Eli Schwartz

Use your GDPR mandated privacy policy to improve your SEO crawl – 📌Eli Schwartz

On May 25th 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR as it is known became the law of the land in Europe. While the focus of GDPR is specifically to protect the digital privacy of European citizens, the effect of the law is global since it can be quite difficult for companies to manage data privacy differently for a single region of the world.

The one area of this law that was the most visible for every Internet user in the entire world was the requirement that companies/websites be transparent with users about the collection and retention of personal data. Nearly everyone implemented the transparency requirement by updating their privacy policies, the often neglected page written in small font legalese, with new information on how they are handling data.

(The privacy policy is a part of the agreement between a user and a company, so updating the privacy policy forced the websites to inform the users about their new terms. This lead to a ceaseless onslaught of privacy emails in the weeks before GDPR went into effect. )

Since the primary goal of GDPR is transparency, companies/websites also needed to make their privacy policies easily accessible. The simplest way to make a privacy policy accessible is to place a link to it from every page of a website.

google footer

See Google’s footer with a link to the privacy policy

The eagerness of websites to ensure that they are GDPR compliant has created an unprecedented opportunity to improve SEO crawlability and discovery. Effective technical SEO hinges on facilitating the efficient flow of crawlers throughout a website and passing the authority of incoming external links in a structured way to valuable pages. While this ideal might be easy to implement on a content or media property, it can be very challenging on a site that has dynamic monetization flows.

When there are very defined goals for a webpage like checkout, lead completes, or click to call, SEO will likely be pushed to the back burner. Adding links or SEO-specific modifications in this case will be in conflict with these laser-like goals and link flow could essentially be blockaded on this page. This reality could be especially painful when these dead end are pages that attract a significant amount of in-bound links.  Those links may lift the domain authority of the site but are useless to individual pages that could benefit if the value were passed through to them.

Here’s where GDPR comes to the rescue. Fear of paying a hefty fine trumps consideration towards optimal user flows and many sites added a privacy policy link to every page of a website –even the formerly blockaded pages. 

Even Amazon which has very few exit options from their checkout page has a link to the privacy policy right next to the buy button.

Amazon buy button

Now with this link added on every page of a site, the privacy policy itself becomes one of the most valuable pages on a website, and it has the ability to spread this value throughout the site. Unlike marketing pages, the content in a privacy policy is typically driven by a legal department, and when it comes to legal documents the longer the better. Ambiguity is a beast to be slain and adding more words to make everything crystal clear is not just desirable, it is recommended.  The legal team will not object to adding content that adds clarity to the document, and this present an opportunity to add cross links which flow through consistent SEO architecture through the site.

Elaborating on the specific URL’s, with hyperlinks of course, where specific  helpful information may be contained is aligned with the general theme of the privacy content. At a minimum, linking to an HTML sitemap with every single URL of the website can also contribute to the user’s understanding of the overall pages on the website.

Here is an example of Google adding a link to their philosophy page in their privacy policy.


Google privacy policy

Used effectively the privacy policy can be almost as valuable as the home page of a site when it comes to driving search crawlers and links through a website. In testing I have conducted,  I have seen the incredible value that the privacy policy can add to the overall health of the site and it will likely work for any site you are optimizing. If you work with sites that have needed to make changes to become GDPR compliant, privacy policy optimization could be a great way to generate some unexpected SEO returns.