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How to Develop an SEO Content Strategy [Guide]

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

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

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

What's an SEO Content Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Keyword Research

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

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

Now, keywords are still important.

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

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

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

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

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

1.1. Start With The Problem

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

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

SEO is no different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.2. Start With The Competition

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

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

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

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

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

This leads me to the next step.

1.3. Identify Good-Fit Keywords

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

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

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

  • Location
  • Audience
  • Solution
  • Expertise
  • Reach

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

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

Ultimately, pick keywords that are worth focusing on.

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

1.4. Assess Topic and Intent

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

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

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

Here's what they mean:

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

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

Here are some other examples:

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

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

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

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

This takes us to the next step.

2. Competitive Analysis

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

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

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

2.1. SERP Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

What is a SERP analysis?

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

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

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

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

Then, look at the quality of the user experience:

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

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

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

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

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

2.2. SEO Gap Analysis

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

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

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

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

2.2.1. Choosing Viable Competitors

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

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

Admittedly, this can become tedious.

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

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

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

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

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

2.2.2. Choosing Viable Terms/Topics

I group keywords according to ranking disparity:

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

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

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

However, both disparity and difficulty can present some opportunities.

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

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

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

3. Content Audit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.1. Assess Search Performance

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

With GSC, you can easily identify:

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

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

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

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

3.2. Assign Page Value and Goal

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

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

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

3.2.1. Lowest Performing Pages

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

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

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

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

3.2.2. Highest Performing Pages

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

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

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

Here's an example from personal experience.

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

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

3.3. Associate Relevant Terms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Content Planner

This part is where you bring it all together.

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

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

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

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

The planner contains two key sections:

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

4.1. Content Assignment

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

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

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

4.2. Content Deliverable

The next section contains high-level content details.

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

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

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

Here's a list with some examples:

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

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

4.3. Content Outline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One important point I need to stress.

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

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

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

4.4. Content Brief

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

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

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

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

It contains two sections, similar to the content planner.

4.4.1. Admin Details

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

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

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

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

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

4.4.2. Article Details

Now, here are the content brief's details:

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

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

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

5. Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Finally, keep this in mind.

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

Categories
SEO

SEO Content Creation Strategy For Plastic Surgeons

When creating a content strategy, the most common process is to brainstorm a list of possible ideas to blog about and to create an editorial calendar around them. And for some plastic surgeons, that's perfectly fine.

Some content is better than no content. Right?

But when I work with doctors who have a lot of content but a lackluster online presence with very little organic traffic, the issue comes down to the fact that they don't have a strategy in the first place. Plastic surgeons who know and value the potency of SEO will have a strategy they follow.

I've written about creating a high-level content strategy before. However, one thing I failed to stress in my content strategy article is the process of defining the goal before strategizing content.

Since the success of any content strategy is determined by how well it reaches specific goals, setting goals should be the first step. For example, what is the content supposed to do? Is it to build traffic? Grow an audience? Increase awareness? Generate leads? Qualify those leads? Produce sales?

I know this sounds simplistic. But in reality, the lack of a clear goal is often why even the most effectively constructed content fails.

More importantly, the reason that answering this question first is essential is that it will drive the rest of the strategy. In other words, it will not only allow you to measure your content's effectiveness but it will also drive a variety of key elements that need to be taken into consideration in the process.

Specifically, there are five critical elements to keep in mind:

  • The audience;
  • The intent;
  • The awareness;
  • The topic; and,
  • The format.

The Audience

Knowing who you're writing for is pivotal — not just in general but with every piece of content. Are you offering information about facelifts to a 55-year old C-level executive woman? A hair transplant to a 35-year old divorced man? Or laser skin resurfacing to a 21-year old with acne-prone skin?

Defining the audience with each piece of content will determine how to present the topic and how to better align the idea with their intent. Your audience may vary greatly — and for each procedure type, too. Therefore, each content will need an intended audience and appeal to that audience, too.

This doesn't mean that each piece will have a different language or style. Each piece needs to maintain a consistent brand and voice. Your voice will develop an affinity with your chosen audience, and consistency is key when it comes to building authoritativeness and trustworthiness. (More on this later.)

The Intent

Are you creating content to help a person make a decision about a certain procedure? Or are you simply providing basic information to someone at the beginning stages of their research? Either way, you can find out what they want or need by knowing what and how they search.

There are three types of search intent:

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

For example:

  1. “Dr. Smith plastic surgeon Toronto.”
  2. “How long do breast reductions last?”
  3. “Dr. Smith consultation phone number.”

Some SEOs will also include a fourth, “to buy,” which is “commercial intent.” But they can be transactional or investigational (or a combination of both), such as, “Dr. Smith breast implant reviews.” Searchers are either looking to buy or conducting an investigation before going ahead.

Search intent is important to know so that your content can satisfy that intent. The more it does, not only the greater the traction (and the greater the quality of the traffic you generate) will be, but also the greater the chances your SEO Content Creation ““““““““““““benefits will spill over because it's meeting Google's quality guidelines.

The Awareness

Sometimes, knowing the search intent is not enough. A search term may not necessarily reveal the reason behind it. So it's also important to know the user's intent — i.e., not just what information the user wants but also for what purpose. In other words, why they want it or what they intend to do with it.

The best way to know is either to do one of three things:

  1. Research the questions they're asking.
  2. Look at long-tail keywords or phrases.
  3. See what Google thinks (i.e., SERP analysis).

(In the case of the latter, you simply use the search term and see what Google thinks the search intent is. If the types of results are scattered or don't fit, choose a newer or more specific search term.)

User intent will vary depending on the stage of awareness your audience happens to be in. I usually put them in one of four, which I call “OATH” (i.e., oblivious, apathetic, thinking, and hurting), such as:

  • Are they aware of the problem? The real problem?
  • Do they know all the options available to solve it?
  • Are they aware of your solution to the problem?
  • Do they know what makes your solution the best?

For example, take the search term “breast augmentation.” Alone, it doesn't say much. The search intent may be informational. But to what end? Is it to learn about the procedure? Is it to find out who offers them? Is it to compare alternatives? Or are they shopping around for prices?

But a search for “What size of breast implants is right for me?” The search intent is the same (informational), but now we have a bit more of an understanding of why they want to know more about breast implants.

So never just focus on what they're searching for. Learn why, too.

The Topic

Remember, if your information can impact a person's wealth or welfare, it's what Google calls YMYL, or “your money or your life” pages, such as medical content. As such, it needs to demonstrate, above everything else, a certain level of E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).

Choosing a topic your audience is looking for is not just for SEO purposes. Expertise is a form of topical authority. Your knowledge on the topic shows that you know what you're talking about, and the extent of your knowledge shows that what you're talking about is authoritative.

Your credentials are important signals. But demonstrate your expertise by covering the topic in depth. Your authority is implied in this case and therefore more effective. As I always say, implication is more powerful than specification.

You don't have to cover it all in one fell swoop. That's what creating a content strategy is about — you can cover the topic gradually, over time.

In the hub-and-spoke model, your pillar content is the hub, and supporting content pieces are the spokes around the hub — creating what is often called a topical cluster. Therefore, when you do create a content strategy, you will be able to interlink the subtopics together in an intuitive and logical way.

Using the previous example, i.e., “What size of breast implants is right for me,” Google will likely determine that this person is looking for advice on the topic of “breast augmentation.” Some subtopics might be “breast surgery candidacy criteria” or “breast implant cup sizes.” You get the idea.

To learn about topics that interest your audience, you need to do topical research and not just keyword research. Queries are often conversational phrases and questions. That's why questions are so powerful.

Use SEO tools like Ahrefs (Keywords Explorer) or SEMrush (Keyword Magic Tool) to learn about the questions people ask around a topic. Or use a website like AlsoAsked.com and AnswerThePublic.com, or a Q&A site like Quora.com, Reddit.com (there's a plastic surgery subreddit), and Answers.com.

Clusters are important. For the more in-depth the coverage on the topic is, the greater the chances your content will rank well — and the greater the chances that the content will capture related searches, too.

The Format

Format has two components: the modality and the methodology.

  1. Modality is the way the content is consumed. For some it's a blog post, for others it's a downloadable app. For some it's photos, for others it's videos. For some it's podcasts, for others it's a slide presentation.
  2. Methodology is the way you present your content. You may, for example, decide on writing a simple blog post. But how will address the content in that post? Will you present it as an interview? As a story? As a tutorial?

