Categories
SEO

What is “Search Intent” and Why is it Important?

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:

  1. The content is bad,
  2. The user experience is bad, or
  3. 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:

  1. “I want to know” searches (informational)
  2. “I want to go” searches (navigational)
  3. “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.

Informational Searches

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).

Navigational Searches

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.

Transactional Searches

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”

Commercial/Investigational Searches

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.”

From “SEO: Search & Information Retrieval,” Jeffrey Smith (2009).

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.

For this reason, you need to go beyond keyword research.

Meet Users' Needs, Not Their Keywords

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?

Avoid “Clickbait-and-Switch”

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);
  • Why (e.g., they're frustrated, doing research, want options).

Next stage of awareness is solution-aware:

  • What (e.g., a solution, like “recovery time for tummy tucks”);
  • How (e.g., investigational search, medical expertise, case studies);
  • Why (e.g., they're interested, considering a solution, want details).

Then, of course, the next stage, which is product-aware:

  • What (e.g., your solution, “Dr. [X] before and after photos”);
  • How (e.g., commercial/navigational search, proof, patient reviews);
  • Why (e.g., they're motivated, taking action, want assurances).

The Case For Long-Tail Keywords

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).

Or as SEO consultant Brittney Muller said:

Paying closer attention to search results will give SEO pros a leg up in creating competitive content in the way that searchers desire to consume it.”

— Brittney Muller, from Search Engine Journal.

Bingo.

Categories
SEO

The Right Content Architecture For Plastic Surgeons

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:

  1. Flat (single tier) architecture;
  2. Tunnel (sequential) architecture;
  3. Pyramid (hierarchical) architecture;
  4. Silo (topical/thematic) architecture;
  5. Any combination of the above.

Flat Architecture

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.

It looks something like this:

domain.com/page1/
domain.com/page2/
domain.com/page3/

Tunnel Architecture

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:

domain.com/page1/
domain.com/page1/page2/
domain.com/page1/page2/page3/

Pyramid Architecture

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.

domain.com/tier1/
domain.com/tier1/page1/
domain.com/tier1/page2/
domain.com/tier1/page3/
domain.com/tier1/tier2/
domain.com/tier1/tier2/page1/
domain.com/tier1/tier2/page2/
domain.com/tier1/tier2/page3/

Silo Architecture

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:

domain.com/silo1/
domain.com/silo1/page1/
domain.com/silo1/page2/
domain.com/silo1/page3/
domain.com/silo2/
domain.com/silo2/page1/
domain.com/silo2/page2/
domain.com/silo2/page3/

Using the silo architecture, you can easily create content relationships that:

  1. Make it easier for users to find information;
  2. Make it easier for Google to crawl information; and
  3. 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.)
  3. 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?
  4. 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).
  5. Finally, implement the changes while preserving existing rankings:
    • 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:

  1. People (e.g., doctors, staff, clinic, patients, postop photos)
  2. Problems (e.g., wrinkles, fat, hairloss, sagging skin, eye bags)
  3. Procedures (e.g., nose job, facelift, liposuction, breast implants)
  4. (Body) Parts (e.g., arms, eyelids, stomach, neck, breasts, butt)
  5. Products (e.g., creams, garments, supplements, injectables)

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:

  1. Oblivious: they're unaware of the problem or its possible solutions.
  2. Apathetic: they're aware but uninterested in any specific solution.
  3. Thinking: they're interested and considering several solutions.
  4. 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:

  1. “Is baldness hereditary?”
  2. “What causes droopy eyelids?”
  3. “Does skin shrink after pregnancy?

Engage the Apathetic

Your objective is to help them understand the ways to solve their problem.

  1. “Can I regrow my hair?”
  2. “Is there a way to fix my droopy eyelids?”
  3. “How to tighten my sagging tummy skin?”

Nurture the Thinking

Your goal is to provide information about the procedure they're considering.

  1. “Are hair transplants permanent?”
  2. “What are the risks of eyelid surgery?”
  3. “Will I have scars after a tummy tuck?”

Assure the Hurting

Finally, your content aims to help them choose and validate their choice.

  1. “Best hair transplant doctor in Toronto”
  2. “Blepharoplasty before and after photos”
  3. “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:

/mammoplasty/
/mammoplasty/breast-augmentation/
/mammoplasty/breast-lift-mastopexy/
/mammoplasty/breast-reduction/
/mammoplasty/risks-and-recovery/
/mammoplasty/costs-and-considerations/
/mammoplasty/questions-and-answers/
/mammoplasty/patient-result-photos/

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:

/breast-surgery/what-size-implants-are-best-for-me/
/breast-surgery/can-mammoplasty-fix-uneven-breasts/
/breast-surgery/12-breast-surgery-speed-recovery-tips/
/breast-surgery/can-some-breast-implants-cause-cancer/
/breast-surgery/permitted-exercises-after-breast-surgery/
/breast-surgery/breast-reconstruction-after-mastectomy/
/breast-surgery/eight-questions-to-ask-your-surgeon/
/breast-surgery/how-to-prepare-for-breast-surgery/

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.

Categories
SEO

What SEO Tools Do I Use With Plastic Surgery?

