You probably know by now that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) has gone into effect. But how does that affect your marketing efforts, and how will the new regulation  impact your organic marketing strategy?

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation is a new regulation in the EU that is designed to protect the privacy of EU citizens and individuals residing there and give them more control over their personal data.

What does GDPR mean for me?

Now that GDPR is in effect, marketers will be responsible for changing their habits on how much data they need to get their jobs done. The regulations will force people to rethink and tighten up how they collect, use, and retain data, regardless of where that individual resides, because they pretty much have to.  Marketers aren’t going to be able collect data from everywhere and anywhere, or do whatever they want with it; there will simply be too much potential liability.

What are the pros and cons of GDPR and increased focus on data privacy?

Like everything, there is good and bad in the GDPR.  

The pros: Companies are going to have to collect and use data more responsibly, which is the way it should be, because of the new emphasis on individual privacy and control.  Anyone who is mad about that is in the wrong business.

The cons: The GDPR affords EU regulators the discretion to fine companies up to 4% of their worldwide revenue if they are found in violation of the law. The extremely vague sanction process is already being exploited, in my opinion, by activists and other special interest groups against large conglomerates.  Google and Facebook (including Instagram and WhatsApp) have already been hit with lawsuits under the GDPR, collectively seeking € 7.6 billion in damages.

There are also reports of activists going after Apple, Amazon, and LinkedIn.  The process is actually a little unfair to larger companies whose process for changing large policies is often necessarily a little more glacial than smaller businesses.  Regardless, this is likely to lead to more questionable lawsuits and more time and money wasted on high priced lawyers.

What are the effects of GDPR in the next 6 months, 12 months, and 3 years?

6 months: We are going to see more and more headlines being dominated by stories of large companies getting hit with lawsuits and sanctions due to this change in the law. There will also be a lot of discussion from companies on how the GDPR should be managed to avoid the uncertainty of these lawsuits and fines.   

12 months: Using Google and Facebook (and whoever else gets sued) as examples, we may start to see more concrete guidance around how to navigate GDPR and handle personal data.

3 years: I wouldn’t be surprised if more governments adopt GDPR-like regulations (California just did), which ultimately may have some benefits.  I also believe that if you asked 1 out of every 1,000 people, 999 of them wouldn’t care or know about any of this, which is a shame.

Why is GDPR necessary for marketers?

The GDPR is a necessary balance for marketers who are in constant need of new data sources and visuals to satiate their current need.  These folks perpetuate this issue because of their desire to have more and more data, instead of using a few trusted sources they believe in.

I see this issue getting worse year to year, with more people asking for more data to create more reports and trying to pull it all together in some free BI tool to measure every angle of every campaign that has ever run on their site since its inception.  This causes analysis paralysis and ultimately doesn’t help our profession move towards more trusted and accurate measurement: no one can make any decisions if we are always chasing the next new visualization.

Marketers need to change their habits on how much data they need to get their jobs done. The GDPR will force marketers to rethink these practices and really tighten up how they collect, use and retain data. When people allow themselves to make quicker, more accurate decisions based on recent data vs. data from 5 years ago, that’s when I think we’ll start to legitimately move towards a better solution for accurately conducting and tracking campaigns.

What does GDPR mean for organic search?

GDPR means that, as a channel, organic search is more important than ever. The insights we can get from organic search as a channel are already valuable, and collecting and utilizing that data (which is compliant with GDPR regulations) will be more important than ever, because it comes from a trusted source and is directly speaking to the major questions marketers face: what do my customers need? What challenges are they facing? And how can we help?

Get smart about your data usage: learn why your insights coming from trusted data sources are more valuable than endless access to individual data.