Content is Currency

Developing Powerful Content
for Web and Mobile

by Jon Wuebben - Founder and CEO of Content Launch

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In honor of Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming film adaptation of what truly may be the perfect American novel, The Great Gatsby, let’s use the great Ouija board that is the Internet to resurrect F. Scott Fitzgerald and see what words of wisdom he may have for us as content writers. Sure, his life may not have been the best source for dating (let alone drinking) advice, but undeniably, the man could write. Here’s what Scott has to say about his craft:

1. “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”

Never forget that the substance comes first. It’s the content of “content,” if I may. Writing things on commission is a workaday reality for many of us, but you always must find a way of expressing something authentic about whatever topic you’re given (even if you’re not truly an expert).
2. “To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it all my life.”

Okay, so the timeframe is significantly sped up on the Web. Addressing each of his points in personal terms: I wish I could reliably come up with my blogging ideas in three minutes; I usually take less than three hours in the writing; and I do think there is an irreducible truth in that last part. Wisdom comes with experience, and everything I’ve ever learned or done is a potential wellspring for my writing.

3. “An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmaster of ever afterwards.”

Obviously, we are rarely aiming to write the Great American Novel the way Scott did, let alone something that will be on every high school curriculum in America for a century after we write it. Still, when crafting content for the short-attention-span Internet, it’s still good to take a moment and think: does this offer lasting value? If someone stumbles upon this page in five years, is there any chance they’ll care?

4. “Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.”

Personality is one of the most important and least explicable facets of writing. It’s an alchemy that takes place between you, your keyboard, and your audience. I like Fitzgerald’s definition very much. A good stylist does maintain a certain internal consistency in her work and the way it’s presented. Today we might call this “branding.”

5. “Some men have a necessity to be mean, as if they were exercising a faculty which they had to partially neglect since early childhood.”

This law of nature explains a lot of the blog commenters you’ll encounter.

6. “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

This is good advice! ;)

Even if you don’t aspire to the lyricism and beauty of Fitzgerald, but to a more transparent and workmanlike prose a la Hemingway, I hope these quotes have made you think a little differently about what we do. Don’t take it from me, take it from the ultimate wordsmith: writing matters.

This Content is Currency post is from Aniya Wells, a freelance writer and blogger whose writing interests are decidedly consumer-focused. In an age in which consumers have access to unprecedented amounts of information, Aniya hopes to help her readers decode this information to make better decisions about online degree programs, personal finance, parenting, health, and more. She can be reached at aniyawells@gmail.com.

 

 

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Search engine updates can be great for consumers, but a real headache for web designers and content creators. Google in particular actively creates algorithm changes designed to keep content valuable and fresh, and the search engine giant’s vigilance keeps SEO firms and web administrators on their toes.

Panda 3.8 Update

Since releasing its Panda 3.8 refresh on June 25th, Google had been busy denying rumors of a 3.9 update. Just about a month later, the new update occurred as predicted. While the original Panda release in February of 2011 impacted 11 percent of indexed sites, the most recent Panda refresh will only affect 1 percent of the sites contained in Google’s index.

One percent may not sound significant, but the number actually reflects a large number of sites. The goal is to filter out the spam sites that clog Google’s search engine result pages. As long as you avoid black hat practices, your site should be fine. If you practice black hat tactics, you should have been aware of what might happen.

How to Avoid Being Impacted by Panda

Since Google’s goal is to reduce the number of spam sites as much as possible, there are measures you can take so your site isn’t impacted by Panda updates. If your search rankings have already been affected, these steps can also help you climb back up in the Google rankings.

Always use legitimate SEO strategies. In addition to avoiding black hat tactics, read Google’s webmaster guidelines in order to ensure that your site stays in the search engine’s good graces. Contained in Google’s Webmaster Tools at Google Support, the guidelines cover quality, design, content and technical issues.

Social Media Promotion

Social media has long been touted as a valid, effective means of promoting your websites. Now, it’s emerging as the safest as well. Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites to drive traffic to your site, get good links and establish positive communication within your industry’s community.

