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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

Passages Ranking SEO With Structured Content

It was a busy week in the SEO world. Google updated its algorithms at the beginning of February, and I had a full plate working with my SEO clients.

Part of this algorithm update is passages ranking, which is now live in US and only affecting a small percentage of searches. Passages ranking is where you can rank based on passages instead of the entire page.

It's no different from the way it ranks pages currently.

However, the benefit is that Google can understand subtopics better and serve pages for more relevant queries. This is a major plus for many plastic surgeons, as most of their content is long, educational content for medical purposes. This makes structured content even more important.

For example, some plastic surgeons will have pages about facelifts as long as 3,000 words or more to cover all the aspects of the surgery (e.g., procedure details, risks, benefits, costs, results, photos, etc). A long-form article can easily rank for 20-50+ keywords as opposed to just two or three like most others.

In a recent interview, Martin Splitt from Google confirmed that passages ranking will help websites with long-form content by basing its rankings on sections of an article rather than the entire article.

You might have seen results in Google where clicking a listing will jump to the section of a page that contains the answer, highlighted in yellow. This is not the same, Google confirms. But it gives you an idea of how they find sections. It wouldn't surprise me if passage rankings will eventually behave similarly.

SEO For Passages Rankings

Should you optimize for passages ranking? Not really.

There's no actual way to optimize for this other than to keep creating great content. If an SEO approaches you trying to sell you on “passage ranking SEO,” it may not be legitimate or, more than likely, it may be just snake oil.

Passages ranking does not have a ranking factor. The goal of this algorithm is to understand content better and to help people get better matched results.

For example, a patient searches for “types of breast implants.” You can have either an article that discusses implants specifically, or a page on the more general topic of breast augmentation (with a section about implants further down) that hopefully is ranking well for those specific keywords.

Until recently, if you had a page about breast augmentation, Google may have indexed it for, say, 5-10 keywords. None of which might be “breast implants.” If a competitor has a page about implants, or a page about breast augmentation that ranks for the keywords “breast implants,” they will outrank you.

However, with passages rankings, you can have subtopics on the same page (say a section about “breast implant types” about a third way down the page), you might rank for that term now when before you did not.

But There Is Stuff You Can Do

When Google crawls your site and these long-form pages, it will try to find and understand subtopics. If your page is all over the place, with disjointed content that's unorganized or fragmented, you're making it hard for crawlers to identify and classify the information it finds.

The goal, therefore, is to group and organize content better on the page, and to delineate those sections clearly using headings throughout. Headings are excellent signals that tell Google what the following section is all about.

If, for example, you had a section on “breast implant types” and the content follows a heading called “What types of breast implants are available?” You are accomplishing three important SEO tasks:

  • You're using a header that may be the same or similar as the query;
  • You're identifying and isolating the section that contains the answer; and,
  • You're also differentiating it from everything else (like “surgery recovery”).

It’s the reason it took me a while to write this because, after the rollout, I wanted to wait to see what some SEO analysts I follow and some ex-Google engineers would say about it and suggest we should do.

So, is there something you can do? Yes.

If your current pages have content that's fragmented, edit or rewrite it to cluster the content around subtopics, and incorporate headers (e.g., H2, H3, H4, etc) throughout. (H1 should be for your headline.) That's it.

Structured Content Also Helps UX

Structuring your content semantically, and doing a better job at identifying subtopics in your content, will help not only your SEO but also UX (user experience). For one, people can find the exact information they want. And for another, it helps accessibility by creating “reading landmarks” on the page.

And UX is a ranking factor if not an influencer.

Plus, if a passage (subtopic) is more relevant than the parent topic of the entire page, it goes to reason that the passage makes the page more important to the user than an entire page, and therefore a more relevant search result.

One client asked me, “Should we create more content to cover all the subtopics, like writing individual blog posts? Or can we simply add to the same piece over time and grow just one page?”

I wrote about creating versus expanding content for SEO before. The answer is yes, but with some caveats and conditions. If the content is truly a subtopic and serves the same search intent, it may be a wise move to add to the primary “pillar” page, which you can expand and refresh.

