How the RealSelf digital platform is transforming beauty tech

Find out how RealSelf is making its content accessible without being penalized by search engines due to the nude and graphic images visible on the site.

How the RealSelf digital platform is transforming beauty tech

At SXSW 2019, TechRepublic Senior Editor Teena Maddox spoke with RealSelf's Jani Strand about how RealSelf is making its content accessible without being penalized by search engines due to the nude and graphic images visible on the site. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Teena Maddox: Jani, tell me about RealSelf and what you guys do.

Jani Strand: RealSelf is the most trusted digital platform for researching aesthetic procedures and connecting with doctors who perform them. What we're doing that is unique in the marketplace is we have an amazing community of RealSelf users who share their reviews, photos, experiences from before their surgery, during, and recovery all the way through and talk about what they thought is worth it and what they thought was not worth it. That's combined with our own expert content on the website from RealSelf experts. And then finally, doctors provide content and answer questions as well. So you have information from real users who have gone through the procedures you're interested in, expert content from RealSelf, and then content from providers.

Teena Maddox: Since you're a plastic surgery site and there's nude and graphic images, tell me about how that works with Google.

Jani Strand: Part of RealSelf's mission to help people make confident decisions in these procedures is having this content that often contains nudity and graphic imagery. This is content that is very necessary to have but really is best seen in context, so when you're deliberately wanting to go to that kind of content you know you're going there. What Google sees is Google also knows when content is nude and graphic and also doesn't want to send users to that unless Google knows that the content is appropriate and put in context for those users. So it's an interesting juxtaposition when you're a consumer-focused website like RealSelf, because you're balancing the mission of providing this content and making it extremely accessible for everyone because it's really what you need to get the story and make the best decision for yourself. But you also need to balance what search engines are seeing.

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So we are going through a lot of testing and experimentation in ways that we can better put the nude and graphic images in context for our users and still make it readily available for them, but also tell Google, "Hey, Google, we're putting these images in context for people so that it won't be viewed inappropriately." I'm very new to RealSelf, so when I first came it was interesting for me to hear people talk about why this nude and graphic content needs to exist. People are extremely passionate at RealSelf about giving consumers information that they cannot find anywhere else.

This is about women's health. This is about making high-stakes decisions that affect your body and your confidence and your well-being. So having that content is a cultural mission point for the brand and the company. It's just very interesting to balance that with what search engines are seeing and coming to a place where the content is viewed appropriately but that people also get what they need.

Teena Maddox: Jani, tell me about the future of beauty tech.

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Jani Strand: Well, the future of beauty tech is extremely exciting. If you think about it, up until very recently, most venture capitalists are men. Most tech founders are men. Most engineers are men. Most product managers are men. I guess that's still the case today. But there's so many more women coming into this scene. Women in tech, women entrepreneurs, women venture capitalists. So as more women's point of views proliferate throughout the industry, there is going to be a lot more investment into the ideas that come from women's brains. So to me, that is extremely exciting because it's inevitable that beauty will be a big part of that. You're already seeing it with entrepreneurs founding companies like Glossier.

RealSelf is a very early example of a beauty tech company. But I just see a lot more innovation in the technology that's used to help consumers make great decisions for themselves. RealSelf will certainly be a leader and a part of that. But I also see a lot more people coming into this space and a lot of new ideas, which is going to elevate the entire industry.

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By Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is Associate Managing Editor at TechRepublic. She oversees TechRepublic's news team and TechRepublic Premium. She focuses on tech and business and how the two worlds intersect. Teena's lifelong journalism career has included writing on s...