Categories
SEO

Fresh Content Helps Your SEO, But Stale Content Can Hurt It

A client of mine had five different websites, all of which had separate blogs with articles. Their websites were closely related with many commonalities and overlapping topics. They wanted to improve their SEO, so my advice was to merge everything and bring all the content under one virtual roof.

Consolidating websites is often considered a best practice among SEOs, and the only time it doesn't make sense is when each site's intended audience and subject matter are completely distinct.

After the consolidation, it created an exponential effect when combined with fresh content. The increase in traffic from consolidating everything not only equaled the total traffic previously going to all websites but also doubled it.

There are several reasons for this.

Improve SEO By Updating Old Content

First, the main website had more domain authority. It was their first, which had the most indexed pages and keywords. Second, the main website had more content authority. It offered products and services but also had a substantial following and the most backlinks.

My client asked if it is a good strategy to review and fix the hundreds of posts on the newly consolidated website, and delete a bunch of redundant ones. That's when I recommended doing a content audit on the newly consolidated website.

This is a practice all SEO consultants and specialists should do from time to time. Performing a content audit is the first and most important step in creating a content marketing strategy. It will allow you to know which pages are truly unproductive, and then whether to delete, merge, redirect, or refresh them.

Of course, if you have a page that's doing well, you don't have to refresh it by rewriting it completely. All pages should be refreshed at some point as content does get stale after a while. At least from an SEO perspective.

To start, it's better to focus on the weakest links first.

Weak content can sometimes be seen as being the oldest ones. But some older content may still be quite productive. The weaker ones are those with the least traffic, the least search impressions, or the least number of backlinks. I’ll go over how to do this later. For now, the question I want to answer is, why.

There are plenty of reasons for updating old content. Non-SEO benefits, too. If you're a busy professional, you have a blog already or existing content, and you don't have a lot of time writing new stuff. So this might be useful.

Even if you choose to outsource your content writing, getting your writers or staff to refresh old content is an equally wise move.

Updated content provides your audience with fresh, updated information, which may be more useful and relevant to them. Or to borrow a term coined by my friend, the late Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing, it's providing users with “state-of-the-moment” content.

Benefits of Refreshing Old Content

Refreshing old content has five major benefits:

  1. You increase the content's quality and length;
  2. You boost the content's stickiness (i.e., dwell time);
  3. You give users reasons to revisit your content;
  4. You invite newer backlinks and brand mentions; and,
  5. You add or widen what's called a content “moat.”

Obviously, the main benefit of refreshing old content is that it can improve SEO. It makes the content not only more timely and relevant for users, but also adds to its length, which offers additional signals.

Remember, word count is not a ranking factor. But longer articles do tend to improve SEO ranking because they help other areas, such as making the content more informative, increasing dwell times, lowering bounces, adding keyword variations, increasing keyword density, and so on.

In short, if you were looking at creating long-form content but don't have the time, expanding on an older piece of content is a viable option.

While content length is not a ranking factor, freshness certainly is.

Google uses different criteria to determine the quality of your content, and recency is one of them. Their QDF algorithm (i.e., “Query Deserves Freshness“) that looks at content freshness is one of their oldest, launched back in 2007, which hasn't been updated much since. (Oh, the irony.)

With all things being equal between two pieces of similar content, the one that will rank highest will typically be the most recent one.

True Evergreen Content is Impossible

Evergreen content is content that can be useful at any time, usable in many instances, or applicable by your audience at any stage. So to use language that's appealing to beginners and with less technical jargon that only seasoned audience members would know.

Content becomes stale over time, even when it's evergreen. No piece of content is truly 100% evergreen. Evergreen content may not need updating often, but they do deserve to be updated and probably more so than regular content.

Furthermore, the date on older content might reduce its stickiness, authority, and what's often referred to as “engagement velocity” (such as how often it's shared, talked about, commented on, etc).

Content is almost always outdated after a certain period of time. Situations change — like a worldwide pandemic, for example — that can make evergreen content a little less relevant. Plus, you may still need to update any of the links, anchors, images, case studies, statistics, findings, etc.

More importantly, updated content is also stickier.

Stickiness is helpful, not just for engaging users but also for SEO as it improves dwell time. When a searcher lands on a page that is obviously outdated (or one they've seen before), they will pogostick back to the SERPs, which tells Google your content is not what they are looking for.

Refreshed content gives users something that may be more relevant to their search. It also gives existing users a new reason to visit. It's a lot like wanting to buy a book that's updated or expanded, even though you have already read it.

Freshness is a Ranking Factor

When it comes to performance, updated content is also proven to be more productive. When a refreshed page appears in Google's search results, or when it's shared on social media, they invite higher clickthroughs. Some do this by appending a date to the headlines, such as:

“Top 10 Project Management Software For SMBs (2021)”

The new headline and content that appear in search results will be more inviting and relevant. But also, the updated timestamp communicates to searchers that your content has been updated.

Content that's more recent tends to be ranked higher. But that's with all things being equal, and you and I know that nothing is ever equal. Some older pages may rank higher if it's more relevant to the search. But other pages that are newer may attract more clicks.

People looking for the most recent results on a certain topic will scan the dates in the SERPs. Take Google's QDF I mentioned earlier. The top results were 2018 and 2019. But I chose one in 2020. How did I find it? I Googled “Query Deserves Freshness” and I clicked on the third result:

Fresh Content Helps Your SEO, But Stale Content Can Hurt It 1 | fresh content
Google results for Query Deserves Freshness, November, 2020.

The last but not the least of all the benefits of refreshing content is that it creates something called a content “moat.”

Freshness Also Creates a “Content Moat”

Just like a defensive moat around a castle that's supposed to dissuade attackers who are looking to infiltrate it, refreshing your old content and particularly regularly updating it makes it hard for others to copy you.

Of course, you should focus on providing unique, difficult-to-replicate content — content that's new, different, and offers unique insights (for example, it contains original research, case studies, success stories, specialized expertise, etc). This makes it hard for others to steal your original stuff.

But if they do, they'll only remind others of you.