Protecting Your Ranking

Search engine updates can be nerve-wracking, but using a common-sense approach can protect you from these increasingly frequent algorithm changes. Google’s attempts to weed out spam sites are a major source of concern for anyone involved with search engine optimization.

If you use legitimate SEO tactics, however, you’ll have nothing to worry about in terms of rankings. Avoid black hat practices, opting instead for quality content and good links. Use social media to maintain positive ties within your industry and promote your sites in a healthy, mutually beneficial way.

This Content is Currency post was written by Stephen Craig, who is a part of an elite team of SEO consultants and enjoys writing about the latest trends in search engine optimization. Follow him @SCraigSEO.

 

 

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We all have days where we have no idea what to write. We sit there, staring at a blank computer screen and wonder what in the world we are going to write about today. Our minds are either a complete blank or so filled with ideas that we can’t grasp just one. So, how do you overcome this writing block? Here are five ways:

  1. Take a break – The more you try to force yourself to write, the worse off you will be. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is take a break. It does not have to be a long break, sometimes five minutes away from your screen can do the job. If you are tired, take a short nap. If you are hungry, have a snack… away from your desk. If you really want to get your blood pumping, do some sit-ups or push-ups. Whatever you do, just give your eyes a break from the screen and your mind a break from thinking.
  2. Look around – Sometimes inspiration does not have to come from within. Take a look around you. Do you have anything you have been thinking about lately? Check your bookmarks and favorites. Can you write something about them? Surf the web or turn on the news. It might not be related to anything you see, but something will inspire you to start writing.
  3. Just start –If it has been a while and nothing is working, then just start writing. Do stream of consciousness. Go on a rant about writer’s block. Just type your thoughts. Eventually you will see a pattern emerge and something productive will come out. You can always edit out the junk later, for now, just write!
  4. Get a hobby –Sometimes your brain gets burnt out thinking about the same old topic all the time. Get a new interest that is not related to writing. Grow a garden, watch a movie, or take up knitting! Whatever the case, you will have fresh material to write about. Even unsuccessful hobbies make for fun and interesting stories
  5. Blast from the past – Take a look at some of the things you have written before. Maybe you have new ideas you can add to them or maybe you have changed your mind. Reusing old topics is not a bad thing as long as you don’t just spit out the same garbage. If you can use an old thing in a new way, then do it.

These five ideas are just simple things that can get you over the looming mountain of low productivity. If your mind refuses to write another word, then try one or all of these tips. Hopefully you’ll soon be back at your desk, furiously typing away.

This Content is Currency guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of nanny payroll. She welcomes your comments via email: jdebra84 @ gmail.com.

 

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Directories have been the staple of any SEO link building campaign for a long time.  But over the years Google has really devalued links that come from some directories.  General web directories can be poor in quality and seldom have enough backlinks and quality content to bring traffic to your website.  What helps with citation building is a strong local business directory.

Good local business directories list businesses.  This fact alone cuts down on the spammy websites as in a local business directory these are actual business that provide real services.  What sets a business directory aside from a web directory are the contents of the listing.  Business directories will include a phone number and a business address.  Sometimes they may include other pertinent information like the URL, owners name and related business information.  Any directory that allows you to add a direct link is good for Google SEO as links are still a very important factor.

One of the main factors for Google Local Optimization is local citations for your business.  Google wants to be able to find plenty of information on the web that you are in fact a real company and other websites list your business information.  This can be one of the main factors in ranking in the Google local results.

Some of the best Local Business directories not only list your business information but also provide a link to your website.  This will help with your overall SEO efforts as well as your local SEO efforts.  Below are the top five local business directories for traffic and link juice.

1)     BOTW Local

2)     Ziffen

3)     DexKnows

4)     ThinkLocal

5)     Discover Our Town

Most of the other local business directories provide links that are not search engine friendly.  Although it’s still important to get listed as Google counts the citation and uses it in its local ranking algorithm. If you are looking for a great list to use to help build up your local citations, HubSpot has a blog post that includes 50 local business directories.