Refreshed content is often better than fresh content. Now it's an opportunity to revisit your older pages and restructure the content, too, even if you don't do any significant rewrites. It's an opportunity to update the timestamp and signal to Google that the content is now fresh again.

Semantically Structuring Content

I've said it before: SEO used to be about optimizing content for machines, not humans. That worked to a large degree for a long time. But Google wants to give its users great content and a great search experience.

Writing for machines negates both.

Google is becoming increasingly sophisticated with its natural language processing (NLP) and deep learning algorithms (like “RankBrain” and its neural networks, also known as Google's AI). It wants to learn how to read and understand content like a human being does.

So it goes to reason that, by optimizing content for humans (as you should), you are also optimizing it for Google. There's no need to do passage ranking SEO. In fact, the best way to describe how to optimize for any ranking is something I read in an article on content intelligence (and I'm paraphrasing):

Structure shapes content by organizing it as objects rather than unstructured blobs. Semantics is the contextualization of content structures. They define the entities, associations, and relationships for a piece of content.

Other than rewriting content, here are ways to add semantics and structure to your existing content, which will also improve the user's experience:

  • Group content sections around subtopics or ideas.
  • Stick with about 3-5 paragraphs per content section.
  • Break sections up with margins and white spaces.
  • Add headers throughout and before each section.
  • Use shorter sentences and succinct headings.
  • Keep paragraphs short (about 4-5 lines deep).
  • Nest headings appropriately (i.e., don't use H4 after H2).
  • Add visuals where appropriate that relate to the subtopic.
  • Provide short, subtopic-appropriate captions to images.
  • Link content together with internal text and image links.
  • Insert a table of contents at the beginning (see below).
  • Include header anchor tags to “jump” to sections.
  • Add references and resource links at the bottom.
  • Identify the author (i.e., an “about the author” box).

Table of Contents and Jumplinks

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

TOCs, summaries (or TL;DRs), and section jumplinks are helpful. With long articles, they provide users with a quick, at-a-glance overview of what the page contains, but also a helpful way to jump directly to the section of interest (rather than having to wade through a bunch of irrelevant content).

Add a table of contents to long content. List your headings at the top of the article and even insert anchor links to jump to each section. For example, I use it in some long articles and some service pages, like my SEO consulting page.

But another indirect SEO benefit is that Google can display a menu of anchor links below your search engine results (SERP) listing. This will increase CTRs (clickthrough rates), which provides Google with positive feedback.

Passages Ranking SEO With Structured Content 2 | structured content
Example of jump menus under SERPs.

Remember that, when you increase CTRs, you indirectly inform Google that your listing is relevant, which has shown to indirectly influence your rankings.

Ultimately, even if the benefit of “optimizing” for passages rankings is not an SEO benefit in a direct sense, semantically structuring your content will help Google understand your content better. The more they do, well, you do the math.

Categories
SEO

4 Local SEO Tips to Boost Your Visibility Locally

Close to two-thirds of the Internet’s traffic is mobile, and that number continues to climb at a staggering rate. Google has adopted a mobile-only approach by indexing just the mobile version of your website and not the desktop one.

Since smartphones come with GPS, this mobile proliferation has proportionately increased the number of location-based searches. Statistics show that 46% of all mobile searches are location-related, with a 900% increase in “near me” searches, reported by Google, in just two years alone.

What does this mean?

It means that people looking for your plastic surgery practice or medical aesthetic clinic will most likely do so from their mobile devices. They are more qualified, too, as 78% of location-based mobile searches statistically end in a conversion (such as booking a consultation or a procedure).

Having a properly optimized site with great content may give you some visibility in the search engines. But if your location is not visible in maps or on mobile devices, you’re losing out on a significant portion of your potential patients.

Out of Map, Out of Mind

Geo-based search engine optimization, also called local SEO, is the practice of increasing your visibility in location-based searches. When people search for “plastic surgeon near me,” “plastic surgery [location],” or “who can I see for [procedure or problem]?” you want your listing to be among the first.

However, smartphones are not the only ones offering geo-based searches. Remember that 90% of desktop browsers are location-aware, and 93% of non-mobile search results with location intent will offer map listings showing up at the top of the page — also called “Local Map Pack” or “Three Pack.”