“Modality” comes from “mode of communication.” Some people prefer to consume their information by reading it, while others prefer watching it, listening to it, or applying it.

“Method” comes from the “method of presentation.” Here are some examples of presentation methods you may choose from to create content with:

  • Answers to questions
  • Patient success stories
  • Common myths debunked
  • Formulas and templates
  • Case studies to learn from
  • Bad examples to avoid
  • Competitive comparisons
  • Explainer videos and demos
  • Webinars and livestreams
  • Resource roundups
  • How-to tutorials
  • Graphs and charts
  • Ebooks and whitepapers
  • Editorial commentaries
  • Expert/client interviews
  • Original research findings
  • Glossaries and terms

And so on. This list not exhaustive, but as you can see there are a variety of methods you can present information. You might offer content that your audience is used to, or you might offer content in a different and better way. You might even offer the same content but using different methods.

Understand what your market wants or how they best consume information is helpful to the degree that it will increase engagement with your content, great visibility, natural backlinks, and more qualified traffic to your website.

Putting it All Together

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

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

Here's an example:

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

Therefore, the goal, in this case, is to create a blog post that targets women looking for a “mommy makeover” to reduce loose skin left after a recent pregnancy. But they're concerned about scarring related to tummy tucks (after all, they want to get rid of stretch marks), and they want some reassurance.

The goal is to get them to book an initial consultation.

Therefore, the content may discuss how scarring is minimal but only with the right candidates and in the right situations, which can only be determined with an initial consultation (or a virtual one, which is common in this era of COVID).

Obviously, a lot of this information will be implied and come naturally for doctors who write their own content. But when developing a content strategy where other team players are involved, or if the content is being outsourced to outside writers, it may be wise to go through this exercise for their sake.

When doctors outsource their content, sometimes they either get poorly written articles or well-written ones that miss the mark. Often it's because the writer wasn't aware of these five critical elements.

If you're using an SEO content template like this one, adding a few lines to describe these will go a long way in getting content creators to understand what you're looking for — and above all, what your audience is looking for.

Categories
Audits

Quick SEO Audit of DrThors.com

Time for another quick SEO audit of a plastic surgery website. After my last SEO mini-audit on OttawaPlasticSurgery.com, some of you have commented saying how helpful it was. So I've decided to do another one.

But this time, I picked one at random.

Quick SEO Audit Selection Process

Here's how did it: I turned on my VPN and chose “United States” as my country of choice. The VPN will randomly route me to anywhere in the country. In a private browser, I Googled “plastic surgeon,” jumped straight to page three of the SERPs (search engine results pages), and picked the first one on the list.

This SEO mini-audit will be on Dr. Gunnar Thors from Midwest Plastic Surgery Specialists. Remember, this audit will be brief. My 360° SEO Audits go far beyond this. But it might give you some insights you can apply these to your website.

Quick SEO Audit of DrThors.com 2 | quick seo audit
Mini SEO audit on DrThors.com.

Initial Crawl and Overview

Using Screaming Frog SEO spider crawler, I crawled the site and found a few things. Here are some of my first-glance observations.

  • The site took a very long time to crawl. Usually, that's an indication that pages are taking a long time to load or there are many redirects.
  • The site contains 154 total internal pages.
    • 51 pages are redirects. Most are 302 (i.e., temporary redirects) and not 301 (i.e., permanent redirects). 302 redirects are fine when a site is in transition or it's for a limited time. But in this case, they are leading to permanent pages in what seems to be a new patient photo gallery.
    • There are eight 301 redirects. I would fix these and change the internal links to the proper URLs. There's one 404 page, which needs to be fixed.
    • Aside from the home page, there are remaining 103 pages:
      • There's a single author page, which is a typical WordPress “author” page. I would set this to “noindex,” although it's not essential. Also, the site's author is not Dr. Thors but a staff member, which reduces E-A-T signals (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).
      • There are an “about us” page and various subpages. The parent page is a 301 redirect, which is likely from the navigation menu. (I'll come back to this.)
      • There's a blog section that contains only one blog post, “Welcome to our newly designed website,” dated 2017, and three empty category pages. Obviously, this is suboptimal.
      • There are various procedure pages divided into five sections or body parts, including breast, body, face, skin, and men.
      • There's a contact page set to “noindex” (i.e., it's blocking Google). Preventing a contact page from being indexed is not optimal. It might give a poor user experience signal or restricting important location-based information (such as for local SEO schema code).
      • And finally, there's a patient before-and-after photo gallery, which seems to have two major sections: the gallery page with links, and the photo section containing a number of individual pages.
  • The photo selector on the main gallery page (which is also linked from the navigation menu) appears to load dynamically. But it's poorly designed and the culprit behind the 302 redirects. It doesn't even work.
    • When I click on the left menu to choose a procedure I wish to see, nothing happens. Even in different browsers. This is not good.
    • Also, the problem with 302 temporary redirects is, if access to any of the gallery pages is from this page only, any “SEO juice” will not carry over to the new pages since Google may think they are temporary.
    • Plus, the gallery pages, which are dynamic, are canonicalized to the main page. So it's telling Google to only index the canonical URL, stopping Google from accessing the actual photo pages. It might be confusing or blocking Google from further access.
    • To make sure, I went to Google, typed in site:drthors.com, and it gave me 70 pages. Since the site has 103 crawlable pages, this means that 30 pages are not indexed by Google.
    • Before-and-after photos usually drive a tremendous amount of traffic for plastic surgeons, but the new gallery may not be getting the full SEO benefit. Some gallery pages are indexed. But Google may have failed to crawl all the remaining pages.
    • Finally, the site appears to be responsive but the patient photo gallery doesn't work on my mobile, either. This can lead to user frustration.

Very Thin Content

Overall, the site is simple. But it contains very thin content. The procedures have some content, but there are no blog posts or articles, and the photo gallery pages have no content at all, other than a title and short description.

As I normally suggest with case studies and before-and-after photos, I would add details about that case’s recovery time, some anonymous info about the patient (i.e., lifestyle, career, pregnancies, etc), or details to make the reader understand and identify themselves more with the case.

You can also tell that the site has been optimized by someone who used older SEO tactics, creating a few hard-to-read pages with keyword-stuffed headings and content. This outdated SEO technique is not a best practice.

Poor User Experience

The navigation menu is poorly designed. Most of the main links are dead and used for the purpose of opening up submenus. But the submenus don't open unless the main links are clicked on (rather than hovering over them).

The main logo at the top, which is clickable, is self-referring. So it only refreshes the page instead of going back the home page.

The site has no legal page, no terms-and-conditions page, and above all, no privacy policy. For a medical website dealing with possible HIPPA-compliant communications such as the use of online forms, these missing pages are vital and may also be why Google has not ranked this site well.

In other words, the site may appear to be a scam or at least not provide a good and safe enough user experience, which may explain why the search engines would rather avoid sending users to it.

Search Intent Mismatch

Finally, and this may be more of a personal preference, the various “body parts” pages have mixed content. For example, they have a combination of surgical and non-surgical procedures (e.g., facelift and Botox® on the face page, for example). This seems confusing to me.

I would separate those out to make it clear to the user, or perhaps organize and label the content, which would also help rankings. If someone searches for non-surgical injections and lands on a page with surgical procedures instead, the search intent is mismatched and the user will leave, confused.

Let’s take a look at what some SEO tools say.

SEO Analysis Tools

According to Ahrefs, the site is getting about 77 average monthly visits, which is considerably low. A decent plastic surgery site, even if not properly optimized, should be getting at least 300-500 visitors a month.

Traffic has been rather steady, and judging from when the site was redesigned (spring of 2017), it didn't do anything remarkable as traffic has in fact stayed the same, mildly increased, or even decreased.

Lack of “Good” Keywords

The keywords for which the site is ranking is very telling. First, there are 2-3 branded keywords (Dr. Thors and Midwest Plastic Surgery). But the rest (about 20 or so) are keywords related to a single page on the site that shows “thank you notes” (testimonials) from patients.

The majority of the rankings for “good” keywords (i.e., terms that have volume and are targeted) are only found on page five and higher (position 51+), such as “best plastic surgeon illinois,” “breast augmentation illinois,” “tummy tuck results near Chicago,” “botox injections for men,” etc.

