Categories
SEO

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

Weeks after my whole family got theirs, I finally got the vaccine. Speaking of which, if you search for “vaccine,” you're going to get different results. It's a pretty generic keyword. Google may only guess what you mean.

  • You may be searching for news about it.
  • You may be trying to learn about the risks.
  • Or you may want to book your appointment.

This is called “search intent.”

To understand why this is important to your SEO efforts, above and beyond “keywords,” let's take a closer look at what it is and how to optimize for it.

Actions Speak Louder Than (Key)words

More and more SEO experts are offering services beyond just Search Engine Optimization. Many offer User Experience Optimization (UXO) and Search Experience Optimization (SXO). The reason is simple: rankings don't matter if the results, such as your content, don't satisfy the searcher's query.

Search engines like Google use machine learning to pay attention to how people respond to search results. They try to gauge if the result meets their needs. For example, if someone types in “how to increase organic traffic to my website” into Google, this may happen:

  • They get a bunch of results.
  • They click on one of them.
  • They visit the page.
  • They scan the content.
  • They hit their back button.
  • They return to the results.
  • They choose the next link.
  • And so on.

This may signal to Google that the link they provided isn't what the user is looking for. So it could be either one of three things:

  1. The content is bad,
  2. The user experience is bad, or
  3. It doesn't meet the user's search intent.

Called “pogosticking,” this back-and-forth process tells the search engine that the site is not meeting the user's needs. It's not providing good content or a good user experience or matching the user's search intent.

You may have great quality content and a fantastic user experience. But what if the content was simply wrong for what the user is looking for? What if it's perfect but delivered in the wrong way (e.g., they wanted video and not text)?

If you rank well, the mismatched intent will deliver poor quality traffic and inflate your bounce rate unnecessarily. But chances are you will not rank well, anyway, since Google uses machine-learning to know what people are looking for and serve results that match their intent.

What are “Long Clicks” and “Short Clicks”?

A bounce rate is calculated based on single-page visits, where users bounce out after visiting one page and without navigating to any other page on your site. Pogosticking may add to the site's bounce rate. But it doesn't mean the content is bad. Users may have read the entire article and left.

That's when the concept of “dwell time” comes in.

High bounce rates are not enviable. But pogosticking is important to pay attention to, specifically because it's indicative that the site is not relevant to the user's search. It doesn't match what the user is searching for.

This metric called “dwell time” provides context and indicates if the content was appropriate. A visitor who clicks on a search result and bounces back after a few seconds is called a “short click.” If they stay a lot longer and dwell longer on the page, even if they do bounce back, this is called a “long click.”

Both bounce rates and dwell times (i.e., short clicks and long clicks) are just two of many SEO signals that tell Google the content is a fit and matches the user's search and intent. In short, content is good, the user experience is adequate, and the result is relevant to their search.

The Three Types of Search Intent

Relevance is based on intent. There are three kinds of search intent (and a fourth, which is a variation). Your content should aim to match either one:

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

The fourth is a variation of the third. When the transaction is a purchase, they are called “I want to buy” searches. Some SEO experts label them as “commercial intent” or “commercial investigation” searches.

However, the intent to buy may not be direct or immediate. The user may be unsure and doing some research. So the search is slightly more informational or navigational in intent (such as looking for sites offering reviews, for example).

Nevertheless, determining search intent is important because SEO relies heavily on how well your content matches the searcher’s query.

Let's take a look at each one with some examples.

Informational Searches

The user is looking for information for educational purposes. They're not looking to buy (at least, not yet). They may be looking for more information about their situation, problem, or challenge. They're only researching this point.

Some of the searches related to your procedures may be:

  • “How long does a facelift take to heal?”
  • “Is abdominal plastic surgery safe?”
  • “Why do my breasts sag after pregnancy?”
  • “What types of liposuction are available?”
  • “Are hair transplants permanent?”

Many informational searches are formulated in the form of questions. But they can also be straight keywords or phrases, such as “lose weight” or “facelift surgery.” But the search intent may not be that clear (I'll return to this).

Navigational Searches

The user is trying to locate something specific, which is mostly a website, a location, or a business/clinic. It might be a URL, an address, a social media profile, etc. It's often based on a name, brand, product, service, or domain entered into a search form instead of directly into their browsers.

Some of the searches related to your business or services may be:

  • “Jane Smith, MD plastic surgeon Toronto”
  • “Dr. John Doe cosmetic surgery clinic”
  • “facelift post-op instructions Smith Surgical”
  • “phone number Dr. Linda Kent new clinic”
  • “nearest hotel to Eastern Surgical Centre”

By the way, the vast majority of branded searches are navigational. This is another reason you want to name your business, your services, and your processes, including your intellectual property. People may have heard about you or seen your name, but they're unsure how to get to your website.

Transactional Searches

This is where the searcher wants to do something, mostly to make a purchase. They've already decided they're ready to make a purchase or do something. So the search is related to taking that action. It can be buying, downloading, calling, hiring, ordering, registering, emailing, etc.

Some transactional searches might include:

  • “book a consultation with Dr. Smith”
  • “buy post-op cream Doe Surgical Clinic”
  • “subscribe to Laura Jackson, MD newsletter”
  • “get a quote for breast augmentation”
  • “download facelift pre-op instructions”

Commercial/Investigational Searches

This is a variation of transactional searches where the user is looking to buy. But the user is unsure and either wants reassurances or wants to investigate further. It can be informational and navigational, too, to some degree.

Since it can blend all three, it's important to match this intent specifically. Sometimes, the answer can be from third-party site. For example:

  • “best bariatric weight loss surgery”
  • “Dr. Jane Doe plastic surgery reviews”
  • “top cosmetic surgeon Rochester”
  • “Botox for crow's feet near me”
  • “Dr. Smith before and after photos”

Therefore, the goal is to offer relevant content and optimize signals — including amplified third-party signals — that aim to help the user decide (e.g., comparisons, case studies, photos, testimonials, FAQs, etc.).

The Key is To Align Content With Intent

Ultimately, When it comes to creating content for any one of these types of queries, the goal may be to answer them directly. But you may have to do more than educate your audience with relevant content. You want content that targets, engages, and invites them, too.

For instance, if a user is conducting an informational search, they may or may not be in the market for your services. The user could be a student doing some research for school. It could be a tire-kicker. It could even be a competitor.

So the goal is to capture, educate, and retain your visitors, the right visitors, as much as possible, particularly if they're potentially ideal clients. For this, you need quality content, user experience, and SEO signals.