Local SEO three-pack example of plastic surgery in Toronto
“Plastic surgeons Toronto” result.

If you don’t appear in the top-three positions of location-based search results, you might as well not exist. That’s where local SEO comes in. It’s one of the most effective ways for your prospective patients to find you — and most often, one of the most ignored or underutilized.

This type of SEO comprises four areas. In order of importance, they are:

1. Your Website

Your website must list an exact address and perhaps have a page dedicated to helping people find you. But there are other signals that help search engines rank you according to your location. I’ll come back to this as it’s essential.

2. Map Listings

With major online maps, there are three of them: Google My Business (which includes Google Search and Google Maps), Bing Places (which covers Bing Maps), and Apple Maps (which appear in Siri and Spotlight searches). For the sake of brevity, check out this local SEO article on how to claim all three listings.

3. Data Aggregators

Data aggregators are local data collectors and providers. They scour the Internet for business information, clean it, and compile it. Some provide this data to others, such as websites, marketers, and providers (including GPS navigation devices like Garmin and TomTom). Here’s a look at the top 50:

WhiteSpark's listing of the top 50 local citations to claim for local SEO

4. Local Citations

Citations are any mentions of your listing on other websites. Technically, all the above are citations. But in this section, I’m referring to industry-specific (vertical) or service-specific (horizontal) citations. For example:

Are You Nearby, Relevant, and Valuable?

It's important to claim your listing in as many locations as possible, particularly in authoritative ones. Not only does it increase your visibility, but doing so also increases your ability to outrank your competitors.

Google My Business owns the lion’s share of map-based search queries, which is around 87%. With local searches, Google will rank your listing according to three factors: 1) relevance, 2) proximity, and 3) prominence.

  1. How close you are to the user when they search.
  2. How well your listing satisfies the user’s search.
  3. And how well you stand out from the others.

Obviously, the closer you are to the searcher’s location (proximity) and the closer it matches the searcher’s query (relevancy), the better the chances that your listing will appear. After all, you don’t want a tummy tuck when you’re trying to order pizza — although that might well be the case for some folks.

However, your ability to outrank your competitors in local listings depends mostly on how prominent you are. And prominence comes from external signals, like mentions and links from other sites.

According to Google’s guidelines:

“Prominence is based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business' local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so search engine optimization (SEO) best practices apply.”

Google scans the web to find citations of your business to determine its validity and trustworthiness. It looks for mentions of your practice and links back to your website. Each citation you claim (in a plastic surgery directory, for example) and each favorable review you earn becomes an implied endorsement.

Therefore, citations are important SEO signals.

Keywords Matter Where They Matter

You can optimize your listing with keywords in myriad ways. From the business categories you choose to list under, to the relevant topics you add in your description, these signals help search engines determine if you’re a match.

The worse thing you can do is add keywords to your business name, like “Dr. Jane Smith – Liposuction and Tummy Tucks.” Google prohibits the inclusion of keywords in business names, and it penalizes and suspends these listings when it catches them. Multiple suspensions can also lead to a permanent ban.

As a plastic surgeon, you can have your own listing (i.e., one as a practitioner on top of the one for your practice), provided that you're not the sole practitioner at the same location, or that you practice in separate locations.

But if you're a solo practitioner, you can only claim one listing. It makes sense because you don't want to compete with yourself and dilute your rankings.

However, if you're more prominent as a physician, and your name has more citations and mentions than the name of your practice, you can add it to the business name after a colon, like: “Plastic Surgery Clinic: Dr. John Smith.”

Nevertheless, your description gives you 750 characters to work with. So include relevant keywords there. You can also incorporate them in many other locations — including the services you offer, Q&As (you can add your own, too), posts to your listing, optimized images, and above all, reviews from clients.

Studies show that when customers include keywords in their reviews, Google associates them with your business. Just as adding more fresh content to your website increases the number of keywords you can rank for, the more reviews you get will increase the frequency of keywords, too.

In short, get more reviews.

