Report: Ceramic tile leading recovery in U.S. floor coverings sales.
 
January 28th, 2013

According to the latest Catalina Report on Ceramic Tile released by Catalina Research and Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), ceramic tile has led the recovery in U.S. floor coverings sales.  During 2013, dollar and square feet sales are estimated to increase by 7.0% to 7.5% rising to $2.5 billion and 2.4 billion square feet.

Catalina estimates that ceramic tile will increase its share of overall floor coverings sales in square feet and dollars and its share of hard surface flooring.  The builder market is estimated to lead growth during 2013 due to a projected 29.0% increase in housing starts.  Growth in the residential replacement market could also accelerate as existing home sales increase by double digit rates.  Consumers are expected to push average selling prices upwards as demand shifts to higher priced products as the economy rebounds, home prices increase, and household finances improve.  Consumers are also responding positively to the introduction of larger-sized porcelain tile with stone and wood looks, as manufacturers increase their reliance on digital printing and other technologies.  In addition, the use of traditional ceramic tile is being enhanced with glass and glass-hybrid tiles to create custom designs.

The new 196-page Product Industry Report dated December 2012 provides up-to-date information on North American and world markets, and ceramic tile’s position in the U.S. floor coverings, hard surface flooring, and combined ceramic/stone/glass tile markets.

In addition, the report takes an in-depth look at the current state of U.S. construction activity and analyzes the market potential for ceramic tile. The timely data allows users to evaluate market size, growth potential, end-use markets, profitability, market share, and the competitive environment.  Each section delivers meaningful data that will allow ceramic tile industry executives to intelligently take advantage of opportunities and to avoid potential threats so they can grow their businesses and plan for 2013 and beyond.  Catalina Reports have been relied upon by the ceramic tile, stone, and floor covering industries to provide up-to-date and valuable industry information for many years.

Catalina Research added new features to the latest edition including a breakdown of porcelain and ceramic tiles, floor and wall tiles, and an analysis of the glass tile market. In addition, Catalina provides data on retail ceramic tile sales by channel and customer type, and calculated retail market shares for the leading retailers and manufacturer sales networks.

This in-depth report covers pertinent data and information by providing ceramic tile sales for residential and non-residential markets and for new construction and remodeling markets.  End-use market trends are correlated with U.S. housing demand, homeowner hard surface replacement projects and spending, characteristics of new homes, non-residential construction spending, mortgage interest rates, and other economic indicators to uncover the factors driving demand and provide insights into the direction of domestic demand in 2013 and beyond. For companies who do not need the full Ceramic Tile report covering North America and World markets, Catalina Research also provides custom local reports that analyze local market conditions at the state, city and county level at a lower cost.

Visit www.CTaSC.com to obtain copies of the report brochure, abstract and table of contents.  Pricing and order forms are available at www.CTaSC.com.


High definition porcelain tiles making a significant design statement at Surfaces.
 
January 22nd, 2013

“TidesHDP” is latest addition to Florida Tile’s expanding line

Florida_Tile_TIDES

Florida Tile has introduced a stylized interpretation of vein-cut stone called TidesHDP, a glazed porcelain and wall tile line for both commercial and residential use. It is the latest addition to the company’s family of ever-expanding HDP High Definition Porcelain® Products. “Specifically,” says Sean Cilona, Florida Tile’s Marketing Director, “the look of TidesHDP is that of a linear-cut Travertine or Limestone known as Georgette. In its natural form this look is a stunning linear play of tone-on-tone colors which creates the contemporary appearance.”

“As a Florida Tile porcelain product, TidesHDP is far stronger, more versatile, and easier to maintain than stone, meaning that the look can go virtually anywhere,” he adds. “By using Florida Tile’s HDP-High Definition Porcelain® technology, we not only reproduce this stone look, we also are able to set loose our imaginations with bold color combinations that can’t be found in nature.”

