Last week, Google announced that its new Social Network platform, Google Plus, will now effect search results.  The buzz spread like wildfire across the SEO industry. How much of a game changer will this be? Will search engine optimization still matter if search results are now personalized instead of taking the most relevant and trustworthy sites and ranking them accordingly?

It’s no secret that Google’s main goal for the past year has been integrating their new budding social network with their search results. Anyone logged into their Google account with a Google Plus profile will see a different set of results than a searcher not logged in. Google Plus users will have the option of personal or worldwide results. There is an icon at the top right of the SERP that shows a silhouette of a person or a globe, and the Plus user can toggle between the two sets of results.

Clicking on the person icon, the top results for a search will be based on recommendations, or Plus 1’s, that you and the people in your circles have made, or info that others have shared with you. Results with reviews and pluses will have higher ranking then those without. By switching over to the globe, you will see the natural results without these social signals affecting them as directly.

Google has used social signals as a part of their algorithm for years, with personalized results getting a boost.  Twitter follows, Facebook likes and shares, and Yelp reviews have factored in to results; companies have used this buzz to crawl up the rankings. Facebook and Twitter have criticized this change, citing that Google will give preferential treatment to its own social signals, a claim Google has denied.

Other features to Google Plus, like the fact that users must opt-out of the personal search and not opt-in, have led to concerns among users and SEO’s. However, it is easy enough to switch the results back to the global, impersonalized results. There is even a way to permanently remove the personalized results in the search settings. Concerns about privacy are also prevalent, as anyone with access to private information can share it publicly. It is ultimately up to the user who they share info with, but the receiver can post it at their whim, so know your circles. As with anything on the internet, it’s a good rule of thumb that if you wouldn’t want your content on the web, don’t upload it to begin with.

As Google Plus fixes the issues and bugs that are inevitable as it gains in popularity, it will be important to make the most of its features. As the social signals for sites that have “Plus 1’s

It is cliché, sure, but we’re about to start a new year, and there really is no easier time to set some new SEO goals for your website. You have 12 months and 4 quarters in front of you to track growth and get into a groove of building your business online. Here are a few tips Evolving Interactive recommends for staying ahead of the search engine marketing game in 2012.

1. Keep up with changes – One of the most valuable tools for me this year has been subscribing and checking in daily with Google’s Small Business blog. In 2011, we’ve had the Panda update, the launch of Google +, a push to develop local businesses, and much more. Subscribe and check in daily to learn about the latest changes that Google is making to (hopefully) make life easier on small businesses.

2. Monthly Brainstorming – Make SEO a priority. Obviously, it’s important. As you look at monthly numbers and reports, think about where you want to improve, and set a few goals in place to get you there (or on the right track) by the start of next month. For example, if you’re seeing growth with a few keywords but are stagnant with others, focus your strategies on some new keywords. It’s going to be more valuable if you’re on top for a wide range of terms. Expand the conversation to include others on your team. Maybe some unconventional ideas will be the shot in the arm you need.

3. Monitor your growth – Think of your most important keyword terms. When you type them into a search engine search bar, what do you see on the results? Are you on the first page? Do some research to figure out how you’re ranking at the start of the new year. There are several tools out there that can help you do this. It’s a good idea to check in with the rankings every month or so to see if you are improving or not. A steady drop in rankings may mean your website has other problems, like broken links or missing pages. Of course, moving up means you’re doing something correctly. Part of the initial consultation we offer at Evolving Interactive is a ranking report for the keywords you pick and we recommend.  If you’d like to know more about SEO rankings and how it affects your business, contact us for a free consultation to get you started in 2012.

And since we’re already on the subject of the new year, all of us at Evolving Interactive want to thank you for keeping up with us at the Evolving Interactive Blog this year. We appreciate your guest blog posts, your comments, and your interest. We look forward to writing for (and with) you in 2012. Happy New Year!