Accuracy, Ubiquity, and Consistency

As I've said before, the key to dominating local SEO is to claim citations on as many platforms as possible. It doesn't matter whether you’re active on them. Not only do they amplify your visibility and increase your prominence, but they also prevent competitors from hijacking your listing.

Above all, they offer social proof. For example, your business might appear in the SERPs more than once. Beyond your website listed in the standard results and your business in the local map pack, you might also appear through multiple third-party listings such as the BBB, Yellow Pages, RateMDs, etc.

That's the power of being ubiquitous.

However, if Google can't find you because you misspelled your name, address, or phone number (or your “NAP”), or if it's inconsistent across platforms, then you will lose rankings because Google cannot confirm your prominence.

Your NAP is a signal. The more listings you have, the stronger the signal will be. But one discrepancy can dilute your signal, even if it’s a single misspelling.

Accuracy and consistency are key. Inaccurate listings can often be worse than having no listings at all. If Google can’t find you, what does that say about your clients? Use a tool like BrightLocal’s Free Listings Scanner to see if your listings hurt your rankings by confusing your clients. For example:

  • Is it “Dr. John David Smith” or “John D. Smith, M.D.”?
  • Is it “Smith Surgery Center” or “Smith Surgical Clinic”?
  • Is it “45 Somewhere Street” or “45 Somewhere St.”?
  • Is it “New York City,” “Manhattan,” or “NYC”?
  • Is your website with or without “www”?

It doesn’t matter what you choose, just make sure it’s the same everywhere.

Turn Your Website Into a Beacon

Earlier I said that your website is the number one priority with geo-based optimizations. Having a consistent NAP must start with your website, for it is the one Google will use to find other mentions and rate your prominence.

But location alone isn’t enough.

You can enhance your location signals by adding additional snippets of code to your HTML. These snippets are invisible to us, but search engines can read them. Called “schema markup,” this form of structured data helps identify you and your location — including your NAP and your geo-coordinates.

The one to use is the “local business” schema. It identifies you as a legitimate business operating in an actual location. As with the earlier section, make sure the contents are accurate and consistent with your NAP.

Many website content management systems offer tools and plugins that do this for you automatically. But you can (and should) add some manually, too. Use technical SEO’s local search schema markup generator. Once you add it to your site, test it with Google’s rich results tester.

It’s important to claim as many listings as possible, but choose one NAP you will use across all platforms. Having a consistent NAP profile is the key to geo-based SEO success. And it all starts with your website.

Ultimately, local SEO is no longer just an arrow in your marketing quiver. In 2021, it has become as essential as the bow itself. Because if your patients can’t find you in a location-qualified search, you might as well not exist at all.

Categories
SEO

Visual Content Marketing Starts With SEO

When it comes to creating content about plastic surgery, writing blog posts (i.e., articles) is the easiest way. But visual content is just as important, if not more so. In addition to written content marketing, visual content marketing is a critical component to a medical aesthetic professional's online success.

Any content is important. As a plastic surgeon, you're an expert in your field, and prospective patients want to make an informed decision. When it comes to SEO, as it should be with the content itself, the fundamental goal of written content is to help the people you're targeting.

However, most plastic surgeons or their staff create visual content, such as videos, photos, and graphics. And they should. Most of them post these on visual channels (like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etc.) instead of their own blogs.

So how do can you do SEO when your content is not text-based and it's published outside your blog or website?

1. Metadata is Your Friend

Every piece of non-textual content you create (or better said, capture) has metadata attached to it, such as time, date, location, equipment used, etc. Most digital recording devices nowadays automatically add metadata to your captures, whether it's a $3,000 camera or a $500 smartphone.

But many recordings today can have additional metadata added. Most of the time, it's done when the recordings are added to another medium — such as when it's uploaded to Google Photos or YouTube, for example.

Incidentally, if you turned off metadata (such as location) for privacy purposes, you should turn it back on. Some people hate being tracked, and I understand that. But this information is ideal for SEO.

For example, when uploading it to Google My Business or Facebook (Business), it adds more pseudo-content for local SEO purposes. When people type “plastic surgeon near me” into Google, your photos may appear (or your listing with a lot of geotagged photos may appear) more often as a result.

