How Members Are Displayed Across PlasticSurgery.org
The goal with all of our member placements across PlasticSurgery.org is to serve potential patients with the most relevant information while at the same time being as fair as possible to each of our members. This has led to a series of algorithms that determine which members to feature in different areas of the website, because different data signals from users makes necessary different ways of presenting data. This page attempts to outline the basic processes that govern this work.
Please keep in mind that we are constantly evaluating and tweaking our algorithms based on changes to our data, feedback from users, as well as technology improvements that provide more accurate signals.
Find a Surgeon (FAS)
Find a Surgeon is our opt-in directory of members, available at find.plasticsurgery.org. Because end users can conduct searches on FAS using a variety of different input parameters, the nature of the results and their sorting is controlled by complex logic.
For domestic searches (United States and Canada), Find a Surgeon will always return 96 members. The ordering of these members is dependent on a variety of factors, including the precision of the provided location and the number of members within the searched area. Some examples:
- Current Location: because the "Current Location" feature typically provides highly accurate location data, these searches will always be sorted by distance and will include mileage information in the results.
- ZIP Code: postal codes were never designed for directory searches - they are instead designed around physical mail routing. These codes often have very irregular shapes and do not give a very specific location. The sorting logic used for these searches is dependent on the density of members from the center of the searched ZIP code. In areas with relatively large numbers of members (90210, 10019, 60657, etc.) FAS will randomly sort members in the list. For areas with a smaller number of members, we will sort members by distance from the center of the ZIP code.
- City, State: searches on city can work well for small cities with relatively few members, and work less well on large cities with many members. The sorting logic used here is similar to that used for ZIP code searches: for cities with large numbers of members (New York, LA, Chicago, etc.) we will randomly sort members within the searched city. For smaller cities with few or no members, we will sort based on distance from the center of the searched city.
- Member Name: when searches are conducted by a member's name and also include location data, the sorting logic used for location searches is used. When no location is provided, these results are sorted by last name.
It is fairly simple to determine if a particlar search is using randomization or distance for sorting by default: if mileage information appears on each result, the results are sorted by distance. If mileage information does not appear, the results are randomized.
International searches follow similar sorting logic, with one notable exception: searches are limited to the country being searched.
Across PlasticSurgery.org, there are several places that will automatically display nearby members based on the location of the user browsing the website. The nearby member feature is currently supported on the homepage and procedure pages. Procedure pages will only show members that have the procedure in question denoted in their member profile. To make this feature a passive (i.e. non-interrupting) experience, we use the user's IP address to determine location.
Using IP to Determine Location
The trade off when using IP-based locations is that the location data can be inaccurate. Users behind a proxy or using a VPN can appear to be located tens, hundreds or even thousands of miles from their actual location. Roaming features on cellular networks can also cause inaccuracies when using 3G or LTE. While we use the best IP location databases in the industry, these factors can in some cases create a degraded experience. This is why we've opted to use a more accurate form of geolocation on Find a Surgeon, with the drawback that we must ask for permission from the user before the data is made available.
If the location cannot be determined with a reasonable degree of certainty using the user's IP address, the nearby member feature will not appear for that user.
Sorting and Displaying Members
When a location can be determined, a list of nearby members will be selected based on the following logic:
- Retrieve all members within 12 miles. For large cities, this can potentially be several hundred member listings.
- If there are fewer than 25 members within 12 miles, retrieve additional members up to 40 miles away. This logic exists to better service rural areas that naturally contain fewer members.
Once these member listings are selected, the website will first separate Match subscribers from non-subscribers, and then randomize each of these groups. Match subscribers will appear first within each user session, followed by any non-subscribers. Learn more about becoming a Match subscriber.