But it's also an opportunity to get them to enter your funnel, engage them further, prove your expertise, and invite them to invest in your services.

How Intent Alignment Improves SEO

So how you optimize for search intent? The process of discovering what Google thinks people want is a great tool for SEO research. It is often referred to as “SERP analysis,” where SERP, of course, stands for search engine results pages.

Now, I know you're a plastic surgeon, and you're not an SEO expert. But this is not about search engine optimization in a direct sense. It's about something a bit more fundamental: market research. It's about understanding what users are looking for, why they want it, and how to give it to them.

Understand that market research is the core of marketing. When I talk about “keyword research,” it's not about keywords in and of themselves. It's about understanding what your audience is looking for and why they're looking for it.

It's impossible to ask users what they want as they conduct their searches. So keywords are “observable traces” that users leave. They're artifacts, if you will.

Like uncovering dinosaur fossils during an archeological dig, archeologists can only make educated guesses about how dinosaurs lived, what they ate, what their migration patterns were, and what happened to them.

Similarly, keywords don't tell the full story. They certainly don't tell us what's on users' minds when they use them. But search engines are becoming more sophisticated in understanding what people want and why.

Using clickthrough rates and user behaviour (such as click length), combined with the power of natural language processing and machine learning, Google makes educated guesses on the intent behind the search.

So market research, in this sense, is keyword research.

Understand The Desire Behind Queries

Fundamentally, SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that search engines (and therefore users) can find your content. They must be able to read, crawl, and index your content, even before they decide how to rank it.

A tad oversimplified, of course. But that's what SEO essentially aims to do. SEO was (and still is to some degree) a technical process. In fact, if you look up the definition of SEO as far back as 10-20 years ago, you get something like:

“Search Engine Optimization is built on the foundation of information architecture and information retrieval.”

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

Market research, on the other hand, is what will help you rank higher. I often refer back to what my friend and top copywriter David Garfinkel, who said that the key to success in copywriting (and I could easily extrapolate that to SEO or any form of marketing in general) is to ask:

  • Who is your market?
  • What is their problem?
  • How are they talking about it?

If you know who your market is (which you likely do), you know their problem and why they want to solve it. But learning about how they talk about it can be uncovered by studying and reverse-engineering the SERPs.

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

Meet Users' Needs, Not Their Keywords

Google's goal is to satisfy the user's search and to become more effective at doing so. They're already showing you the results they think will serve the users best. In addition to machine learning, they've done countless experiments, hired many sophisticated engineers, and analyzed petabytes of data.

They've done the research for you. So use it to your advantage.

If you want to improve your rankings, your goal is to know what users are looking for and to give it to them. But it's not enough. You also need to understand the intent behind what they want, i.e., the reason for their search.

Why? Because, as Google tries to identify what people are looking for and why, it serves results that more closely match what it thinks will satisfy searchers. So if your content doesn't align with intent, Google will not give you the time of day — and your users won't, either.

And therein lies the crux of the need for SERP analysis.

Think of it this way: the goal is not only to create content that your audience wants but also for the reasons they want to consume it.

Sounds a tad pedantic, I know. But it's actually quite simple. You can focus on keywords, for example, and try to successfully align your content's title and description (i.e., what shows up in SERPs) that match the user's query. This will undoubtedly increase clickthrough rates.

But what happens once they land on your site?

Avoid “Clickbait-and-Switch”

If they pogostick back to Google because your user experience (UX) is less than desirable, that's one thing. But if it's because your content fails to satisfy their query, even if the content is high quality and presumably what they're looking for, you've failed to satisfy their intent. You failed to meet their needs.

Plus, failing to match search intent can hurt you.

Google has publicly said they don't directly use click signals as ranking factors. However, Google engineers have stated that they do use click behaviour to help refine their search results. (“Refine” is an important hint.)

My personal opinion is that they use it in connection with other factors, such as going to the next result as opposed to conducting a new search (again, “short clicks” versus “long clicks”). How people engage with search results says a lot.

While click lengths may not necessarily impact your rankings, this data helps Google learn more about its users' search intent. It then refines its search results when analyzing what people are looking for in combination with other factors.

The refinement may cost you in rankings — other results that more closely satisfy the user's search will rise to the top. Naturally.

Also, consider that people may seek more than just information but also the format. How they want to consume the information is just as important as the content itself. They may prefer a video, podcast, infographic, or PDF.

Plastic surgery is a visual field. Visuals are key. If your content is only one long article when users are looking for photos, you may not meet their needs.

One of the reasons Google offers many new features, in addition to those traditional 10 blue links, is to provide the user with an idea of what they're getting. It's only my guess, but if Google offers video thumbnails, people know they're getting videos — not a link to a page that “may” contain a video.

Search Intent and User Intent: Why Both?

Nevertheless, if you know who your market is and what their problems are, next is to know how they talk about it, revealing their stage of awareness.

By knowing at what stage of awareness they happen to be, you can then serve them with content that directly meets them where they are and takes them to the next stage — and hopefully closer to becoming your patient.

This goes to the concept of the content funnel I talked about before. It's not always linear or perfectly compartmentalized. For example, it's different for someone who has had other procedures done or who is unhappy with their results instead of someone who never had plastic surgery at all.

But for now, the thing to remember is that a content funnel is based on content that appeals to a certain level of awareness and then graduating the user to a new level of awareness. The way to do that is to understand intent.

This brings me to the differences between search intent and user intent.

  • Search topic is what they're searching for.
  • Search intent is how they're searching for it.
  • User intent is why they're searching for it.

Remember that the stages of awareness are problem-aware, solution-aware, and product-aware (i.e., your solution). When studying the SERPs, this is where you can extract a decent amount of ideas and insights from your target market.

For example, problem-aware searches:

  • What (e.g., the problem, like “how to get rid of excess belly fat”);
  • How (e.g., informational search, long-form article, some visuals);
  • Why (e.g., they're frustrated, doing research, want options).

Next stage of awareness is solution-aware:

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

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

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

The Case For Long-Tail Keywords

The above are just examples. But you can instantly see how clearer both the search and user intent are when the query is either longer or more specific.

Many plastic surgeons would love to rank well for generic “short head” keywords (i.e., words at the top of the bell curve in terms of demand, volume, and traffic). But ranking for those is extremely competitive and difficult, and the resulting traffic, if any, has no clear intent and may contribute to shorter clicks.