Nevertheless, you can add more metadata. On a blog, those things include alternate text (called “alt-tags”), titles (or “title tags”), captions, and even the filename itself. For instance, when adding content to a website, rather than uploading it directly, save it, rename it, and upload it with its new filename.

It's not about stuffing keywords in either the metatags or filenames. It's about including descriptive information for accessibility so that search engines know what the file is all about. So include keywords in the graphic, photo, or video, both in their filenames and tag data.

But don't force them. Just be descriptive. Be helpful, not robotic.

Like all forms of SEO, metadata comes down to helping your audience and giving them what they're looking for. You want to describe your visuals in order to help — not outsmart the search engines.

Remember, metadata is about the user and aims to make the visuals better understood by users. Yes, they're for search engines, too. But search engines aim to help users (your users) by giving them better information — and therefore, a better experience. Stuffed text will only work against you.

2. Channel-Based SEO

The second-largest search engine in the world is YouTube. Just like Google, YouTube has its own search queries, topics, keywords, rankings, velocity (i.e, based on how much traffic, engagements, and likes a video gets), and of course, audiences. So it needs its own SEO, too.

In fact, almost every content sharing platform is a search engine itself. So whether you're uploading photos, videos, clips, graphics, or stories (like Reels, LinkedIn Stories, Twitter Fleets, TikTok, or any visual asset you upload to the web), you will also need to optimize those, too.

Optimize their descriptions, tags, labels, comments, and more. So be descriptive, add keywords, insert links, use hashtags, and so on.

Every channel needs its own form of SEO, from Twitter to Google My Business. Pay attention to the content you add, from the bio of your channel's profile to each asset you upload. Include keywords and links (especially links back to the website) to double your amplification (I'll come back to this).

Create new content with SEO in mind, whether it's the title, the description, the filename, or the surrounding content (including headers, copy, links, additional keywords, etc). In fact, there are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Keywords don't have to be broad or popular with high search volumes. They can be long-tail, indirectly related, or ultra-specific keywords.
  2. Focus on the user, not the search engines. Don't stuff your content with keywords. Focus on topics and what users want, and describe it to them.
  3. Include your name and brand names (such as proprietary names of your services, products, or processes, which is my number-one SEO tip).

Incidentally, content in proximity is just as important as metadata or descriptive data. For example, when uploading content to a visual platform, remember that you have the ability to add descriptions, comments, even tags and related content — such as linking suggested videos or other related posts.

This information also helps to expand your visibility, too.

On YouTube, your videos will show up as related videos on other people's videos. On Instagram, it will be recommended as part of the “Explore” page. On Google, your Web Stories will be suggested in “Discover” (i.e., the personalized content feed on Android devices, Google pages, and Google apps).

For videos, one tool I recommend is TubeBuddy, which allows you to do keyword and tag research, on the fly, as you upload your videos. On Instagram, make sure your photos are properly described, tagged, and captioned with keywords — and don't forget the advanced settings (hidden alt text), too.

3. Bring it Back Home

Finally, remember that your goal is to get people back to your website (or at least to come forward and book an appointment with you). But for SEO purposes, it's to attract qualified patients to your practice or clinic.

While your goal is to use other platforms as a way to share and amplify content from your website in order to increase signals back to your website (and hopefully earn authoritative backlinks), you can also do the converse — i.e., amplify your third-party platform content through your website.

In other words, you can bring content back to your website. You don't need to duplicate everything. Many of these websites allow you to embed their content, which allows you to add a piece of code and incorporate content from their platform back on your website.

However, some may offer you the ability to embed carousels or galleries. That's not what I mean. Embed either one or a few select pieces on a blog post, but add surrounding, descriptive content. Offer deeper, richer content — perhaps a story behind the visuals. Above all, include links to other pages.

For example, one plastic surgeon often posts on Instagram. He uploads videos that are either before-and-after clips, patient testimonials, or videos of actual surgical procedures. He then takes a video from IG, embeds it on his website, and describes the procedure in depth with additional content around it.

He turns it into a case study to describe that specific patient's situation (e.g., what was their issue, what makes them a candidate, what results to expect, etc). He also links anchor texts back to his main service page — the one that describes the procedure (like “breast augmentation,” for example).