The new TidesHDP collection ranges from bold Blues to Steel Gray and Dark Brown.  “We created contemporary colors that can be specified in any commercial space. Each color has a unique blend of complimentary colors within its veining to add interest and depth, as well as pair beautifully with other design finishes.” (The larger-format TidesHDP can also make a statement in residential settings.)

TidesHDP glazed porcelain floor and wall is available in pressed 12×24 along with a 3×24 bullnose for each color.  Cilona also says “We have also added a unique patterned M12 mosaic that rotates each chip 90 degrees, to create a wonderful checkerboard pattern. From a design perspective, the result is that TidesHDP presents countless opportunities for creative expression, far beyond that of natural stone.”

TidesHDP  is made in the USA of 40% post-industrial recycled content. It is Greenguard and Porcelain Tile Certified and meets the new DCOF Acutest requirements to be installed in wet areas. An all new tile category, HDP High Definition Porcelain® is a Florida Tile registered trademarked brand. HDP High Definition Porcelain® is the most technically advanced glazing system available today delivering the most realistic image possible in stone or wood and also allowing for the creation low relief patterns, handmade effects, fabric looks and mosaics.

 

Florim introduces Jewel

JEWEL by Florim

Florim’s “Jewel” is a true gem of glazed porcelain tile, produced with cutting-edge High Definition Graphic (HDG) Technology which results in a natural stone look so real, seasoned geologists will be taking second and third glances to believe this is a man-made material! Available in five unique colors (Petrolio, Noce, Beige, Grigio, and Silver), Jewel is presented in five size formats, all available with coordinating trim pieces.  The 18”x18” and 12”x24” sizes are available either as pressed format with a natural finish… or, a rectified format with a semi-polished finish.  The 18”x36” rectified size represents a new large format produced by Florim USA. Made in America by American workers, Jewel tiles with a natural finish have a Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCOF) rating of >0.42, which makes the range an ideal choice for nearly any application (residential/commercial and indoor/outdoor). Jewel also contains 40% recycled content; therefore projects specified with this exquisite new tile are eligible for LEED points. Stefano Rabaioli, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Florim USA stated,  “People in the United States are big fans of having natural stone installed in bathrooms, both commercial and residential. Many of the beautiful stones in demand are really not suitable for these projects, as they are too soft and have a high porosity level, which means they become water-absorbent and soon will deteriorate. Jewel tiles are as durable as the strongest granite… and, they are even more non-porous. When selected, the result is a beautiful installation with a stone look as realistic as can be found, that is strong enough to endure the rigors of time. And unlike natural stone, porcelain tile never needs sealing. We feel this is an ideal product for any kind of ‘wet area’ tile installation.”

www.florimusa.com


Dahnke joins Marble Institute
 
January 16th, 2013

The Marble Institute of America has announced the hiring of Aaron Dahnke to fill the vacated role of Education Manager. Aaron joins the MIA after 9 years of non-profit management experience, most recently serving as Education and Partnerships Manager at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement in Washington, D.C. Dahnke fills the role vacated by Jim Hieb when he accepted the position of MIA Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer. Hieb had this to say of the hiring, “We asked Aaron to join our team primarily because of his association experience and understanding of education/curriculum development. We are excited to have Aaron join the team just prior to StonExpo, so he can meet face-to-face many of the industry leaders he will be working with to advance the stone industry’s education program.” In his role with the MIA, Aaron will initially be responsible for: oversight of the Regional Education Program (in partnership with Stone World magazine); launching the Chapter Development pilot program; and assisting the MIA Safety Committee with the development a turn-key safety manual and additional online safety training courses. Dahnke has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio University, as well as a Certificate in Fundraising from the University of Richmond.

adahnke@marble-institute.com.