“Abdominoplasty” is a very generic term. Are people interested in getting one? Are they researching it and checking out who, where, and how much? Or are they just looking up the definition?

As you can see, it's impossible to tell. Chances are, if you analyze the SERPs, you might see that Google doesn't know, either, and the results may include a mix of informational, transactional, and navigational intent results.

But with a search like “best tummy tucks near me,” you now know for sure what the intent is and what kind of content will best match it.

Nevertheless, the goal is to research your market.

With a SERP analysis, you can do this by identifying the search topics your market is interested in (based on their stage of awareness), their search intent (what Google thinks they want), and the user's intent (what results come up, what do they offer, and how it helps the user).

Or as SEO consultant Brittney Muller said:

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

— Brittney Muller, from Search Engine Journal.

Bingo.

Categories
SEO

Content Creation or Content Expansion? SEO Experts Confirm

Last week I was very busy completing a few 360° SEO Audits for two plastic surgeons, and one of them asked a very good question. After I recommended content creation on a weekly basis (about three times a week), he asked: “That's a lot of content, can I add it all to the same web page?”

In essence, what the client was asking is if it's possible to add to existing content instead of creating three new pieces each week.

Here's what I said.


Creating Doesn't Mean “From Scratch”

To clarify, when I suggested creating three new content assets each week as a best practice, it was a recommendation and not an obligation. Moreover, an asset doesn't always have to be a blog post or textual content. It can be a long-form video, an infographic, a podcast episode, etc.

With every long-form video or audio you produce, including those of which you were a part (such as an interview or a podcast on which you were a guest), you can add it to your blog as an embed.

(If they turned off the ability to embed the recording, or if the recording is hidden or walled in some way, you might want to ask permission first.)

But don’t just add the recordings. Transcribe them, polish up the transcripts, add them to the page, and insert internal links to other content in your blog as you would normally do with other content.

A transcript creates additional content you can use as captions for your videos or for creating additional standalone content pieces. I personally use a tool called Otter (relatively cheap). You can also use Descript or Screechpad.

Secondly, “new” content creation doesn’t have to be new content.

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

Finally, redate the piece to the current date so that it brings it back to the top of your blog index and signals Google that your content is updated.

Add New? Or Expand The Old?

Now, as far as the question about whether it's best to add to existing content or create new ones, the answer is that it depend from an SEO perspective.

If it’s the same topic and it makes sense to the reader and improves the user experience, that’s acceptable and even recommended. You are, to a degree, doing the “refresh” that I indicated earlier.

But if they’re widely diverse subtopics, I don’t recommend it — unless you are creating a pillar page and making it as comprehensive as possible.

If the search intent for a subtopic is different from the intent for the main topic, then you risk cannibalizing your content. (Although, that might change with the upcoming passages ranking algorithm.)

With the hub-and-spoke content model, the spokes are pieces of content that help to support the main pillar content, creating a topical cluster. If subtopics are too different, you’re likely confusing the reader (and Google), and you might be diluting the other subtopics on the same page.

The question to ask is, is the topic for the additional content a subtopic of a main/parent topic? If so, you can add it to the main piece. If it can stand on its own (the subtopic can be its own topic), or if it can have more than one search intent, then it might be better off as a separate piece.

Search Intent is The Key

Remember, there are four types of search intents: 1) informational, 2) investigational, 3) transactional, and 4) navigational.

Navigational intent is when people are looking for you, your business, or your website. For the sake of this example, I'll refer to the first three as your aim is to build content that drives people to the site who may not know you.

For example, take “facelift surgery” as a topic. The search intent is likely informational. (I could have used the term “facelift” by itself, but it's a little misleading. “Facelift” is often used in a non-surgical context, such as “giving your website a facelift.” So let's say “facelift surgery.”)

People who search using this term likely want more information about facelift surgery. Any subtopic that falls under both the same topic and search intent can be added to the same page, like “how long does a facelift take to heal?”

However, if someone searches for “top facelift surgeon near me” or “best facelift surgery [city],” that’s investigational search intent. The person is now past the information stage and they’re thinking about having it done.

Since the intent is different, adding a piece around that subtopic to the main page would be confusing and possibly counterproductive. It may better to write a separate piece, either about an award or survey where you were voted as the best, or about tips on how to find the best surgeon for one's situation.


What Other Expert SEOs Say

I believe this is the best approach. To be sure, I conferred with other SEO experts for their input. I'm a member of an SEO mastermind community called Traffic Think Tank, which is frequented by some of the world's top SEOs, including SEO directors from companies like Shopify, HubSpot, LendingTree, Moz, and others.

Their thinking seems to be in alignment with mine.

Even some SEOs on Twitter responded, and this is what they said:

As they said, cannibalization is less of an issue if the two or more pieces, vying for the same keyword, target different search intents.

And then, Britney Muller, someone I've been following for a long time who is a senior SEO data scientist and worked at Moz, added this:

Finally, one thing to keep in mind.

Is Long Content a Ranking Factor?

There’s a lot of debate about content length with SEO. Some say longer pieces rank better. But Google has expressly stated that word count is not a ranking factor. Any benefits are typically correlational and not causal, because long-form content will likely increase the incidence of keywords, tags, links, etc.

Not only that, but also long-form content tends to offer “more substantial, comprehensive, and complete information on the topic,” which is what Google looks for according to its Quality Raters Guidelines.

So from a user experience perspective, the argument can be made that sticking with existing content can provide more comprehensiveness to the article.

I also surmise that the upcoming passages ranking, where parts of a page (such as subtopics) will rank differently than the page itself, is going to make it easier for a long-form piece of content to serve multiple intents.

We will have to wait and see.

For now, the point remains: when it comes to content creation, it is always better to provide comprehensive information on a topic — whether it's in one long piece or it's in multiple pieces that are properly interlinked to indicate a relationship (i.e., a topical cluster).

Either way, more content, and better content, will always serve you well.

Categories
Audits

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com

Time for another mini SEO audit on a random plastic or cosmetic surgery website. But this time, I want to focus on hair transplants. If you don't know, hair restoration was the very first type of client I worked with back in 1992.

In trying to find a website as randomly as possible, I did the same thing as last time: I turned on my VPN, chose USA as my country of choice, and Googled “hair transplant surgeon.” I then clicked to page four of the SERPs (search engine results), I scrolled down a bit, and I selected a site at random.