This process creates strategic internal links, signals to his key procedure pages, and topical clusters, which all help SEO — including the social media signals.

If you do this with videos, transcribe your videos (using a tool like Descript, Otter, or Screechpad), which will then fill your blog post (and therefore, your website) with keyword-rich and/or topic-focused content that will add SEO as well as bring more context to the visuals (and vice versa).

Ultimately, these are some ideas that will help use non-text-based content and third-party content for SEO purposes that will enhance your visibility, drive traffic, and increase traction with ideal patients.

So with visuals and third-party platforms, don't forget metadata, keywords, and links to each other for bilateral amplification and stronger SEO signals.

Categories
SEO

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
SEO

Choosing Keywords for SEO: Heads or Tails?

The old way of doing keywords for SEO was straightforward: people searched using keywords, and the more of those keywords were found on your page, the greater the chances it would rank well. The problem is, it was a race to the bottom.

Competitors were adding more keywords to their pages, trying to one-up each other. Over time, their content would be stuffed with so many keywords, it would become unreadable and create a poor user experience.

Then, black-hat SEOs (people trying to game the system) would hide keywords or create redirects from keyword-stuffed pages to the better ones.

Thankfully, Google caught on, and after a while killed off those surreptitious techniques. But keywords are still the main focus for SEOs. They are still important, but not in the same way we think they are.

Keywords are no longer the primary ranking factor. Google is more intelligent than ever, and it understands what the content is about, even when the content doesn't contain the exact keywords being searched for.

Things like topics, context, related keywords, and the connection between them are now far more important than just keywords.

Are Long-Tail Keywords Better?

To give you an example of how topics are more important than keywords, take long-tail keywords, i.e., keywords with little search volume that fall within the long end of the search demand curve.

Choosing Keywords for SEO: Heads or Tails? 3 | keywords for seo

They may seem like worthless keywords because they have little demand, but they can actually be quite powerful. By being more specific, they're also highly targeted. Plus, bounce rates will be lower and conversion rates will be higher.

Take “facelift,” for example:

  • “Facelift” (short head, 10,000 monthly searches)
  • “Facelift surgeon” (wide middle, 600 searches)
  • “Best facelift surgeon” (long tail, 150 searches)
  • “Best facelift surgeon NYC” (longer tail, 40 searches)

Ranking for a broad term like “facelift” may be an attractive goal for a plastic surgeon, but it is an audacious one. It will be incredibly tough. Plus, out of those 10,000 searches, you may get people who are interested in something else.

For example, they may be interested in a non-surgical facelift, a “vampire” facelift (i.e., microneedling), the history of facelifts, facelift creams, giving a facelift in the remodeling sense (e.g., “how to give my yard a facelift), etc.

But with a more specific keyword, like “best facelift surgeon in New York,” the chances are high that the little traffic you get from that longer phrase will be quite targeted and highly motivated.

Long-Tail Derivatives

However, a common misconception is that all long-tail keywords are longer (they have multiple words). Or that long-tail keywords are highly targeted or that ranking for long-tail keywords is easy. Not quite.

For example, take the keyword “rhytidectomy” (80 searches per month), the medical term for facelift. Or “threadlift” (60), the less invasive facelift alternative. Both are short and broad, but both are also long-tail (low demand) and both serve two completely different search intents.

Here's the issue: if a doctor in New York ranks well for “best facelift surgeon NYC,” chances are she may also rank high for “facelift surgeon” or even just “facelift.” In other words, if you try to rank for the longer tail keyword, you might still lose to the more topic-focused competitor.

Called “derivative keywords,” they're basically variations that derive from or closely match a parent topic. Since Google is smart at understanding content and relevance, going after derivatives or variations of an existing parent topic that a competitor ranks well for may be just as tough.

For example, a plastic surgeon may rank for “best facelift surgeon NYC,” but they may also rank well for “best facelift surgeon” and even “facelift surgeon.” In other words, the surgeon is ranking for both the parent topic, “facelift surgeon,” and for multiple derivatives, which may make it hard to rank.