Mediterranea features state-of-the-art technology at Surfaces 2013
 
January 16th, 2013

Mediterranea has created a truly interactive experience for attendees at the annual Surfaces exhibition, running January 29-31 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Visitors to Mediterranea’s booth #B3127 will experience the very latest in touchscreen computer technology, displaying the company’s product data, installation photographs and e-brochures all at the touch of a finger. “We wanted to give Surfaces attendees a way to quickly and easily browse our product lines, without having to request paper copies of product specifications and marketing data”, said Mediterranea marketing VP Don Mariutto.  “At the touch of a button, complete information on any of Mediterranea’s 25 series can be emailed to an interested customer.” Mediterranea’s display showcases the company’s state-of-the-art porcelain tile series in stunning high definition on a 23” touchscreen.  A swipe of the finger allows attendees to zoom in on installation photographs to get an up-close look on the realistic designs provided by Mediterranea’s Dynamic HD Imaging™ technology. Mediterranea will feature its new Juliet’s Courtyard series installed on the floor.  The series comes in two color blends, creating a stunningly vintage look in a product manufactured to the highest technical specifications.

 

www.mediterranea-usa.com.


Bellavita Appointment
 
January 16th, 2013

Bellavita Tile Inc. has appointed Gary Davis as a Sales Representative, responsible for the Southeast United States.  Davis arrives with 15 years of experience with ceramic and porcelain products at EPC America, where he was a regional Sales manager. Davis is excited about opportunity to work for Bellavita and to deal with products that hold value to the target audience.  “Bellavita Tile is a supplier that offers products designed for the American consumer and programs developed for the American distributor.” Davis stated. “Our products capture the current trends and color ranges that designers and homeowners are looking for today.

www.bellavitatile.com.


Tile Industry 2013: Primed for Recovery, Part 2
 
January 11th, 2013

By Jeffrey Steele

 

In part 1 of this feature on the industry in 2013 (ASHLEY, PLEASE LINK HERE TO PART 1), industry resources affirmed that the continuing housing recovery could mean a good year for ceramic tile and stone. However, after several years of belt-tightening, the industry faces some interesting challenges in an evolving marketplace.

 

A technology crossroads

Mitch Dancik, chairman of the board of Cary, N.C.-based Dancik International, a 27-year-old, 44-employee software firm specializing in ceramic tile, flooring and natural stone products, is also predicting growth.

Dancik feels pent-up demand and money sitting on sidelines should profit ceramic manufacturers, distributors and dealers.  “In general, through exposure to my clients, I believe an upward trend is going to start,” he says.

To ensure the rising tide lifts their own boats, tile companies must grasp they are at a technology crossroads.  “For the last five years, people have been delaying any technology investments,” Dancik says.  “There is going to be a real demographic change in their customers, so whether you’re selling to consumers, contractors, dealers or distributors, all of those players are going through a technological change, and their expectations of their suppliers are going to be different.”

For years, software companies like Dancik’s have had distributors tell them, “You don’t know how technologically behind my customers are.”  That provided an excuse for them to go on sending paper invoices and operating in the traditional ways.

But now new generations are taking the helm at these businesses, and very soon, a contractor will expect more technology than the distributor can offer, Dancik asserts. They will expect, for instance, to place and track orders from their mobile devices and also expect that all services short of fetching donuts will be handled over their iPhones as opposed to over the traditional counter.

“It’s not that the contractor is becoming a computer genius, it’s that the contractor is more interested in technology,” he says.  “That contractor will be using an iPhone and iPad to access everything, and therefore will be expecting to access a distributor’s business that way too.To put it differently, a contractor will expect every buying experience to be like Amazon.com.”

Dancik acknowledges he is seeing distributors using iPads and other tablets, instead of bulkier laptops, and finding them used in showrooms and outside sales.  “However, we’re not seeing that all the applications being used have been optimized for those tablets,” he adds.  “At Dancik, we are involved heavily in optimizing all of our software for tablets and mobile devices.”

Many distributors, but not enough, have websites that display their marketing material.  Some allow order entry and order tracking from their websites.  And some distributors have started to allow mobile devices to access that information.  “But the future is when all types of devices can access all of this information in a consistent manner,” Dancik says.

