When publishing this blog post, the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) of the European Union has now been in force for a year. Let’s celebrate this one-year
anniversary by reflecting on the past and future effects of this globally influential regulation on search engine optimization (SEO).

Does SEO benefit from the GDPR?

According to the Mythbusting factsheet, SEO has not been a priority concern for legislators. It is of course understandable, because, when facing worries about a complete business overhaul or
overwhelming administrative burdens, secondary effects tend to receive less interest. Nevertheless, some effects on SEO are already visible and, as of yet, unsettled.

From the user’s point of view, one of the most visible effects of the GDPR are the omnipresent pop-ups and questions on cookie acceptance. Many websites have chosen to seemingly try and
nudge users to approve all cookies by intrusive pop-ups. This approach has the benefit of gathering as much data as possible for SEO. But the benefit might as well be lost if the page rank is lowered due to the very same pop-ups. Indeed, Google does not like them in general, plus they can slow down the loading speed of a page.

This can also be perceived as bad marketing. For a consumer, what sounds like an order to comply with cookies can be extremely off putting and an incentive to check another webpage. At the same time, the ubiquity of privacy notices on websites has given a great chance for SEO linking. As privacy notice texts tend to be written more in legalese than basic marketing lingo, they give lots more text that can be used for purposes of SEO – even to the extent that GDPR has been called a gift to SEO.

What’s next?

It is also clear that not everyone will accept all the cookies, and some people will choose to turn off Google Analytics, as they now must be informed of this option. There will not be
as much data available as there used to be, but this is not necessarily an obstacle to SEO. It is rather a call to redirect the efforts elsewhere. Targeting and tracking users will become more difficult, but users will still make general queries. This can have the effect of making quality content a priority.

All in all, it is already safe to say that if you want to rise in rankings, having a healthy, safe and GDPR-compliant website with up-to-date content to draw in the readers is the best way to go about it.

Written by Antti Tahvanainen, TCLoc Master’s