Moreover, if your content is original, any duplicate content penalties will be given to the culprit. There are no “penalties” per se, but Google will attribute the highest authority to the original author or creator. Google's software is sophisticated enough to determine who's the original author of a work.

Now, let's say a competitor takes bits and pieces of your content, and perhaps rewords them enough to make them appear unique. Even though it's still similar to yours, regularly refreshing old content keeps you a step ahead of them.

Content, in itself, is easy to imitate. From copying and pasting text to stealing ideas. But content is always unique makes it harder to imitate.

So build a moat around your content by updating it.

Ultimately, by refreshing old content you will not only improve SEO but also stay a step ahead of the competition. The question is, how do you know which content to refresh? If you have hundreds or thousands of pieces, which ones deserve your “freshness” attention?

How to Conduct an SEO Content Audit

Refreshing content is key, but doing so within a defined content strategy will give you the proper action plan on what to update, how to update, and why.

Updating means adding, consolidating, even deleting unproductive pages. It can result in a massive improvement. If you've been posting content for a while, chances are many pages are outdated and diluting SEO signals, and some may create more of a distraction than a positive user experience.

But you need to be strategic and plan this carefully as to not lose the momentum you've gained from consolidating your websites. For example, you don't want to accidentally delete a high-ranking page or one that may seem to rank low only because it’s competing with other blog posts.

So before you begin, I recommend following these four key steps.

1. Create an Inventory of All Your Pages

Take an inventory of all your posts and place them in a spreadsheet. This is so you can properly track things and create a plan for them when combining posts, deleting some, and redirecting them.

You can do this by crawling your site with tools like Screaming Frog. I typically copy and paste from the post-sitemap file. This will be the basis for your content audit and the master document you will refer back to.

Next, cross-compare this inventory with pages found on Google and the level of visibility each one possesses. Visit Google Search Console for your website where you will be able to verify the performance of those pages in Google.

(If you haven't claimed your website on GSC yet, do so. In the case of my client, we did a site migration of multiple websites into one. So it might take some time before Google processes the “change of address” and consolidates all the pages. That's why it would have been wiser to do the audit before the move.)

In GSC, go to “Performance” or “Search Results” in the sidebar, filter based on the last 12 months, and export using the “export” button in the top-right corner.

Your spreadsheet will contain several sheets or tabs. Choose the “Pages” tab where you will be able to see the list of pages from your website with the number of impressions and clicks they received.

Note that some pages that are recently deleted and redirected might still show up. You might want to merge these numbers together with the current page. Also note that you should exclude posts younger than six months to a year as they may not have gained enough traction.

2. Determine Your Least Productive Pages

In this next step, you want to determine your least productive content — you might want to ignore key pages like contact or legal pages. By using the GSC performance report, you will be able to filter your posts based on impressions (i.e., visibility), and then sort the list from the least visible pages to the most.

Next, you will need to know the total traffic each page received as well as any backlinks it has. The reason is to determine how productive your pages are. Productive pages or posts are those with:

  1. Traffic (pageviews)
  2. Visibility (impressions)
  3. Authority (backlinks)

Or any combination of the above.

Some posts may not have any rankings, but they may get a lot of internal traffic, traffic from other websites, or direct traffic. Some may have no traffic at all but a lot of backlinks. If they're high-quality links, you don't want to lose those.

Speaking of which, while you're in GSC, scroll down and click on “links” in the left sidebar. These are links from and to your website. Then visit the “external” links page, where you will be able to export once again.

Next, you need to export your pageviews from your analytics (if you use Google Analytics, simply go to “Behavior” in the sidebar, “Site Content,” and then “All Pages”). You can export it to a spreadsheet and cross-compare the results to your early search performance spreadsheet.

Be aware that if you have a lot of content, so you may want to limit to the last 12 months and 5,000 pages at most.

The final step is to bring it all together. Unless you know how to do VLOOKUPs, create a separate spreadsheet where you will list all your pages, a column for total impressions, another for total pageviews, and another for total backlinks.

3. Score The Productivity Level of Each Page

Add another column, which will be your score. Your score will be the recommended action for this page. I simply score each of the three KPIs (i.e., pageviews, impressions, and backlinks) on a scale of low to high. Use the the pages with the highest and lowest numbers for each to guide you.

Each page will have a combination of scores that will determine the course of action. Your spreadsheet will look something like this:

Page (URL)ImpressionsPageviewsBacklinksAction
/blog/url-1/HighHighHighRemain
/blog/url-2/HighHighLowRemain
/blog/url-3/HighLowLowRefresh
/blog/url-4/LowLowLowRemove
/blog/url-5/LowLowHighRedirect
/blog/url-6/LowHighHighReview
/blog/url-7/LowHighLowReview
/blog/url-8/HighLowHighRefresh

Looking at all three scores will tell you to do one of five things:

  1. Keep the page as is (let the content remain);
  2. Delete it completely (remove it, it's deadweight);
  3. Delete it but redirect it to another page;
  4. Refresh it (update or consolidate it with another);
  5. Or review it to see if the content offers value to users:
    • If the content doesn't provide value, delete and redirect.
    • If the content offers value, refresh, merge, or redirect.

If the content gets a lot of traffic but doesn't rank well, see if it's a case of two or more pages competing with each other. Pages ranking for the same search terms may split the SEO signals between them. This is keyword cannibalization, which devalues the authority of your most relevant page.

It's perfectly fine to have multiple pages ranking for the same keywords, as long as a primary page (i.e., pillar page or parent topic page) has all the authority and relevance, and other pages are generating more traffic with other keywords for which they are more relevant.

But if two or more pages are ranking for the same keywords and focus on the same topic, then you may be competing with yourself. One is stealing half the visibility from another. So, you have one of three choices:

  • If the other pages are very similar and cover the same topic, delete and redirect them to the one you're keeping using 301 redirects.
  • If they're different but closely related (such as related topics or subtopics), merge them into a longer page, preferably into the main page you decided to keep. Then delete and redirect the old one to the newly consolidated page. You might need to edit them to make them fit.
  • If they're different and completely unrelated, refresh them with the goal of switching the competing keyword or topic to a different one.

