Google: Off-Page Factors Help Rank ‘Best’ and ‘Top’ Surgeons

by Surgical Times

Plastic surgery marketers have a penchant for adding “best” to the title tag and meta description of every procedure page.

What is known as the “H1,” or page headline might simply read “Breast Augmentation Beverly Hills.”

It’s simple, accurate, and descriptive, but not altogether enticing.

So the “title tag,” or words that show up on search engine results pages (SERPS) that will hopefully lead potential patients to this page, will be mulled over by a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist to read something like:

“Best Breast Augmentation Beverly Hills | Beverly Hills Breast Implants,” courtesy of a few simple lines of code.

Sometimes it’s useful to include these kinds of words on your site, but probably in the meantime, our algorithms are a little bit more focused on things that are outside of just purely matching those individual words.

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

Using these highly-searched buzzwords could help a page get picked up for more than just the base query of “breast augmentation beverly hills,” and make its title more compelling to browsers—since who doesn’t want “the best”?

Title Tags

According to MOZ, “Title tags are the second most important on-page factor for SEO, after content.”

The page on which MOZ shares that fact is a perfect example:

  • Its page title, or H1, is simply: “On-Page Ranking Factors”
  • Its title tag is: “On-Page SEO Ranking Factors [2021] – Moz”

“SEO” helps define its discussion and vertical and aligns it to what users actually search, while “2021” catches users who are searching for up-to-date advice and insights on getting their websites somewhere closer to the holy grail, page one of Google.

“In short, you have to create a clickable headline that also makes search engines happy,” says search guru Neil Patel.

While the title tag appearing on SERPS and a page’s actual H1 should usually vary from each other, is using “best” the best way to differentiate the two?

“Hey Google, ‘Best Plastic Surgeon Beverly Hills’”

Open a new tab on Google Chrome.

Search for [Plastic surgery procedure of your choice] + [Your city name] — something like “best facelift austin,” or “best breast aug beverly hills.”

Your page-one results will include the word “best,” pulled from various places where it appears on a website including its body copy, image captions and alt text, and even from patient reviews.

These page-one results might convince you to use “best” everywhere you can.

But click through now to page five, three pages beyond the “best place to hide a dead body,” and “best” continues to show up in even these results.

The Difference Between Pages 1 and 5 of Google Search Results

What separates the entries on pages one and five?

Clicks and money, for starters. Lots of it.

According to an analysis of five million Google search results by Backlinko’s Brian Dean, “only 0.78% of Google searchers clicked on something from the second page.”

Plastic surgeons landing anywhere beyond page one of Google are going to see as much as 99 percent less traffic, and will likely be budgeting several to tens of thousands of dollars for paid ads to bring in business.

Google loves it.

But Google is polyamorous.

It loves great content, too.

“Content is King” is a cliche that precludes us from seeing reality: Content is the only thing that Goole ranks, period.

But sometimes, as in the case of our search query, “best plastic surgeon beverly hills,” Google uses off-page factors to determine its placement in search results.

Other Factors Infuence “Best” and “Top” Search Results for Surgeons

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, says off-page factors play a role in ranking website pages for terms like “best” and “top.”

In November of 2020, I asked him if Google has special search criteria and whether there are unique data sets used for these queries, perhaps things like:

  • How many Google reviews a surgeon has
  • The rating of a surgeon’s Google reviews—are they 1 star or 5 star?
  • A surgeon’s board certification being clearly and prominently presented

He said, “My feeling is, from what I’ve seen, that we do try to recognize these particular kinds of queries and figure out what we should be showing there rather than just purely focusing on the actual words in the query.”

‘Near Me’ Queries: Once Literal, Now Geolocational.

By way of analogy, Google’s John Mueller explained that for a long time, Google’s algorithms were “more basic in a sense,” showing literal and on-page uses of “near me,” as opposed to locations that were geographically appropriate to a user.

Googling pizzeria near me might once have returned, “a page on your site that is called like ‘Pizzeria near me,’ which isn’t particularly useful if you’re just in one location.”

Anyone using Google now knows that “near-me” queries return geolocational results, not literal ones.

Are ‘Best’ and ‘Top’ The New ‘Near-me’ Query?

“And I assume something similar like that would apply for queries like best or top,” says Mueller, “where we’d have to focus a little bit more on things that are outside of that page to figure out like, ‘is this really the best one to show, or are people looking for a list of these particular kinds of businesses?’ to try to figure out what we should be showing there.”

It’s Useful to Include the Word ‘Best;’ But Google Algorithms Also Focus on Other Factors

“So that’s something where I can imagine that sometimes it’s useful to include these kinds of words on your site, but probably in the meantime, our algorithms are a little bit more focused on things that are outside of just purely matching those individual words,” said John.

A search engine optimization specialist we spoke to relayed the fact of once having long-term difficulty ranking a surgeon.

Technically, everything looked good, but they had few Google reviews and a poor overall rating, and the reviews they had were left long ago.

“If your GMB [Google My Business] is directly connected to your website, and Google can clearly see your average user rating—including any recent up or downswings in your average—that can’t not be a ranking factor.”

“But if it isn’t fully factored into Google now, it probably will be soon.”

Surgical Times provides objective public interest reporting on the practice of plastic surgery and is not affiliated with or funded by any surgeon or practice.