The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in place since May 25. Marketers in all areas of the world have been abuzz about GDPR’s impact and what they need to be doing about it. Forrester published a podcast on it before the regulation went into effect that you can listen to here. And Susan Bidel wrote a blog post on GDPR’s effect on publishers, as well.
As the analyst covering search marketing at Forrester, I wanted to uncover how GDPR will affect your strategies when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising. The short answer: It won’t have very much effect, especially in relation to other forms of digital marketing. The reason for that is the keyword. Search marketing has always been about optimizing toward customer intent (manifested through a keyword or phrase), rather than targeting the consumer explicitly. In paid search, advertisers buy keywords rather than audiences, although that has changed a bit over the years with aspects such as retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA). But by and large, search marketing is mostly unaffected by GDPR. There are, however, two important things you should and should not be doing under this new regulation:

  • Do not block European consumers from accessing your website. We saw a number of websites do this in the immediate wake of GDPR (i.e., the Los Angeles Times). This is a bad idea from a UX and SEO perspective. Customers from non-EU countries may be traveling in the EU and want to access your website. And it would hurt you from an SEO perspective because of the links you may have pointing to your website from other EU websites. This would block your site from being accessed by Google’s crawler.
  • Make sure you gain consent before using customer match and store sales data. Paid search advertisers that have tried to better target searchers with their ads have been using customer match and RLSA for some time now. The big change with GDPR: You must ensure that you are gaining explicit consent from those consumers before you target them with search advertising. In addition, you must also ensure that they can easily opt out of ad personalization. The same goes for advertisers that have been uploading offline sales data in AdWords: You must prove that you have gained consent to use that customer data.

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