All tile distributors and manufacturers should be aware that there is a standard emerging for mobile access to information, and this standard is being developed by the Floor Covering B2B Organizations (www.fcb2b.org).  In 2012, a universal stock check, or inventory, application was developed and demonstrated by J.J. Haynes & Company, Jaeckle Wholesale, Shaw Industries, Dancik International and Qfloors.  What does that mean for tile distributors?

“What it means is that contractors and retailers will be able to access inventory and pricing information from all of their suppliers, using the same methods,” Dancik says.  “In other words, they don’t have to download a separate app for every company.  Future applications already scheduled for development include universal order application.”

The bottom line is that there is both good news and sobering news for tile companies.

“The good news is the tile industry will make leaps forward in technology,” Dancik says.  “But the sobering news is this is just to get us competitive with industries already using this technology.”

View from front lines

Tile manufacturers and distributors range from very optimistic to slightly upbeat about the near future. At Lexington, Ky.’s Florida Tile, a manufacturer and distributor of mid- to high-end porcelain tile, director of quality assurance and technical service Dan Marvin reports the company has put two excellent years of growth in the books since 2010, averaging about 20% growth a year.

“We attribute that to a pickup in home building, and to enthusiasm for our products following a product revamp,” he reports.  “In 2010, we introduced wood-look tiles that have really taken off in the market.  [In 2013], it looks like home building is coming back, through not back to its best levels.  A lot depends on the fiscal cliff and a number of economic factors that are still uncertain.  We’ve been going through a budgeting process, and anticipate substantial growth.”

Not so optimistic, but not pessimistic, is Robert Henry Sr., chief executive officer of Robert F. Henry Tile Company of Montgomery, Ala.  The 70-year-old company handles everything from inexpensive tile for rental buildings to highly decorative, $25-a-square-foot tile, and serves remodelers, home builders, commercial builders, tile installers and retail buyers. Henry himself has been in the business for more than 60 years.

Residential construction has not been going gangbusters in his area, but substantial military, school and medical construction has taken place.  “We work hard to develop that kind of business, starting with the architects,” Henry says.  “The remodeling area has helped us a lot.  Those projects involve upgrading the house, and people want higher quality, distinctive materials.  Instead of plastic laminate backsplash, they want glass and decorative tile to make things more distinctive.  In a number of cases, people waited to see what would happen, and nothing wonderful happened.  So they said, ‘Let’s fix up our house.’”

Henry worries about what he believes will be rising costs of operating businesses, noting, “The medical care requirements for employees, those are real headwinds, and I believe they’ll discourage some new investment in buildings.”

Still, hope springs eternal, especially for one who’s seen many ups and downs since the early 1950s.  Henry speaks for many when he says things seem to have stabilized.  “With the sudden and swift decline in business, we had to lower our breakeven point, but we kept our marketing program and salespeople,” he says.  “We feel things are slightly better, and we’re guardedly optimistic.” ###

 

 


Tile Industry 2013: Primed for Recovery, Part 1
 
January 2nd, 2013

By Jeffrey Steele

The tile industry has been through a lot the past five years.  Just about anything that could go wrong did, from a mortgage meltdown to a horrific lending environment, from high jobless rates to depressed consumer confidence, from a decline in remodeling work to even bigger plunges in new home starts. But tile manufacturers, distributors and dealers that survived the tough times are now well positioned to benefit from the improving economic climate heralded by many observers.

According to Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants Inc.‘s Donato Pompo, citing findings from Catalina Research, ceramic tile is leading the floor covering sales recovery, as tile  manufacturers leverage the rebound in existing home sales and housing starts.

In the third quarter of 2012, U.S. ceramic tile sales are estimated to have grown by 9% in dollars and 9.2% in square feet.  This increase reflects an 11% increase in U.S. housing demand during 2012, led by a 28% increase in housing starts in the third quarter. Concomitantly, private non-residential construction spending rose by about 19%.

