Anyone who has owned a website for an extended period is likely already aware of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act and how privacy is now being taken more seriously than ever before. While there is no doubt that GDPR guidelines have protected countless consumers, they can and will also impact SEO strategies.
This brings up an important point that relatively few experts have touched upon. What effects will GDPR have on digital marketing strategies and search engine optimization? To transparently answer this question, it is first prudent to examine a handful of GDPR principles. We can then discuss how these might influence more traditional SEO techniques.
GDPR at a Glance: Its Primary Intentions
These regulations heavily focus on privacy-related compliance concerns. While they will impact each business slightly differently, there ae still a handful of core principles to mention. These include:
- All information must be handled transparently.
- No data can be collected without end-user consent.
- Statistical information cannot be kept for an excessive amount of time.
- The company which manages the data bears ultimate responsibility.
- Any processed information must be protected from threats such as fraud.
It is clear that GDPR regulations cover a wide range of topics. So, what impact will these guidelines have upon an existing SEO strategy?
The Role of Cookies
Perhaps the most well-known impact of GDPR involves the presence of consent-based cookies. Users are now required to authorize what types of cookies a site will collect concerning their data. While cookies are often used to create targeted and specific viral marketing campaigns, the only issue here is that average users have become averse to pop-ups.
Businesses must carefully hone their SEO strategies to ensure that the cookies are valuable and highly relevant. Although some inbound traffic will inevitably be lost due to pop-up consent forms, cookies can still provide incredible actionable insight.
Page Load Speeds
Another way in which GDPR regulations can have an impact on a website is more technical in nature. We have already seen that users will be presented with pop-ups so that they can consent to the type of data collected. Unfortunately, these widgets may also have a negative impact on how long a page takes to load. Many consumers are no longer willing to wait a significant amount of time, so they may choose to look elsewhere.
Therefore, any website should be fully optimized so that it runs smoothly. Here are some suggestions which can help to reduce the amount of time that a page requires to load:
- Eliminate any on-site bloatware.
- Make sure that all coding is correct.
- Limit the number of HTTP requests.
- Optimize all images.
- Delete unnecessary items within your media library.
Sites that load quickly are more likely to attract a higher number of inbound hits, even if GDPR-related pop-ups are present. It may be wise to work with an IT specialist if your business does not possess the in-house resources.
The Presence of Direct Submission Forms
GDPR regulations have essentially done away with automated consent. In other words, visitors will now have to manually choose what type of information they allow a website to view. This can represent a somewhat frustrating situation from an SEO point of view, as more time spent on consent forms may detract from the amount of focus placed upon the products or services offered. However, direct submissions are simply another facet of GDPR compliance as a whole. Is there a viable solution?
Perhaps the most effective strategy involves what type of information is collected. Firms should make it a point to ask for only details pertinent to their ongoing operations. This will save a significant amount of time. It may also be possible to present visitors with active consent requests so that repeat users will not be forced to complete a direct submission form every time they navigate the site.
Local SEO Hurdles to Overcome
The notion of search engine optimization has become more streamlined and targeted in recent times. One well-known example is local SEO. Here are some of the variables which a local SEO strategy may analyze:
- Location of website visitors
- Their IP addresses
- The type of device used to access the site
- Other more general data such as a ZIP code
However, GDPR guidelines stipulate that this data will be harder to obtain automatically. Users will again have to consent before any collection occurs.
This may represent another tricky hurdle to overcome, as many users will not wish to provide location-based data. Therefore, businesses should always provide a way to opt out of the collection process. Although this will inevitably dent the SEO process, it also signifies that any data willingly provided is essentially a way to pre-qualify a visitor during the overall conversion process.
A Greater Emphasis Upon “Old-School” SEO
The current GDPR regulations are not expected to change any time soon. Remaining in compliance is crucial. Although these regulations can hamper ongoing campaigns, other methods can still prove to be just as valuable. We are referring to more traditional approaches to SEO in this sense. Here are some classic strategies to employ:
- Create relevant meta titles and meta descriptions.
- Place keywords within target URLs.
- Ensure that no coding errors exist.
- Embrace a mobile-responsive website design.
It may also be wise to perform an in-depth audit from time to time to ensure that no compliance issues exist and that all GDPR guidelines are followed.
Addressing Website Security
The GDPR system is primarily concerned with collecting and processing user-generated information. Website security is another core concern that needs to be addressed. Every site should possess a valid SSL certificate, generally denoted by a padlock symbol located immediately to the left of the URL address within the browser’s address bar.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption helps to keep proprietary information safe at all times, particularly data concerning visitors who have willingly submitted their information. SSL also provides a robust firewall in the event that a malicious third party attacks a site. Therefore, make sure that all certificates are in order. If you do not possess the technical expertise, hiring an experienced website developer may be best.
Google Analytics and GDPR
Google Analytics is one of the most powerful SEO tools on the market. It is free to use, and countless websites have employed its utilities. However, much of the data that Google Analytics collects may conflict with current GDPR policies. Although this is not an issue if a visitor provides consent, what if no consent is granted? Is it still possible to collect valuable information?
In this case, you must modify your Google Analytics account to be compliant. Here are some valuable suggestions:
- Always ask for consent before collecting any data.
- Ensure that cookies do not activate until after the end-user provides this permission.
- IP anonymization should be activated within Analytics.
The main takeaway is that clarity will go a long way toward building trust and confidence. If users are informed about what type of information a website collects, they will be much more likely to grant the necessary permissions.
What Might the Future Have in Store?
While GDPR policies have only existed for a few years, their impact on the digital marketing community has been profound. It is an excellent step for the average consumer in terms of privacy, yet it also presents SEO specialists with many challenges. Indeed, we may even see the regulations outlined above become even tighter in the future.
It pays to keep ahead of the digital curve. Website owners who can appreciate what steps to take are more likely to remain in compliance and, more importantly, cement a solid customer base through superior transparency.
The opinions expressed here by Guest Contributors are their own, not those of Rise Marketing.