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Does Google Check Your Privacy Policy?

A privacy policy may not be an SEO ranking factor with WooRank, but it's definitely something that all sites must consider having. I hope to provide you evidence that your privacy policy does matter, but more importantly, what needs to be done and how to protect your site.

To put it simply: It is mandatory for a site to have one.

Let's consider a few reasons as to why a privacy policy is also a must have for your SEO checklist.

Current Privacy Policy Concerns

Privacy is a growing concern. Not just because of Edward Snowden, but because people are actually concerned how the scope and reach technology is growing at an incredible rate.

No, we do not have to worry about Terminators and AI just yet (maybe it's too late - who knows these things). But we should question our privacy and freedom, so we can defend and protect our rights.

2016 TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Infographic Consumer Concerns & Priorities

2016 TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Infographic "“ US Edition

In fact, 92% of US Internet users worry about their privacy online. More and more people are speaking out and fighting for their privacy, especially, in the world wide web.

If you have a website for your business, you are most likely to collect user data such as geolocation, and track emails such as open and click rates. Also, you might use retargeting services and other third party analytics services to help you understand, optimize your sales funnel and your customers. If you would like to know what services you might be using, WooRank provides the list of technologies that are added on your site to help you better understand exactly what you would need to provide your users with on your privacy policy page.

If you do not provide a privacy policy (and therefore you're not telling your users which information you are processing and more specifically what you collect their information for), you are violating and abusing your users' personal information. Focus on building trust, credibility and rapport with your customer. If you are going to change your business strategy, let your customers know what to expect.

All these things, do add up.

2016 TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Limited Privacy Awareness

2016 TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Infographic "“ US Edition

As organizations collect more data than ever, privacy has become more important than ever before. We are seeing changes in the way users behave online and yet most current privacy policies have not changed or adapted to our current standard. Many privacy policies look like they're intended to discourage people from reading them. Many privacy policies look like thousands of incomprehensible legal words compressed into a short page. And this anti-user approach has consequences. While a majority of people won't understand, there are those who will spend time reading a privacy policy. Only 31% of internet users understand how companies share their personal information and only 33% are aware that they can actually read privacy policies.

Are you really helping your visitors and building trust? How are you different from other sites, especially your competitors? What steps are you going to take to help your visitors appreciate you and your business? A privacy policy may be a legal document, but it is also a marketing strategy.

A test was done if it was possible to increase conversions from an original sign-up form that had no privacy policy to a sign-up form featuring one.

Westwood College privacy policy conversion test

Version B, with the privacy policy statement in fine print under the button, convinced 19.1% more visitors to fill out and submit the lead gen form.

Privacy Policies Increase the Trust Factor

When I refer to the term trust factor, I am referring to the Google TrustRank. People in the SEO community have labeled it that, because the truth is, Google does want to rank sites they can trust. I will be going through some factors and while this is not an exhaustive list, I hope you get the idea of what to take into consideration.

WooRank Advanced SEO Audit Trust Indicators criteria

WooRank Advanced SEO Audit SSL Secure criteria

WooRank currently reviews your site's SSL status and Web of Trust (WOT) reputation. These two help your visitors identify which sites to trust and which ones they should not.

WooRank load time criteria

Another way people gauge trust for a site is their load time. People are not going to wait more than 5 seconds for your site to load. In fact, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. How can you build trust if your pages won't load?

Google Requires Your Privacy Policy

Let's look at how Google see and rank your site. Getting high-quality links are one way to build your trust factor with Google. Having poor quality links to your site only leads Google to believe they should not trust your site as much. Social media is also making an impact on how Google trusts your site. How is your site being voted? How many likes does your site have? Are people commenting on your blog? Are people blocking your site? What is your current bounce rate?

2016 TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy concerns

2016 TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Infographic "“ US Edition

In general, the trust factor is how sites fundamentally provide users a reason to continue viewing your site. Having a privacy policy is one way to provide that reason. In fact, Google Analytics (or Google AdSense, Google AdWords, etc.) request privacy policies from their users. For example, this is what Google stated in their Analytics terms of service:

"You will have and abide by an appropriate Privacy Policy and will comply with all applicable laws and regulations relating to the collection of information from Visitors. You must post a Privacy Policy and that Privacy Policy must provide notice of Your use of cookies."

The privacy policy, a cookie policy, terms of service. All of these are must-haves, and Google does pay attention to them. Since Google also gathers information from your site and your visitors, they do require you to have a policy stating just that. As mentioned earlier in this article, if you are using any other third party services, you must include them as well. More importantly, your main focus is to serve your visitors and actually build their trust, by providing them information about how you use their data. Transparency is key to successful business, acknowledging and telling your visitors is better than not telling them and have them find out that you are abusing their information. If you are not trying to abuse their information, why not have a privacy policy in place? You are also risking to be fined by one of the regulators.

Privacy Policies Are Mandatory

In 2012, the up and coming mobile economy was scrutinized, displaying the will of regulators to include even still-developing ecosystems in the privacy realm.

In fact, the California Attorney General's Office specifically applied CalOPPA to mobile applications for smartphones and tablets that collect personally identifiable information. Hundreds of app providers were notified that they were in violation of CalOPPA, and they were given 30 days to submit compliance plans or face fines of up to $2,500 for each time their app was downloaded.

What are the Elements of a Privacy Policy

In order to comply with regulators, have this Privacy Policy Checklist ready:

  • A list of the categories of personally identifiable information the operator collects;
  • A list of the categories of third parties with whom the operator may share such personally identifiable information;
  • A description of the process (if any) by which the consumer can review and request changes to his or her personally identifiable information as collected by the operator;
  • A description of the process by which the operator notifies consumers of material changes to the operator's privacy policy; and
  • The effective date of the privacy policy.

Are There Resources to Help Me Write a Privacy Policy?

Rather than hiring an attorney to draft a privacy policy for you that may cost you thousands of dollars, you might be tempted to copy and paste a competitor's policy. However, what many don't realize is the danger connected to this behavior. You might be infringing on copyrights of the original writer. But the more serious problem is the threat of copy/pasting irrelevant information. The best of both worlds, professional but also affordable, is using a privacy policy generator like iubenda.

2016 TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Enabling Trust

2016 TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Infographic "“ US Edition

You can also check out "Recommendations on Developing a Meaningful Privacy Policy" created by Attorney General California Department of Justice to help you get a sense of the requirements (when it comes to California and the US).

Increasing your trust factor is not an easy task. We haven't discussed all aspects of what Google Trust Factor demands. However, you have all the reasons why you need a privacy policy, so don't wait.

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