This explains why these “good keywords” have brought zero traffic. They include 45 search terms for a variety of facial procedures (a mix of surgeries and non-surgical injections), 39 for breast-related procedures, 24 for skin (mostly non-surgical skincare), 9 for liposuction, and 14 for tummy tucks.

E-A-T Signals

E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, is the strongest ranking factor for medical websites. In this case, the doctor's “about” page has a strong bio with good credentials. But there's no indication that he wrote or approved the content on the site.

Also, his many credentials and certifications should have some external links to the licensing bodies, schools, or associations mentioned.

In my initial crawl at the beginning, there are only five external links, most of which are skincare lines. The lack of external links can often be a poor signal. It's always a good practice to link to external resources, citations, or websites that complement the site's content. It's also a good user experience signal, too.

To paraphrase John Donne, “No website is an island.”

Technical SEO

Since the site only has 154 total pages (150 according to SEM Rush, which I assume are 100 main pages and the photo gallery, and the rest are redirects), this means that almost every page on the entire site has issues. In fact, the software found three healthy pages only. Errors include:

  • 53 broken internal links
  • 36 duplicate title tags
  • 19 pages with duplicate content
  • 18 errors found in the sitemap
  • 7 pages blocked/inaccessible
  • 1 page not found (404 error)

Page Experience

Surprisingly, the site is not bad from a Google Lighthouse scan. The biggest snag being the page load speed. According to Google, it takes almost nine seconds to load on a mobile device. Simple caching and image optimization could cut page load time by about half.

Local SEO

According to BrightLocal, there are 13% correct local listings, 40% are found but incorrect, and 47% are missing altogether. This means that the NAP Profile (i.e., name, address, and phone) are all inconsistent. For example, “MidWest” or “Specs” (rather than “Midwest” or “Specialists”), and so on.

When it comes to local SEO, the most important thing is to be consistent. Your NAP profile must be the same across all local listings, citations, and business directories. Otherwise, it will diminish the strength of the signals by confusing search engines, let alone users.

Birdseye Competitive Scan

According to Ahrefs, the three biggest competitors are:

As you can see, traffic is 3-10 times higher than that of DrThors.com. Just a cursory look at each website, it's easy to why. For example, ChadTattiniMD.com has 600 crawlable pages, 100 of which are blog posts with good content. Similarly, the others have just as much content, too.

So it goes to reason that, to compete in his pace, Dr. Thors would benefit from a lot more content around relevant topics.

Conclusion

This is only a brief audit. It doesn’t include any competitive analysis, keyword research, backlink profiles, and so on. I typically include these in my 360° SEO Audit and 360° SEO Strategy programs for plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine. But this quick, high-level audit offers a good deal of information.

I believe this site has four major issues that need to be addressed if it has any chance at driving an acceptable level of traffic.

  1. The site definitely needs more content. Proper keyword research, a competitive gap analysis, and a SERP analysis will give many clues as to what kinds of content people are looking for.
  2. EAT signals are lackluster at best. The lack of privacy and security, and poor authoritative signals, indicate that the site is not as trustworthy as Google (and users) would like.
  3. The user experience needs to be addressed. Short of a complete redesign, the various UX elements such as the navigation menu, the photo gallery, and the various poorly accessible parts of the site should be fixed.
  4. Finally, conducting a proper sweep and correction of all local listings, and claiming all the citations possible in this local area, would vastly improve this site's presence. Otherwise, it's competing against some fairly large clinics in Chicago and clinics with far more visibility.

Hopefully, this was helpful. Please let me know if you would like to see more.

Categories
Audits

Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com

When I first started out in the 90s, I wanted to showcase my work. So I posted critiques in discussion forums with the hope that prospective clients would see my work and hire me. I also did it because I loved doing it.

Today, I've decided to do it again. I'm going to randomly select plastic surgery websites and do a quick, high-level SEO audit on them. Hopefully, you will learn something you can apply to your own website.

Selecting Sites For Quick SEO Audits

I select these “auditees” at random. That sounds too much like “oddities” (aren't we all?), but at least it's better than “victims.” Anyway, I just typed in “plastic surgery” into Google and selected whatever came up.

Since I'm in Ottawa, OttawaPlasticSurgery.com was the top one.

Granted, I'm picking a highly ranked website that may have hired an SEO consultant or agency already. It's going to be educational nonetheless. Plus, I didn't plan this and I'm writing it as I critique the site for the first time.

I want to be completely agnostic. No stats, no inside knowledge, no connections. Plus, everything is public knowledge. So by posting this publicly I'm not stepping on any toes or crossing any lines.

If it's already doing well, there might not be much here. (And if there is, I'll say so.) But I prefer to pick websites I've never worked with. Next time I'm going to select a deeper SERP (search engine results page) like page three or seven, and randomly throw a virtual dart at one.

Second, this is only a really brief audit.

My 360° SEO Audits go far beyond this, sometimes resulting in 20-50 pages (or 2-3 hour videos). But it might give you some insights into how I work, what I find, how I think, and how you can apply these to your website.

Here we go.

Overview of The Site

Crawl and Visual Walkthrough

Using Screaming Frog SEO spider crawler, I found a few things.

  • The site crawled 188 internal HTML pages in total. However, some of these pages are redirects and contain mixed versions:
    • https://www.ottawaplasticsurgery.com/
    • https://www.ottawaplasticsurgery.com/
    • https://www.ottawaplasticsurgery.com/
    • https://www.ottawaplasticsurgery.com
  • Redirects are pointing to their proper versions, which is good. However, they are sending mixed signals and create unnecessary redirect chains. I would do a full sweep, search-and-replace, and change everything to “https://www” (since that version is the canonical one).
  • I also see there are 24 redirects. Many of them are improper base folders, likely based on a switch in taxonomies. Same idea with the previous point, which is that it may be wise to fix those URLs internally. For example:
    • /case-study/ and its subpages redirected to /case-studies/
    • /treatment/ and its subpages redirected to /treatments/
  • Using BuiltWith.com, I see they're using WordPress, which might explain the issue. Typically, custom post types are not properly configured, where the plural is the taxonomy name and the singular is used for individual pages. Either way, this needs to be fixed.
  • The site contains 404 errors (dead pages or pages that were changed), which should be redirected, and the internal links should be updated.
  • There are also five internal redirects. Redirects are good as they help Google and backlinks point to the proper page. But if the links are internal, they should be corrected as internal links are strong signals.
  • The site seems to have a multitude of duplicate meta-descriptions tags. While they're not ranking factors, they do help clickthrough rates (CTRs), which do indirectly contribute to higher rankings.
  • Finally, 14 of the pages are wrongly canonicalized, meaning they are telling Google that other pages are the correct pages to index but they link to nonexistent pages, probably from a development site of the previous designer that were not properly updated:
Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com 10 | quick seo audit
Source code showing broken canonical URL.

25 Treatment Pages

After deleting all the errors and redirects, we're left with 140 indexable pages. The most content-rich are treatment pages that describe the procedures, including expectations, case studies, and FAQs at the bottom. Each treatment comes with a clear call to action to “request a consultation.”

70 Case Study Pages

About 70 pages are case studies. Lots of proof with before-and-after photos, but the content is thin and weak. There's a short paragraph describing the patient and their case, but I would have expanded on that a bit more.

I would perhaps add details about that case's recovery time, some anonymous info about the patient (i.e., lifestyle, career, pregnancies, etc), or details to make the reader understand and identify themselves more with the case. It would also create a lot of good content with keywords for better visibility.

User Interface

Visually, the user interface (UI) is good. The site is well-designed and easy to navigate on both my desktop and smartphone. The navigation is focused on body parts, with submenus leading to procedures.

(Remember the “5 Ps of Plastic Surgery“?)

Let's take a look at what some SEO tools say.

SEO Audit and Analysis Tools

Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com 11 | quick seo audit
Traffic estimates according to Ahrefs.com.

According to Ahrefs.com, the site is getting about 895 visitors a month, which is not bad but not great, either. At its highest point, it was getting around 1840 visitors. So traffic has literally dropped by 50%.

It might be the sign of a Google algorithm update, a website migration, a new competitor, or a change in content structure. (Without access to the analytics, it's hard to tell. I would investigate this further if this was a full SEO audit.)

There are over 1,180 keywords indexed for this website. That's not optimal. I usually shoot for 10 keywords per page (as an average ratio, not a goal). So about 1,400 keywords in total. (The exception being ecommerce sites.)

