How does GDPR affect SEO?
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Is it something you should be concerned about?
As most of us know GDPR has now been in affect for a few months, from May 2018 to be exact. The new General Data Protection Regulation has had a huge impact on business's in the EU, including the UK. After the announcement business's frantically tied their polices inline with those of the new regulation to avoid any of the threatened penalties - which managed to scare a lot of people. But have you given any though to what this means when it comes to SEO? Will it disturb my rankings?
Through the advancement of data trackers everywhere a regulation like this was inevitable.
Websites and advertisers targeted you through cookies and personalized ads, watching their traffic and a number of metrics without users really being aware of what data is actually collected. So far the law is only compliant within the EU but i'm sure this will eventually catch on. GDPR now simply allows these users to understand what is being tracked. Even-though it is a given that most people will just subconsciously close this out of the way of their screen.
One of the major issues i have seen with GDPR affecting SEO is emailing. As well as the usual goals and metrics collected through sending out a newsletter for example, you will now also need a record of everyone who has consented or subscribed and vice versa. You will need to be explicit with the set of data you are keeping and what you plan on doing with such information. However, it's not "entirely" correct. GDPR doesn't completely influence the process of sending out emails, or newsletters. Without going into too much detail (as its not really an SEO concern but it needed to be addressed.) the CAN-SPAM act is actually completely compliment with GDPR, so make sure to read up on this before changing your whole strategy, because some people are adamant email has changed forever and for the worse.
How will it affect our analytics?
I mentioned above that it will be necessary for us to consider what analytics with currently use and how they need to change. A few years ago Google released Google Analytics which i guess the mass majority of us will be using and the only requirement was to add this into our policies. But since then GDPR has forced Google to realize that holding on to this information puts them at exceptional risk of violating the regulation. Google now expires user data after a specific time; such as demographics for example. That being said, some of the data this provides you with is completely anonymous so in effect is already compliant with GDPR. Website owners who use other analytics will need to overview their own data and see what complies and what doesn't, there no simple way to do it, so have a read, and align your data with the rules.
If you already use Google adwords you will know it requires publishers to get user permission through disclaimers via a landing page, but GDPR has changed that. Not only do you have to get permission but you also have to get clear consent from a user to have their personal information collected, so how do you do this? Clear info will have to be given on how you plan to store and use this persons data, records will need to be kept, and you will need to make a note of who no longer gives consent or has opted out. If a user no longer gives consent they will received non-personalized ads which is essentially forcing your campaign to guess who may be interested at this point.
Since GDPR came into affect, plugins have became compliant. So when your installing yourself a new plugin be wary and first investigate whether or not the plugin is actually legal and abides by the policy. As this is a EU regulation some plugins that are used worldwide collect information from their users, these plugins may not have certain tracking features turned on by default, so make sure you read the description before downloading and don't get caught out. To the contrary, there are actually plugins out there that do this all for you and make sure everything is covered. However, this can affect your SEO greatly. We all know that adding them to a site can tremendously increase the web pages loading time, which mentioned in another of my recent articles can be very costly. Slow loading times can have a bigger impact than most anticipate and a lot of visitors will find somewhere else to find what their looking for. You don't need me to tell you how this isn't great for your website.
Yet...Its not all gloom
There are actual a surprisingly few benefits for SEO.
Paid advertisements have always been the bane of those that stick to an organic channel. The relationship between paid searches and organic searches tend to be one sided, now, that GDPR has come into place, not everyone will be on the receiving end of a personalized advertisement. This is where the scales with tip in the organic listings favor.
The results that people see when searching Google have always been incredibly personalized, contradictory of what they claim. We can see that searches are based on prior searches, and location; among many other things. Now that searchers have the opportunity to decline cookies that have to be consented under GDPR, searches will no longer be personalized for that individual, meaning once again this brings the organic back into play proving the ability to rank on less specific queries.
With having personalized advertising thrown in on every page and third party cookies, the best way to target your users will simply be with content that is actually relevant the the users intent. So instead of wasting money on paid advertisements trying to guess who is interested in your particular brand, your websites content can be found when using a general search.
In conclusion GDPR has affected us from a digital marketing point of view more than most of us know. Most business's have just got themselves on track with adhering to the regulation and not actually thought about their SEO. Although daunting and a little confusing in places, there a number of benefits to the marketing industry and it is definitely something you cant afford to overlook.