4. Update Underperforming Pages Accordingly

Once you're done with the above, you can start updating your old content. Delete the those slated for deletion, redirect those deleted ones whose backlinks you want to preserve, and update the content where indicated.

You refresh your content by editing it or adding to it. You can make it more timely with updated data, new sources, and relevant information. Add new images and supporting visuals. Above all, pay attention to the structure and update the headings, particularly the main headline (H1).

If your blog shows publication dates and a post is slightly modified, it's good practice to show the last-modified date on the front-end instead of the date it was first published. But if the post has been significantly altered, update the publication date to when you made the change (like today, for example).

This will put the post back at the top of your blog as if it was newly published. Not only does it drive more attention, but it also signals to search engines that the post was updated, forces a recrawl, and above all, updates the date that appears in search results, which boosts clickthroughs.

Now, how you update the content is a little subjective.

You can expand, edit, remove, and/or rewrite where it makes sense. You can either make the content more evergreen and relevant, or modernize the messaging to fit today's trends, context, or your audience's needs.

But if you need ideas, here are some suggestions and best practices.

Apply On-Page (HTML) Updates

If you need to focus on a new topic or keyword, then you need to update the meta-data, schema, on-page assistance tools (like an SEO plugin such as Rank Math or Yoast), and possibly the post's URL to include the new keyword.

(This is assuming you have already optimized these already for a previous keyword. If you haven't, then this is your chance to apply some technical SEO.)

Let's cover these in more detail.

Metadata (Titles and Descriptions)

Typically, this is your title tag and your description tag (often called “meta tags”). Your SEO plugin will be helpful. Metadata is not a ranking factor, but a refreshed title and description often appear in search engine results and can invite better clickthroughs.

Open Graph (OG) Data

Open graph protocol data (or “OG meta tags“) is the content that appears when sharing your article on third-party platforms, such as social media. If you don't have written OG tags, then the platform may arbitrarily pull excerpts and images from your content that may be wrong or inappropriate.

Better not leave it to chance. SEO plugins can help here, too. As with other metadata, OG data won't directly affect your rankings, but it may help increase your clickthrough rates (or CTRs). And higher CTRs have been long speculated to contribute positively to higher rankings.

Structured Data (Schema Markup)

Often called “schema markup,” structured data tells search engines about the type of content (such as an article, a product, an event, a place, a recipe, and so forth). Again, most SEO plugins do this for you. But there are other schema-only plugins and tools to help you create and add code.

Page URL (or “Permalink”)

Rewriting your post URL or “permalink slug” isn't always necessary. There's also a lot of debate among blog SEO experts regarding how much weight URLs provide if any. But including your main keyword in the URL can let Google know what your content is about and also provide eye gravity in search results.

If you have updated the slug, don't forget to 301-redirect the old URL to let Google know of the post's new location so it won't lose any rankings. I use my SEO plugin's redirection feature, but there are several others, too.

One common SEO tip is to use shorter URLs and removing stop words (e.g., articles, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, etc). While shorter URLs are still important, stop words can help. Reason is, the natural language processing software that determines intent relies on some stop words for context.

Update and Refresh The Content Itself

Obviously, you can add more up-to-date information, rewrite it to fit a more modern context, and choose to make it more timely or evergreen. For example, some of my decade-old posts discuss websites that are now defunct or have moved, or practices that have fallen out of common use. (Google+ anyone?)

But if you need some ideas or inspiration, here are a few.

Rewrite Headline (H1)

I typically do this only after I updated my content. I may have a better headline in mind, or I may have slightly changed the content's angle. This is true if I have a new keyword, too, which I want to include in the headline. If the content is timely, I may want to add the date or the word “updated” in the headline.

Update or Add Headings

Breaking your content up and adding headings throughout provides three significant benefits: 1) it makes the content more readable and easier to pull in scanners; 2) it adds blog SEO potential by including keywords; 3) and it gives both search engines and users an idea of the content that follows.

Keywords and Topics

Optimize your content around the keyword or topic, particularly if you have chosen a new one. The goal is not to stuff your content with keywords but to focus on the topic, the relevance, and above all, the user. Add content around subtopics, related topics, or semantically related keywords where appropriate.

Statistics and Data

Statistics change regularly. There are always new regulations, studies, research findings, etc. So if you have statistics or research data in your content, is it still relevant? Are there newer, fresher, better ones? If you don't have any, consider adding supporting data, research, or statistics to your content.

Sources and References

Add any helpful references to support your content. Always cite your sources, obviously. If you used references previously, it might be wise to update your references and sources, too. They may have moved or changed, or the links might be broken or redirecting to a newer version.

New Research Findings

Adding your own research is just as important as adding external references, if not more so. Google looks for original research in content with their quality guidelines. So if you've done previous research but have new findings or need to update your conclusions, now's the opportunity to refresh them.

Quotes From Other Sources

Add quotes that support your content or argument. Quotes give your content 1) confirmation, 2) credibility, and 3) commentary. They support your arguments while adding additional content. If another expert supports you, quote them. It adds recognition and emphasizes your authority.

Use Cases and Case Studies

Social proof is the most impactful form of substantiation. Don't be afraid to add them. Testimonials and results are great, but case studies are the most believable, even when they're anonymous. The reason is, they provide context and are more measurable, quantifiable, realistic, and time-bound.

Supporting Visuals

Adding visuals help SEO, whether they're graphics, images, screenshots, portable media, or multimedia. They create anchors that stop scanners. They improve dwell times and CTRs. Above all, they require readable data (called “alternate” or “alt” text), which can include relevant content and keywords.

Calls-to-Action (CTAs)

Of course, keeping your readers means you also need to be engaging them — and not just educating them. If your content alludes to products, services, or subscriptions you offer, or suggests other content on your website, then directly or indirectly ask your audience to take action

Internal and External Links

Internal links are critical for your SEO. Since the time you've originally published the older content, you may have posted new topically related content that may make sense to link to. For link suggestions, some plugins and SEO research tools can show you linking opportunities.

Or you may have external links that are outdated, broken, or redirected on the other end that you might need to update. I use a broken link checker to identify broken links. There are WordPress plugins and a few free tools online.