Thanks largely to improving designs in wood-look planks, glass, and stone looks, ceramic tile sales have outpaced those of overall floor coverings.  Ceramic tile is also more price competitive.  In the third quarter of 2012, overall average floor covering selling prices increased by an estimated 2.9%, while average ceramic tile manufacturer selling prices were level with the previous year.  The result is that ceramic tile accounted for 13.1% of total U.S. floor coverings manufacturer dollar sales and 12.9% of total square foot sales, up from 11.4% and 10.6%respectively in 2009.

“Ceramic tile is expected to continue to gain share in the U.S. floor coverings market in 2013, since builder purchases and commercial sales are leading the recovery,” Catalina Research states.  “Ceramic tile manufacturers and marketers will benefit from these trends, since this sector is more reliant on the builder and commercial markets than other floor coverings industry leaders.”

(Note: Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Inc. is releasing the new updated Catalina Report on Ceramic Tile in December.  It is available from the organization’s website at www.CTaSC.com.)

Hopeful harbingers

New home construction posted strong numbers for the entirety of 2012, says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

What’s more, it appears that 2013 will be a strong year for housing on a percentage basis.  Baker says 1 million housing starts could be registered in 2013.  Still, based on such factors as household formation, the potential is for 1.6 or 1.7 million new housing stars a year.  “So even with the strength of the housing in 2013, we’re still a few years away,” he says, suggesting it may be 2015 or 2016 before housing comes all the way back.

Baker predicts that based on the “good but not great” 2012 mid-single-digit growth, 2013 could see high-single-digit or low-double-digit growth in remodeling.  Commercial growth, which generally lags residential growth, will not be as robust.  “We’ve seen some softness in the commercial market over the fall,” he says.  “We foresee some growth in commercial, but not matching residential.  It will stay in the mid single digits.”

Tile should benefit from growth in all these areas, but Baker cautions that it is often viewed as an upper-end product.  “Now, with the crash we saw in house prices, we’re going to see a little less on the upper end of the market,” he adds.  “Most new homes built will pay a bit more attention to affordability.

“Design-build contractors are reporting they are not seeing the big projects they saw a few years ago.  Consumers are not doing the real major kitchen and bath remodels they did some years back.  They’re looking at [kitchen and bath remodeling] on a product-by-product basis, not a gut remodel basis.”

Overall, Baker says tile distributors should be guardedly optimistic.

“They should see a better year in 2013,” he predicts.  “But they need to track consumer needs a little better than they have in the past.”

Challenges and opportunities

For distributors, manufacturers and installers, the challenge is to manage their likely growth, even if it is slow growth, Pompo says. “Not having enough qualified employees can be worse than having too many, particularly if the quality of services, products or work suffers.”

Problems cost money, time and reputations.  The challenge is when to start hiring, and making sure time, money and effort is expended in training employees to be more effective.  The fastest way to increase sales, production and profit is through training employees so they will be more competent, productive and motivated, he asserts.  Today’s customers buy from providers they feel are the most knowledgeable, provide the most pertinent information, and demonstrate the greatest reliability.

“The opportunity today is the many online training resources such as CTDA Online that can provide instant 24-7 access to training to educate and help make salespeople more effective at their jobs, and to educate tile installers [in] the industry standards that will help them avoid costly failures,” he says.

Pompo stresses that a good, informative website is a necessity these days.  Well-designed websites that contain considerable information can generate significant numbers of leads and sales.  Today’s buyers are going to the Internet first to pre-qualify companies they want to visit, purchase from or call for a quote.  ”If the website isn’t informative or doesn’t show a wide variety of products, and if it isn’t easy to use, they will be gone in a flash,” he says.

“Remember that the website is a representation of your company, and you will be judged accordingly.  The Internet is a great tool for generating business, so the opportunity and challenge is for distributors, manufacturers and installers to utilize the Internet and make it the primary tool to generate business.”

