Just caught this article in the NYTimes about how Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had fined Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company, $300,000 for ordering its employees to write fake reviews of its face-lift procedure on sites like RealSelf.

Let’s put aside the ethics of faking reviews for a minute and reflect on how effective a strategy this was for Lifestyle Lift cost wise:

Pros: They probably didn’t factor this in, but because they got caught, their site is now generating a lot of links.  Variations of “facelift”, “cosmetic surgery”, “neck lift”, etc. are not hugely expensive to buy ($5-$10 CPC), but I guess if they could translate those links into some page one rankings it could easily be worth $300K. Cons: Page one of Google for “lifestyle lift” is already littered with results about this story.  My bet is unless they do some reputation management SEO these aren’t going away anytime soon.  So even if they do rank on page one for some great terms, sooner or later a prospective patient is going to Google them, see this story and likely bail.  Hmm, something like this could tank their whole business pretty quickly.  Maybe it wasn’t worth the page one rankings? It’s too bad Lifestyle Lift went down this route, but it’s understandable.  There probably was a lot of negative word of mouth about them already in the cosmetic surgery communities.  Here’s the first thing I saw after I clicked on the third SERP result for “lifestyle lift” – “Lifestyle lift for jowls, turkey neck – unsure if it was worth it”While it’s hard to overcome a bad product or service, perhaps if they had consulted with a knowledgable SEO/Reputation Management pro at least they could have come up with an alternate strategy that would not have cost so much, or if it had, at least it would have had a better ROI.  Some tips for Lifestyle Lift in the future:

1. SEO your site!  At least update your title tags with some good keywords.  Hell update your whole site.  It’s a bit of a tired, hard-to-read thing as is.  If you can’t control what people are saying about you online at least try to get some traffic for valuable keywords and bypass them.

2. Participate in social media without faking it.  If Ms. Turkey Neck is not saying nice things address her concerns.  Maybe you need to redo her turkey neck.  I guarantee if you turn her turkey neck into a swan neck, she will be your loudest supporter in these communities.  And what would that cost you?  My guess is the margins on turkey neck surgery & neck lifts, among other things, are pretty fat.

3. Work with a reputation management pro who can help you move a lot of those pesky little negative links off of page one.

4. Better yet, give your customers reasons to say nice things about you online. Even if you don’t have a problem with the ethics of fake reviews, they do often violate the terms of service of the reviews website.  And as Lifestyle Lift discovered, that little fact can cost you.  So next time you are thinking it might be a good idea to post some fake reviews of your business on the Web, remember you might be blowing all the cash you saved up to fix your damn turkey neck.

For more points of view on turkey-neckgate:

Unethical Customer Reviews Can Cost You Big – Search Influence

Plastic Surgery Co Settles With NYS Over False Reviews – Blumenthal’s Blog

Lifestyle Lift Yelp Reviews for San Francisco – Yelp

What is the Lifestyle Lift Procedure? – Official Site

And here’s the Lifestye Lift Procedure Video from YouTube:

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13 Response Comments

  • @tinealene  July 17, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Very funny writeup. I am glad some of these bigger companies are getting busted for bad practices and hopefully some of the SMB’s will take notice and implement best practices when it comes to their online marketing.

  • fort myers cosmetic surgeon  August 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    This is becoming quite a story. Where are the business ethics? What about the peace of mind when you go to bed, knowing that you did the right thing? I hope they learn from their mistakes and figure out that doing the right thing( I know it’s hard sometimes) will eventually pay off.

  • Chrystal Eckes  August 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    It’s about time they (Lifestyle Lift) was caught doing fake reviews about how great their unique procedure is. Maybe if they had been addressing the real issues that women were having instead of blogging about how great they are they would not have had to post bogus reviews. Going so far as to have one employee use their kids names, posting and badgering patients who had poor results and even making fun of people who did post reviews at various sites, taunting them, calling them names and telling them how stupid they were. This is not a case of Big Business using poor judgement, it is Big Business using tactics that are unethical. Kudos to Cuomo for following through on this case. Any person considering this procedure, please go to realself.com and read the reviews and if you do decide to opt for the LSL, at least get a 2nd opinion. You only have one face.

  • Andrew Shotland  October 12, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Seems like Lifestyl Lift costs a lot. Then again you can’t put a price on no turkey neck.

  • JOY DURRETT  October 30, 2009 at 9:06 am


  • Mike Stewart  November 25, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Wonder how long it will take before companies start giving the same advice to employees in order to protect the reputation or sway the reputation of advertisers…..

    just sayin!

    Well, as they say… when you become embarrassed of your employer it is time to exit the door! The employees are also partial to blame. …. or is it because they got caught? LOL regardless!

    Great read as always,
    Mike Stewart

  • Delores  January 8, 2010 at 6:38 am

    I had a conventionalk facelift 15 years ago that left me w/horrible scars behind the ears…I was checking out info on the ‘Lifestyle Lift’…for jowly areas…but if it also can leave the same type scarring as one person here who had it (Lifestyle Lift) done …then I am definately NOT interested…especially after hearing too about the horrible business ethics or rather ,lack there of…..they have cut off their proverbial nose to spite their proverbial face!

    thanks for the info!!!
    Delores S.

  • Destin  September 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    It is nice to see the authorities clamping down on this type of activity. In the lone run it make things better for legitimate businesses.

  • Donna  December 17, 2010 at 11:31 am

    wow . i can see the resemblence

  • MiriamEllis  January 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for highlighting this, Andrew. When companies fake reviews, they are sending out a big creepy signal. Who wants to do business with creepy companies?

  • Mike  July 16, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Watch for some lawsuits against company’s posting negative reviews about competitors in the near feature. I spoke to a law form who is in the process of doing this against another law firm in Denver. They had to force Google to release the IP addresses. Interesting case, and about time.