Ultimately, refreshing old content may not only breathe new life into them but also have a few major side benefits, such as increasing the content's SEO that may even end up surpassing its previous performance. But it raises your authority, keeps you relevant, and strengthens your content “moat.”

Categories
Copywriting

Why I Switched From Copywriting to SEO Consulting?

Ever since I stopped accepting copywriting clients over a decade ago, it’s a question that seems to come up again and again. It's understandable as I was quite prominent in that world throughout the 90s and in the early 2000s.

I really didn’t stop writing copy, but I left the business of copywriting and now focus on SEO, particularly after years of being a “top copywriter” — a label my peers often give me, although I never really considered myself to be one.

But the question about my departure has once again resurfaced, particularly after I appeared on a YouTube show talking about the shady side of the world of copywriting. I realize I should probably write something to explain it. So I'm going to answer that question once and for all in here.

To do this, I need to give you some background to put things in context.

If you don’t know my story, here’s a quick summary.

My Copywriting Life in a Nutshell

I got married at 19. My wife had a two-year-old daughter whom I’ve virtually adopted. (She's now in her late thirties and still calls me Dad.)

Being a father was redemptive somewhat, as my alcoholic father abused me when I was young. After my mother left, the state institutionalized him; he had Korsakov’s Syndrome (also known as Korsakoff’s Psychosis), a mentally degenerative disease caused by years of alcohol abuse.

But because of my childhood (or so I thought), I had a tremendous fear of rejection. When I learned that I have ADHD at 52, I discovered that a common symptom among people with ADHD is “rejection sensitive dysphoria” (RSD).

It explains the tremendous fear of rejection and my many childhood struggles. So my father wasn’t to blame. Not entirely, anyway. In fact, ADHD is genetic. My father likely had it, and he turned to alcohol to deal with it.

(People with ADHD are highly susceptible to addiction. Luckily, mine is coffee.)

Around the time I got married, I wanted to fight my fears of rejection and dove into sales to fight them. After all, as Emerson said, “Do what you fear and the death of that fear is certain,” right? You get rejected a ton in sales!

But of course, I failed. And failed miserably.

Working on straight commission, I accumulated a mountain of debt, bought groceries on eight different credit cards to survive, and declared bankruptcy at the tender age of 21. It was a big mistake; I know. But I was young, foolish, trying to be a good father (unlike mine), and desperate to “succeed.”

Back in the 80s, the common practice in the insurance business was selling door to door. I moved to the countryside in a tiny little town where my wife grew up in. So I inherited a sales territory in which I knew absolutely no one.

Naturally, referrals were non-existent. I had to find a better way to get leads.

How I Discovered Copywriting

I tried something different. Fueled by anxiety, desperation, or both, I wrote and mailed salesletters offering a free policy audit. Only a few people called to book an appointment with me. But I was ecstatic. I also had an open door to follow-up to see if they received my letter. So no more cold-calling!

The best part was, I also no longer had to face rejection.

That year, I became the top salesperson in my district and then in all of Canada. It was short-lived as many salespeople in my company crushed my results later on. But for a fleeting moment in my life, it felt as if a door opened up and success was possible. Plus, copywriting piqued my interest.

But insurance was tough. In the late 80s, there was an increasing outcry against whole life insurance policies as more people switched to term insurance.

So a year later, I took a job as a consultant for a hair replacement company that also offered surgeries through a partnership with a hair transplant surgeon. I also worked on commission there, too. But it was a growing industry, and I knew about it as my first wife was a hairdresser.

By applying the same tactics from my insurance job, I wrote direct mail letters, created full-page display ads in newspapers, and even produced 30-minute late-night infomercials on TV. Bookings and sales were skyrocketing. My employer was a happy camper, as was I.

At 22, I made more money than I ever made in my life!

How I Became a Copywriter

I eventually became a “marketing consultant” for other cosmetic surgeons, which became my preferred niche. (The reason I say “marketing consultant” is that copywriting wasn’t the only thing I did, and medical doctors would never hire a “copywriter” much less a “sales consultant” back then.)

In the early 90s, I convinced clients to create a “web page” on this newfangled thing called the “world wide web.” I told them it was like an electronic version of the yellow pages, and it was becoming increasingly popular. Since most of them had invested in yellow pages before, this was an easy sell.

So I wrote copy for the web. This was circa ‘92 to ’94.

A few years later, I designed my first website in ‘95 and incorporated myself as “The Success Doctor” in ‘97. The name came about because I helped doctors become successful. (I also had aspirations of becoming a motivational speaker. But marketing and copywriting was more fun, I later found.)

I eventually became quite busy as word got around. Other doctors hired me, too, including chiropractors, weightloss doctors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, etc. I expanded to include lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, and other service providers. But cosmetic surgeons remained my largest clientele.

Over time, more and more clients hired me to write copy for the web, including landing pages, websites, and email marketing campaigns. I guess you can say that this was when I was becoming more well-known as an online copywriter and Internet marketer than a mere copywriter.

But there was a problem.

Clients Would Screw Up My Copy

I love copywriting. But I remember clients messing things up.

Once I gave them my copy, they would put it up on their websites. And it would look awful! The formatting was completely wrong, the layout was atrocious, and the selection of graphics and images didn't fit what I had in mind.

So naturally, conversions sucked. Particularly with projects that paid me with royalties. I was usually the one to blame, even though I believed my copy was good. But my ADHD and fear of failure compelled me to do something.

That's when I included formatting, web design, even landing page development along with copywriting so that my salesletters would look the way I wanted.

So I repositioned myself as a copy “designer.”

I always hated the word “writing,” anyway, because most people think of writing as putting words down on paper. But they have a tendency to neglect the sales and creative aspects of writing. They ignore that it’s about strategy. I spent just as much time on the look-and-feel of the copy as I did on writing it.

I became obsessed with the copy’s performance. For me, getting the right audience to read the copy — one with the right level of awareness and intent — was important. Also, the cosmetics that drive the eyes into the copy, or the copy cosmetics, were just as important as the words themselves.

That's where my work evolved to include other aspects of online marketing.

