide good content and a good experience in consuming that content (i.e., available on a safe, secure, easy-to-use, easy-to-navigate, and fast-loading website), you've got a solid SEO foundation.
Next is to develop, optimize, and improve the signals that show you have quality content and a quality user experience. Like a three-legged stool or tripod, if you will, SEO needs all three. If you miss one of them, the stool will have a hard time standing up on just two legs.
Technical SEO refers to optimizations behind the website (e.g., server, coding, scripts, etc). On-page SEO refers to optimizations on the page (e.g., content, HTML tags, internal links, etc). Off-page SEO is optimizations off the site (e.g., backlinks, brand mentions, external signals, etc).
Leg #1: Technical SEO
Technical stuff affect mostly to the UX. While the goal is to ensure that your site is accessible, crawlable, and indexable by the search engines, it's more than just having good code or a good host. There's also site security, loading times, mobile-friendliness, site architecture, and so much more.
Of course, technical SEO aims to give search engine spiders the best possible “crawl” experience. But if you focus on your users and give users what they want, you will give Google what they want, too. Pretty simple.
Moreover, plastic surgeon and medical aesthetic websites are typically a little more challenging. They focus heavily on visuals, photos, and imagery, and they also focus on good design — after all, a website is often representative of the doctor or the practice behind it.
Remember the “Halo” and the “Horn” effect? Poor website designs often lead to the unconscious assumption there's a parallel. Users will likely tell themselves, “If they can't take care of their websites, how can they take care of me?”
From an SEO perspective, these heavy, visual-rich websites can be tricky in providing a good user experience. So a technical SEO expert will need to very cognizant of how this applies to plastic surgeons specifically when optimizing.
Leg #2: On-Page SEO
On-page SEO refers to the content. And good content means it gives the user the information they want. When they're researching cosmetic procedures, not every piece of information they come across is the same. They want amazing information — information that's both relevant and valuable.
The foundation of SEO is good content. It may not be what gets users to take action (although it certainly could). But good content is definitely what will get users to stick around, consume more, come back, build trust, and eventually book a consultation and buy from you.
For example, users want content that:
- Describes the procedures specifically;
- Tells them about the safety of the procedures;
- Answers any questions or concerns they may have;
- Explains who is a good candidate for the procedures;
- And of course, an idea of the investment needed.
Creating good content is relatively simple. If it's fresh, useful, and relevant, chances are it will rank well. To do that, it obviously needs to be what users are searching for. But it's less about matching keywords (and stuffing content with them) and more about topical relevance.
Keyword research is not about finding what search terms they use but about discovering what questions people are asking. Your goal is to answer them. If your content does a good job at doing so and a better one than your competitors, you will rank higher than them.
But if you're not, chances are you're missing the third element.
Leg #3: Off-Page SEO
If you've done a good job at the first two, this is where a lot of the differentiation between you and your competitors can happen.
Off-page SEO refers to those signals that help to amplify the quality of the content and the user experience. I'm referring to E-A-T signals and authority-focused ones specifically. They are external signals that point out the level of authority of the site, the content, and its author (hence, “off page”).
So once you have done everything possible to rank well, such as taking care of technical SEO, having great content, being mobile-friendly, having a secure site, providing helpful information for your users, and so on, the next step is to increase the quality of the signals to the site and its content.
The most effective way is by promoting and sharing the content so that the world knows about it, talks about it, passes it around, and links to it.
Naturally earned and occurring backlinks and brand mentions are the strongest signals. But there's also reputation management (like patient reviews) and local SEO (Google maps and directory listings).
Many doctors find online reviews frustrating because beauty is subjective, so negative reviews are common. They're often hard to manage and remove, too.
But capturing all the citations possible and creating local accounts in key locations (such as RateMDS, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, Facebook Business, Bing Places, and others) provide an opportunity to:
- Get verified (possibly earning a trust seal and signal);
- Manage and proactively respond to reviews; and,
- Flag inappropriate ones more quickly and effectively.
Many of these are all part of something called Local SEO, which includes optimizing maps, listings, reviews, and more. Local SEO is one element of off-page SEO as it helps to boost your visibility and prominence locally.
SEO: A Tiered Approach
Some SEO experts tend to focus on one of these areas. Some are technical SEO experts (like web developers and coders). Others are on-page SEO specialists (many are content strategists). And some are off-page SEO experts (they do link building and content promotion among others).