Not all long-tail keywords are created equal.

The Tale of Many Tails

What I recommend is doing a SERP analysis.

Taking the same example, when you do a search for “facelift,” the top three results include two results from PlasticSurgery.org (i.e., ASPS, or the American Society of Plastic Surgeons) and one from Mayo Clinic. The rest is pretty similar.

Therefore, this tells you two things: the search intent, according to Google, is informational. People are looking to learn about the procedure. They may not be in the market for a facelift and just doing research.

Next, if you search for “facelift surgeon,” you get a mix:

The first result is still PlasticSugery.org, but now it's followed by a few plastic surgeons and private clinics. So either Google isn't sure about the search intent, or the ASPS is ranking for both the parent topic and its close derivative.

Now, taking a step further, when you do the same thing for “best facelift surgeon NYC,” ASPS (PlasticSurgery.org) doesn't appear in the results at all. This means that “best facelift surgeon NYC” is not a derivative of “facelift” and considered its own topic. It's a subtopic. This may be an opportunity.

Long-Tail Subtopics

Also called “topical long-tail keywords,” these are specific long-tail keywords that are considered as topics in and of themselves. They may be better and easier to rank for, too, than derivatives.

When I visit the topmost result, NewYorkFacialPlasticSurgery.com, it's not an informative piece of content. I get a press release about the doctor who was mentioned in a magazine and voted “best plastic surgeon in New York City,” which clearly highlights the keywords and several variations:

Choosing Keywords for SEO: Heads or Tails? 7 | keywords for seo

Now, you might think this site is ranking because of keyword density. But I bet you that, if you wrote a helpful piece that provided a list of criteria that go into choosing the best facelift doctor for a user's goals, titled “How to Choose The Best Plastic Surgeon in New York For You,” it would probably outrank this one.

(By the way, in most verticals, a better piece would be a comparison between multiple leading competitors. But that's not ethically allowed as doctors are prohibited from claiming superiority. So providing users with helpful tools to determine their goals may be the next best thing.)

My reasoning is, Google may feel the content is more relevant and helpful, and seemingly less self-serving than an award-winning mention in a press release.

Plus, you might still rank better if you had content addressing variations of the same long-tail keyword, such as: “What makes a plastic surgeon become the best in NYC?” “Best facelift NYC surgeon before and after photos.” “What are the best facelift questions to ask a plastic surgeon?” And so on.

Stop Chasing Tails

Don't go chasing long-tail keywords without first understanding search intent, learning who your competitors are, and discovering if the long-tail keyword is either a derivative or a subtopic. Because if you don't, you will be like a dog chasing its own tail, going nowhere fast.

So go for subtopics, but don't discount all derivatives, either. It might take time, but if you rank well with a recognized, authoritative piece of quality content for a derivative long-tail keyword that matches the search intent better than your competitors, you might eventually rank for its parent topic, too.

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

Bottom-Up SEO Strategy: Why Keyword-First SEO is Wrong

I use tools for SEO audit research all the time. But one of the best ways to do research for SEO (and I've said this before but it bears repeating) is to go directly to the source: Google itself.

By using Google, you can do a search and find out what Google thinks you want. Tools help make the process efficient, but if you want to see quickly what Google thinks, going straight to the source gives you a ton of great information.

I mention this for two reasons.

First, Google actually tells us what they want.

It's called the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines. Now, it's only a guide. It doesn't tell the full story as Google doesn't want to give away the store for fear black-hatters find holes they can exploit or ways to game the system.

But the guide gives us a great understanding of some of the key metrics Google is looking for.

I've said before that, to rank well, you need to create quality content. But how you define quality is based on relevancy and value to the user. It's not about just posting a piece of content you think is good. It's about posting a piece of content that's good in the eyes of your audience. Not Google.

For example, according to the rater's guidelines, Google has human raters who measure the effectiveness of the search results using two criteria: Page Quality (PQ) rating and Needs Met (NM) rating.

That's what I meant by “relevance” and “value.”

Your content is considered “quality content” if it's relevant to the user who did the search on Google (i.e., it matches their search intent and therefore meets their needs), and it's valuable to them (i.e., it's helpful, insightful, actionable, etc). The more value it offers, the greater its page quality rating will be.

