Anyone who has owned a WordPress site for a long time is likely to be aware of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
This legislation by the European Union is meant to keep people’s personal information private. The Act has been in effect since 2018, and the EU has collected more than $320,000,000 in fines from people who violate this policy.
While there’s no doubt this law has protected many consumers, it can also affect SEO strategies. Keep reading to find out more about this.
Why Is GDPR Vital?
The GDPR protects the personal data of people living in European Union countries from exploitative organizations. These guidelines apply to any company that collects and processes personal information from EU residents. The law also extends to organizations outside the EU as long as they serve EU-based customers.
This law aims to give consumers control over their data and change companies’ approach to data privacy. When you own a WordPress site, you may wonder whether this law applies to you. Yes, it does. Every business, whether large or small, has to follow these rules if they serve EU residents.
How Does GDPR Affect Businesses With an Online Presence?
As an online business, when you think of customer data, things like name, email address, order history, and telephone number naturally come to mind. However, data is also in the form of things you may not realize, such as:
- Remarketing cookies
- IP addresses
- AdWords cookies
Running an online business has a lot to do with data collection. Without it, there isn’t much you can do in terms of advertising. GDPR guidelines are likely to affect how you collect and use customer data. Website visitors have the right to know you have collected their data and what you plan to do with it.
What Is the Impact of GDPR on SEO?
Because GDPR comes with several limitations, it will affect how you collect data. For instance, you can’t collect data without the user’s consent, and all the data you collect has to be handled transparently and protected from various threats like fraud.
In addition, any statistical information you collect, you can’t keep for an excessive amount of time. So, how do such guidelines affect your SEO?
The Presence of Cookies
The biggest impact of GDPR on SEO has to do with consent-based cookies. Website users now have the option to authorize the type of cookies a site can collect. These cookies are used to create marketing campaigns.
The only issue is that most users don’t like these pop-ups because they interrupt their experience. In fact, you have to know how to use pop-ups without hurting SEO if you want to optimize your page.
As a WordPress site owner, you have to sharpen your SEO strategies to make sure the cookies are relevant and valuable. Naturally, you will lose some inbound traffic because of these pop-op consent forms. But ensuring you offer valuable cookies is a step in the right direction.
Page Load Speeds
Another way GDPR affects SEO is through page load speeds. Page load speeds affect both user experience and SEO ranking. Cookies will likely affect page load speeds based on cookies’ size and number of requests.
More requests mean a decrease in page performance. Studies have shown that when a page loads slowly, most users will leave. This reduces your user experience score and, ultimately, your ranking.
Presence of Direct Submissions Forms
GDPR guidelines have eliminated automated consent, allowing users to manually choose the type of information they want you to get.
This can negatively affect SEO because the more time users spend on consent forms, means they focus less on the products and services you offer.
While this may not sound good, there is a viable solution. Only ask for information that is relevant to what your business does. This will save time. In addition, provide active consent requests to ensure repeat users don’t need to complete these forms every time they visit your site.
Under GDPR guidelines, consent to cookies has to be specific, informed, and freely given. There is no other way to go around it. But as seen, the cookie consent notice can affect your SEO. So, how do you ensure you display a cookie consent notice in a way that’s both user-friendly and effective?
This is where cookie consent notice plugins come in. Because WordPress doesn’t have a cookie consent notice, you must add one to your site to comply with GDPR guidelines. Such WordPress plugins allow users to have control over their data and whether a business should or shouldn’t use their data.
What You Shouldn’t Do
All this may sound like it will frustrate your international SEO strategies. As such, some businesses may consider different tactics to avoid complying with GDPR guidelines. The most common include
Blocking Traffic From the EU Countries
This is an extreme path to take, and it affects your business. It means you can’t expand your business to international markets.
Aside from that, you’ll be blocking bots and crawlers from the EU countries, which can lead to the loss of potential backlinks and your domain authority. Ultimately, doing so affects your position in SERPs (search engine results pages).
There is also the fact that a non-EU citizen traveling will likely have a bad experience with your site while in this country, leading to customer dissatisfaction.
Redirecting All Traffic to a Compliance Page
It’s not just people who visit your page. Google crawls to your site as well. Therefore, when you send everyone to a compliance page, you’ll end up affecting your EU rankings.
Showing Google a Different Page From EU Users
This is called cloaking, and it’s a bad idea because it negatively affects your site’s SEO and can lead to penalties. People use this method to fool search engines which only affects them in the long run.
A Greater Emphasis Upon “Old-School” SEO
The GDPR guidelines are not likely to change any time soon. The only thing you can do is perform an SEO audit from time to time to ensure you remain in compliance when implementing your SEO strategies.
Not complying with these regulations leads to fines. This can be 2 to 4% of your company’s revenue based on how serious the violation is. While it’s possible that these regulations will affect your ongoing campaigns, there are methods that have proved to be effective. These are the traditional or old-school approaches.
Come Up with Relevant and Creative Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions
Users read meta titles and descriptions before deciding which links to click. By creating an accurate, relevant, and engaging meta title and description, you have a higher chance of convincing more people to open your site. Also, ensure its original content, as plagiarism can affect your SEO.
Insert Keywords Within Target URLs
This is an important tactic if your business serves people from different locations. It will help boost your ranking, even if it’s just a little.
Perform Coding Error Checks
Coding errors slow down your website’s performance leading to lower rankings. In addition, they make it difficult for search engines to index your site. And when a page is poorly indexed, it won’t appear in the search results. To find out if your site has coding errors, conduct a technical SEO audit to identify issues and address them.
Create a Mobile-Responsive Website Design
More people visit websites through phones than laptops and personal computers. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you will likely rank lower on search engine pages.
Some of these traditional tactics mentioned can be achieved by using SEO plugins like Yoast or AIOSEO. They will allow you to add meta descriptions, SEO titles, and focus keywords for each blog page and post. You also get a preview of what users see when they check out your site.
GDPR on Website Security
While GDPR guidelines aim to protect users’ data, there is something you can do to increase your visibility through website security. Search engines like Google admit that sites with SSL/HTTPs receive a boost in ranking. Therefore, you can enhance your rankings while still remaining GDPR compliant.
GDPR and Google Analytics
This is another tool that can boost your ranking while ensuring you remain GDPR compliant. The only issue is that it collects data, and this may conflict with GDPR guidelines. You can prevent this by modifying your Google Analytics setup to ensure it’s GDPR compliant.
What Impact Will GDPR Have on SEO in the Future
GDPR policies have only been around for several years, yet SEO specialists have already felt the challenges it presents to SEO strategies.
Also, it’s likely that the regulations may become more strict in the future. Therefore, it’s up to SEO specialists, marketing teams, and website owners to stay on top of the digital curve and keep taking data privacy measures to remain GDPR compliant.