Site Selected For This Quick SEO Audit

As strange as this might sound, I literally clicked on a result without paying attention. The URL I clicked on is HairTransplantation.com by Dr. John Kiely. (Talk about a keyword-driven domain name! Let's see if it helps him.)

Remember, this audit will be brief. My 360° SEO Audits go far beyond this. But it might give you some insights you can apply to your own website.

So without further ado, here we go.

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com 1 | quick seo audit
Mini SEO audit on HairTransplantation.com.

SEO Crawl and Overview

A crawl with Screaming Frog's SEO spider, I found 108 pages. However, 16 are redirects and six are 404s (page not found errors). At first glance that might look odd or bad, but a closer look reveals that the redirects are from a few pages that have trailing slashes to versions of the pages that don't.

That's actually a good thing, and here's why.

A trailing slash is the slash at the end of a URL. The jury is still out on whether trailing slashes help rankings. But the important thing is to choose one protocol and to be consistent with the rest of the website.

Consistency is key in SEO. With different versions of the same URLs, if they're not canonicalised (i.e., a canonical tag is piece of code that tells search engines which URL is the definitive address for that page), you risk having Google index multiple versions of the same page and cannibalizing your rankings.

Specifically, the result is that this will either confuse Google or force it to split ranking signals across the various addresses, diluting the ranking power of what really is just one page. For example, look at the 12 URLs below:

http://www.domain.com
http://www.domain.com/
http://domain.com/index.php
http://www.domain.com
http://www.domain.com/
http://www.domain.com/index.php
https://domain.com
https://domain.com/
https://domain.com/index.php
https://www.domain.com
https://www.domain.com/
https://www.domain.com/index.php

All these URLs are pointing to the same page.

That's why adding redirects and canonical tags is crucial. But in a perfect world, there shouldn’t be any redirects at all. Use redirects only for pages that no longer exist — pages you renamed, moved, or deleted. Don’t use redirects internally when a simple search and replace can do the job.

Of course, have redirects if other sites link to the wrong URL (which is one the reasons I recommend setting up a Google Search Console account), so you can find out if any backlinks are leading to 404 errors. But when doing an internal crawl like I just did, there shouldn't be any redirects.

Back to the audit.

Regardless of redirects to pages without trailing slashes, there doesn't seem to be a predominant protocol because I can see that the site has pages with trailing slashes and some without. It's not terrible but it is confusing and may also lead to issues down the road, such as when adding pages or links.

Location, Location, Location

The 404 errors seem a little odd, which prompted me to investigate further. The URLs of the missing pages seem to be similar to pages that already exist on the site. They have the same titles but with different city names appended to the URLs (e.g., “hair-loss-baltimore” and “hair-loss-washington-dc”).

Now, this tells me three things.

First, the site is trying to optimize for multiple locations. There's nothing wrong with that. But I think the clinic may have moved or switched from Washington-Baltimore to Rockville-Townson at some point. So the crawl found lingering links to older locations (or removed pages) that they have not yet updated.

Second, I manually visited pages similar to the 404s (e.g., “hair-loss-rockville-md” and “hair-loss-townson-md”). They seem to be the same page but with two different cities. This means there are duplicate content issues, which are not good for SEO. This may indirectly penalize your rankings.

To confirm my suspicions, I looked up other pages:

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com 2 | quick seo audit
Duplicate content will hurt your rankings.

Every page has keyword-based links that lead to duplicated pages for different service areas around the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area. Duplicate content is the bigger and more important issue, but keyword stuffing and repetitive internal location links are far from good practices.

Let me be clear. Building out multiple pages for each service area is actually a good practice, and I recommend it, too. But each page should be different. They can be similar but they should not be exact verbatim copies.

Think of Your User, Not Google

Also, there's no need to stuff entire site with location links, too. Just have one master location list or page with links to individual locations. If you link to the location list or the master location page on an indexed page (or in your sitemap), Google will find it and crawl all the subsequent location pages.

For example, a website could have a page called “locations” such as:

/locations/ (listing all locations)
/locations/location-one/ (first location)
/locations/location-two/ (second location)
/locations/location-two/sublocation-one/ (e.g., district)

Like the example above, you can create sublocation- or community-specific pages, as long as you serve those areas and put unique content on them.

(Remember, they only allow you one Google My Business listing per physical location, not service area. But you can create landing pages for each area.)

Just optimize each landing page with specific information about that area. If you can, add reviews or testimonials from people in that area. If you can add directions from that area to your clinic, add them, too.

There's no need for duplicate content. To quote Moz.com:

There's a real danger of putting up a bunch of weak, silly content for every city your company serves, and this would downgrade user experience and the overall quality of your website. Rather, come up with a plan for making those landing pages incredibly useful and persuasive, so that they truly do serve users, while also signalling to search engines that you have relevance to this target community.

Moz.com Staff

Don't Overoptimize

Finally, there's the third point. Looking at other pages, I noticed something peculiar. The site has over-optimized pages with location-stuffed content. This reminds me of old-school SEO with keyword-stuffed content that makes the page unreadable and kills the user experience.

Here's an example:

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com 3 | quick seo audit
Over-optimized content is a sign of poor SEO.

Every page seems to have this issue. Every page seems to have an introductory paragraph that's stuffed with keywords, including locations. This type of SEO doesn't work anymore. Or better said, it's no longer necessary. Google is now intelligent enough to understand the context and content of the page.

Of course, it's helpful to include pointers that help Google along, such as schema code, alternative text for images, proper internal linking, appropriate descriptions (without repeated keywords), and so on.

But filling the site content with locations is bad for the user experience — and your rankings. Avoid stuffing your page with too much of the same thing (e.g., the same links, keywords, locations, photos, whatever).

Redundant Pages

In that initial crawl, and based on my discovery above, I wanted to see how similar or dissimilar was the content. I found several redundant pages.

Here's just one example.

There are five topics (e.g., hair loss, hair restoration, hair transplant, hair transplant clinic, and hair transplant surgery), which are obviously used as keywords. But each of the five has nine separate locations. All nine appear to be the same duplicated page with maybe just one distinct paragraph.

Therefore, there are 45 pages in total when five pages covering the five topics, and perhaps nine for each location, would have sufficed. This means there are 30-ish pages that are redundant and useless, diluting ranking signals and likely causing the site as a whole to lose rankings.

After removing all the redundant pages, duplicate pages, 404s errors, and redirects, I'm left with 31 total pages. Some are very thin in terms of content, too. In my experience, this is inadequate. This site needs more content.