Enter The World of SEO

I consulted clients on their traffic and demand generation tactics because I wanted some level of control over the quality of the traffic that hit the copy. The market is just as important as the message. So I did a lot of traffic generation, affiliate marketing, email campaign management, and so forth.

Clients increasingly hired me to do SEO (search engine optimization), including SEO copywriting, to help increase their conversions. I also did CRO (conversion rate optimization), which people often refer to as “conversion copywriting.”

So, what does SEO have to do with conversions?

Attracting audiences with the right search intent at the right awareness stage can skyrocket conversion rates. It's about matching the right message with the right market, or “message-to-market match,” as Dan Kennedy would say.

This thinking, along with the way the Internet was evolving, became the impetus behind my writing “The Death of The Salesletter.” Back in 2005, I knew that this is where Internet marketing and copywriting were heading. It was also the beginning of my disillusionment with the industry. (I'll come back to this.)

In my manifesto, I talked about personalization, dynamic content, behavioral targeting, sales funnels (before funnels were a thing), micro-conversions, etc — things that are commonplace today in the world of digital marketing — replacing the long-form, direct sales-driven copy.

I wrote code since I was 11 and designed websites since I was 22, so technology and how marketing was evolving online always fascinated me. Besides writing copy, I also loved developing websites, designing them, doing SEO, and making sure the user experience (UX) was as optimal as it could be.

Then, My World Turned Upside Down

Let me backup a little.

In 2003, as my copywriting career was exploding, I met my second wife who was in the customer support industry. I initially hired her to provide support for my copywriting business. When we realized we shared many of the same clients, we slowly merged our businesses. And eventually, our lives.

But from the news of her cancer diagnosis right before our wedding in 2006 until her passing in early 2015, my wife’s disease grew to become, over the course of our marriage, the center of attention instead of our client work.

I was kind of lucky in that, in 2008, my mother had the same disease as my wife (i.e., breast cancer). It gave me a glimpse into what was to come. In other words, the experience showed me what I was getting into with my wife and helped me to prepare and to grieve before I knew I had to.

In 2011, my mother's cancer became terminal, and we set up a hospice in our home. She passed away later that year on the morning after my birthday.

And sure enough, my wife's health took a turn for the worse a year later. Her cancer came back with a vengeance, spreading to every major organ.

However, shortly before she passed in early 2015 (in fact, it was just a month prior), my father, while still in the institution, passed away, too. His heart stopped during his sleep. The weakening of the heart muscles is one of the many comorbid issues caused by Korsakov’s disease.

So you can say that 2015 was probably the worst year of my life.

But it didn't stop there.

My sister who was my only sibling struggled all her life with multiple ailments, including diabetes. My parents' passing, let alone years of my father’s abuse, affected her deeply and I cannot imagine what she went through. In 2017, she, too, passed away in her sleep. Just like my dad.

Distaste For The Copywriting Industry

I didn't have the headspace or motivation to return to freelancing. So I took a job in a digital marketing agency as an SEO manager and director of marketing communications. We were a Google Premier Partner agency, and I supervised an amazing team of content writers and web developers.

While grief played a role, another reason I didn't want to go back was that I became increasingly disenchanted with the copywriting business. Specifically, I'm referring to the business of writing copy for the Internet marketing and business opportunity (or “bizopp”) industries.

It started many years before then. But it culminated around the time my wife was undergoing her final chemotherapy treatments for her cancer.

I wrote about the scummy side of the business and the reason I left. But long story short, my late wife and I had to deal with a growing number of clients whose business practices were becoming questionable, unethical, and borderline illegal. Even the FTC sued some of them for deceptive practices.

The reason is, they were selling “business-in-a-box” programs.

It's no different from a chain-letter, envelope-stuffing scheme.

They would sell a course teaching people how to make money by creating a business. Sounds legit at first. But they would use the very course people bought to create a business and make money with. When I learned they included my salesletters with their “businesses,” that's when I decided I had enough.

SEO Consulting for Plastic Surgeons

After a few years and being in a much better place, I got remarried, left the agency world, and started freelancing again. But this time, I was doing more SEO work. Sure, copywriting is still a part of what I do to an extent. But now it's about how it can help attract and convert targeted traffic.

I also returned to my roots by working with plastic and cosmetic surgeons. I did it for several reasons. It's an industry I love and have a lot of experience with.

Creating phenomenal user experiences that lead to sales starts with how qualified the user is. SEO is key for that reason. A user's search intent hugely determines their level of awareness and attention prior to hitting your website.

The quality of your conversions is directly proportional to the quality of your traffic, the quality of your content, and the quality of the user experience.

That's where SEO comes in.

Also, being a geek who loves coding and web design, SEO satisfies my dual nature, i.e., both “sides' of my brain — the creative and analytical aspects of marketing. Today, I do 360-degree SEO audits, with technical SEO (coding and hosting), on-page SEO (HTML and content), and off-page SEO (external signals).

All these components work hand-in-hand.

Yes, my work still includes writing copy. But it mostly includes helping my clients generate the right kinds of traffic. In other words, it's about having the right message for the right market — or in this case, the market with the right intent.

Categories
SEO

Silos and Bios: Two Key Expertise SEO Signals

Does your site communicate expertise? Expert content does, of course. But other times, certain key expertise SEO signals that have nothing to do with content are just as important, particularly in the eyes of the search engines.

I recently completed an SEO Audit for an SEO consulting client who suffered from a precipitous drop in traffic last year, particularly around May 2020. A look at this site's Google Search Console revealed that the drop occurred around May 5th, with average daily search impressions being cut in half.

This coincided with a major Google Core Update on May 4th, 2020.

Google updates its core algorithm a few times a year. This major update specifically targeted websites or content related to a person’s health, wealth, or welfare, often referred to as YMYL pages (i.e., “your money or your life”). Aside from travel, health websites were among the hardest hit.

According to Google and engineers in the SEO community, this update was largely in response to the COVID pandemic. Specifically, Google targeted websites offering medical and financial advice, products, and services in an effort to fight disinformation and exploitative/predatory practices.

