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How will GDPR Impact SEO

By Jordan Turner

What is GDPR & How Will it Impact Marketing?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a hallmark piece of legislation designed to keep personal information private on the internet. It is also one of toughest laws in the world when it comes to security online. 

The GDPR was drafted and voted on in the European Union to apply harsh fines to any company or individual that violates the privacy of a EU citizen. This legislation has been in effect since May 25, 2018. Since then, the EU has collected over 320,000,000 dollars in fines as they embark on GDPR regulating.

GDPR also applies to any company functioning within the EU. Even if there is not a physical residence, any online company that sells to the EU is responsible for being GDPR compliant. 

If you’re interacting with EU citizens these are the five principles, you need to know about the GDPR.

  1. All handling of personal data must be transparent, fair, and lawful.
  2. Information can only be collected if the users have been informed and consented.
  3. If the data is for statistical purposes, it can only be kept for as long as it’s necessary.
  4. Data processing protects against unauthorized access or other damage.
  5. The controller/handler of the data is accountable for all these things.

Keeping these five things in mind can help assure your brand, your message, your business complies with GDPR and maintains digital visibility in this privacy-focused era.

GDPR’s Affect on Digital Marketing

The big question with all these changes is how GDPR will transform digital marketing?  

Pop ups, pop up everywhere! Cookies are small text files that websites place in your browser. Chrome, IE, Safari, Firefox, they all accept them equally. These cookies are helpful in helping websites run both core functionalities and for allowing a more personalized experience.

Cookies are harmless and have been around since 1995…They are, however, what digital marketers use to track online activity and can gather a wealth of information if directed to. 

Creating highly specific ads and tracking activity can lead to potentially identifying people without consent. For the GDPR, the cookies must go through a personal user acceptance process.

This process is simple but requires a user to accept what cookies they are willing to live with. The acceptance comes through a pop up. People hate pop ups. Expect to lose, at minimum, some level of clarity in your analytics.

This is where savvy SEO is critical…

Search Engine Optimization is completely GDPR friendly. The nature of SEO is connecting people with a question or need with exactly what they are looking for. Users are using search engines to find what they need or want rather than receiving an email that is oddly specific to you. By using keyword research and data SEO focuses on the term rather than the specific information that would be collected by a cookie.

How to Help Your SEO Strategies with GDPR

When thinking about GDPR compliance and digital marketing, you need to start from the ground up. From your website’s security all the way to optimized title tags and headings, it’s crucial that your website be in top-notch shape in order to stay visible and user-friendly.

Website security and GDPR

Security is of the utmost importance when it comes to GDPR compliance. If your website collects any sort of information, make sure the connection a user makes with your website is secure. Use SSLs to give that secure protocol, https, this has been a ranking factor since 2014 and web hosts are happy to apply them for a small annual fee. 

If you can, add HSTS, it’s the next level of security for both your website and your user. At the end of the day a user is passing a bit of trust on to your website when they click in the SERPs. Honor that with securing their information (it might save you a fine as well!).

Optimize your title tags and primary headings

Keywords have grown in their importance alongside GDPR. Matching searcher intent with the appropriate keywords can offset any traffic loss due to lack of customization with a higher click through rate. 

Using quality keyword research for writing primary headings (h1s) is a good and clear way to catch a reader’s attention and reduce bounce rates. Writing helpful meta descriptions that match page titles and headings is another easy way to increase your click through rates.

Get technical and improve user experience

The easiest way to improve user experience with your website is to cut down their wait. People will wait for value, but it’s never a good idea to rely

Make user experience better, by cutting down their wait. People will wait for value, but it’s never a good idea to take advantage of that. Google is putting increased pressure on website performance with the Core Web Vitals update, only solidifying this further. 

Technical SEO can address all the performance-related issues of a website. Technical SEO makes your website informative, helpful, and pretty in Google’s eyes. Take time to compress your images and write alt text.

Google Analytics and GDPR

Google Analytics (GA) is amazing. It’s free and is by far the most used analytics tool on the internet. There is an ecosystem of free training and it comes with a certificate of completion. Most importantly, GA allows you to track a wealth of information as people interact with your website or application. 

The downside of GA is that it collects user ID, personal data, IP address, cookies, and other behavioral information — all the stuff GDPR is against.

If a user clicks the appropriate accept button, you’re in the clear. Otherwise taking time to make your Google Analytics setup GDPR compliant will be a necessity. Here are a couple of quick tips to get you started in the process.

  •  Make sure to ask for user consent for all of the Google Analytics cookies.
  • Control those cookies! Take the time to ensure that GA’s cookies only activate when users have given their permission.
  • Be transparent about what you are tracking.
  • Turn on IP anonymization in your Google Analytics.
  • Have a privacy policy that matches what you’re doing in Google Analytics.

Your website should have a clear and transparent privacy and cookies policy spelled out. Here’s ours:

Digital Third Coast's cookies policy.

[Check out our blog for more tips on how to create a killer privacy policy]

The Future of GDPR and SEO

GDPR is a huge win for user privacy, but it adds new challenges to digital marketing. Your SEO work is absolutely GDPR friendly if and when you double-down on technical efforts and keyword research. However, SEO can only help after your website is safely handling any user information it gathers. 

Earning and keeping user trust should always be before increasing click through rates and pageviews.

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