Another great tool is the Whitespark Local Citation Finder.  This free tool will help you find great places to list your business for your city.  Often times you will find local directories that are only specific to your city or region.

Tip: Citations and links are a good way to rank for local SEO but reviews on Google help as well.  Encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google.

This Content is Currency blog post is from Stuart McHenry, the President of McKremie, an Internet Marketing Company that provides lawyer seo services.

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Creating effective web content involves many elements. Thought-provoking copy, eye-catching graphics and seamless web design must combine in a way that is pleasing for the consumer so that the message is properly conveyed and received. To help achieve this, it’s important for members from each creative group to openly communicate with each other.

However, all too often, copywriters, designers, and developers silo themselves off during a project, interacting as little as possible until it is unavoidable. This is a bad move because, in the end, the product as a whole might suffer—and that doesn’t help anyone. Below are some reasons why it’s important to constantly communicate with other team members and tips on facilitating the collaboration.

Save Yourself Time and Work

Having regular meetings and check-ins with all contributing parties of a project is not only good for building morale, it can also save you time and work. In an ideal world, everyone’s ideas would always be compatible and feasible, but the truth is that’s just not how it works. Copywriters come up with titles that are too long; graphic designers create a logo that completely misses the point—and then everyone has edits to do. However, if teams hold regular meetings where they compare and DISCUSS their progress and vision, they might be able to avoid some of these pitfalls—making them more efficient. Deadlines will be met, not feared and extensions will become a thing of the past.

Develop Better Ideas

When creative forces work TOGETHER the results can be magical. Checking in with all team members on a regular basis allows the team as a whole to assess the direction of a project and possibly establish or brainstorm better, more inventive ideas. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the swing of things and robotically produce routine content when you aren’t forced to honestly share your progress and thoughts as you work. A graphic designer might be on the verge of finishing up one idea, when suddenly a copywriter catches a glimpse and questions it. This forces the designer to defend and analyze their approach. Sometimes it might prompt change, sometimes it might not—but either way it will create a necessary dialogue.

Create a Well-Oiled Machine

When everyone works together, a rapport is developed and a certain comfort level is established. Ideas are allowed to flow freely, and creativity thrives. Gone should be the days of high school and college where people stuck to their own crowd and students with the same major. Your group becomes a sort of well-oiled machine that is capable of tackling any task with seamless precision. Whether you’re a writer, developer or designer you feel welcomed and value—this is how it should be. After all, you are all part of the same team right?

This Content is Currency blog post comes from Katheryn Rivas, a higher education writer and blogger. When she’s not digging and reporting about the latest online universities news, she can be found playing with her two Saint Bernard’s Chica and Chico.  She can be reached at katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

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Google Penguin – Friend or Foe?

The April 2012 Google Penguin update will go down in record books as one of the major shake-ups that rocked the Internet world in 2012. Along with its older sibling, the Google Panda (released in February 2011), the Penguin have brought about a number of radical changes that completely altered the way people look at SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

For the uninitiated, Google Penguin is part of a series of updates to Google’s search engine algorithm that started with the Google Panda in 2011. These updates were necessary to refine search results, and most importantly, to clear the InterWebs of annoying spam sites that were often filled with unreadable, keyword-riddled junk that was clearly not meant to be understood by human readers.

Unfortunately, the Penguin also affected a lot of poorly performing websites that were clearly not spam. A website’s ranking is now more dependent on its author’s online reputation and authority on the subject matter at hand. Instead of pageviews and backlinks, high-quality content has now taken the front seat as a determining factor in Google’s search rankings.

The Penguin Wants Quality!

So, how do you define the term “quality content?” There are really no set guidelines or formula for writing SEO-efficient content, but there are still few pointers that all web writers must follow. Here are some of them:

1. Write for humans.

This means no keyword-stuffing. Content used to be written with the sole purpose of making it rank higher on search results, with no regard to its relevancy and readability. A writer should be creative and unique. He or she must possess genuine interest and comprehensive knowledge on the topic that he or she is writing about.

