Categories
SEO

What SEO Tools Do I Use With Plastic Surgery?

When it comes to plastic surgery SEO tools, I use tools that help improve E-A-T signals (i.e., expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) from Google's Quality Raters Guidelines. These SEO signals are vital when it comes to the content offering expert advice from a professional.

My industry is definitely targeted. As a medical SEO consultant specializing in plastic surgery, search engines highly scrutinize my clients' websites because many of them contain medical information.

A good example of this is May 2020's algorithm update, where Google's attempt to fight disinformation after COVID started had created some havoc with some medical information websites that lacked E-A-T.

Many cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons were affected. In fact, I'm currently working with a new client who saw a drop in traffic after that update.

What I Do to Help E-A-T Signals

There are many ways to improve EAT signals.

For one, I add structured data to my clients' websites. Structured data, supplied by code called “schema markup,” is data that only Google (and Bing) can read. It offers additional information about the page beyond the content users see.

Google wants to make sure medical content is written or reviewed by someone with authority and expertise — not some tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy blogger dispensing home remedies to fight life-threatening diseases transmitted by alien lizard people bent on population control. 😉

I use TechnicalSEO.com’s schema generator to create custom structured data — data that helps identify the site owner, content author, and/or medical information reviewer (using the “reviewed by” schema, for example).

I also use schema code to highlight:

Moreover, structured data is more than just adding “local business” schema. I use advanced and custom structured data to include review schema, how-to schema, and local citations, such as BrightLocal.com, as there are many.

All of these help create and amplify E-A-T signals.

Content and Intent Alignment

Above all, the key to SEO is to align content with search intent and user intent (i.e., how people search and why they need the information they're searching for). So I focus on creating and marketing higher quality content that more closely matches the user’s wants and needs.

Search intent is about what the searcher wants. They either want “to know” (informational), “to go” (navigational), or “to do” (transactional). Some SEOs consider another one, “to buy” (commercial), but that's another type of transactional intent and more applicable to ecommerce SEO situations.

Search intent is less about the user and more about what Google thinks the user is searching for. Why is this important? Because Google may think a user's query has informational intent. But if you're optimizing for transactional intent, it's like trying to swim against a raging current. You'll never get any traction.

The way to align your content is by doing two things:

  1. Create content that solves your audience's pain points.
  2. Or create content that answers your audience's questions.

To find ideas for these, I start by learning what kinds of questions people ask. I often refer back to my friend and copywriting coach David Garfinkel, who said that the key to success in copywriting is to ask:

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

These three questions apply to SEO (or, more specifically, content writing) as they do to copywriting. As a plastic surgeon, you certainly know who your market is and what their problems are. But you want to know why they want to solve it. To do that, the key is to learn how they talk about it.

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

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

  1. Education (“To Know”)
    • “Who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “which,” “how to,” or “how much.”
    • “For,” “by, “to,” “from,” “at,” or “in” (followed by an adverb above).
    • (Contains) “near me,” “nearby,” “here/there,” or “close to/by.”
    • “In,” “on,” “at,” “around,” “through,” or “under/over” (location).
  2. Comprehension (“To Understand”)
    • “How is,” “how will,” “how are,” “how can,” or “how do/does.”
    • “Why is,” “why will,” “why are,” “why can,” or “why do/does.”
    • (Contains) “for example,” “so that,” “perhaps,” or “maybe.”
  3. Confirmation (“To Verify/Validate”)
    • “Were,” “will,” “might,” “may,” “is,” “did,” “am,” or “can.”
    • (Verb followed by) “with,” “without,” “for,” “not,” or “since.”
    • (Contains) “about,” “regarding,” “quite,” “just,” or “indeed.”
    • (Adverbs like) “really,” “exactly,” “precisely,” or “absolutely.”
  4. Evaluation (“To Assess/Consider”)
    • “Describe,” “show,” “list,” “explain,” “compare,” or “tell me about.”
    • (Contains) “like/or,” “between/and,” “versus,” or “as opposed to.”
    • (Contains) “best,” “top,” “rated,” “review,” “most,” or “proven.”

Remember, “search” intent is based on what they're searching for (or, better said, what Google thinks they're searching for). But “user” intent is based on understanding why users want what they're looking for.