A well-rounded SEO expert, or as I call them a 360° SEO expert, will focus on all three areas. Not all plastic surgeons need all three. Some already have great content, for example. But that's where an in-depth SEO audit can help. In fact, I offer SEO consulting services using a tiered process based on project phases.
I refer to them as the “Three Ps” of consulting:
The SEO Analyst
Based on my experience as an SEO manager working with digital marketing agencies, SEO jobs generally fall within three categories: the SEO analyst, the SEO strategist, and the SEO manager. Large or busy agencies will tend to have two or three of these types of professionals working in them.
For the SEO consultant, the job of “SEO analyst” is part of the “probe” phase.
It's the assessment phase, which is often performed as a multifaceted SEO audit, where I do a complete analysis. Just as every doctor, including every plastic surgeon, does, I need to diagnose first before I prescribe. So I must do this first before I make any recommendations.
(If an SEO service provider approaches you trying to sell you SEO tactics before doing any kind of assessment, don't walk… Run. Either they don't know what they're doing or they're spammers who will cause more harm than good.)
During this phase, I scrutinize your website's analytics and all the data available through analytical tools. Then, I draw conclusions, point out any errors or snags, and brainstorm ideas for improvement.
The SEO Strategist
This is the “plan” phase in SEO consulting work.
Consultants often refer to this step as roadmapping. While the probe phase uncovers issues, pain points, and opportunities, the planning phase is where I develop a roadmap to address them.
It's also the phase where I do topical research, analyze the competition, develop a content strategy, and more. I then put together a strategic action plan based on my findings. I call it my 360° SEO Strategy as I offer recommendations and an action plan with checklists that will address all three SEO levels.
Depending on the complexity of the project and the goals you want to achieve, it can be as simple as modifying existing content to a complete site overhaul. Some of my clients had projects that took several weeks. Others had substantial websites (e.g., 80,000 pages) that took several months.
In any case, you can bring this roadmap to your team to implement it in-house or you can outsource it. It doesn't matter either way, and I'll soon explain why.
The SEO Manager
This is the “pilot” phase. It's the phase where the plan gets implemented. I don't execute anything personally but I can steer the project. In other words, once I finish the SEO strategy, you may want some guidance and direction during its implementation — whether you deploy it internally or hire contractors.
Perhaps it's training your team on best practices. Perhaps it's quality assurance (QA) checks on your team's deliverables. Perhaps it's participating in supplier calls and emails. Or perhaps it's regular reporting and analysis to ensure key performance indicators (KPIs) are met.
Either way, my 360° SEO Advisory is a program where I pilot the project and provide ongoing guidance during its execution.
SEO Advisory vs Execution
Why don't I do any implementation work?
As a consultant who works in the best interest of his clients, I prefer to avoid any perceived conflict of interest as much as I can. And I do so by not having any financial incentives tied to the execution of my plan.
My goal is to help my clients objectively, regardless of who they choose to execute my plan with. It's the same fiduciary standard that licensed advisors must comply with. I see it no different in the SEO consulting space.
The role of the SEO consultant is that of a conductor — to direct SEO efforts from start to finish, from analysis to management. Some clients choose audits only. Other clients hire me as their SEO expert for months or even years.
Once the plan is deployed and fully delivered, you may choose to keep an SEO consultant on as an ongoing advisor to make sure all the buttons are pushed and knobs are adjusted moving forward.
Sometimes, SEO consulting services can be a bit cyclical, too — from analysis, planning, and execution, to rebuilding the plan again.
One client hires me to do an audit and strategy, and implements the suggestions internally. But either six months or a year later, they will rehire to do a new audit or simply to revise the work they've done.
Ultimately, any SEO consultant worth their salt is a true expert who understands and keeps up with the tools, technologies, and trends in the world of search marketing, including having an ear-to-the-ground awareness of algorithm changes, so that their clients can always be prepared.
I often say this to my clients: algorithms can change. Overnight. Search rankings are as volatile as stock prices. They can go up and down, and they can shoot up or crash down in a blink of an eye.
Sure, clients can lose rankings. There's no guarantee in SEO just as there are no guarantees in aesthetic medicine. But if you're in good hands, the losses will likely be minimized or mitigated by an expert SEO consultant.
Stated differently, the clients of an SEO consultant — someone who understands what users want, abides by Google's quality guidelines, and stays on top of changes — will always be better off than going at it blindly.