However, this website has 118 keywords on the first page. Just a cursory look at their keywords, they have a mix of branded traffic and non-branded traffic.

Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com 12 | quick seo audit
Topmost keywords ranked for.

Non-branded terms are highlighted in green, while branded terms occupy the topmost rankings. This means that the intent is navigational, either for research or for trying to reach the site or doctor in question.

Also, since they are called “Ottawa Plastic Surgery” and it's in the URL itself, people looking for the topic, not the location, may stumble onto the site. It's a good thing, but it's hard to tell if the intent is navigational or not.

Using filters, I excluded the doctors and proper names from the list. The site seems to have about 50 top-10 keywords, with varying degrees of traffic. After I remove location names, i.e., excluding keywords with “Ottawa” in them, I'm left with 17 keywords. None are in the top three positions.

This tells me that the traffic is either largely navigational or investigational. In other words, people are aware of the procedure and they want to get to (or to learn more about) the doctor, the clinic, or the specific procedure.

What does this mean?

Their traffic is already either middle or bottom of the funnel (i.e., users are already aware of the problem, the solution, and the procedure). And this site seems to be catering to that traffic well with the number of case studies, before-and-after photos, and FAQs. So their content is relevant.

Looking at their pages for which they are ranking, the bulk of the highest-ranked URLs are treatment pages. Since I already determined in my initial walkthrough that the treatment pages were the most content-rich, this would make sense.

According to their sitemap XML page, their blog has 30 URLs. I exported a list of all the URLs that were already ranking, and excluded any core pages, treatment pages, and case study pages. Of those 30 blog posts, only five blog posts are getting search traffic, and it's barely any traffic at all.

EAT Signals

EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It is the strongest ranking factor for medical websites. Typically (although, not always), these are usually defined by signals about the author, website, and content:

  • Expertise: the author (of the site's content) has a bio that lists credentials, is recognized in their field, has practiced for a number of years, etc.
  • Authoritativeness: the website has links from authoritative websites, valid brand mentions, good external reviews, a positive reputation, etc.
  • Trustworthiness: the content is fact-checked, peer-reviewed, well researched, well documented, accompanied by seals of approval, etc.

As far as OttawaPlasticSurgery.com goes, the site does have very strong EAT signals. Each doctor has a page with a bio that lists their credentials, board certifications, even medical research experience. However, Dr. Silverman's bio has a dead link to a reviews website that's a 404.

(I would add an author's bio at the bottom of each blog post and incorporate author schema markup on all articles, even treatment pages, as signals that the content was written or reviewed by a medical professional.)

The site also has 4.6k backlinks, which is pretty healthy. Some of them are strong websites with high authority ratings, such as BBB.org (Better Business Bureau), RateMDs.com, 411.ca, and Medicard.com.

By the way, I'm getting a sense that this site has hired a PR or agency since there are also many press releases, too.

Technical SEO

Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com 13 | quick seo audit
Ahrefs technical SEO audit.

Doing just a quick technical audit, the site is scoring 43%, which is low. There are 777 issues, 184 of which are critical errors. I've pointed out some of these errors earlier, including the 404s, the redirect chains, wrong canonical URLs, the mixed versions, and the duplicate meta-description errors.

There are 553 warnings, which are not critical but, if addressed, do help. For example, there's a lot of missing data, such as alternative texts for images, H1 headers, and open graph data (for sharing such as social media).

Finally, Google's schema markup checker has found some unnamed, basic structured data. The vast majority of websites don't take advantage of structured data. So there's plenty of opportunity there.

User Experience

Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com 14 | quick seo audit
Google's Web.Dev and PageSpeed Insights.

This is where the website needs work the most. Page experience (a subset of UX) is going to become a full-fledged ranking factor officially as of May, 2021. If it's not fixed by then, it might hurt rankings let alone the user experience.

Looking at this initial test shows that the site takes 13 seconds to load and a full 18 seconds before one is able to interact with it.

Having so many photos, which is a vital part of a plastic surgeon's website, can be incredibly memory intensive. Proper multipoint caching, script deferral, image optimizations, and a content distribution network (CDN), among others, would dramatically improve the performance.

Conclusion

Of course, this audit doesn't include the full picture. For example, I didn't cover the competition, keyword research, link profiles, local SEO, and so on. I typically include these in my 360° SEO Audit and 360° SEO Strategy programs for plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine.

But this quick, high-level audit offers a good deal of information.

For example, the biggest missed opportunity is the blog. Developing high-quality content that's relevant and valuable is often the best way to increase visibility, traffic, and interest. Some of the best-performing plastic surgery websites tend to have at least 100 articles or more.

Plastic and cosmetic surgery are rife with questions — questions about costs, photo appraisals, risks, recovery times, and more. For example:

  1. How many plastic surgeons are there in Ottawa?
  2. Should I go to a cosmetic surgeon or a dermatologist?
  3. Who are the best plastic surgeons in Ontario?
  4. Are breast implants safe?
  5. What questions should I ask before getting liposuction?
  6. Who are the best cosmetic surgeons for gynecomastia?
  7. Is plastic surgery painful?
  8. Is cosmetic surgery noticeable?
  9. How do plastic surgeons remove stretch marks?
  10. What are the side effects of plastic surgery?

These are only 10 of about 200 questions.

Good content with strong visuals that answer these questions can drive highly targeted users who are just beginning their research. Plus, plastic surgery articles can be easily shared on, and amplified through, social media, where most of the visual-seeking targeted audience hangs out.

Hopefully, this was helpful. Please let me know if you would like to see more.

Sidenote and an Important SEO Tip

I added a small part near the end of the plastic surgery SEO audit I did on OttawaPlasticSurgery.com when I posted it online. But since I did it after I first published it, you may have missed the additional content.

It's simply this.

In that critique, I said that the biggest missed opportunity is content marketing, and that this website needs a solid plastic surgery marketing strategy — particularly to appeal to a more top-of-funnel (i.e., lesser aware) audience.

I said that plastic and cosmetic surgery are rife with questions — e.g., about costs (most common), appraisals (i.e., before-and-after photos, the second most common), and risks (the third). Those are concerns from the mid to bottom-of-funnel users (or from thinking or hurting audiences).

But there are plenty of topics people ask questions about who are in the initial oblivious or apathetic stages — questions that can turn into some great content that users will love (and therefore, Google will love, too). For example:

  1. How many plastic surgeons are there in Ottawa?
  2. Should I go to a cosmetic surgeon or a dermatologist?
  3. Who are the best plastic surgeons in Ontario?
  4. Are breast implants safe?
  5. What questions should I ask before getting liposuction?
  6. Who are the best cosmetic surgeons for gynecomastia?
  7. Is plastic surgery painful?
  8. Is cosmetic surgery noticeable?
  9. How do plastic surgeons remove stretch marks?
  10. What are the side effects of plastic surgery?

These are only 10 of about 200 questions.

You can use either SEMRush (under “content marketing,” use “topic research” and a right column will list “interesting questions”) or Ahrefs (under “keywords explorer,” search for the topic and look at “questions” on the left). Or you could use AlsoAsked.com or AnswerThePublic.com. Or even Google itself.

In fact, most of these tools pull from Google's “related searches” and “people also asked” sections on SERPs. These are questions people are actually asking, so in reality, Google is doing the market research for you.

Now, there are a number of ways to create quality content. Creating an article that answers questions people ask is a low-hanging-fruit way that can easily capture decent traffic because people are specifically looking for answers.

Provide good content that does a good job of answering these questions (and provide a good user experience when people are consuming that content), and you will likely rank. If the content can answer questions better than your competitors (ranking competitors, not business ones), you will rank higher.

I don't want to mislead you by telling you you will rank only because you offer good content. “Good” is subjective. But let me show you what I would do.

I use an SEO outsourcing template for content writing. But if you're writing the content yourself, here's what you could do.

Let's take “What questions should I ask before getting liposuction?” Type that exact question into Google and see what comes up. For me, this is what I see:

Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com 15 | quick seo audit
Top result on Google.

As you can see, there's a position “zero” result (i.e., a featured snippet) from a Brampton, Ontario plastic surgeon. Then, there's a first-position result from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (or ASPS, an industry association). And then, there are a few “people also ask” questions.

Now, here's the interesting part. Here's the link from the featured snippet:

Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com 16 | quick seo audit
Screenshot of an article on BramptonCosmetic.com.