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Here in Chicago, it’s raining links and blogs. (SEO joke. Sorry.) In our last blog post, we discussed being proactive and original with your SEO campaigns, wowing potential customers with your freestyle, outside the box thinking. But, today I don’t feel like it. With the dreariness of a long Chicago winter ahead, and days like this, here is a list of five SEO strategies that can pass the time and still help you market your business.

Link Building – This is one of our premier SEO services for our clients. It’s the strategy (art) of connecting with relevant sites and having them link back to your site because you have something important to share; like an idea, product, or service. Link Building is my #1 favorite lazy day SEO activity. I turn on a movie or play a few albums, and just plug away at the computer. Most of link building is research, and reaching out to websites. It takes a while, but it is the backbone of search engine optimization. Plus, you can get in the zone and make a lot of progress when not distracted with the dreary outside world.

Blog Writing – Considering our last post, you can look for inspiration in anything to promote your website with a new blog post. A grey day is no exception (re: this post). Grab a hot beverage and just write. Try to keep it loose and comfortable. Come up with a few topics you haven’t blogged about in a while, and give a few reminders and updates to your readers.

Social Media Promotions – From a marketing standpoint, this is a slam dunk for local businesses that are social media savvy. In order to get a few extra followers, likes, and shares; target the people nearby passing the rainy day blues in front of their computers. Offer a promotion that will warm them up a bit. For example, “Rainy Day Special – The first five people to repost this on their wall receive two free movie passes, Starbucks Giftcard, etc

The plus side to working in the ever changing internet marketing business is the ability to try new things. Sure, there are tried and true methods and strategies in SEO. Finding valuable links, submitting press releases, keeping up with your blog; these are just a few proven tactics. But there are other, more unorthodox methods of attracting the search engines, which can attract the masses (and isn’t that the real goal?)

Whether you are an SEO or a small business owner going the DIY route, you shouldn’t be afraid to try new methods. With some experience, you should be a good enough judge as to whether a tactic would be white or black hat, and frowned upon by the engines. Plus, I’m not talking about going out and buying up a whole bunch of links. I’m talking about brainstorming new ideas that go beyond the concept of traditional internet marketing.

For example, Evolving Interactive wanted to get the word out about our successes as a leading Chicago SEO firm. We wanted our friends, their friends, and more to hear about our services, and how we help small businesses get to the top of the search engine rankings. After writing the informational blog post, sending out a press release, and commenting on some trending stories; we decided to try something new. One of our multi-talented SEO analysts thought it would be cool to make a stop-motion video highlighting what we do. Here is the result:

This video didn’t go viral and reach the world-wide masses, but it got a handful of Facebook shares, links, and mentions. So maybe a few people unfamiliar with our company are now familiar. We found a new way to market ourselves on the internet, and did it in a way we hoped would catch on because of its fun nature and cool look.

Making an online commercial isn’t re-inventing the wheel, but it’s something we hadn’t tried before. This should be your goal in SEO. Once you know a method works, keep at it, but try new things. If it doesn’t work, drop it and find what does.

Once you have worked on the traditional SEO methods, try to brainstorm some new ideas, and see what that does for your online presence. Think about your customer base and your potential customers. What can you do to catch their eye beyond killer keyword placement?

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We are almost at the two year anniversary of our SEO Blog on the Evolving Interactive website. In the search marketing industry, a lot can change in a period of weeks, let alone two whole years. (Check back with us on January 14 2012 for a special blog post.) However, even in this ever changing industry, there is a golden rule that everyone, SEO’s and small businesses alike, should follow. Optimize your website for your customers first, and the search engines second.

In the early days of search, the black hat tactics that made a website look juicy to a search engine seem archaic and obvious now. Keyword stuffing, putting colored keywords on a same color background, spamming comment boards (this still happens, sadly and comically); and the list goes on. All of these tactics were used to help boost the strength of a website that really had nothing to offer to people / potential customers once they got to the site. As search engines caught on to these “strategies

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