In fact, the blog shows only 10 blog posts that are over five years old. Frequency, recency, and consistency are three key SEO signals that help Google to notice, crawl, and hopefully rank your content. Fresh content posted regularly and often (at minimum one new post a week) is a good practice.

SEO Analysis Estimate

I don't have access to this site's Google Search Console to determine if the site is getting poor traction because of the issues I mentioned above — such as duplicate content, stuffed locations, over-optimizations, and so on. But looking at their estimated traffic in Ahrefs.com, I can make some fair assumptions:

Quick SEO Audit of HairTransplantation.com 4 | quick seo audit
HairTransplantion.com gets only 56 visitors monthly.

The site only gets about 50-60 visitors a month on average.

This is relatively low for a plastic surgeon's website (which typically averages around 500-2,000 visitors monthly in my experience). It may be because of content that's over-optimized, duplicated, unusable, inadequate, or something else. However, I'm certain the issues I've discovered are not helping.

One final thought about locations.

Having multiple locations can be a good practice for a service provider having a large enough demand within those areas and offering a repeat service. For example, plumbers, exterminators, restaurants, car dealers, even dentists may benefit from ranking for specific locations.

But it's not so much the case with plastic surgeons, particularly a surgeon who only does hair transplants. It unnecessarily reduces visibility.

In my experience, the best and most renowned surgeons have patients that come from near and wide, even well outside their main geographic areas. Some fly from all over the world to receive treatments from these experts.

When claiming your Google My Business listing, you can only claim your actual, physical location. This will help rank your clinic or practice in the local pack (i.e., the pack of Google Map listings that sometimes appear at the top of on search results). But location-specific pages can rank in the main results.

By focusing all your pages on specific locations, which can be helpful for many service providers, can be limiting and counterproductive (particularly if you want to expand your reach), and may hurt your rankings in other locations.

Conclusion

I'll stop here since I've covered so much already.

In essence, the initial crawl revealed some major issues, and this site needs work. I recommend a complete revamp with a new content architecture to fix all the issues I found, along with properly rewritten content.

Short of redoing the site architecture, I recommend creating a location listings page and area-specific landing pages, and killing off all the redundant ones. I suggest fixing all the redirects, removing the 404s, choosing a single sitewide protocol (i.e., trailing slash), and removing all the repetitious content.

Finally, I recommend adding more quality content — both to the main pages to beef up the thin content and as articles to the blog section.

Again, please remember that I base my recommendations on just an initial crawl. I didn't do a keyword audit, a technical SEO audit, or a competitive audit. There's so much more that I could analyze, which I typically do when I perform a comprehensive 360° SEO Audit service. But hopefully this was helpful.

Categories
SEO

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

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

The result is a significant loss in rankings and traffic.

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

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

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

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

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

Migrate Your Site in Stages

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

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

There are several reasons for this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telling Google You're Moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change-of-Address Benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
SEO

How to Do Site Migrations Without Losing Traffic

I've recently landed a new client. He's a plastic surgeon in Europe who has split his main website into two: one surgical and one non-surgical. His concern was that the new site (which is now several months old) is not capturing anywhere near the same levels of traffic it used to have on the old site.

When I did the quick audit, I realized (and told him) that the site migration may not have been done well.

Migrations are often simple, but they are also the most tricky. They need to be properly planned and carried out. Otherwise, they can cause a lot of damage or losses that are irrecoverable.

Here's how I do site migrations. It may not be the best method, but it is the way I've successfully done them. And I've done quite a few.

Google Search Console

First, claim the site in Google Search Console (GSC). If the secondary domain already exists, claim that, too. If the site is either new or never claimed before, it might take a while for the site to appear in GSC. So the earlier the better.

The reason to claim sites in GSC is critical: you can “move” to a new domain via GSC, which tells Google where the new site is now residing. However, this is only when it's a whole site move. It does not apply to partial site migrations or splits.

However, if the new domain exists and it is a split, claiming the sites in GSC is still important as it places the site on Google's radar and allows you to see any crawl issues from their standpoint. But another benefit is backlinks, as you can export all external backlinks from GSC. (I'll come back to this.)

Create a URL Inventory

Next, do a complete inventory of the site. You can do it in three ways: crawl the site with Screaming Frog. When done, you can export the list of URLs it found. It will export it in a CSV file, which you can open in Excel or upload to Google Sheets. Google Sheets is my preferred spreadsheet software.

The second way is to visit the source site's sitemap.xml file and extract all the URLs. Simply visit the source domain and add “sitemap.xml” at the end, like this:

https://michelfortin.com/sitemap.xml

(Some complex sites may have multiple sitemaps or sectional sitemaps, so be careful when doing this. Make sure to locate all of them.)

Then, copy and paste the sitemap into a URL extractor, which will give you a CSV file. You can add it to Excel or upload it to Google Sheets (or simply copy and paste it into a new tab of the same sheet used previously).

The third method is to visit Google directly and type in “site:michelfortin.com” into the search form. This will give you a list of all the URLs currently indexed in Google. Extract the URLs from the search engine results pages (SERPs) using a plugin or a tool, like Google SERPs Extractor.

Why all three? It's just a safety measure.

You don't need to do it for small sites. Just one is fine. But for larger sites, you want to make sure to capture everything. For instance:

  • Sitemaps will give you a list of all currently visible URLs. This is the easiest way. But it won't show you all the URLs if some are excluded.
  • Screaming Frog will give you a list of all files, including images, as well as a list of all internal and external links. But it will also give you a list of any redirects, which will need to be moved or updated. (I'll return to this.)
  • SERP extractor ensures you get all URLs in Google, which may include recently deleted or moved URLs that Screaming Frog will have missed.

301s and 404s

If the source site has 301 redirects at the server level, even if all the internal links are updated, it will be important to keep a note of these as they will need to be moved, removed, or updated once the site (or a portion of it) has migrated.

For example, say you have a deleted URL “A” that's redirected to URL “B”. But then URL “B” will be part of the move to the new domain. Therefore, once the site has moved, the initial redirect from URL “A” as well as URL “B” will both need to be modified to point to URL “C” on the new domain.

This is the reason why it is important to update any internal links within the site the moment a URL changes. Too many redirect chains (or long ones) not only cause havoc from an SEO standpoint, but they can also become a nightmare when migrating to a new domain.

In fact, this is critical: I would definitely fix all redirects showing up in the Screaming Frog crawl, any broken links, and any 404s (i.e., page not found errors) first before doing any site migration. Because if you migrate a page with errors, you will now compound those errors. And the headaches.