Many sites were affected. However, Google’s May 2020 algorithm update had very little impact on medical websites with strong E-A-T signals (i.e., expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). Some even received significant boosts in rankings and saw their search traffic doubling almost overnight.

After completing a deeper investigation, I concluded that this client's significant drop most likely was caused by poor E-A-T signals.

In fact, as a cosmetic medicine and SEO consultant and advisor, I've found that strengthening E-A-T is the greatest priority with regards to SEO, and the one aspect that can create the greatest impact for doctors.

So I offered my client some recommendations to improve the quality of their content and E-A-T signals. There are quite a few. But let me list two of them in this article, which are signals I encourage you to add to your website, too.

(Please note that some of these are personal opinions and preferences, and not absolutes based on actual ranking factors. But they have been proven to help. One client with whom I've applied this strategy enjoyed a 400% traffic increase.)

1. Content Architecture

During my audit, I noticed that the site had a “flat” architecture. That is, all the pages seemed to be on a single tier (under the root domain). Depending on the situation, this allows for shorter URLs and can be an effective SEO practice.

However, while I did find a blog index page, there is no discernible blog section. Blog posts reside at the same level with the all the main pages. They all seem to blend together. While this is not bad, it makes it difficult to identify which URLs are blog posts and which ones are pages.

So I recommended creating a separate blog section and a second tier. Having a distinct blog provides a number of benefits, from isolating blog posts from the rest of the site (which is helpful in tracking and analytics) to improving the user experience. Some have reported that this change alone improved traffic.

There are two ways to accomplish this.

Create a Blog Subdirectory

My client's site uses WordPress as its CMS. Therefore, accomplishing this is relatively simple. Set your WordPress permalinks from /%postname%/ to custom with /blog/%postname%/. Here’s how the site structure would look like:

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

Although not essential, the blog directory can be renamed to something helpful to the user, such as “tips,” “resources,” “content,” “articles,” “education,” etc (except for “news,” which should be reserved for news, press releases, and media mentions). It can also contain keywords, like “plastic surgery tips.”

Set a Category as The Base

If you choose this option, first make sure you don't have a category name that conflicts with plugins, scripts, or other directory names. For example, if you have a category named “liposuction” and you have a page named “liposuction,” you might want to change the category to “liposuction surgery.”

If there are no conflicts, then set your permalinks from /%postname%/ to /%category%/%postname%/. This will make blog posts appear under their primary (or single) category folder. For example, the structure would then look like this:

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

Single blog posts would look something like this:

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

Since categories contain keywords, this will help add some additional keywords to the URLs. Granted, the jury is still out on whether this is a ranking signal, but it does provide search engines with better context, which does help.

If you have a post assigned to multiple categories, only one will be used. WordPress by default sets the primary category as the one with the lowest ID number. But you can also specify another category with the help of plugins. There are some category plugins and SEO plugins like Yoast and Rank Math.

Content Siloing For SEO

This is part of an SEO philosophy called a “silo site architecture.” Content silos provide a better user experience and give Google more context. Silos organise the content into groups; make navigation more logical and orderly; and reduce the time it takes for visitors to learn how to navigate the site.

Here’s an example of what a blog post would look like:

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

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

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

The blog is not the only section that can be organized into silos. The website may have multiple pages that fall under a certain category, too.

For example, many plastic surgeons have a series of pages organized around a certain criteria, such as the “conditions” they treat, the “treatments” they offer, and/or the “areas” of the body they focus on. So if “facelift” was a master topic as a procedure, child pages might look like this:

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

However, this should be done with care. I recommend first mapping all the URLs and then properly redirecting old URLs (i.e., via 301 redirects) to prevent losing any page authority. Then, search and replace internal links to their new destinations, and a final crawl to check for broken links.

2. Author Credentials

Google's raters are people who gauge the quality of a site's content to help confirm if Google's algorithms are doing a good job. They do so by looking at a website's level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Any information that can affect a person’s health or welfare has to be written or reviewed by someone with medical expertise. According to Google:

“Medical advice or information should be written or reviewed by people with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation.” “Specific medical information and advice (rather than descriptions of life experiences) should come from doctors or other health professionals.”

Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines

After Google's 2018 core algorithm update (i.e., the “medic update”), medical and health websites showing no proven expertise have lost considerable rankings because of their lack of E-A-T. With COVID and Google's attempt to fight disinformation, the core update of May 2020 went even further.

A key signal is the author information as it helps Google identify a) the author of the content and b) the author’s credentials. To do this, there are two important things you must have to a web page that Google specifically looks for.

  1. First, include something that describes the author and their credentials. Either have the name of the author at the top linked to a bio (e.g., an “about” page containing all the credentials, such as education, degrees, accreditations, certifications, years of experience, etc), or have an “about the author” section at the end of the article.
  2. Second, add schema markup code that identifies the page (i.e., article), the person who wrote it (or reviewed it), and their level of expertise. There are several schema markup properties to include, such as “physician” and “plastic surgery,” among others. I'll come back to this.

Be Conspicuously Credentialed

To help Google’s crawler find and identify the author information on the page, make the name and bio easily findable by conspicuously pointing it out.

Add the article’s byline and link near the top and close to the article’s title. Or add an “about the author” box at the bottom of the article that's clearly distinct, such as wrap it with a border, place it in a coloured background, or separate it by a divider to set it apart from the rest of the article.

For example, I Googled “best plastic surgeon Toronto” and this page came up. Scroll to the bottom of the post, and you will see this:

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

The above example clearly identifies the author and their credentials, and a bio separated by a divider. It includes links to this doctor’s Google Scholar and Wikipedia pages, which offer a an extra level of authority and expertise SEO.

If the article is written by a staff member with expertise, such as a certified cosmetic nurse injector, the same applies: add a bio with (or linked to) their credentials, including the nurse's education, experience, accreditation, etc.

Articles can be written by someone else with no medical or related expertise, such as a reporter or freelance writer, as long as they have been reviewed by a credentialed professional and indicated as such.

For example, if you have an article that was written by a staff member and they claim authorship, Google prefers that the content be reviewed by a person with medical expertise. For example, add something like “this article was reviewed by Dr. Smith” near the article, with a link to their bio just like the author.