2. Engage them.

Ask thought-provoking questions. Inspire friendly debate. Answer comments. Share relevant pages. These are signs for readers that behind all the words, images and content lies a living, breathing, human being. It makes them want to stay on a page longer and read more, and hopefully, be able to share whatever they’ve read to their friends on social networking sites. It’s a great way to drive organic traffic to a website.

3. Start off with a bang.

In copywriting, there is this concept of a “hook” (also called a “lead”), which is basically the most attention-grabbing part of an article. In web writing, you can place the “hook” right where it can instantly grab any readers attention- the title. Since most people have short attention spans (especially when surfing random pages on the Internet), a generic run-of-the-mill title will certainly not do. Instead of writing “Reasons to Buy Ultrabooks”, a writer could write “Ultrabooks- Fad or Future? Here Are Some Reasons Why You Should Get One.” He or she should grab potential readers with interesting and witty headlines that would make them want to come back for more.

Writing high-quality content is not rocket science, that’s for sure. But it requires a general understanding of what people want to read and a whole lot of common sense.

Alexis M is a distance education student by day and a freelance writer by night. She loves to write about technology, social media, food and travel. She has contributed to Degree Jungle best online college rankings, a resource for college students.

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Mustering internal support for any marketing program can be a challenge, but content marketing presents more obstacles than most. To begin with, not many people know what content marketing is – including some content marketers! This is because content marketing is a rather new form of marketing, and even the experts haven’t settled on a standard definition.

Thus, the place to start in terms of gaining internal buy-in is to provide the staff with a single definition of content marketing. This ensures that everyone is at least starting out on the same page when program specifics are discussed.

If you’re looking for a definition, the Content Marketing Institute has crafted a very nice one:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” (CMI)

Probably the key point here, and one that’s usually missed, is that content marketing is strategic. People often have the idea that content marketers do nothing but carpet bomb the blogosphere and social media sites with pages and pages of random information. This misconception leads people to the conclusion that content marketing is irrelevant, because the masses on Twitter and Facebook don’t care about their business, and also risky, because competitors might pick up valuable information or even trade secrets. If this is what internal leadership has in mind, it is no wonder they view the risk-reward equation for content marketing to be very unfavorable.

To overcome these worries, it’s useful to stress three things.

  1. First, content marketing isn’t about communicating everything to everybody; instead, it is about communicating relevant things to relevant people.
  2. Second, content marketing isn’t about communicating for the sake of communicating; instead, it is about communicating for the sake of producing some type of profitable activity.
  3. Third, content marketing isn’t about giving away the store; instead, it is about giving away enough information that people are interested in walking into the store.

Until there is agreement on these three points, I think it’s premature to start pitching specific campaigns, talking about which social media sites to use, and laying out editorial calendars for the blog. Before things like these will be given serious consideration, corporate leadership must believe that content marketing has a profitable purpose.

Once the staff accepts content marketing as being profitable in a general way, the next step is to go into more detail about how it is profitable. Content marketing can be used to pursue many business objectives. Some of the more popular include –

  • Establishing thought leadership
  • Building brand awareness and brand affinity
  • Engaging customers and prospects to improve customer service
  • Gathering market intelligence
  • Securing referrals
  • Generating direct sales leads

While some of these objectives are more measurable than others, they are all worth pursuing. It’s wise to discuss specific objectives and their associated metrics early on, both because the staff is likely to be supportive of the goals, and also because everyone will have the right expectations about how and how precisely program elements will be evaluated.

Laying the right conceptual groundwork for the staff may take months or hours, but either way, it will prevent a lot of heartburn down the road when attention turns to content marketing tactics. Generally, internal support is lukewarm for anything new that doesn’t seem to pay. Our job as content marketers is to heat things up inside the box!

 

This Content is Currency blog post was written by Brad Shorr, Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North. The agency serves a wide range of businesses, from dentists to credit card processors. Learn more: http://www.straightnorth.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Yes, I agree with the terms and conditions” or “Yes, I have read the privacy policy” is the biggest lie on the internet. Google keeps on reinventing itself with new applications, features and privacy policy changes. Some of the recent steps taken by the giant are appreciated, but some have clearly irked both critics and users alike.