Quality, in terms of the raters guidelines, is based on a host of factors and subject to interpretation. That's why “quality content” is subjective. The only way to measure it is to ask, “Does this content match what the user is looking for and really helps them?”

To rank on the search engines, the goal is simple: aside from user experience (UX), simply provide good content — content that users find relevant and valuable. And to rank higher on the search engines, simply provide better content — content that's more relevant and more valuable than others.

No, it has nothing to do with length (e.g., number of words). It has nothing to do with sophistication (e.g., academic-level language). And above all, it has nothing to do with keywords (e.g., forced inclusion or keyword stuffing).

So the two things that you need to pay attention to that will make a world of difference in your SEO audit, as a plastic surgeon or aesthetic practitioner, are these:

  • User search intent (UI),
  • Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT).

Understanding and matching your content to UI adds to its relevance while providing content that has stronger EAT adds to its value. The better these two are, and the better it can do so in relation to other results that come up for the same queries, then the better the chances of ranking higher will be.

The second reason is that it turns SEO upside down.

Last week, amid all the Black-Friday/Cyber-Week hoopla, I watched two videos that I suggest you watch, too.

The first one was an old presentation from 2016 by Google Engineer Paul Haar who discusses how Google works. The part of his talk I liked best is when he discussed “scoring signals.” It's a great peek “behind the curtains” (just a little) to see how queries are rated over at Google.

But what struck me from that talk is that human raters are not the only ways they gauge the quality of a result. They use live experiments. Specifically, they conduct A/B split tests. All. The. Time.

When you consider that there over 3,000 queries per second, split-tests can reveal a lot of information. And when we use Google, we are not only tapping into the Internet Zeitgeist but also getting a better understanding of how users use Google and what they want.

Google does a lot of different split-tests, but the one that caught my attention is when they do it is to serve two different results for a query.

They see how many people click on one result in the top spot for a certain query. They swap it for another for the same query and compare clickthrough rates (CTRs). One getting more clicks than the other may indicate that one result more closely matches what people are looking for.

The second video was more recent.

Grow and Convert are SaaS content marketers and SEO audit experts, and they really focus on content and the quality of your content when it comes to optimizing for the search engines and boosting conversions. I like their approach because I despise backlink begging, which is the riskiest part of SEO.

Their approach, which I'm a big fan of, is called “pain-point SEO.”

Typical SEO does this:

  1. Find keywords based on assumptions,
  2. Select highest volume keywords, and
  3. Create content around those keywords.

But Grow and Convert flips that on its head.

  1. Find out what pain points users have,
  2. Create content around solving them, and
  3. Find keywords to map content to user intent.

I absolutely love this approach.

Granted, they use this for SaaS companies. But this could very well apply to plastic surgeons and cosmetic medicine, too.

Prospective patients conduct a lot of research before approaching a cosmetic surgeon. They're trying to fix a problem, gauge the effectiveness of various solutions, choose a solution, and find the best provider of that solution. These are part of the stages of awareness (i.e., my OATH formula).

Here's the video that I'm talking about. It's an interview with Bernard Huang, the co-founder of Clearscope. Bernard describes a simple truth: that different queries deserve different optimizations that appeal to the user.

He reveals how to rank using this flipped approach, which drives the concept of creating quality content over other SEO audit approaches like keywords or backlinks.

In essence, it's user-first SEO audit rather than keyword-first SEO audit — the way most SEOs have been doing it for ages.

User-first SEO is also the way I've been doing SEO and the approach I've been trying to hammer so often through my own content. In fact, watch the video. It's amazing. Bernard shares his desktop and does live experiments to prove his point. You also get to see how a user-driven SEO expert thinks.

Now, he does get a little geeky, but the point is this.

You can learn what users want (and what Google thinks they want) by looking at what Google is doing and paying attention to what results it provides (and in the order it provides them) to determine intent-driven topics to write about.

Simply, it's a bottom-up approach. And it's better.

In short, create good content users want and provide a good experience users appreciate, and you will have patients beating a path to your door.

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.