 


FLORIM INTRODUCES “ECOWOOD”
 
December 28th, 2012

Florim USA has introduced Ecowood, a glazed porcelain tile produced using High Definition Graphic, to the North American marketplace. Ecowood is a rustic tile range replicating the inherent beauty of natural hardwood. Offered in five unique colors: Noce, Wenge, Rovere, Avorio, and Multi-Color, two size formats are available: 6”x24” pressed and 6”x36” rectified. Complementary Ecowood trim pieces 6”x12” cove-base, and 1”x6” corner pieces are included, as well.  The 6”x36” rectified format is a brand new size produced by Florim USA. Made in the USA, Ecowood has a Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCOF) rating of > 0.42; making it an ideal choice for nearly any application (residential/commercial; indoor/outdoor). Additionally, all Ecowood materials contain 40% recycled content. Projects which include Ecowood are eligible for LEED points. Florim USA will soon be introducing a 18″x36″ size format, providing the unique opportunity to cut and rectify longer size formats such as the new Ecowood 6″x36″ tile. www.florimusa.com

 


Redi Trench™
 
December 28th, 2012

Tile Redi®, manufacturer and marketer of pre-formed, one-piece shower pans and related accessories, now offers Redi Trench™…  the only linear drain system completely integrated into a leak-proof, mold-free shower pan. Designers have the choice of selecting either tile-in-grate or non-tile-able versions. Redi Trench offers an exciting marriage of design and function for the commercial construction sector, in particular for the hospitality industry; following ots introduction at the recent Kitchen & Bath Show it won the prestigious “Best of the Bath award.”  Redi Trench™ features offer endless design flexibility as  it can be used with any size Redi Base (30″–72”), plank pitched, molded-in trench. The Redi Trench™ is  plank pitched with a  molded-in trench that will accept any tile size. Additionally, it can be put in any trench location or any drain location with the option of specifying a tile-able or grate top. www.tileredi.com


Marketing Your Blog: Search Engine Optimization is Essential to Success
 
December 6th, 2012

By Kathleen Furore

Last July, Conestoga Tile, www.conestogatile.com,  launched a blog with one goal in mind: to educate its audience about all things tile. The challenge for this Hanover, Pa.-headquartered wholesale distributor was to engage homeowners, tile dealers, contractors, architects and designers alike—a diverse mix of consumers, all of them potential Conestoga clients.

“Because we have a wide audience, many of our blogs are on topics that everyone would be interested in and can benefit from. For example recent posts have been about understanding shade variation in tile, care and maintenance of tile and stone, effects of lighting on floors and walls and curbless showers. We try to post two blogs per week or eight each month,” Steve Vogel, the company’s executive vice president, explains. “Other blogs we post are supplier highlights and new product introductions. Recently, we started a blog series introducing people to the design consultants that work in our showroom. We will highlight one design consultant every month for the next year.”

To get the blog going, the company ran a few weeks of blog entries before announcing it to the tile world. “We wanted to have some content so visitors could get a good feel for what our blog was going to be on their first visit. Then we announced the blog through an email blast to our customers as well as through our monthly newsletter,” Vogel recalls. “The first month we had 63 visitors. Since then we have had a total of 700 different visitors, and many of them have returned each week to read more blogs.”

Vogel credits Facebook and Twitter promotions and the “From the Blog” feature in Conestoga’s monthly newsletter with the blog’s steady growth. “The writing is done is such a way that search engine words and phrases are used,” he adds. “The blog’s sole purpose is to create Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and drive people to our website. We review Google Analytics and see that people are finding us through Google searches and then moving on to our website. That’s what we want.”

Avoiding the Pitfalls

Vogel and the bloggers at Conestoga Tile have taken the necessary steps toward blog success. Many small business, however, don’t market their blogs in ways that beckon new visitors.

“It’s easy to build a blog, but hard to build a successful blog with significant traffic,” says Randy Fishkin, CEO of SEOMoz (www.seomoz.org), a Seattle-based developer of SEO software. “Blogging rarely takes off after the first few posts. It’s months, sometimes years of effort and dozens to hundreds of posts before the ROI from a blog can be seen. Because it’s such an intense effort with a long payoff, most businesses don’t invest or don’t invest properly, which means the few who do it well and get it right earn massively outsized rewards.”