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.

What I Do to Help E-A-T Signals

There are many ways to improve EAT signals.

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).

I also use schema code to highlight:

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:

  1. Create content that solves your audience's pain points.
  2. 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.

So I pay attention to discussion forums and Q&A sites — like Reddit, Quora, Answers.com, and social media groups. I then use question aggregators like AnswerThePublic.com and AlsoAsked.com. They curate questions people ask, categorize them, and drill them down further.

The types of questions are clues to the user's intent. For example (and this is not meant to be exhaustive), the purpose may be for:

  1. Education (“To Know”)
    • “Who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “which,” “how to,” or “how much.”
    • “For,” “by, “to,” “from,” “at,” or “in” (followed by an adverb above).
    • (Contains) “near me,” “nearby,” “here/there,” or “close to/by.”
    • “In,” “on,” “at,” “around,” “through,” or “under/over” (location).
  2. Comprehension (“To Understand”)
    • “How is,” “how will,” “how are,” “how can,” or “how do/does.”
    • “Why is,” “why will,” “why are,” “why can,” or “why do/does.”
    • (Contains) “for example,” “so that,” “perhaps,” or “maybe.”
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.

Knowing this provides some great insights into their level of awareness.

Look Beyond The SERPs to Dig Deeper

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:

Categories
SEO

Passages Ranking SEO With Structured Content

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).

Table of Contents and Jumplinks

You may have noticed a growing trend with long articles where they contain a table of content at the top, a synopsis or summary of the page, or a list of jumplinks to sections on the page by using header anchor tags.

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.

Passages Ranking SEO With Structured Content 1 | structured content
Example of jump menus under SERPs.

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.

Categories
SEO

Silos and Bios: Two Key Expertise SEO Signals

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:

michelfortin.com/
michelfortin.com/page1/
michelfortin.com/page2/
michelfortin.com/page3/
michelfortin.com/blog/
michelfortin.com/blog/post1/
michelfortin.com/blog/post2/
michelfortin.com/blog/post3/

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:

michelfortin.com/blog/
michelfortin.com/category/post/

Single blog posts would look something like this:

michelfortin.com/category1/post1/
michelfortin.com/category1/post2/
michelfortin.com/category2/post3/
michelfortin.com/category2/post4/
michelfortin.com/category3/post5/
michelfortin.com/category3/post6/

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:

domain.com/blog/are-breast-implants-permanent/

If the above has “breast augmentation” as its primary category, it will become:

domain.com/breast-augmentation/are-breast-implants-permanent/

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:

example.com/facelifts/facelift-surgery/
example.com/facelifts/facelift-recovery/
example.com/facelifts/facelift-cost/
example.com/facelifts/facelift-photos/

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.”

Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

Silos and Bios: Two Key Expertise SEO Signals 3 | expertise seo
Dr. Mulholland's bio at SpaMedica.com.

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.

Plugins are helpful but limiting. So adding extra schema markup manually can help. Use Google’s markup helper tool. Then, test the markup (either the code or the page it’s on once published) with Google's rich results tester.

Reason is this: plugins will add “local business,” “organization,” or “person” schema. But there are different types of local businesses, such as “medical business” and “plastic surgery” as well as “physician.” I also recommend adding the following snippets as part of “person” schema:

  • “reviewedBy” (if written by someone else),
  • “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.

Categories
SEO

Content Creation or Content Expansion? SEO Experts Confirm

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.

It can be a refresh of an existing piece of content. You take an older piece and rewrite it, expand it, update it (e.g., add or update any references, statistics, citations, and supporting images), and add new internal links to existing content (particularly if you have new posts since its original publication).

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.

Categories
SEO

When Moving Your Site, Don’t Leave Your SEO Behind

A recent client has hired me to audit their SEO. The main issue was pretty clear from the start: they had recently undergone a rebrand and moved their site to a new domain. But they failed to redirect the old site properly to the new one. In short, the SEO site migration was poorly executed.

The result is a significant loss in rankings and traffic.

Often, moving to a new domain is perfectly fine, provided you do it carefully and plan it properly. The reason is to ensure there's no loss of traffic, authority, and rankings. Otherwise, it can lead to irrecoverable losses — not to mention the loss of your audience's trust and goodwill.

If you're planning on redesigning or rebranding your site, particularly if the purpose is to improve your SEO, here are some things to consider.

First, the simplest way to move your site is to do a domain-to-domain redirect. It will carry over any URL parameters to the new site automatically. If someone tries to reach domainone.com/page for example, they will easily go to the same page on the new domain, i.e., domaintwo.com/page.

But sometimes, it's better to do a page-by-page redirect, simply because you may wish to keep parts of the old domain active, reuse the domain in the future, keep certain functions (such as mail servers), or move to a new architecture where you plan to rearrange and/or rename pages.

In the latter's case, however, I don't recommend doing it all together.

Migrate Your Site in Stages

Some plastic surgeons prefer to do it all in one fell swoop: they want to move to a new domain, do a rebrand (and redesign the site to match the rebrand), and switch to a new content architecture — particularly if it's recommended for SEO purposes. They want to get it all done.