Backlinks Profile

It's the same with backlinks. You want to take an inventory of all the backlinks pointing to your site. If they're old and already redirected at the site level, that's fine. But remember that these redirects will need to be updated once the site has migrated to make sure you don't lose any backlinks.

You can use Google Search Console or any SEO tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs, which will provide you with a list of backlinks. What you want are the URLs to which these backlinks are pointing. Whether they are pages or files (like images), add these URLs into a new tab in the Google Sheet created earlier.

Now, here's something important: what if the URLs are old? Perhaps they're broken, moved, or dead already. This is the perfect time to double-check and see if they're still good before doing the site migration.

Use a bulk URL redirect checker. I use Screaming Frog by uploading a list of URLs to manually check. There are several other tools like HEADMasterSEO. The purpose is to see if any of the URLs that the backlinks are pointing are alive, redirected, or broken/dead.

You will get response codes like 200 (good), 301 (redirected), or 404 (dead). Again, the best-case scenario would be to have the URLs all properly redirected already. But if not, either create the necessary redirects now or add them to your inventory to properly redirect once you migrate.

Map and Migrate

Then, when all the above is done and ready, time to migrate. But first, you need to map your old or soon-to-be-moved URLs from your Google Sheets inventory to the new URLs. Add them in a second column. You will need to redirect them to the new site once migrated.

You want to ensure all pages that have moved are properly redirected to the new ones. If the new site is already developed and live, you can redirect the old URLs from the old site (and update any previous redirects) to point to the new URLs on the new domain.

(If you're doing a domain-to-domain move, typically a redirect at the server level will do. Page A on domain one will go to Page A on domain two.)

Once migrated, make sure all the new URLs are self-canonicalized properly to the new domain. A canonical tag is a piece of HTML code that lets Google know what the real URL is for the page it's visiting, and therefore the one to index and pay attention to. Most SEO plugins will do this for you.

Recrawl and Update

Whether it's a full site migration or a portion, update all internal links on both sites. If you use WordPress, chances are the “permalinks” feature will do this. But if your links are absolute and not relative (i.e., pointing to the full URL path), then they're still pointing to the previous domain.

So you will need to carefully do a search and replace to update all the links. In fact, complete a new crawl of both the old and new sites, and fix anything that's not working. It will also give you the proper canonical URLs.

And finally, you can go back to GSC, submit the new sitemap for the new domain, and submit a change of address for the old (if it's a complete move).

It goes without saying that you also need to update any external assets or tools to point to the new domain, such as links inside PDFs, Google Analytics (always create a new property), social media profiles, etc.

Some Final Notes

You may also want to reach out to your most prominent backlinks, those coming from the most authoritative sites, and ask them to update their links to point to the new URLs. Until then, make sure you have all the redirects in place, even if the URLs or files no longer exist.

Keep your old domain indefinitely to make sure the redirects stay alive. Unless you've sold the old domain, you should keep it. Even if you're sure all URLs have been updated, including any backlinks, you don't want to lose any physical (like in print ads) or non-textual (like on YouTube) mentions of your old domain.

Finally, keep an eye on things. Use a position ranking tracker (many SEO tools like SEMrush offer this) to monitor your target keywords, and monitor traffic to make sure there are no dips or any sudden 404s. For example, some new backlinks may be unaware of the move and point to old URLs down the road.

Finally, remember that moving sites is relatively easy. But if a site migration is not properly planned and done correctly, it can cause a lot of problems — problems from which your site may not recover.

Categories
Audits

Quick SEO Audit of DrThors.com

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

But this time, I picked one at random.

Quick SEO Audit Selection Process

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

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

Quick SEO Audit of DrThors.com 6 | quick seo audit
Mini SEO audit on DrThors.com.

Initial Crawl and Overview

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

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

Very Thin Content

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

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

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

Poor User Experience

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

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

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

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

Search Intent Mismatch

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

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

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

SEO Analysis Tools

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

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

Lack of “Good” Keywords

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

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

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

E-A-T Signals

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

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

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

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

Technical SEO

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

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

Page Experience

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

Local SEO

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

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

Birdseye Competitive Scan

According to Ahrefs, the three biggest competitors are:

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Categories
SEO

5 SEO Principles to Follow in 2021: My Predictions

Predictions are fun. Not because it's an opportunity to flex my prognostication muscles (I certainly don't have any) but because it's an opportunity to share some insights into SEO principles and where we're going, which I think might benefit you.

Now, I'm nowhere near the level of experience of some of the SEO experts I look up to. I dabbled in SEO throughout my 30-year career and became serious about it only in the last five. But I do think I have an eye for trends and where they're heading. I see things that, to me, seem logical.

As 2020, which was for some the worst year ever, comes to a close, here are five of the biggest trends I see increasing in importance — concepts that we as SEOs need to pay greater attention to.

1. Growth of SXO

SXO (search experience optimization) is not a new concept. It's been talked about since 2015. But I believe that, as Google becomes smarter and more focused on providing the best possible relevance and value in search results, we need to align our content better with what users want.

In other words, it's about creating quality content, where “quality” is defined by the degree to which it matches both search intent and user intent (i.e., how users search and why) to deliver a more user-centric, SERP-to-satisfaction experience (a term I borrowed from SEO expert Izzie Smith, which I love).

2. Demand For UXO

Part of SXO is delivering an optimal user experience — from search experience to page experience. As Core Web Vitals and UX take center stage in 2021, there will be an increasing demand for UXO (user experience optimization).

This will give rise to a stronger need for user-centric UI/UX design audits, user journey analyses, and interactive design optimization. SEO and specifically technical SEO will likely involve a lot more UXO, too. It's not just about content but about making the content easier to find, parse, access, consume, and enjoy.

3. Rise of SFO

I've always believed the web is more than just textual content. When I wrote about where I saw copywriting was heading back in 2004, I predicted that the Internet would evolve to become more multisensorial and multifaceted.

SEO is no different. We need to develop what Jon Earnshaw at Pi Datametrics calls “your online ecosystem.” Take this screenshot from his video:

5 SEO Principles to Follow in 2021: My Predictions 12 | seo principles
Source: Pi Datametrics 2021 SEO Predictions video.

It's the difference between Google's search results from just a few years ago to today. SERPs are now vastly more diverse and feature-rich. Therefore, beyond just written content, we need to think about creating and optimizing content assets, like images, video, audio, emails, podcasts, structured data, etc.