E-A-T Supported By Schema Markup

Finally, schema markup code is a piece of JSON-LD code you can add to the page HTML. It’s a language meant to identify and describe the content and its author. Schema is not a ranking factor but by providing additional context it helps Google more accurately assess the content's level of expertise.

A WordPress plugin such as Schema Pro, Yoast SEO, or Rank Math can do this automatically for you. Or you can (and should) add some manually.

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

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

  • “reviewedBy” (if written by someone else),
  • “sameAs” (other bios on social or authoritative sites),
  • “affiliation” (such as memberships in associations),
  • “award” (such as any industry-related awards),
  • And “alumniOf” (their education).

Adding these extra pieces of data may seem simple or unnecessary. But they provide extra signals that Google needs to identify the site's level of expertise.

If you're a plastic surgeon, cosmetic surgeon, or medical aesthetic practitioner, these signals are not just important but also vital. Competitors who may have less content than you but more clout and authority will likely outrank you.

Categories
SEO

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 Come Up With Great Ideas for SEO Content

When it comes to plastic surgery or medical aesthetic SEO, the best SEO content is content that answers the questions people ask — people who are within your market. It will generate the most qualified traffic, in other words.

The more you know your market, the less you will have writer's block. Because knowing your market well enough will always provide you with many content ideas — such as commonly asked questions you regularly answer.

Questions are great for FAQs. But they're also tremendously valuable for developing content that search engines (and its users) will love.

If you've been a plastic surgeon or clinic owner for some time, chances are you will have a good grasp of the types of questions your patients and prospective patients ask. But sometimes, even with the best of us, writer's block can happen. Maybe we have an idea but we don't know how to express it.

That's where content ideation can help.

Content ideation exercises may provide you with actual content ideas to write with, or they can provide you with the inspiration you can draw from. In my experience, especially from when I worked as an SEO director at a local agency for a few years, there are three methods that I've resorted to with success.

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

Question Words

The easiest way to uncover questions you can answer is by looking for those based on question words. They're questions that start with “who,” “when,” “where,” “what,” “why,” “how,” “how long,” and “how much,” as well as with verbs such as “can,” “does/do,” “am I,” “is/are,” “will/would,” and “shall/should.”

For example (and these are actual questions people ask):

  • When does eyelid surgery bruising go away?
  • What are breast implants made of?
  • Why are botox injections better than surgery?
  • Which nose job should I get?
  • Where are facelift scars located?
  • Who is the best plastic surgeon in Chicago?
  • How effective is laser skin resurfacing?
  • How long does it take to recover from surgery?
  • How much does it cost to have a butt lift?
  • Can a facelift help with acne scars?
  • Am I a good candidate for liposuction?
  • Are hair transplants permanent?
  • Will a facelift get rid of wrinkles?
  • Would a breast reduction help back pain?
  • Should I get a chin implant?

You can search Google by typing in a question word along with a topic, such as “why facelift” or “does breast implant.” You will get a list of results — either in the search results themselves, in the search suggestions (before hitting “enter”), or under the “people also asked” panel further down the search results page.

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

Numbers and Lists in SEO Content

People love numbers and lists. I suspect it's because numbers are specific and allow the reader to know, beforehand, what they're about to read. Plus, lists are great as they help simplify the content by arranging them in bite-sized chunks.

You can simply type in a number, a list type qualifier, and the topic into Google, and you will get a ton of ideas. For example, “15 questions,” “16 things to know,” “Top 5,” “8 trends,” etc, followed by the topic. For example, when I typed in “top 5 facelifts,” I get the following results:

  • Top 5 reasons to get a facelift
  • Top 5 cosmetic surgery procedures
  • Top 10 most common plastic surgeries
  • Top 5 advantages of a minilift
  • 5 best plastic surgeons in the USA
  • Top 5 most common myths about facelifts
  • 5 top things you need to know when choosing a surgeon

You can change either the number or the qualifier (or both) to get more results, like “20 questions,” “8 things,” “7 best,” “11 trends,” etc. You even drop the number to see what comes up, like “questions facelift” or “trends lip injections.”

However, the problem is that it might be too generic and the results might be all over the place. So, qualify it more, like “questions to ask doctor,” “common questions about facelifts,” or “questions people need to ask.”

Either these will give you a brainstorm of ideas to write about, or you can use the same idea but outrank it by using the skyscraper technique. In other words, write something similar but add more content, more research, more insights, more photos, more tips, etc. By doing so, your article might rank better.

Idea Generators

Third but not least, you can also use idea generators. There are quite a few of them out there, and they're mostly free to use. For example, there's:

Now, these are not idea generators specifically, but they are idea goldmines. For example, look at question-and-answer sites like Quora.com, Answers.com, reddit.com, and social media in general.

There are plenty of niche-specific forums and groups on social media where people can join, ask questions, and provide answers. While the objective in many cases is to become a helpful participant and gain exposure, I like to use them to get ideas. Just sitting on the sidelines can become a goldmine.

Let's not forget the comments section on social media public pages, especially those of your competitors, where people ask questions either from one another, from the page owner, or from the original post author.

The most popular medium for plastic surgeons is currently Instagram. It's relatively easy to follow plastic surgeons, look at their posts, and read the comments. Sometimes, it can become a goldmine of content ideas.

For example, I follow (and tell my clients to follow) hashtags related to their field — such as #plasticsurgeon, #plasticsurgery, #medicalaesthetics, #facelifts, #breastaugmention, and so on. Look at posts that use these hashtags and read the comments. They will give you a wealth of ideas.

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 5 | quick seo audit
Mini SEO audit on DrThors.com.

Initial Crawl and Overview

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

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

Very Thin Content

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

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

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

Poor User Experience

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

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

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

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

Search Intent Mismatch

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

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

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

SEO Analysis Tools

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

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

Lack of “Good” Keywords

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

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

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

E-A-T Signals

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

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

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

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

Technical SEO

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

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

Page Experience

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

Local SEO

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

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

Birdseye Competitive Scan

According to Ahrefs, the three biggest competitors are:

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Categories
Audits

Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com

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

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

Selecting Sites For Quick SEO Audits

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

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

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

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

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

Second, this is only a really brief audit.