So, yes, Google has recently changed its privacy policy, which is available to read on their official website. They say the changes reflect, “a step towards a more secure and a better future”. Currently, the company has more than 70 policies regarding its various services, from Gmail to YouTube to Blogger.

Its latest privacy policy that rolled out in March has left a bad taste in some peoples mouths. Their concerns? One of the biggest problems with the new privacy policy is the privacy issue itself.

Google now has its own web history option. It is similar to how a browser (Google Chrome or Firefox) saves your web history. Google claims it is to enhance the browsing experience, that by having the browsing data it will help the company serve you better. Now, every website you search using Google or any video you watch on YouTube is saved in Google’s web history.

Google claims that it has taken this step to improve search processing and save their visitor’s precious time that is wasted when the search engine returns unrelated links. The website uses this to give you improved and personalized search results when searching for a certain term. This may look good on paper, but it is something to really worry about. Many are concerned about Google saving their data. They claim it is to help the advertisers and not the visitors. Many critics have slammed Google for using such tactics to increase the money it makes. Critics say that such a policy is very dangerous for a person’s security as it gives a lot of personal information about the visitor, such as the age, sexual orientation and gender.

Many say the new privacy policy does more damage than good. Visitor’s religion preferences, tastes and other private information have now become available on the internet.

Google claims this information will not be accessible to one and all, and is only used to serve the results better, but the security hazard is very clear. Many polls and petitions have sprouted up regarding the new Google policy. Almost all the polls show the wrath of the visitors who are against the idea, but unfortunately there is nothing they can do about it. Up to this point, Google isn’t willing to change its policy. Also, remember, not all Google services are governed by this policy. It has unique policies for different services.

On the positive side, it may actually result in a better browsing and searching experience. Google uses the information it has from your PC (the IP address should remain same) to throw back the results. For example, if you are sitting in London searching for ‘find broadband plans’ you will see links that tell you about broadband plans in your city. In the same way if you search the same term in New York, you will get results from your city. This actually makes things easier, but the negatives associated with it are difficult to neglect. There has to be a way out, and Google has fortunately given us the option.

The option to save all your web history is generally open as a default, but the good part is that you can disable it, if you want to. You will need to have a Google account for this purpose. Go to http://ww.google.com/history and clear all of your history. If you think disabling it has negatively affected your search results, you can enable it again from the same page as there is an option available.

The takeaway? Always keep yourself updated with the changing terms and conditions of the websites you visit, and take some time to read any contract or policy before signing them. You never know what you are dealing with. Know more and stay secure!

About the Author:

This Content is Currency blog post was written by Roxanne Peterson, a freelance writer for various blogs and communities related to technology and social media. To see samples of her work: find broadband plans

 

 

 

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At this moment in internet history, Facebook is a troubled giant. Zuckerberg’s kingdom is undeniably the reigning hegemon of the social media landscape. Nevertheless, as Shakespeare put it, “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

We’ve all been rubbernecking at the still-litigious train wreck of an IPO. There was a certain schadenfreude in the way the chattering classes piled on when things went wrong for Facebook (often via status update…proving that even the heaviest users have a love-hate relationship with, and perhaps a hidden death wish for, the world’s biggest time-suck).

Most troubling of all, especially now that Facebook has been pushed out of the nest and into the NASDAQ, are ever more frequent analyses showing that Facebook behavior rarely or never translates into financial gain for businesses. What this means for them is ominous. But what does it mean for you? It means adopting a leaner, much more targeted Facebook strategy.

There’s a balance to strike here. If you never update your page, chances are you’ll be unfriended as “dead weight” once the customer gets around to pruning their Facebook presence (the rate at which people do this varies, but most people do get around to it once in a while, taking the time to streamline and simplify what shows up on their profile) If you’re showing up on their News Feed more than a few times a week, on the other hand, chances are good the user will find this obnoxious and consider you a spammer. With all the media bombarding us each day, cognitive space is becoming a precious resource for the average person, and one less thing to notice can be a relief.