The article is from a private plastic surgery practice and written in February 2017 on a website that appears a tad outdated. But it's beating the plastic surgery association's article written in 2018. And they both beat the third one, an article that was written as recently as last month.

This Brampton, Ontario site gets about 2,900 visitors per month (Canada), whereas the association gets over three million (USA).

The next one down, in position two, is a dermatologist in Long Beach, CA. But this one was written in November, 2020. The traffic is 843 per month. But the article is subpar, the site is hard to read, and the content has no pictures whatsoever.

plastic-surgery-marketing
Screenshot from UlmerDerm.com.

So it would be a fair assumption that a better article from Ottawa Plastic Surgery can either beat these results and climb to the top position. Often referred to as the “Skyscraper Technique,” the goal is to see what content your audience wants, what answers they get, and provide them with better answers.

It really is that simple.

So what I would do is, first, make the question the title of the article. If you use WordPress, typically it's going to be the H1 (heading tag), which is a decent signal to Google of what the content is about.

The reason is, the search engine results page (SERP) has links that don't have that exact question in their titles. Variations are fine, but being closer to what people are actually searching for can up the chances.

Next, select the questions you want your article to answer.

Remember, this article is not just about the answer to a question but also about what questions to ask, too. So it's an FAQ of sorts. I would do some drill-down research to find what other questions people ask.

You can borrow ideas or get inspiration from competing articles (remember, you're trying to beat them). But I assume that Ottawa Plastic Surgery has a bank of questions that people always ask them. Use those, too.

Make these questions headers (i.e., H2 tags) in the article. Obviously, I would also add schema markup code to the HTML to indicate a) it's an article, b) it's written or reviewed by a doctor, and c) it's an FAQ.

For additional content, you can, within each question's answer, link to its own separate page that can really dive deeply on the topic.

What the Brampton website does well is it contains supporting images. But the other two articles have no visuals at all. So a way to one-up them is to choose photographs — which are better than images let alone no images at all.

A final thought.

Remember, the goal is to offer good Plastic Surgery Marketing content.

However, better content will get you ranked higher than your competitors. And better in the eyes of the audience isn't about being “better” but about being in closer alignment with your audience and their search intent.

Think about it: how often have you landed on an article that, not only gave relevant, helpful information but also gave valuable information that answered additional questions — questions you had or didn't think you had — that felt as if they were reading your mind?

That's the power of focusing on user intent as well as search intent.

What kinds of questions do people ask about liposuction? What questions do people really want to know the answers to? What questions would they ask but always seem to forget or fail to ask? What questions you'd wished they asked you (as the doctor) that they didn't think of themselves first?

Hopefully this gives you some ideas for your own plastic surgery marketing strategy.

Categories
SEO

5-Step SEO Content Strategy For Plastic Surgeons

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

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

And for that, you need an SEO content strategy.

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

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

1. Understand Your Market

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

In copywriting, there's a technique that goes:

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

Robert Collier in The Robert Collier Letter Book

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

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

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

2. Define Your Content Architecture

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

These are topical clusters.

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

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

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

The Five “Ps” of Plastic Surgery SEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Develop Your Pillar Content

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

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

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

Your clients are your patients, not your peers.

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

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

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

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

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

Keyword stuffing will work against you. Guaranteed.

4. Add Supporting Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Link Everything Together

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

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

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

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

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

So there you have it.

This is only a high-level look.

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

Categories
SEO

Uncover Gold in SEO Keyword Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now you can see that the suggestions are quite different.

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

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

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

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

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

While walking a tightrope.

In clown shoes.

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

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

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

You get the picture.

The point is this.

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

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

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

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

Back to Google suggestions.

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

  • why hire seo company
  • should I hire seo company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, the real gold is not in the keywords.

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

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

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

The more you do, the better the traffic.

Categories
SEO

SEO and The Law of The Vital Few

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

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

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

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

First, it's to simplify.

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

Second, it's to enable.

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

Third, it's to empower.

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

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

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

Speaking of which, this brings up an important point.

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

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

That's so 2005. Even 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan Hufford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is what Google wants, anyway.

But authority is definitely important, and I agree.

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
SEO

How to Do an SEO Competitive Analysis

Yesterday, I completed several SEO audits. I really love doing them because they fire both sides of my brain: the analytical and artistic sides.

Some have said that it's the ADHD brain. Others, the marketer's brain. Either way, one client was specifically looking to get a leg up on its competitors who seem to be doing well organically. So I conducted an SEO competitive analysis.

I want to share it with you as it might be useful to you.

An SEO audit analyzes a number of factors to see if a website is properly optimized. It looks at a number of ranking signals, both internal and external, to help determine if the content is visible, relevant, and desirable.

There are three levels to my SEO audits:

  1. Behind the site (technical SEO)
  2. On the site itself (on-page SEO)
  3. Outside the site (off-page SEO)

I call them the “three Cs” of SEO audits: code, content, and conversation.

But to be more specific, here's a summary of each:

  1. Technical SEO looks at what's behind the site and includes any technical process meant to improve visibility. It reviews the site’s hosting, coding, speed, security, navigation, and user experience. In other words, it makes sure that Google can easily find, crawl, index, and use the content.
  2. On-page SEO looks at what's on the page and includes any internal signals meant to improve relevancy. It reviews the site's content and various page elements that support it (i.e., metadata, images, HTML, etc). It provides Google with enough information about the content to help it decide if it matches their users' queries.
  3. Off-page SEO looks at what's outside the site and includes any external signals meant to improve desirability. It reviews outside activities related to the website, such as conversations, brand mentions, and of course, backlinks. It helps Google to determine if the content is authoritative, valuable, and beneficial to searchers.

I'll save the audit process for another time, but one part of the audit looks at the content's performance, its competitors (and their performance), and any gaps that exist and can be capitalized on.

A gap analysis tries to reverse engineer a website’s competitive environment by scanning the topmost competitors in various SERPs (i.e., search engine result pages), and it identifies any opportunities for improvement, underexploited content ideas, and potential backlinks.

A scan looks at several things.

First, I look at what Google suggests are competitors. Also called “people also search for,” they are usually found after the first three results, at the bottom of the page, or under the site's Google My Business listing on the right.

While Google's machine-learning is getting more intelligent, it may still be wrong or misleading. For example, it provides a list of competitors based on other people's searches, and within my specific geographical area.

They may be alternatives to what Google thinks the searcher is looking for, and may not be true competitors. By “true competitors,” I don't mean competitors in the offline world. I mean those vying for the same traffic you want.

So to find true competitors, I identify companies by looking at:

  • Existing topics from my client's current website content;
  • Keywords Google suggests the site should aim for; and,
  • Actual queries people have used to find my client.

To accomplish this, I do a few things.

First, I use a few tools to help extract the information I need. I look at Google's keyword planning tool (from Google Ads), which suggests keywords for the site based on its existing content. I also use a few other keyword suggestion tools, such as UberSuggest and KeywordTool.

With Google Search Console, I identify what keywords people have used to find my client's website. I look at both the volume and the performance (i.e., how many impressions and how many clicks did a certain search query get).

Then, I put it all into a spreadsheet and review the list to see if it makes sense. Sometimes, some keywords are either too generic, have the wrong search intent, or are just wrong altogether. So I delete them.

Once I have a good list of keywords, I take the top 10 in terms of search volume (depending the size of the project, I try to stay around the top 10-20 keywords). Then, I use them to find competitors.

Please note that this is not keyword research. It's only meant to find true competitors. These keywords may not be worth ranking for, anyway.

Finally, using the queries I list, I look for the top 3-5 competitors that are:

  • Ranking the highest organically for the same queries;
  • Appearing in the local three-pack (Google Maps); and,
  • Buying Google Ads that appear under the same queries.

Once done, I list the URLs of my competitors and check them out. I want to know if they are viable competitors. Do they make sense? To do that, I check the site manually, and punch them into a site audit tool like SEM Rush.

In my spreadsheet and with each competitor, I add their estimated monthly traffic from SEM Rush (only organic traffic, not paid), number of keywords they are ranking for, number of backlinks, and domain authority score.

Competitors with little traffic and keywords, I dump. Those with comparable amounts of traffic or keywords to my client, I keep. And those that are higher, I highlight. I then sort the list from highest to lowest traffic numbers.

Next, I look at the top 10 competitors.

These are my true SEO competitors.