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

Look Beyond The SERPs to Dig Deeper

Finding questions is only a starting point. They give me ideas about content the audience is interested in. But now I need to know how Google interprets the query, which will help me choose specific topics (and not keywords).

This is a bit of a backward way of doing keyword research. Rather than looking for keywords to write content around, I find out their pain points or questions first. Next, I create a content plan that meets those needs. And then, I match the content with specific queries. Let's call it user-focused SEO.

So before I create the content, I type those questions directly into Google or use search engine results (SERP) analysis tools like Ahrefs.com. I want to see what top results come up. Those are my competitors — they may or may not be direct competitors, but they occupy positions I'm aiming for.

It also shows search intent. This is critical because you don't want to swim against the current. Google's results may be for a different query, aimed at a different awareness stage, or filled with fierce competition.

For example, the term “facelift” is also used in home renovations and car engineering. It would be utterly useless trying to optimize for such a broad term.

Another example: larger educational sites (like WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and Wikipedia) may dominate the top results. If so, the competition will be tough to outrank. Granted, it may be a viable query to optimize for, but it will also be extremely challenging to outrank these highly authoritative competitors.

Instead, I look for variations of the same question (or a longer-tail question) and repeat the process until I find a question that has potential. Often, the SERPs provide a ton of clues that go beyond the traditional blue links.

Using Google I can see, at a glance:

  • Search suggestions (e.g., autocomplete suggestions in the search form, “related searches” at the bottom, “people also asked” near the top, and “people also searched for” below the right knowledge panel); and,
  • Search features (e.g., ads, featured snippets, image carousels, videos, maps, knowledge panels, podcast episodes, news stories, product showcases, business listings, reviews, and so on).

Reverse-Engineering and Skyscraping

Google offers a good indication of what they think the search intent is. If the query is viable, the competition is easy, and the intent is right, Google will guide you in what type of content to create and the format to create it in.

By looking at the top results, I review their content length, style, and format, which can be a number of things (e.g., videos, visuals, documents, listicles, checklists, Q&As, tutorials, guides, roundups, and so on).

I also want to see what makes my competitors rank and try to outrank them. It's called the “skyscraper technique,” as if you're adding on to a skyscraper or building a new one that's taller than your competitors.

But I also use the term “skyscraping” to mean building better content or user experiences (UX). It makes sense: what if the competitor's content is quite long already? Studies show that length is not as important as you think.

I also want to see why a certain competitor is getting a lot of traffic. By using SEO tools, I can see all the keywords for which a competitor's site is ranking and all the other pages that are performing well.

This is where I do a gap analysis. I want to see if there are any content gaps in my client's site or gaps in the competitor's site my client can exploit and build content with. Are they ranking for any keywords that my client is not?

Don't Forget Your Own Backyard

Finally, one of the most important steps in SEO is to look at what you already have. Outranking competitors is the goal, but you don't necessarily need to create new content. You can see if your existing content is good enough or underperforming by conducting a content audit.

I use Ahref's plugin to determine what I need to refresh, consolidate, or prune. For example, with each piece of existing content, it tells me if I need to update it, merge it with another (to reduce keyword cannibalization, among others), or outright delete it (i.e., it's deadweight and diluting SEO signals).

Finally, I use my favorite WordPress plugin, RankMath.com. It helps me to add schema code to each page I create (both automatically and custom), suggests internal linking opportunities to build content relationships, creates sitemaps (including video and location sitemaps), and so much more.

But the driving feature of this plugin is its content SEO scoring system. It guides me in optimizing content by offering a checklist of items to optimize for.

I don't follow the score too strictly. It's only arbitrary, and doing so can make your content feel robotic or unusable. I'd rather focus on my audience and on delivering good content.

But it's a great reminder of on-page SEO elements I can optimize beyond the content itself. For example, it reminds me to add alt-text in images, insert internal links, write better meta-descriptions, add a table of contents for longer posts, use short paragraphs to help readability, and so on.

Bottom line, I use many tools to help me, but they are only tools and not meant to be exact processes to follow. In fact, some of the best SEOs out there who have a history of producing astonishing results tend to have their own set of practices and processes using a combination of SEO tools.

In the end, this Tweet from Dave Gerhart sums it up pretty nicely:

Categories
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.