Should Google Choose Your Cosmetic Surgeon?
How do people look for products and services they’re interested in these days? Why, Google, of course! Unless you’re making a quick trip to the grocery store or the hardware store to pick up something completely routine, chances are you go online to find out about product choices, search for the best prices or locate a service near you.
Here’s a word to the wise: be very careful when you use Google to research cosmetic surgeons, in New York and other busy metropolitan areas in particular. Zalea, a popular website covering cosmetic procedures, recently published a great article detailing just why letting Google choose your cosmetic surgeon is a very bad idea. Let’s dive in.
Paid Advertisers Get Preference
When you search for cosmetic surgeons these days, the first few names you’ll see on the results page are paid advertisers, not necessarily those with top credentials. If you’re a savvy search engine user you’ll be aware of this, even though on Google the word “Ad” is not all that obvious. But you need to know more—you should understand about credentialing in plastic surgery, and specifically about certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), the gold standard.
Zalea says that because the field is lucrative, some doctors are out there looking to swoop up searchers who don’t discriminate between fully credentialed practitioners and those who have skimped on training or are simply looking to make a buck. We decided to test this assertion. Sure enough, third in the listings for one large western city is a cosmetic surgeon who says he’s “board certified,” but not by the ABPS. He holds memberships in organizations whose requirements are not nearly as rigorous.
Googling cosmetic surgery in another large western city gave us a surgeon who received the bulk of her training in gynecology. Her website, listed third on the results page for her city, says she’s board certified and she is—by lesser boards like the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Her site says she has taken “many training courses,” a background far different from that required by the ABPS.
Search Engines Reward Aggressive Social Media
The article in Zalea, referencing a study by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), notes “top search results are increasingly driven, shockingly, by social media.” That means, the more a cosmetic surgeon is active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms, the higher their Google ranking will be.
What does this reveal? It tells you a cosmetic surgeon you may be considering spends a lot of time and money on social media. What it doesn’t tell you is anything about their background. In fact, the ASAPS study discovered that nearly 20% of plastic surgeons certified by the APBS do not have any social media accounts.
Google Doesn’t Filter Results
One Google challenge cosmetic surgeons have in common with other things people search for is that the results aren’t filtered for quality. Even if you’re simply looking for a restaurant, the listings on the first page of Google will favor eateries that market aggressively, not necessarily those that have the best food. The same holds true for cosmetic surgeons.
We took a moment to search on “cosmetic surgery ________,” and filled in the blank with a large city in the South. The practice listed third on the results page carries a D+ rating with the Better Business Bureau based on several complaints, not to mention plenty of negative reviews on RealSelf and Yelp. Worse, the practice has ties to an organization with a track record of permanent medical damage and even patient death, according to that city’s leading newspaper. If you continue looking down the Google results page, you’ll find the practice featured two more times. If you don’t investigate any further, you could conclude that this cosmetic surgery clinic must be a good one to be listed so often.
The Bottom Line
We are very well aware that gaining visibility as a cosmetic surgeon in New York and other urban areas is a formidable challenge. Our purpose in writing pieces like this one is not to disparage practices that spend considerable resources in marketing themselves. Not only that, we don’t want to suggest that patients can’t get a good outcome with a doctor who’s not certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery—it just may happen that some surgeons have more natural gifts than training. But relying on such a notion is dangerous.
In all aspects of our work in cosmetic surgery in New York, education comes first. We want patients to be knowledgeable about their choices, whether they decide to work with us or another practice. We suggest that starting with a list of surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery gives you the safest jumping off point. You’ll know that any you want to research further have already met the highest standards of education, surgical training and peer review possible.
Google can’t tell you that.