Over the past month, we’ve talked a lot about how GDPR affects data collection.

But what about online advertising? How big of an impact will GDPR have on AdWords users?

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The European Economic Area (EEA) is the second largest consumer market in the world. The EEA also represents the third largest search advertising economy on the planet.

So, if you’re using Google AdWords to advertise inside of the EEA (or outside), you need to be aware of GDPR, and its implications.

In this post and video, we’ll look at how GDPR affects search advertising on AdWords. We’ll also discuss which AdWords features could cause GDPR related problems. And we’ll review some strategies to help you use AdWords within the parameters of GDPR.

GDPR is here – What does this mean for AdWords?

In case you’ve had your head down, mining keywords and building out ad groups, here’s a brief update on what GDPR is and how it impacts online marketing.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is the new European Union (EU) data privacy regulation. This legislation was enacted to protect the personal information of EU citizens. GDPR went into effect on May 25th, of 2018.

GDPR governs the way data can be collected when EU citizens interact with your marketing efforts. Under GDPR, you cannot collect personal data from your EU website users without their consent.

Does GDPR apply to your AdWords campaigns?

You don’t have to be located in the EU or EEA to be affected by GDPR. If your advertising reaches EU citizens, then your data collection methods need to adhere to GDPR.

Caveat – GDPR might protect EU citizens in the US or other areas?
There is some ambiguity about whether GDPR protects EU citizens traveling abroad. I don’t have a definitive answer or opinion about how GDPR affects EU web users in the US or other areas. For more clarity on this issue, I would advise that you follow up with an attorney who has expertise on this subject.

How does the GDPR impact your AdWords campaigns?

The bottom line is this:

GDPR affects advanced AdWords users who are running campaigns targeting EEA countries.

Let’s break down the advertising process, so we understand how to use AdWords in compliance with GDPR.

Geo-targeting for AdWords under GDPR

It’s always a good practice to geo-target your AdWords campaigns. Precise geographic targeting will often yield better data about your ad campaign performance.

With GDPR in effect, I would view geo-targeting as mandatory.

You should create specific campaigns for each GDPR country you target. And, do not target GDPR and Non-GDPR nations within the same ad campaign.

What if you’re not targeting EU users with any of your AdWords campaigns?

If you are not targeting EU users with your ads, and EU web visitors are not reaching your landing pages, then you should be clear of any GDPR issues. But your attorney is the only person who can completely clarify this for you. So, discuss your specific scenario with your lawyer if you’re concerned that your advertising strategy might violate GDPR.

The main point I want to stress is that geo-targeting on AdWords is critical post GDPR. If you don’t gain any business from EU customers, exclude those countries from your advertising. And be explicit in your targeting so that you don’t risk accidental GDPR violations.

What type of AdWords activity in the EU is affected by GDPR?
Let’s start with the good news. Basic search advertising should remain unaffected by GDPR. Standard search advertising targets keywords, not users. Search ads display for users based on their anonymous search engine queries. So, in its purest form, AdWords search advertising doesn’t rely on any personal data.

Advanced AdWords features and GDPR

GDPR impacts many advanced AdWords features like conversion tracking. Of course, I’m referring to some essential functions of AdWords as being advanced. But if you’ve taken my PPC Course, you will know that conversion tracking is a minimum requirement for being successful with AdWords. Many essential AdWords tracking and targeting strategies rely on these features.

Here are some of the features that collect and retain personal data.

Conversion tracking

Conversion tracking sets cookies in your visitor’s browser. And your AdWords tracking connects your user’s personal data to their keywords searches. That means even basic AdWords conversion tracking has the potential to collect protected data.

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