From that point, I do a number of analyses, such as a content gap analysis, a backlinks gap analysis, and a crawl of each individual competitor to look at their site architecture and anything the “pops out” at me.

What's a gap analysis? For backlinks, a tool like Ahrefs can tell me all the backlinks that point to my client's competitors that are not linking to my client.

Now, I'm a big believer in earning backlinks naturally, not doing outreach trying to convince others to link to me (or my clients). I know some SEO agencies do this and it's a major part of their practices. Some even do it in very tasteful ways.

But to me, it's still icky. I don't like it. It may also be influenced by my fear of rejection, but I always preferred earning backlinks than spamming people to get them to link to me. But I digress.

The point of doing a backlink gap analysis is to see if there are any industry or common links that can be easily acquired. For example, most of my client's competitors had backlinks from the BBB, industry associations, and vertical-specific business directories.

As for content gaps, I look at what keywords each of the competitors' are ranking for. This will offer many clues as to what content ideas and topics my client should tackle. But more importantly, a gap analysis looks at topics that competitors are ranking for that my client isn't.

Finally, I use Google itself to see what it thinks.

Backlinks are actual links, but brand mentions are implied links. So I'll type in the competitor's name into Google and see what comes up. I want to see what kinds of conversations people are having about my client's competitors.

I also peek at “related searches” at the bottom of the page, which are Google's predictive list of searches based on what people have also searched for. They may offer a few ideas and additional insights.

This is list is not exhaustive.

Conducting a competitive scan varies and may have some additional steps that I'm not listing here. It depends on the nature of the project.

For example, what if a client doesn't have a website yet? Or what if the client has topics they want to rank for but that their current website doesn't cover well? A keyword extraction tool or Google Search Console won't help in these cases.

Sometimes, I may start by conducting some keyword research before doing a competitive scan. Other times, I may get suggestions from my client or my client's clients, to push me in the right direction.

Hopefully, this has been helpful.

Categories
Interviews

SEO Copywriting in 2020

David Garfinkel's Copywriters Podcast 187

David Garfinkel is not only one of the best professional copywriters I've ever had the pleasure and honor of working with, but also he is known as the world's top copywriting coach. And for good reason.

Not many people, including copywriters, can distill the craft of writing persuasively into easy-to-understand, easy-to-implement concepts.

But David can.

I've known David for close to 20 years. We've shared the stage together, delivered seminars together, and even created products together.

And in the last few years, David has been hosting a podcast called the Copywriters Podcast. It's a must-listen if you're into copywriting or just want to learn how to be more compelling in your communications.

On his Copywriter's Podcast Episode 187, David had me on as his guest. We talked about SEO copywriting, how it's changed, and how it's just as important for conversion as it is for driving traffic.

Thanks, David, for the opportunity.

Transcript

David Garfinkel 0:10
Okay, so today I'm pleased to have an old friend on the show, friend who has branched out beyond direct response copywriting. In the early 2000s, Michel Fortin, also known as Michel Fortin was a living legend. And I mean that.

He wrote the first online sales letter that brought in over $1 million in one day for Traffic Secrets, I think it was. And I am forever grateful on a different note to Michael for being my presentation partner in my famous 2005 las vegas breakthrough copywriting seminar.

And both of us also took the stage a few years later at Harvey Becker's marketing event, which I think was called the greatest marketing seminar in the world, which I feel every seminar should be called just by virtue of the fact. You know, it's marketing.

And we sold somewhere in the nature of $100,000 worth of products from the stage during our presentation. After that, a number of things happened, and not all of them good for Michael, but he took his career in a different direction. today.

He's an expert and a certified expert in SEO copywriting, which means optimizing your copy for the search engines.

And you have to understand that regardless of what you think of SEO, copywriting, everything Michael is going to tell you today about SEO copywriting can make you a lot of money, if you act on and listen to what he says.

Now, I want to tell you something now, that's not gonna make you any money, but it could save you a lot of money, and time and even your personal freedom. And that is this copy is powerful, you're responsible for how you use what you hear on this podcast.

Most of the time, common sense is all you need. But if you make extreme claims, and or if you're writing copy for offers, in highly regulated industries, like health and finance and business opportunity, you may want to get a legal review after you write.

And before you start using your copy my larger clients do this all the time. Okay, let's get started with the good stuff. Michael, welcome. And thanks for doing this really good.

Michel Fortin 2:33
Thanks, David. It's It's an honor and and not only because we are we known each other for a long time, but I also listened to your podcast quite religiously. So it's a it's always a staple in the copywriting community, right?

David Garfinkel 2:46
Yeah. Well, thank you. I appreciate that. So let's, let's talk about your I don't know your trials of job, whatever you want to 15 or 20 years ago, you were a renowned direct response copywriters, I said, highly revered partner of mine, to presentations, which I mentioned in the intro, and you still are in my mind.

But let's fast forward to 2020. Today, over the past decade, fate took your career in a different direction. Could you tell us about that?

Michel Fortin 3:22
Sure. I trying to squeeze a long story into a very small amount of time as I possibly can. So I had a very turbulent turn of the last decade where I lost my mother, my father, my sister, my only sister, and of course my wife, who I owned up, and it will thank you.

And the thing is, we were together in business, we were speaking at seminars, we were selling courses, and I was doing copy. But after all of that happen, I just didn't feel I had the headspace or the motivation to stay in business.

So what I did is I took a job as a well, first of all, there's no such thing as a right, you know, Director of copywriting at a marketing agency digital mortgage, they were actually a Google premier partner agency. They primarily did SEO. And they hired me as their Director of Communications.

So I did everything from marketing, marketing communications to display ads to SEO and fast forward to now so basically what happened was, while I was there, I just discovered that I am chronically unemployable.

I've been a freelancer all my life so and when your side hustle where see the thing is I always kept clients clients kept hiring me for copy. And when that income kind of surpasses your full time income, I decided, you know what, I'm just gonna go back into business and I was always better by then.

And it was this is furious later. got remarried. And and this is where I'm at. And just to put everything in perspective, the fact that I knew about marketing and copywriting, whether it's for SEO, whether it's for ads, whether it's for brochures or direct mail, it's a, it's a very portable skill no matter where you go.

And so I was able to pivot my career easily because of that one skill. So there you have it.

David Garfinkel 5:25
Wow, that that's, that's quite a story. I mean, I don't know if I know anyone else personally, who's lost that many people in a period of time, but you seem like you're on your feet, and my heart goes out to you. I'm glad you're doing well now or better anyway.

So let's talk about SEO copywriting. What is it? What is it these days? And how does it work?

Michel Fortin 5:53
It's not like it used to be keep in mind that Google has gone through an amazing transformation in the last just the last five years. Since 2016 2017, new algorithms came about that change the way they look at websites, they look at copy or content, and they rank them.

As you know, Google has an artificial intelligence you know, I hate to call it AI because it's it's no we're talking Skynet.

David Garfinkel 6:28
You might be might come in and change.

Michel Fortin 6:32
But but they're, but their AI is actually called rankbrain. And what happens is, they look no longer at keywords, keywords is no longer the thing like it used to be. We, you know, we used to stuff, our content, and even some sometimes in the code or in the back end, with all these keywords.

It's no longer about that anymore. Now, it's about good quality content. And of course, you can write copy content that helps to get people to change their minds to buy into an idea or, of course, to buy a product or service. And as long as you serve your customer, which is really what Google is all about.

Now, it's we know you as a client, you as a website owner, or business owner, and Google share the same client, it's the user.

So they want to provide a great search experience to their user, you want to create a great search environment and learning environment for your client, your user, your client, and of course, a search a buying experience.

So SEO kind of sort of blends into two other aspects called CRM, conversion rate optimization, and UX, which is user experience optimization. Now, Google is kind of giving you brownie points, not just for having good content.

But by having a great experience. Having a website that's responsive, that's mobile, that is also what we call Voice Search enabled.

So when you know people nowadays, we use our phones to to ask Google or Siri or Alexa to do searches for us.

And, and to, to also create a great engagement with the user, the more engaged the user is on your website, which is why copy is so important, the more Google will actually rank you higher, because it says, Wow, people we sent it, we're sending people to the search result, this website.

And apparently it's a great result for the people, they're actually looking for that result, they're staying there, they're not bouncing back. And so you're going to get better rankings that way. So that's what really SEO copywriting kind of evolved to.

