With the rapid advancements in AI and the widespread use of data trackers, digital advertising was quickly approaching a new paradigm. An ad would only show to those who are interested in that message and this user could be tracked on any device they use to interact with a website.
Technology advancements have even allowed advertisers to target users based on the shows they watch, without users being aware.
However, there is one ambiguous and broad-reaching law that was meant to protect the privacy rights of European citizens. This has impeded progress.
Although technically the law is only applicable in the EU, its impact on the economy is far-reaching beyond Europe.
The Impact of GDPR on Digital Marketing
The GDPR, also known as the General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) requires users to explicitly opt into tracking. Users have the option of how they want to be tracked once they opt in.
Although it’s too early to predict if users will click “accept”, as marketers hope, the damage is already done.
Without the sophisticated attribution tracking that marketers are used to, digital marketing could end up being comparable to a billboard along the side of the highway in terms of effectiveness measurement. Without cookie approval, tracking ad views is nearly impossible. Search ads for PPC are less transparent if the user hasn’t opted in to cookies.
This legislation has not affected all marketers.
SEO is actually the only area that has actually benefited from this legislation.
SEO was the marketing function that hid behind the curtain for years while other channels were able to command large budgets.
I predict that, with GDPR imposing severe restrictions on paid marketing channels, we will see an increase in SEO efforts.
These are six areas in which SEO has benefited the most from GDPR.
Most sites place a link to their privacy policies on every page. This is how they have fulfilled this requirement.
Cross-linking perspectives can be a challenge for SEO teams who have had to overcome roadblocks to get specific links added to pages in the past to increase crawlability and discoverability. Pages that were designed to generate demand may have had a lot of inbound links. However, the outbound links were carefully controlled.
The addition of the privacy link to a page with GDPR gives the SEO team a new way for crawlers to access these pages.
Privacy policies are usually managed by lawyers rather than marketers. They tend to favor more information over less.
A link to an HTML sitemap, or other high-value pages, will be much less controversial for the legal team.
Larger companies that have strict budget planning processes will find that a significant portion of their 2018 marketing budget was set up before the year began.
The GDPR is changing attribution and is forcing a rethink on paid budgets. Funds that have been released from paid campaigns may end up being more accessible for SEO needs.
Some of the backburner projects on the wishlist might become a reality if those funds shift to SEO.
3. Cannibalization reduced
There has been a certain element of cannibalization in both paid and organic search, particularly when brand bidding or retargeting is taken into consideration.
The EU law blocks retargeting and there are attribution issues that could stifle some brand searches. This is the time for the organic channel to shine. Click volume will shift to organic listings, as the paid placements within search decrease.
4. Personalization through SEO
Google claims that search results no longer are that personal, but this is based upon a flawed premise.
These search suggestions can be very personalized. Google encourages people to search for queries that are based upon previous searches, location, time of day, and other factors.
Although the actual results searchers may not see are personalized, the queries themselves are so precise that they don’t require personalized results.
This means that any type of search can only personalize based on past history if users accept cookies, which is required under GDPR.
Search is again depersonalized without cookies. This gives sites the opportunity to rank for broader, less specific queries.
5. Search doesn’t require giving up data
While other information discovery platforms, such as social media networks, require you to log in and share personal data, it is possible to search anonymously.
For those who are paranoid or concerned about privacy, you can search Google or DuckDuckGo in an anonymous browser. You don’t need to log into the search engine.
Except for the personalization aspect of search, search does not require cookies or any other type of user data to deliver great results.
6. User Intent
Marketers will realize that it is impossible to personalize advertising using first- and second-party cookies. Instead, they will need to create content that matches user intent, which users will find via search.
Websites can instead of guessing if a user is looking for an SUV by using paid marketing, they can create content that will help them find an SUV when they search.
The GDPR is likely to be the most important event in digital marketing history.
The negative aspects of GDPR are often the focus of discussions.