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

Here we go.

Overview of The Site

Crawl and Visual Walkthrough

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

  • The site crawled 188 internal HTML pages in total. However, some of these pages are redirects and contain mixed versions:
    • https://www.ottawaplasticsurgery.com/
    • https://www.ottawaplasticsurgery.com/
    • https://www.ottawaplasticsurgery.com/
    • https://www.ottawaplasticsurgery.com
  • Redirects are pointing to their proper versions, which is good. However, they are sending mixed signals and create unnecessary redirect chains. I would do a full sweep, search-and-replace, and change everything to “https://www” (since that version is the canonical one).
  • I also see there are 24 redirects. Many of them are improper base folders, likely based on a switch in taxonomies. Same idea with the previous point, which is that it may be wise to fix those URLs internally. For example:
    • /case-study/ and its subpages redirected to /case-studies/
    • /treatment/ and its subpages redirected to /treatments/
  • Using BuiltWith.com, I see they're using WordPress, which might explain the issue. Typically, custom post types are not properly configured, where the plural is the taxonomy name and the singular is used for individual pages. Either way, this needs to be fixed.
  • The site contains 404 errors (dead pages or pages that were changed), which should be redirected, and the internal links should be updated.
  • There are also five internal redirects. Redirects are good as they help Google and backlinks point to the proper page. But if the links are internal, they should be corrected as internal links are strong signals.
  • The site seems to have a multitude of duplicate meta-descriptions tags. While they're not ranking factors, they do help clickthrough rates (CTRs), which do indirectly contribute to higher rankings.
  • Finally, 14 of the pages are wrongly canonicalized, meaning they are telling Google that other pages are the correct pages to index but they link to nonexistent pages, probably from a development site of the previous designer that were not properly updated:
Quick SEO Audit of OttawaPlasticSurgery.com 13 | 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

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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.

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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

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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

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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:

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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:

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Screenshot of an article on BramptonCosmetic.com.

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

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

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

plastic-surgery-marketing
Screenshot from UlmerDerm.com.

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

It really is that simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A final thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Copywriting

Copywriting Productivity Tools to Boost Your Writing

These days, I do a lot of SEO consulting and content strategy work. But a big part of my career was in copywriting. And when I write copy, some tools help me tremendously. Whether it's doing research, writing the copy itself, or working with my clients, there are certain resources that help.

I previously shared tools I use for SEO work. I use some of them for copywriting, too. Below are some extras that I specifically use. You don't need to be a copywriter. But these resources may help you either write your own copy or, when you outsource it, know what to look for or how to fix it.

Before I dive in, a caveat. These are my tools. They don't have to be your tools. By all means, use whatever you're comfortable with.

Google Docs

I use Google for pretty much everything. I used to do most of my copy work with Microsoft Word, but when Google came out with their online version (MS wasn't there, yet), I switched. It's not just for writing. It's great for sharing and collaborating, especially with clients, editors, associates, etc.

Google Sheets

Same thing with Google Sheets. With Excel, emailing files back and forth was a nightmare. Which version is correct? Where did I save it? Did I email a copy? Instead, I prefer to use one document in one central location. Plus, the beauty is that it can also import and export in a variety of popular formats.

Google Keep

Research is a critical part of copywriting — or of any marketing endeavour for that matter. I often come across a ton of passages, sources, citations, images, etc I want to use or reference in my copy. With my browser plugin, I can select and save as I go, and add comments and notes to them.

Google Drive

I used to use multiple tools for online storage. The problem was that things got scattered. I prefer sticking everything in one place. And since I use Google for everything (I use Google Workspace for my practice), Google Drive makes it easy to save, share, collaborate on, and associate files with.

Slack

I admit that, for the longest time (particularly when I ran my own agency), I used Basecamp to manage my projects. But as an advisor, I don't need it as much. Slack is simpler. Communication is the key benefit, with the ability to share, connect with Google assets, other apps like Zoom, etc.

Loom

Loom records my desktop and allows me to do copy critiques, project walkthroughs, demos, etc. It's a great tool to communicate questions to clients, staff, suppliers, etc. But it's also a great way to keep personal notes and record ideas. The fact that it integrates with Slack makes it a no-brainer.

CleanShot

Quite simply, CleanSot takes screenshots. But it's quite effective at that job. It allows me to annotate, edit, and store clippings to the cloud. It also makes it easy to add copy elements such as social proof, create GIFs, and even has a timer if I need to use my mouse during recordings (such as mouseovers).

Q&A Sites

I visit question-and-answer websites for my research all the time. They're rich sources of information for market research and ideas, too. To write compelling copy that connects with your audience, you need to know the questions people ask and how people talk about the problem you solve. My favorites include:

Grammarly

This is my favorite writing tool. I prefer it over Google Docs' built-in grammar and spellchecking tools. I occasionally use Hemingway App when I want to check my writing, or when I need to express something with more clarity and conviction. If I do use it, it's usually with the finished writing.

Headline Analyzer

Offered by CoSchedule, a marketing and editorial calendar, this tool provides a number of scores on your headlines, including readability, sentiment, skimmability, and engagement level. It also counts characters, which is good for headlines in ads and subject lines. I use it all the time.

RhymeZone

I've been using RhymeZone for ages. It's helpful to find rhymes, related words, poems, quotations, literary references, and word variations. With Google Doc, I use several add-ons like PowerThesaurus.org to find synonyms. But when I need to find a related word, a variation, or a descriptive word, I use RhymeZone.

Descript

This is the newest tool in my arsenal. Often, I need to transcribe recordings to use as content for my copy. I often use Otter.ai for my transcriptions, but Descript takes it to whole new level. Its machine-learning capabilities are truly revolutionary, like cutting out all the “ums” and “ahs” in one click.

(I wish I used Descript more. But since upgrading to Mac's Big Sur, it's not working anymore. They have said they're working on an update, so I'm patiently waiting. In the meantime, visit Descript and watch the video. It's impressive.)

There you have some of my most commonly used tools. I have more, but hopefully this will get things started. What are yours? Let me know.