I call this SFO (search feature optimization). The goal is to dominate features and not just rankings — e.g., featured snippets, web stories, carousels, site links, video cards, maps, knowledge panels, “People also asked,” Twitter cards, social media profiles, Google My Business, and so much more.

4. Importance of E-A-T

E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) continues to make shockwaves across the web. In December, we have witnessed a major Google core update, where the greatest shakeups were with websites dealing with “your money or your life” content, particularly medical websites.

Therefore, there will be a stronger focus on boosting quality signals, such as fact-checking, adding trust elements, and getting user feedback. I wouldn't be surprised if Google comes out with a verification badge allowing them to certify content providers. We see this already with Google Guaranteed seals.

5. Surge of Semantics

It's no secret that Google is becoming increasingly intelligent. With its various algorithms like Rankbrain, Neural Matching, NLP (natural language processing), and others, it's becoming more and more capable of understanding human behavior, and more adept at knowing what users are looking for.

But to help Google match your content with what users want, the demand will grow for stronger contextual and semantic matching. Therefore, the exigent demand for better content relationships, organization of ideas, and content clarity will be an even greater priority to meet in 2021. Case in point:

5 SEO Principles to Follow in 2021: My Predictions 13 | seo principles
Ruth Burr Reedy on Better Content Through NLP, Whiteboard Friday.

As Ruth Burr Reedy said in her latest video, Google will favor deeper but more direct knowledge. I agree in that I believe we will see a growing demand for deeper expertise, micro-topics, tighter topic clustering, more defined subtopics, better content relationships, and hyper-specific answers to questions.

There you have them 5 SEO Principles to look for in 2021.

To just to recap, my top five SEO predictions in 2021 are about seeing an increase in (or a greater focus on) providing the following:

  1. Higher content relevance and better user intent alignment;
  2. The need for user experience and user journey optimization;
  3. A stronger and more feature-driven content asset ecosystem;
  4. More trust elements, e.g., verifiability and approval signals;
  5. And the need for giving more context, specificity, and clarity.

I may be totally off and I'm sure there are lots of “it depends” (SEO's biggest mantra). But what do you think? Hit me up on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. If you have any predictions of your own, let me know, too.

Categories
SEO

What Does a Plastic Surgery SEO Consultant Do?

Many plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons have asked me, “What does an SEO consultant do, exactly?” I realize that maybe some clarification might be helpful. Plus, if you were considering hiring an SEO consultant to help strengthen your online presence and boost your traffic, this might give you some direction.

First, as I'm sure you're aware, a consultant is someone who consults, an expert on a particular topic who gives advice related to that topic.

An SEO consultant is no different.

A marketing consultant is often regarded as a generalist. They often use the label of full-stack marketer. These types of experts advise on everything related to marketing, from copywriting to coding. There's nothing wrong with that. Earlier in my career, I offered other marketing and digital marketing services.

However, today, I consult only on search engine optimization for plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic practitioners who hire me to get higher rankings, more targeted traffic, and greater revenues. But unlike an agency or typical SEO generalist, the way I approach SEO is a bit different.

As a plastic surgeon, you want a steady flow of leads. Since the plastic and cosmetic surgery are hypercompetitive fields, the demand is certainly there. The issue is who you're competing with for those top spots on Google, and how to outrank them. For that, you need a specialized, well-rounded SEO expert.

The SEO Tripod

If you want to rank, focus on your users. But if you want to rank higher, focus on your competitors. Because the goal is not to beat Google or its algorithms, but to outrank your competitors. The issue is, Google ranks and rewards those top performers based on not one but several rankings factors.

They generally fall into three categories.

I've often said that SEO boils down to two things, i.e., the quality of your content and the quality of the user experience. But I believe there's a third element, which I've talked about before. It's the quality of the signals to both of these. Having great content with great UX won't do you good if no one believes you.

With plastic surgeons and medical aesthetics websites, their content are mostly medical information. Medical falls in a category search engines call “your money or your life” (YMYL). For this reason, they need to factor in and amplify their E-A-T signals (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).

So provide good content and a good experience in consuming that content (i.e., available on a safe, secure, easy-to-use, easy-to-navigate, and fast-loading website), you've got a solid SEO foundation.

Next is to develop, optimize, and improve the signals that show you have quality content and a quality user experience. Like a three-legged stool or tripod, if you will, SEO needs all three. If you miss one of them, the stool will have a hard time standing up on just two legs.

Technical SEO refers to optimizations behind the website (e.g., server, coding, scripts, etc). On-page SEO refers to optimizations on the page (e.g., content, HTML tags, internal links, etc). Off-page SEO is optimizations off the site (e.g., backlinks, brand mentions, external signals, etc).

Leg #1: Technical SEO

Technical stuff affect mostly to the UX. While the goal is to ensure that your site is accessible, crawlable, and indexable by the search engines, it's more than just having good code or a good host. There's also site security, loading times, mobile-friendliness, site architecture, and so much more.

Of course, technical SEO aims to give search engine spiders the best possible “crawl” experience. But if you focus on your users and give users what they want, you will give Google what they want, too. Pretty simple.

Moreover, plastic surgeon and medical aesthetic websites are typically a little more challenging. They focus heavily on visuals, photos, and imagery, and they also focus on good design — after all, a website is often representative of the doctor or the practice behind it.

Remember the “Halo” and the “Horn” effect? Poor website designs often lead to the unconscious assumption there's a parallel. Users will likely tell themselves, “If they can't take care of their websites, how can they take care of me?”

From an SEO perspective, these heavy, visual-rich websites can be tricky in providing a good user experience. So a technical SEO expert will need to very cognizant of how this applies to plastic surgeons specifically when optimizing.

Leg #2: On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the content. And good content means it gives the user the information they want. When they're researching cosmetic procedures, not every piece of information they come across is the same. They want amazing information — information that's both relevant and valuable.

The foundation of SEO is good content. It may not be what gets users to take action (although it certainly could). But good content is definitely what will get users to stick around, consume more, come back, build trust, and eventually book a consultation and buy from you.

For example, users want content that:

  • Describes the procedures specifically;
  • Tells them about the safety of the procedures;
  • Answers any questions or concerns they may have;
  • Explains who is a good candidate for the procedures;
  • And of course, an idea of the investment needed.

Creating good content is relatively simple. If it's fresh, useful, and relevant, chances are it will rank well. To do that, it obviously needs to be what users are searching for. But it's less about matching keywords (and stuffing content with them) and more about topical relevance.

