Can Ignoring Privacy Compliance Hurt Your Rankings?

Last updated on Friday, March 1, 2024

Can Ignoring Privacy Compliance Hurt Your Rankings

If you've used the internet, you've encountered plenty of cookie consent banners and privacy policies.

Not spotting a privacy policy in a website footer may cause some consumers to raise an eyebrow.

That’s because more and more people are aware that these aren’t just pop-up nuisances or documents full of legal jargon — data privacy laws legally require businesses to publish them.

They also help keep website visitors adequately informed about what happens to their personal information when using a website.

But can ignoring privacy compliance hurt your search result rankings?

In this post, we explore the importance of data privacy and how it might impact your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, brand reputation, and more.

Can Ignoring Privacy Compliance Hurt Your Rankings?

Technically, nothing states that search engine algorithms punish websites specifically for ignoring privacy compliance — but this doesn’t mean it’s okay to skip out on making a transparent privacy policy or consent banner for your site.

You might diminish user engagement if people view your site as insecure, and you could face real legal consequences if you violate data privacy laws.

Let’s walk through what we know about the possible ranking repercussions for not complying with data privacy laws and best practices.

Losing Consumer Trust and Engagement

Websites that don’t prioritize data privacy risk compromising consumer trust, which can impact your rankings due to lower consumer engagement.

If consumer engagement on your site deteriorates over privacy concerns, it directly impacts your SEO because data like click-through rates (CTR) and dwell time on pages are crucial ranking signals.

Several data privacy statistics also highlight the growing need for websites to earn user trust regarding data processing:

  • 88% of users say they're more willing to share personal data if they trust a company. (PwC)

  • 60% of users say they'd spend more money with a brand they trust with their data. (Global Consumer State of Mind Report 2021)

  • 94% of organizations say consumers won’t buy from them if they don't adequately protect their personal data. (Cisco)

    But this isn’t new – in 2019, in response to a Google Search Console thread asking if it’s worth setting a privacy policy and terms and conditions to Noindex/Nofollow, a Google Product Expert recommended indexing these documents because they can help Google establish more trust in that site.

Indexing - Twittter - X by Google Product Expert

In 2020, a Google Product Expert responded to another thread asking about the SEO impact of privacy policies and terms and conditions, stating that websites that collect data from users should have a privacy policy available because it’s good for a site’s reputation.

SEO Impact on privacy policies by Google Product expert

At the end of the day, if you don’t earn the confidence of your users, they won’t spend as much time on your website and interact with links, which will hurt your overall search rankings.

Having privacy essentials, like a cookie consent manager and privacy policy, keeps site visitors properly informed so they know they can trust you with their data and safely browse your website.

Legal penalties and fines are real consequences your website could face for ignoring privacy compliance requirements.

While this might not hurt your rankings, it can cause harm to your overall brand reputation.

If a protected individual submits a complaint about your site to their data protection authority, an investigation could start, and you may be required to cease all data processing activities.

Here’s a more detailed list of possible financial and criminal repercussions for violating the following privacy laws:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Up to €20 million or 4% of the company's global annual turnover, whichever is higher

  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): Up to $2,500 per incident for unintentional violation or up to $7,500 per incident per intentional violation. Individuals also retain some private right of action.

  • California Online Privacy Compliance Act (CalOPPA): Up to $2,500 per violation.

  • Connecticut Data Privacy Act (CTDPA): Up to $5,000 per violation.

  • Colorado Privacy Act (CPA): $2,000 per violation with a max penalty of $500,000.

  • Virginia Consumer Data Privacy Act (VCDPA): Up to $7,500 per violation.

    While some newer laws provide grace periods for businesses to correct the alleged violation, this typically sunsets after the law has been in force for more than a year.

For many of these laws, including the GDPR, you can receive fines even if the violation was unintentional or by mistake.

You must know what laws apply to your business and ensure you follow all guidelines and obligations to avoid fines and other consequences.

Insecure Websites Rank Lower

If your website is insecure, visitors tend to click away from the page quickly without taking any other action. In SEO, this is called a bounce rate, which can hurt your rankings if it’s too high.

Consumers also tend to click away from pages if they can’t find familiar documents like privacy and cookie policies.

