How GDPR Impacted SEO

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) caused panic and stopped most digital marketers in their tracks. 

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GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) caused panic and stopped most digital marketers in their tracks. 


How GDPR Impacted SEO

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) caused panic and stopped most digital marketers in their tracks. 

Share this article

Digital marketers were making a kill with highly personalized advertising by tracking users’ online activities using advanced technology. Online sellers would target the same user on several devices, thanks to personalized data. 

The quest for targeted advertising even went as far as installing trackers in some gaming apps such as Pool 3D and Honey Quest. These apps track users’ viewing habits down to favorite TV shows even when not in use, all without a user’s knowledge. 

GDPR, a law on consumer data protection, set in and caught many marketers unawares.

What is GDPR and How Did It Affect Businesses?

GDPR is a law that aims to protect consumers from the unauthorized use of their personal data. It states strict data protection rules that all companies in the European Union (EU) must follow. GDPR came into force in May of 2018.

According to the law, personal data is any information that could uniquely identify a person. It could be a user’s name, phone number, IP address, photos, biometric and genetic info, health records, date of birth, bank information, driver’s license, social security number, name it. 

Who Needs GDPR Compliance?

While GDPR is only relevant in the European Union (EU), its impact is far-reaching since the EU is a global economy. If you have a website in the USA that receives visitors from any country in the EU, your website falls under the GDPR law.

Effects of GDPR on Digital Marketing

Unlike before when you could collect and use any type of information from a user without their consent, GDPR demands that you let users choose if and how they want you to track them. Tracking users’ online activity will now depend on whether or not users “accept” the terms of privacy or cookie policies.

The Impact of GDPR on SEO

One of the questions on many marketers’ minds was how GDPR would affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While GDPR impacted SEO, the effect was not deep-cutting. Here is how:

        1. User Experience (UX) Affected

80% of users will exit a site because of a pop-up ad. GDPR compliance forces you to subject all visitors to your website to cookie banners. Users have to choose whether to accept cookies from your site as part of their privacy rights. 

Pop-ups are outright annoying and can lead to increased bounce rates. Cookies can also increase page load speed, a critical factor in SEO.

Some cookie banner practices that you can use to maintain UX while still using cookie banners include positioning banners in the top header, inline header, and footer.

        2. An Increased Focus on SEO

With GDPR forcing data-driven marketing practices such as email targeting and remarketing to slow down, companies are using SEO and content to ramp up their marketing. 

SEO is Totally GDPR Compliant

Search has one significant advantage—users don't need to give out any data, which is the main bone of contention with GDPR. You don’t need to collect information using cookies to provide users with a customized experience.

With keyword research tools such that use anonymized data such as Ahrefs (which uses clickstream data to collect information on keyword volume), you stay safe within the GDPR rules.

Reduced friction between paid and organic search

Attribution retargeting allowed for brand searches to take control. GDPR has minimized retargeting, providing a fairer playground between paid and organic search.

Some best SEO practices to adopt

  • Optimizing your meta data and URLs

Creating keyword-rich and enticing title tags and meta descriptions can help people click on your page more. URLs must contain relevant keywords to make it easy for users to find your page on search engines.

  • Focus on technical SEO

Technical SEO involves all the aspects that help search engine access, crawl, understand, and index your site. It’s everything from compressing images to reduce page load speed, labeling images with alt text, transcribing videos, among others.

  • Creating catchy, relevant headlines and well-formatted content

Ensuring that your headlines are relevant to user intent and catchy will get draw users to your site. Your content should also be scannable and easy to read to reduce bounce rates.

  • Use HTTPS or SSL website to enhance security

If your website collects and stores user information, you should get an SSL certificate to pass as GDPR compliant. Google considers HTTPS/SSL websites more secure; and these sites also rank better than HTTP sites.  Google’s Chrome began blocking resources or downloads from HTTP or HTTP and HTTPS sites (mixed websites) to protect users from cyber insecurity.

  • Personalization through a focus on user intent

Today’s customer is unique. They expect highly personalized buying experiences. With GDPR regulating data collection, there will be a challenge in knowing and giving customers exactly what they want.

You can create digital trust by educating customers on how you will use their data. Another option is to use SEO and keyword research to personalize user experiences. Focusing on user intent and creating targeted SEO content that will help users find you on the search engines.

           3. Compliance in the Use of Analytics Tools

As a digital marketer, analytical tools are handy when you are analyzing user behavior. Most of these tools use Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which doesn’t sit well with GDPR. One of the most popular analytical tools is Google Analytics.

While using Google Analytics, you should not share third party info with Google.  You can ensure compliance by auditing data in your Google Analytics to get rid of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), having explicit opt-ins and opt-outs, and activating IP address anonymization.

Google’s recently launched Consent Mode allows you to get users’ consent on data used for advertising.

            4. Private Policy Links Provide New Way to Make Pages More Crawlable

Adding the privacy policy link to every page of a website to comply with privacy requirements had created a new SEO opportunity.

Before GDPR, you could not add links to pages with very specialized goals like checkout pages, leading to pages with many inbound links. Chrome would block links that did not relate directly to the host page’s goal.

Now, you can strategically place links in the privacy policy, improving crawlability and discovery of other website pages.

             5. Extreme Measures like Blocking or Redirecting EU Traffic Ruin SEO

Some websites have gone to extreme measures like blocking out EU IP addresses to avoid entangled in GDPR violation fines. 

Blocking traffic from the EU is risky as it can also disrupt EU links to your site leading to the loss of backlinks. Redirecting your pages to a GDPR compliant page also affects Google’s crawling which can lower your EU rankings as well. 

Redirecting and blocking links can also lead to the loss of customers. If, for example, one of your customers in the USA visits an EU country they will not access your website. Problem is, they might never return.

Wrapping Up  

While GDPR came as an unwelcome surprise to many digital marketers, it is not all bad. GDPR has only changed the focus of marketing while seeking to protect the privacy of users.  

If you want to comply with GDPR guidelines, focus more on SEO. While at it, ensure that analytical, keyword research, and other tools you use allow for GDPR compliance.

Author Bio: Jordan MacAvoy is the Vice President of Marketing at Reciprocity Labs and manages the company's go-to-market strategy and execution.

Prior to joining Reciprocity, Mr. MacAvoy served in executive roles at Fundbox, a Forbes Next Billion Dollar Company, and Intuit, via their acquisition of the SaaS marketing and communications solution, Demandforce. 

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