Inadequate investment of time and resources is just one mistake newbie bloggers make, adds Susan Gunelius, President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. (www.keysplashcreative.com), and author of “Blogging All-in-One for Dummies” and other books about marketing, blogging, and social media.

“Once the blog has been launched, the biggest mistakes small businesses make are publishing content that is too self-promotional, not bothering to update the blog, and operating in a silo,” Gunelius says. “If you build it, they won’t come—you need to build relationships with your target audience on the sites where they already spend time before they’ll trust you enough to come to your blog.”

Trafiic-building Tips

Understanding Search Engine Optimization and doing all you can to make your blog’s content SEO-friendly is essential to marketing any small business blog.

“SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!” Fishkin explains. “Search engines are unique in that they provided targeted traffic—people looking for what you offer. Search engines are the roadways that make this happen. They are a massive opportunity for traffic, yet many bloggers ignore them, mostly because they don’t understand exactly how to tap into them.”

With that in mind, Fishkin and Gunelius offer the following marketing tips that can help boost traffic to your blog:

*Use Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to Share Posts & Find Connections. Register a personal account and a brand account at Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Use photos and compelling descriptions to make each profile as useful and credible as possible. Research shows profiles with more information have a significant correlation with more successful accounts. Connect with users with whom you share a personal or professional relationship, and start following industry luminaries, influencers and connectors. Services like FollowerWonk and FindPeopleonPlus can also help, Fishkin says.

*Install Analytics and Pay Attention to Results. Fishkin recommends installing the free Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics), which lets bloggers see where visits originate, which sources drive quality traffic and what others might be saying when they link over.

*Add Graphics, Photos and Illustrations (with link-back licensing). Uploading and hosting images, or using a service like Flickr to embed your images with licensing requirements on that site, creates another traffic source via Image Search. Letting others use the images legally in a way that benefits you is also a plus. Fishkin suggests posting a notice under your blog’s images saying re-using them is fine as long as the user links back to your post.

*Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts. A big part of showing up in search engines is targeting the terms and phrases prospective visitors are typing into a search engine. Google’s free AdWords Keyword Tool can help. Enter words or phrases related to your product or service, and you’ll see related keywords.

*Guest Blog (and Accept the Guest Posts of Others). Guest blogging can spread your brand to people who have never seen your work. It also can be useful in earning early links and references back to your site, which will drive direct traffic and help your search engine rankings.

*Post Frequently. The more great content you publish, the more chances exist for people to find, talk about, and share your content. As Gunelius notes, “Google gives some preference to ‘fresh’ content, so a frequently updated site that’s not breaking any Google rules and is building incoming links to demonstrate its authority should rank higher in search results than a stagnant site.”
*Write Posts That Are Long Enough to Rank in Keyword Searches. While the best blog posts are relatively short, don’t make them too short to be ranked in search results. Gunelius says a good rule of thumb is to write posts that are at least 300 words, which gives you the opportunity to use your primary keyword twice without seeming like you’re keyword stuffing.
*Use Keywords in Blog Post Titles and Body. Whenever possible, include your target keyword or keyword phrase in the title of your blog post. Also try to use keywords in the body of your post as early as possible, particularly in the first paragraph.

*Write a Good Meta Description with Keywords. Search engines use meta descriptions to describe the web pages that appear in their results. A meta description should include your keywords as well as details about the content on the page the link will take visitors to. When search engine results list your blog post, prospective visitors will see the meta description, so it should be compelling enough to convince people to click the link that leads to the post.

*Link Internally and Externally. Try to link keyword phrases to your other relevant blog posts and pages. Make sure you don’t add too many links or your post could be flagged as spam. The accepted link to text ratio estimated by search engine optimization experts is one link for every 125 words, Gunelius notes. Linking to external blogs and websites later in your post is another way to show your blog is connected with high-quality websites.

For more tips about marketing your blog to boost traffic, visit www.seomoz.org/blog/21-tactics-to-increase-blog-traffic-2012 and weblogs.aboaut.com/od/marketinablog/u/GrowABlog.htm.

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