Think search marketing is old fashioned? Maybe, but it's still probably the source of your most valuable customers. The thing is, the way you handle SEO has just changed for good--but not in a way that will make you happy.

What Happened

Google has just moved to secure search. That is, all searches are now performed using HTTPS rather than just those for people who are signed into their Google accounts. Put in non-technical terms, that means that Google will no longer pass keyword search data to websites. That means you can't track users by the keywords they've used.

Knowing keywords is vital in online marketing because that's how you know what prospects and customers were looking for when they show up at your virtual doorstep. You might be able to adjust your content and targeted keywords and then see how each change affects trends, but forget real time. You're running blind. Here's how integrated marketing firm V3 puts it:

For instance, if I've got a client that sells little girls' accessories, and I know there's a lot of search traffic for the phrase "girls red tutu" (instead of, say, the phrase "red tutus for girls") I'm going to make sure my product descriptions on the website use that phrase, my blog content uses that phrase and my social media content utilizes that phrase. That's like using honey to draw the bees. You do the homework to find out what it is they are searching for, then make sure your marketing messages and content speak in the language customers and prospects use when they are searching.

The change at Google doesn't affect what other search engines like Bing do, but let's get real: Google has maintained about two-thirds of the search market. When you lose Google, you lose the big majority of the keyword data you used to get.

As V3 notes, this isn't a death knell. It takes the emphasis off getting on the first page of Google and puts it onto creating content that provides real value to customers and prospects. Simplistic strategies such as relying on the right combination of a few words lose power. Instead, you need the expertise to create what people will actually want to read, view, and hear. However, make no mistake: this is one major upset and a lot of marketers will have to make some big shifts.