It’s a best practice to ensure your website has a secure HTTPS domain and appropriate legal policies so they feel safe using your platform.

The Cost of Data Breaches

Websites that don’t take privacy compliance seriously may not have the proper security measures to prevent or detect big data breaches and other security incidents, which could negatively impact search rankings.

For example, if your site faces a period of extended downtime while attempting to recover from cybercrime, it directly correlates to lost SERP rankings.

A data breach can also cause you to lose that all-too-important user trust, and as we already discussed, this impacts your overall site engagement.

Why Prioritizing Data Privacy Can Help SEO

Prioritizing data privacy can help indirectly boost your SEO because it encourages users and other websites to interact with your site more, which can help with the following rankings factors:

  • Backlinks: If a website links to one of your pages, it tells search algorithms that your site is authoritative and can help your SEO. Websites typically only link to high-quality external sources, which means only posting reliable content, having a secure domain, and being transparent about how your website collects and processes user data.

  • UX and Engagement: Posting privacy compliance solutions on your site, like a privacy or cookie policy, can help decrease your bounce rate and increase user engagement with your site because they trust it more.

  • Dwell time: If users feel safe on your website, they’re more likely to spend time browsing the pages, which shows algorithms that people like what they see. As an added benefit, this can reduce your bounce rate, improving your rankings.

    Together, these factors communicate to algorithms that your site provides high-quality content that meets search intent, which helps make your pages more likely to appear on results pages.

Data Privacy Best Practices

There are a few data privacy best practices you can easily implement on your website to help with data privacy legal compliance and foster stronger user relationships.

Post a Transparent Privacy Policy

Posting a privacy policy on your site explains to visitors everything they need to know about your data processing activities.

It should include at least the following information:

  • What personal data your site collects
  • Why and how it’s collected
  • How you use the data
  • If you share the data with any third parties
  • What rights users have over their data, and how to act on them
  • Your company contact information

    Link to it in multiple places, like the footer of your site and on any internet forms that collect information, so users can always find and read it.

Privacy policies are often legally required, so ensure your document meets all obligations based on the legislation that applies to your website.

Another way to prove to users that your site respects their data privacy is to present them with a pop-up consent banner requesting they opt into or out of the use of cookies or other internet trackers.

Giving users a choice when they enter your website shows them that you’re a privacy-literate website, encouraging them to spend more time on the page.

Use a reliable consent management platform (CMP) or cookie consent manager so your users can access a preference center and easily change their minds as necessary.

Some laws, like the GDPR, require opt-in consent from protected users. Laws like the CCPA, on the other hand, require opt-out consent.

A good CMP will provide you with regional consent settings so you can accommodate your users' privacy rights based on their location.

Secure and Protect Collected Data

Ensuring your website has appropriate security measures in place to protect personal data helps prevent and identify unauthorized breaches, minimizing the damaging effects cybercrimes often cause.

For example, having a solid backup strategy can limit downtime for your website, mitigating the longer-term SEO and search result impacts.

Some common strategies include:

  • Anonymizing the data
  • Data encryption
  • Access controls
  • Training all employees
  • Minimizing the collection of data to only what is necessary
  • Developing an incident response plan
  • Regular auditing of security systems


If your website collects personal data from users, it’s in your best interest to prioritize data privacy compliance solutions to maintain and possibly enhance your rankings.

It’s also necessary for your site to comply with applicable data privacy laws so you don’t face fines or other legal penalties.

While search engine algorithms don’t necessarily rank sites based on whether they publish privacy policies, cookie policies, or consent banners, it can affect how users interact with your website.

When people feel like a website is secure and transparent about how it collects and uses their personal data, they’re more comfortable browsing different pages, finalizing purchases, and returning in the future.

Higher levels of this kind of user engagement communicate to algorithms that your website successfully answers search intent, which directly helps your SEO.

Miljo Dragutinovic

Article by:

Miljo Dragutinovic

Content Manager

Miljo is the Content Manager at Termly and oversees the creation of comprehensive and up-to-date data privacy content. With over 10 years of experience as a digital entrepreneur specializing in content marketing and SEO, he has a unique perspective on the relationship between businesses and data privacy.

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