Keyword research is not about finding what search terms they use but about discovering what questions people are asking. Your goal is to answer them. If your content does a good job at doing so and a better one than your competitors, you will rank higher than them.

But if you're not, chances are you're missing the third element.

Leg #3: Off-Page SEO

If you've done a good job at the first two, this is where a lot of the differentiation between you and your competitors can happen.

Off-page SEO refers to those signals that help to amplify the quality of the content and the user experience. I'm referring to E-A-T signals and authority-focused ones specifically. They are external signals that point out the level of authority of the site, the content, and its author (hence, “off page”).

So once you have done everything possible to rank well, such as taking care of technical SEO, having great content, being mobile-friendly, having a secure site, providing helpful information for your users, and so on, the next step is to increase the quality of the signals to the site and its content.

The most effective way is by promoting and sharing the content so that the world knows about it, talks about it, passes it around, and links to it.

Naturally earned and occurring backlinks and brand mentions are the strongest signals. But there's also reputation management (like patient reviews) and local SEO (Google maps and directory listings).

Many doctors find online reviews frustrating because beauty is subjective, so negative reviews are common. They're often hard to manage and remove, too.

But capturing all the citations possible and creating local accounts in key locations (such as RateMDS, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, Facebook Business, Bing Places, and others) provide an opportunity to:

  1. Get verified (possibly earning a trust seal and signal);
  2. Manage and proactively respond to reviews; and,
  3. Flag inappropriate ones more quickly and effectively.

Many of these are all part of something called Local SEO, which includes optimizing maps, listings, reviews, and more. Local SEO is one element of off-page SEO as it helps to boost your visibility and prominence locally.

SEO: A Tiered Approach

Some SEO experts tend to focus on one of these areas. Some are technical SEO experts (like web developers and coders). Others are on-page SEO specialists (many are content strategists). And some are off-page SEO experts (they do link building and content promotion among others).

A well-rounded SEO expert, or as I call them a 360° SEO expert, will focus on all three areas. Not all plastic surgeons need all three. Some already have great content, for example. But that's where an in-depth SEO audit can help. In fact, I offer SEO consulting services using a tiered process based on project phases.

I refer to them as the “Three Ps” of consulting:

  1. Probe
  2. Plan
  3. Pilot

The SEO Analyst

Based on my experience as an SEO manager working with digital marketing agencies, SEO jobs generally fall within three categories: the SEO analyst, the SEO strategist, and the SEO manager. Large or busy agencies will tend to have two or three of these types of professionals working in them.

For the SEO consultant, the job of “SEO analyst” is part of the “probe” phase.

It's the assessment phase, which is often performed as a multifaceted SEO audit, where I do a complete analysis. Just as every doctor, including every plastic surgeon, does, I need to diagnose first before I prescribe. So I must do this first before I make any recommendations.

(If an SEO service provider approaches you trying to sell you SEO tactics before doing any kind of assessment, don't walk… Run. Either they don't know what they're doing or they're spammers who will cause more harm than good.)

During this phase, I scrutinize your website's analytics and all the data available through analytical tools. Then, I draw conclusions, point out any errors or snags, and brainstorm ideas for improvement.

The SEO Strategist

This is the “plan” phase in SEO consulting work.

Consultants often refer to this step as roadmapping. While the probe phase uncovers issues, pain points, and opportunities, the planning phase is where I develop a roadmap to address them.

It's also the phase where I do topical research, analyze the competition, develop a content strategy, and more. I then put together a strategic action plan based on my findings. I call it my 360° SEO Strategy as I offer recommendations and an action plan with checklists that will address all three SEO levels.

Depending on the complexity of the project and the goals you want to achieve, it can be as simple as modifying existing content to a complete site overhaul. Some of my clients had projects that took several weeks. Others had substantial websites (e.g., 80,000 pages) that took several months.

In any case, you can bring this roadmap to your team to implement it in-house or you can outsource it. It doesn't matter either way, and I'll soon explain why.

The SEO Manager

This is the “pilot” phase. It's the phase where the plan gets implemented. I don't execute anything personally but I can steer the project. In other words, once I finish the SEO strategy, you may want some guidance and direction during its implementation — whether you deploy it internally or hire contractors.

Perhaps it's training your team on best practices. Perhaps it's quality assurance (QA) checks on your team's deliverables. Perhaps it's participating in supplier calls and emails. Or perhaps it's regular reporting and analysis to ensure key performance indicators (KPIs) are met.

Either way, my 360° SEO Advisory is a program where I pilot the project and provide ongoing guidance during its execution.

SEO Advisory vs Execution

Why don't I do any implementation work?

As a consultant who works in the best interest of his clients, I prefer to avoid any perceived conflict of interest as much as I can. And I do so by not having any financial incentives tied to the execution of my plan.

My goal is to help my clients objectively, regardless of who they choose to execute my plan with. It's the same fiduciary standard that licensed advisors must comply with. I see it no different in the SEO consulting space.

The role of the SEO consultant is that of a conductor — to direct SEO efforts from start to finish, from analysis to management. Some clients choose audits only. Other clients hire me as their SEO expert for months or even years.

Once the plan is deployed and fully delivered, you may choose to keep an SEO consultant on as an ongoing advisor to make sure all the buttons are pushed and knobs are adjusted moving forward.

Sometimes, SEO consulting services can be a bit cyclical, too — from analysis, planning, and execution, to rebuilding the plan again.

One client hires me to do an audit and strategy, and implements the suggestions internally. But either six months or a year later, they will rehire to do a new audit or simply to revise the work they've done.

Ultimately, any SEO consultant worth their salt is a true expert who understands and keeps up with the tools, technologies, and trends in the world of search marketing, including having an ear-to-the-ground awareness of algorithm changes, so that their clients can always be prepared.

I often say this to my clients: algorithms can change. Overnight. Search rankings are as volatile as stock prices. They can go up and down, and they can shoot up or crash down in a blink of an eye.

Sure, clients can lose rankings. There's no guarantee in SEO just as there are no guarantees in aesthetic medicine. But if you're in good hands, the losses will likely be minimized or mitigated by an expert SEO consultant.

Stated differently, the clients of an SEO consultant — someone who understands what users want, abides by Google's quality guidelines, and stays on top of changes — will always be better off than going at it blindly.

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 16 | 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 17 | 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 18 | 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 19 | 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 20 | 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 21 | 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 22 | 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.