However, in my experience, it's better to first move to a new domain that maintains an identical architecture, and then launch the new site.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. It's easier to do a bulk domain-to-domain redirect, which reduces server load. You can do this with regular expressions (RegEx) that simply tell the server to redirect and load the same folder/file on the new domain.
  2. If there are too many redirects that point to different pages, and/or if there are too many new pages appearing at once, Google may interpret that as a completely new site, and you might lose rankings and traffic.
  3. Above all, if you move to a new domain and revamp the architecture simultaneously, it will be difficult to determine the reason for the losses in traffic (i.e., whether it was the migration or the change in architecture).

If you absolutely must, then do so. But I recommend you do any changes to the architecture after the move. This way, you can start by pointing the old domain to the new one first, and then do internal redirects to new pages on the new domain either after the move or once you relaunched the site.

Thus, if someone tries to access a certain page on your old domain, they will go to the same page on the new domain first, and then the internal redirect will load the new page based on the revamped architecture.

But if you can do it in stages, do so. It will be more effective, more manageable, and less risky. In fact, I suggest you either clone the site to its new domain or switch the domain name. Then activate a domain-to-domain redirect.

This way, should anything go awry, switching back is easy.

(I typically use Cloudflare for this process. Adding all domains to Cloudflare, I can do a site-to-site switch within the DNS records as easily as flipping a switch. Plus, I do bulk domain redirects using Cloudflare's “page rules.”)

Of course, once you're done, do a search-and-replace sitewide and within the database to ensure to canonicalize the URLs with the new domain. (Go back to my SEO migration checklist for more details. A post-move crawl can identify any old remaining URLs that you need to switch.)

Telling Google You're Moving

If a site moves and no redirects are in place, this creates several issues. When Google notices 404 errors, at first it will do nothing. It suspects that this may be temporary. It will wait for a few days to see:

  • If the cause of the missing pages was a glitch;
  • If the site owner submits a change of address; or,
  • If the site eventually redirects the missing pages.

Over time, if Google doesn't encounter any redirects, it will consider your pages as dropped, which will lose your rankings and any momentum you've gained.

So after putting the proper redirects in place, I also recommend submitting a change of address to Google to make sure there are no losses. You can do this by registering both domains with Google Search Console. Once the move is complete, start the process under “change of address” in settings.

GSC also gives you a list of all the external incoming links (i.e., backlinks) you will need to update. It's above “settings” on the left sidebar in the above screenshot.

Often, an incoming link points to a page that has been long switched, renamed, or moved, and, unbeknownst to you, leads to a 404 (“page not found” error). Therefore, GSC will allow you to create any additional redirects you may need.

Change-of-Address Benefits

Doing a site move signals Google that the site is now on a new domain. Not only does GSC offer tools and reports that help you track your move and measure its performance, but also it helps to identify and fix issues that may occur.

A site move is much like an insurance policy. It will preserve several things:

  • The integrity of backlinks;
  • The site’s current rankings;
  • Any potential domain authority;
  • And the user experience (UX).

With domain authority, the age of the domain (i.e., how long the domain existed and remained with the same owner) is an important ranking factor. You will lose some of that when moving to a new domain.

As for UX, if someone searches for your old brand name (i.e., a navigational search intent, such as someone searching you to find your site), Google will list the new domain in its search results instead of the old one.

Speaking of ranking factors, Google ranks sites based on several factors. Key signals influence some of these factors, including E-A-T signals (i.e., expertise, authority, and trust). EAT is not a ranking factor per se. But it can influence your rankings as it influences the perception of the site's experience and quality.

  • Expertise mostly comes down to the content and its quality — the quality of your content, your knowledge, your credentials, and so forth.
  • Trust mostly relates to user experience (UX), such as site security, page load speed, navigation, user journey, and so on (i.e., signaling that the site is trustworthy and not a scam).
  • But authority comes from signals outside the site, such as backlinks, brand mentions, and other external signals that prove authoritativeness (such as links from social media, Google Maps, industry and business listings, reviews and reputation signals, and more).

Backlinks are vital to SEO and page errors are bad for UX. So preserving those links and the integrity of your site is important. There are also brand mentions, also called “implied links,” which include your brand name and even unlinked domain names. Site moves will help preserve those, too.

Remember that moving a site requires planning. There's no one perfect way to migrate a site. But there are plenty of ways to screw it up. Just remember that Google is also there to help you. So use them to your advantage.

Categories
SEO

Visual Content Marketing Starts With SEO

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:

  1. Keywords don't have to be broad or popular with high search volumes. They can be long-tail, indirectly related, or ultra-specific keywords.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Categories
SEO

How to Come Up With Great Ideas for SEO Content

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.

  1. Question words;
  2. Numbers and lists;
  3. And idea generators.

Question Words

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.

You can also use a keyword tool, like AnswerThePublic.com, AlsoAsked.com, or KeywordTool.io. With the latter, type in the topic (e.g., breast implants), and click on the “questions” tab to get a list of questions people ask. I also use tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs, which I've mentioned several times before.

Numbers and Lists in SEO Content

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.

Idea Generators

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.