David Garfinkel 8:37
Okay, that's, that's really interesting. And this is the first time I've heard that, and it's great, great information.

So I'm a little curious about this, because I, I can understand how rankbrain can measure the amount of time someone spends on the site, they might even be able to tell how much they scroll, how many pages they go to all of those things.

How does a computer program evaluate good quality content? Or does it only evaluated by the results by the amount of time people are spending on the site? Are there other things?

Michel Fortin 9:16
There's there's a number of factors, there's actually over 300 ranking factors now. Before it was just keywords. And then it would be maybe the authority of a website? I mean, how long has it been in business? How long has it been on the internet?

And then there's links like people are linking to the website, meaning is it actually valuable content, but a lot of those things, people can hack and circumvent. You can buy links, you can do all this blackhat stuff.

So now Google is has evolved to look at other signals that would, that would increase that sites, like ability or relevancy. Actually in the search engines, and it does it through a myriad of different things.

For example, in the recent time, there is a new algorithm called at eat, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. You know, it's kind of funny, because there's a lot of jokes going around like, do you want to eat your rankings?

And, and the reason that is, is that Google will now pay more attention to your site, if it shows that you have expertise, you know, the subject matter. Your it's properly credentialed. There's actually proof. Do you fact check your stuff.

And in fact, when that came about, it was called the medic update, because the most websites that got affected by it was medical websites. But now we were realizing that it affected any website that deals with what we call your money or your life.

So anything about health, wealth, money, finances, and all that stuff. And then second thing that came around, which is actually just recently called BERT, now Burt's, Bert and Ernie and Bert, but it's actually an acronym that stands I was thinking of Frank Zappa song, my name is Bertrand.

Yeah. Only people like us will know that.

David Garfinkel 11:15
Maven, Maven is stone faced, not his generation, man.

Michel Fortin 11:20
But BERT stands for bidirectional encoding, representations and transformations. If I think I have that, right. And what that really means is that before you had a keyword, and then Google say, Oh, that's it, that's a signal. But now it's bi directional. So it says, okay, maybe you have a key word.

What's the context? It's not just about content, it's words around it, maybe images, maybe the code in the background, it's basically trying to understand the context behind the content. And so it uses something called No, we you know, we call it we call it NLP. But we know NLP stands for other things.

But it's called natural language processing, which is part of this rankbrain process. So basically, it looks at adjacent keywords before and after around it, images, what the images are saying. And all those things will help to determine what that content really is.

For example, if I look at keywords, soap, and I type in soap, well, does it mean soap opera? Does it mean dish soap, does it mean carwash soap, does it mean SAP the programming language?

So the whole point, and I'll finish with this, Google has looking at more and more at one to one topics, not keywords anymore. So we actually I don't even do keyword research, I do topical research.

And that's what really is, is is important these days. And as long as your topic is, in line with this other thing, search intent. What's the search intent of the user? Are they looking for just information? Are they looking for education?

Or are they actually looking at possibilities of our different solutions for a problem that they're undergoing? Are they actually looking for to buy the problem, they don't buy solution to the problem, they're fit, they want to fix the problem.

We call that you know, navigational search, informational search, investigative search, and commercial or transactional search. So all those things is the only way you can determine that.

Now, first of all, when you're using Google, by you, by you searching the kinds of questions you ask, you know, nowadays, just a single keyword isn't enough. Sometimes we ask a full question. Hey, Google, what is the How do you make a gluten free vegan pizza?

Now I just said Google, though, my phone just went off my Android. But that's the point is that now it knows that I'm when I'm looking for pizza. I'm not just looking for a pizza place. I'm actually looking for a recipe for a gluten free pizza. But now that's great. Google knows what you want.

But what about the sites that it wants to send you to? So what it does, it looks at the copy on their websites, the content and all those things that I just mentioned, to determine the context.

And then it will send you and because what it really wants is to give people the best search results possible, so that their experience is great, because what they hate is people what they call Pogo sticking, which is they click on the link, they go to the website.

That's not me. And they go back, they just backspace or back, you know, to the to the search engine. That's when Google says, oh, that cert that search result is not really what you're looking for. So that no, it's it's another one of those signals, but it's one of many signals.

Hopefully that answers your question. I'm not sure it does. It

David Garfinkel 14:32
does give me an idea. It's certainly a lot more than you know, what I used to think of is keyword stuffing where you would find the keywords and you try and jam as many of them into what becomes unreadable copy that looks like it was written written by a bot or something.

Okay, but I'm sure this question comes up to you a lot from clients. So I'm just going to put it right at you. How does all of this affect traffic and conversion, especially if you're using paid advertising?

Michel Fortin 15:15
Right? So, the bottom line is this, the one number one rule that I've always used in copywriting. In fact, I taught it at the seminar at your seminar, which is also a great way to beat writer's block, which is to know more about your market, research your market as much as you can.

It's not about restricting keywords anymore. It's about researching your market. What do they want? In fact, you David said something that I love. You said, What is the market? What's their problem? And how are they talking about it? Right?

Like I remember, you said that at a seminar one time, and I think you also said on your podcast, who is your market? What is their problem? And how are they talking about it? That's that's exactly what you need to know, not only for copy, but for SEO for CRM conversion rate, and all those things.

Because here's the thing, if you can deliver, and meet and connect with them and deliver the content in the copy that matches that search intent that where they're at, to meet them where they're at, you know, Collier said to continue the conversation going on in their mind, well, that's the same thing with SEO.

Because when they are looking for something on Google and they land on your site, or even if they click on an ad, is there a connection is there congruency.

In fact, the more congruent your copy is, with the intent behind the person landing on your site, or opening your direct mail piece, or whatever the case is, the greater your conversions, the greater your response rate. And it's the same thing with SEO.

So back to my point is, learn more about your market do more market research, and and what we call topical research, not keyword research.

The best seo tip that I've ever heard is from a guy who actually doesn't even do SEO, he says, and he's getting millions and millions of visitors, he actually has a podcast with millions of subscribers, and he says, I just look for the kinds of questions my particular audience is asking. And I just answered them.

David Garfinkel 17:13
That's it. Okay, so it's, it's not really that different than marketing fundamentals to just basic stuff, right? Is what you're saying?

Michel Fortin 17:24
Absolutely. Just no more about your market, find out what they're looking for, and just give it to them. content that will get you better SEO, it answers what they're looking for. And it's also going to increase your sales and your your conversion rates when they land on your site.

And the read your sales offer whatever the case is, whatever you're offering, wherever you're selling, it'll sell better because it's in line with what you're looking for. And it's also and then I'll bet I'll just add another point.

Remember, I told you about search intent, there's navigational, there's, there's informational, educational, so if people are not really ready to buy, you know, we both you and I, we know we love Eugene Schwartz, he talks about the stages of sophistication of the market.

I use a an acronym called oath, the oath formula, how aware is your market? And it's kind of saying how prepared are they take an oath?

Are they oblivious about the problem? Are they apathetic, meaning they know about it, but they don't care? Are they thinking about doing something about their problem? Or actually, are they hurting and they want to buy it now they will need to solve the problem now.

Well, guess what, in in SEO, they talk about the funnel, they talk about problem aware, solution aware and are no problem, we are product, who here solution aware and so on and so forth. It's the same thing.

And my point in saying that is before we used to write these long sales letters that would sell make an offer and educate the client to put the prospect throughout the entire process.

But nowadays, you can just do education, bring people at the front end, the top end of the funnel, we call the top of funnel, educate them, get them into the funnel, get them interested, get them to raise their hand.

And slowly but surely taking them by the hand, whether it's through a long page, or through a drip campaign, or multiple videos, that you eventually get them to take action, you get them to finally buy whatever you're selling.

And that's why that's why it's so important to when you write copy or SEO copy is that you write it at the level of where it is they're at that we're there, you know, what kind of conversation having so back to my my initial point, know your market, do your market research.

And you know, you'll get great SEO as much as great copy.

David Garfinkel 19:34
That's, that's awesome. Let's, let's look at the surprises for a second. What's counterintuitive about SEO, and if you want to see our Oh, and UX, so that is what works that you wouldn't expect good work and vice versa.

Michel Fortin 19:50
Well, the thing is, because of the changes with the search engines, the changes with Google specifically and the fact that it's becoming better and better at Knowing what kind of content is on your website, what kind of information you're giving out, and also what kind of searches people are making.