Social media, by their nature, simply combine technological gimmicks with the natural ebb and flow of human interaction. A platform like Facebook is not just a service, it’s a party. And the thing about parties is that, eventually, people go home. The crowd moves on, as they did with Friendster, Livejournal, Myspace, etc. Facebook is painfully aware of this risk and is constantly adapting to avoid it, but it remains to be seen if Facebook has cracked this problem long-term, establishing some kind of critical mass that makes it “too big to fail.” They’d like you to think so, but I’m not so sure.

Diversify your social media strategy. Take time to reevaluate what’s working, how things have changed, and what potential lies ahead. Be careful how much time and energy you invest in one social network just because it’s the biggest. Remember that this ecosystem was invented for college students to gossip and joke with their friends. Facebook is undoubtedly fun and invaluable on a personal level, but questionable in terms of economic opportunity. For businesses used to clear-eyed strategic practices, it remains a vague new world.

This Content is Currency post is brought to you by Lauren Bailey, a freelance blogger who loves writing about education, new technology, lifestyle and health. As an education writer, she works to research and provide sound online education advice and welcomes comments and questions via email at blauren99@gmail.com

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Despite what some bloggers might tell you, guest posting is not dead. I’m living proof of that fact. Guest posting (or guest blogging as most people call it) is merely in the midst of an identity crisis, one that has plagued the practice ever since the Google Panda and Penguin updates. It was wise of Google to prevent the spammier blogs from getting top priority on search page results just because they play a clever SEO game, but their update also cast an unflattering light on some bloggers that didn’t deserve it.

Guest bloggers were among those branded with more suspicion, especially after Panda. Webmasters were more cautious about whose content they hosted on their sites (for good reason), but some decided to do away with guest blogging altogether just to play it safe. I can’t help but feel that those webmasters shut out a ton of opportunity and quality content when they turned their back on guest bloggers. I still think that guest posting works fantastically as a vehicle for marketing great content; it’s why I’m writing right now.

Still don’t believe me? Consider these points before you make a decision on guest bloggers.

A Way to Meet Influential Bloggers

One of the most common refrains you’ll hear about guest blogging is that it makes for a convenient networking tool. Guest posting can be a great networking tool, especially for newbie bloggers looking to gain some wisdom from industry veterans. I’ve formed a healthy rapport with many webmasters who appreciated my work.

Most webmasters will thank you for your work and leave the door open for future posts, but few will take the initiative to talk shop about their site or the niche they write for. It’s your job to take the initiative. If you think that you could benefit from picking the brain of a more experienced webmaster, by all means try shooting a few questions their way. If they liked the guest post you wrote for them, chances are that they’ll be willing to exchange a few emails. The worst that could happen is that they don’t respond to your questions and you move onto another blog.

An Easy Way to Revitalize and Expand Content

Another advantage of guest blogging is the way in which it benefits the blogger and the webmaster. Webmasters looking for guest posts want to spice up their content, and guest bloggers love having an opportunity to share their voice with a new audience. But this is an obvious advantage of guest blogging: it’s a way for newer writers to market themselves to a readership, and it gives webmasters one less post to worry about writing.

The less discussed benefit to this dynamic is that it gives both parties the chance to experiment with content outside of their normal purview. A webmaster running a news blog about college-related events and stories might contact the services of a student blogger to write a few guest posts about college living from a first person perspective. Or, say a tech blogger decides to step outside their comfort zone and write a guest post on online entrepreneurship for a small business blog. Either of these scenarios showcases the guest post’s ability to diversify and expand on a blog’s content. You can do the same if you’re willing to take a risk and write content outside of your niche.

Guest blogging takes confidence and considerable writing skill, but that doesn’t mean that most bloggers can’t use it their advantage. I’ll say it now, and I’ll keep saying it to any blogger willing to listen: long live the guest post!

This Content is Currency post was written by Samantha Gray, an expert in online education and a freelance writer. Pursuing an online bachelor’s degree is often fraught with myths and misconceptions. Samantha shows her readers the way. She wants to hear your feedback and ideas, too, at samanthagray024@gmail.com.

 

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