Before, when we used to think about SEO, we used to think of stuffing cute, like you just said, stuffing keywords.

And nowadays, it really comes down to a couple things, very simple things, giving great content, good quality content that actually helps people that actually serves their their their interests, that that solves their problem that that answers their questions.

And what you do is you optimize the event that the way that people can use or consume that content, I'll come down to this. SEO really boils down to two things, a good quality content and good quality, good user experience.

That's it, those are the two things you need to do, as long as you offer good content that matches their their intent. And then once they land on your site, or sales copy, or whatever the case is, they have a great user experience.

They they have a great experience of consuming that content, then, you know, that's it's kind of topic, you know, it's it's, it's counterintuitive to the degree because a lot of people thought, Oh, I need to do keyword research, I need to do all this Hocus Pocus in the backend I used to I need to do all this coding stuff.

And you know what? Yes, those things are important from a, let's say, a usability standpoint. But really, what's important is, is your site crawlable can Google actually see your website? And and all the things that help get create a good user experience? Is it secure?

Meaning, you know, nowadays, if you land on a website that has HTTP rather than HTTPS, you'll get a warning, you know, Google will say, hey, this site is not secure. Do you still want to do you want to proceed? Well, you need now you need now to secure site.

It's all back to this user experience optimization, I was telling you about. Fast loading time, if you don't guess now, most, you know, 99%, that's not true. It's about 60% 7060 65% of the population now use their mobile devices to access the internet. So you need to have a fast loading website.

And if it's taking too long, people will do what we call that pogosticking, they'll just land on the site is that gets taken too long, they'll just backspace and go back to Google to look at the next search result, well, then Google will then penalize you.

You're going to lose traction, because you're not giving them a good experience. So so it's kind of counterintuitive to the greed that it's not as mathematical as it used to be. Just write good content, just serve your client, well solve problems.

Good, you know, and give them a good experience and consuming that content. And you've you've got a you're going to be very successful that way.

David Garfinkel 22:38
That's really good. You know, they don't call me the Nostradamus of podcasting for nothing. I predicted Nathan would have a question anyway. And I think he does.

Nathan 22:49
Yeah. So here's kind of a controversy that's going on between copywriters and search engines right now, is a lot of the search engines are moving away from sending people to websites.

So they don't, when you look up something on Google, Google wants to give you the answer without having to send you to someone Oh, yes. And so a lot of times, especially you mentioned, most searches are being done on mobile.

They don't want you to have to go so they'll just take a snippet of your website, and you won't actually get that traffic. So I kind of want to know what your thoughts are, as far as going forward. How is that going to impact?

And I know a lot of copywriters that are concerned that Google is taking their content, serving it as their own content and not giving the traffic that the whole reason we're writing the content is for traffic. And Google's saying, hey, we'll take what you're giving us.

But we're not going to give back Why you're giving it to us.

Michel Fortin 23:50
I am so glad you asked that question. You know why? Because it really boils down to this one skill called copywriting. And I say this because we I had this argument just the other day, and it's exactly the same issue. People are thinking, I'm getting zero because zero clicks search results.

So that's when your answer appears at the top, and people can see your answer or see your website content on their website without sending traffic to your site. And that's the reason why Google kind of is doing that is because they want to remove the number of clicks that people will get to a final result.

And if they're if they're in the informational stage, they're just looking for information. That's kind of understandable. It's frustrating. I understand that. However, this is where if you can use great content, great copy. There's a you know, when you're a content appears in the top search results.

This is called schema markup, or what we call featured snippets or Rich Snippets rich, rich data. I think some other people will call it structured data. You know, sometimes when you type in a recipe, and you'll actually have the recipe at the top of the Google search result right? then going to the actual site.

You know why? Because a lot of people, the reason why Google does that, too is because a lot of people when they visit a search site or a recipe site, you know how many recipes or like, you have to go through a lot of content and all the bads and a lot of crap before you actually get to the actual recipe.

So Google is trying to give a better user experience to their user. Remember, we shared the same client, Google's clients, and our clients are the same.

So the thing is, if they are actually looking for just information, then you want to be focused on your brand, your value proposition, what makes you unique, what makes you good, what makes you better, and then put that in the rich snippet.

Because now you can actually do what we call a rich rich data markup on your website, so that that will actually appear. And you can control what they show to their users. Not all the time. No, Google is Google.

But you can, and we want to make sure that you get them their attention, because you want if you are good at copy, you'll be able to also get their attention enough that they will click on that link. Even if you give them the answer to their question, they'll say, Well, I want to know more.

And they click on the link and they visit your website. However, there's also the issue that if you if you if you're good at quotes, a branding, and mentioning your brand, or especially your unique sales proposition, you're going to create one called Top-of-mind awareness.

So that when you appear the search engines later on in other search results, or even when they just need you when they're actually in because right now they're probably just at the educational and informational gathering stage.

But if when you're ready to buy or when you're ready to look for a solution, you'll remember your brand, because that's what that is really good for is to increase the branding element. Now, finally, the final answer to this is, Google is now testing different things.

In fact, there's a recent Google what they call search 2020, which is kind of their annual State of the Union address to the search community, right?

They're saying that they're moving away from that a little bit more and then moving towards where you probably noticed this, when you go to Google and you type in on a search result, it'll actually go to the section of the same on that page that gives them that particular answer for their question.

And, and so they're saying, great, okay, fine, we're going to give people the chance to visit your site, we're going to do less and less of that, you know, showing up and doing zero click results, we're going to give people a chance to visit your site.

But we want to get them to the actual section on your page that answers your question. So they don't have to go through a whole bunch of crap before and give them a really bad user experience.

So it boils down to good copy just big, you know, learn good copywriting, you will be able to capture not, you know, maybe some traffic from that. And if they're if you're selling a product or service, oftentimes your your search result won't appear there.

I mean, sorry, your your content will won't appear there. Because you're not answering your question, you're actually getting people to buy product, if they're in that, that that stage.

In fact, Google wants probably wants you to buy shopping ads, right, they probably want you to buy ads to drive traffic rather than giving them information.

But if they're just looking for information, then focus on having good copy that gets them interested clicking on the link, probably visiting your site, or at least getting the your unique sales proposition, your unique offer, or your brand, your brand name, your product, name, whatever the case is.

So that you create that Top of Mind awareness, it also creates authority. Remember, I told you earlier, eat expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

The fact that you appear at the top of search results is implied authority, oh, he must be an authority or she must be an authority or this site must be an authority. So that either they'll visit from that result or later on when they do more searches. And your result will pop up in a normal search results.

Direct. they'll recognize you they say oh, yeah, that's I was like on that on that other search. They'll click on you.

And this has actually been proven they've done ample test to show that when you do appear, and you don't get enough traffic, you'll you actually increase what we called secondary ancillary traffic, because you're becoming known as an authority you create that implied authoritativeness.

Nathan 29:15
So it's the goal seems to be give people what they're looking for. And also subtly try and sell the click as well. But um,

Michel Fortin 29:27
Yes.

David Garfinkel 29:29
That was pretty good. How do people keep up with your content?

Michel Fortin 29:34
Sure. Well, my own website, my own blog is at Michel fortin.com. But if you want to send them directly to the page that I probably would want to send them to, so that we avoid Google stealing my click. David Garfinkel, stealing my click No, I'm kidding. Go to daily marketing memo.com that's my newsletter.

And it actually goes it's it's just redirects to my own website, but To the page where people can learn about my newsletter, it's called the daily marketing memo. So dailymarketingmemo.com.

David Garfinkel 30:06
Excellent. Wow. You completely changed my mind about SEO copywriting. And, you know, in a way, I've always felt like the the goal of the good hearted journalist and the goal of search engine was the same, you know, just to provide people the information they want need. And of course, life interferes.

Well. Anyway, Michael, thank you so much. So good to catch up with you after all these years.

Michel Fortin 30:36
Thank you. Thank you.

David Garfinkel 30:38
I'm glad you've made it through all these trials and you seem to be better man for it. So hope things get even better for you in the future. Oh, they are. Yeah. All right. Thank you.

Michel Fortin 30:47
Appreciate that.

Nathan 30:49
Awesome. Thank you, Michael, for coming on. David. Thank you for putting this together. listeners out there. If you want to check out more episodes head on over to the copywriters podcast website and that's copywriterspodcast.com and until next time, we will catch you later. Bye.