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Email Lists: Make them a Priority in 2015 with These Tips

Last year, Luke Guy ran us through why our email open rates are nosediving, and what we can do about it. He also gave us solid tips on how to write great emails to begin with. We’re re-running this post today so you can nail your email list right from the start 2015. You won’t regret it!

emailcrashThis is a guest contribution from Luke Guy, blogger and graphic designer.

It’s amazing how blogs have exploded within the last 10 years – take ProBlogger for instance. Blogs like these can provide a good living for the owner if the traffic remains strong and healthy. But how do these blogs retain the traffic and keep a steady flow? There are many ways, but I want to discuss with you a vitally important one: your email list.

Usually more email subscribers would mean more traffic. Right? Well, not anymore.

Bloggers are facing diving open rates today like never before. Small bloggers and the celebrity bloggers alike suffer.

But why?

Let me give you 8 Reasons Why Your Email Open Rate Is Nosediving.

1. You have lots of images within the email.

When it comes to email open rates, fashion is not how you make waves. Simpler is better in this case. HTML is good, but text based emails are even better. I know we’re tempted to be flashy, but if no one is seeing it, what’s the point? Your email is going to be seen more when images aren’t within them. They flag filters many times, and can annoy the reader also. It’s best to simply state your message and get to the point quickly.

2. Way too long!

In the blog world an article of 200-1000 words is considered an informative post (View Darren’s Post On Word Count). Reading one of these could take 5-7 minutes to read, and 15 minutes to fully understand.

In email this is simply not so. Why? You’re simply updating them with short exclusive information, and persuading them to spend a minute on this unexpected message from you. Think of your email newsletter as a bite-size sample of your blog. Let every bite be extremely pleasant and leave them wanting more. Where do they get more? Your blog.

In order to do this, your email must be short, sweet, and fulfilling in bite-size. 150-450 word count would be best when writing. You’re sharing exclusive content, updating, and telling them about your new blog post kind-of-thing.

3. Links Everywhere.

When all they see is outlined sentences everywhere, landing somewhere in the unknown, the word SPAMMY is the first thoughts of most readers. They get the idea that all you’re trying to do is send them to a place they don’t want to go, to spend money they don’t want to spend. Put only one link in your article, and give them many good reasons why they should click on that link. Not one reason to click on 10 links, that’s not as effective. So choose your link wisely, and this also will prevent your email from getting vacuumed by the email filters.

4. Your agenda appears to be making money.

When they see your email appear, what should they expect? If it’s another course, eBook, or program in which they must buy, there’s a good chance you’re going to get turned off eventually. A good rule of thumb is to give your reader 10x more. Instead, offer freebies just so they will warm up to you. If you need some freebie ideas, go here: 6 Freebies That Will Spike Engagement In Your Blog

I know we’re all trying to come up with ways in which to make money, but it’s better to have our customers coming to us with their money, not the other way around with us chasing them and their wallet. When they understand that you’re for them and wanting to help more than to make a buck, they will come.

5. Your email is only a result from an RSS blast.

Your emails should be exclusive content, not an email blaster from your RSS feed. Many will disagree with me on this, because they don’t want another article to write. I understand their pain, but what’s the point of offering this option of RSS if they’re not going to read it? With Google’s Gmail Algorithm, RSS is a turn off and a good chance it will never make it to their inbox.

How will they find out about by my new blog post then? you might be asking.

Give them many reasons within that email why they should read that article and give them a link to it. The reason shouldn’t be because it’s new. It should be because it’s helpful and can be found almost no where else. You’re just pointing them back to it so they won’t miss this amazing content.

6. Not full of helpful information.

You thought that tips, helpful information, and how-tos were only for blogs? Not so, it will apply to your email rate as well. Except you have only a few seconds to persuade them to read it, a few more seconds to finish reading it, and finally to click on whatever link you may have for them (that was the point of the email right?).

The only thing is with email, shorter is better. Why? When trying to catch the eye, you have only a few seconds to persuade them to read it and consume your information. As for a blog post, most were searching for the solution you have to offer and were willing to spend the time to solve their problem. So make it short but powerful since your message was unexpected!

7. They don’t feel a personal connection with you.

If all you do is sell, command, and write like you’re talking to the wall, they’re not feeling what you write. To avoid this, write as if they’re your friend. Instead of writing to your readers, write to your reader specifically. Pretend that you’re writing to one of your readers, and let them feel that one-on-one connection. It’s about winning their trust, which is key to any business.

8. You’re boring.

If you’re doing all of the above, it’s time to face it. It’s time for a recharge. Sometimes to make our tips more helpful, and our writing voice more inspirational, we need to read more and be inspired. Like an athlete, we must eat more than we burn. If not, we don’t have much to offer.

Go out in your niche and explore again. It could be the simple fact that you are burned out and need to refill with more helpful information.

Ways to improve email letter quality:

1. Read a blog post like this one by Darren Rowse On Passion: Passion – Do You Have It?

2. Interact more in the comment section.

3. Listen to podcasts.

4. Talk to pros in your niche.

5. Take a course.

6. Think more, and spend more time with that writing piece.

7. Study your competition and how they write their emails. Read this to be inspired: Learning Your Foes Makes You a Better Hero

So basically you’re defeating two things here, the email filter and the reputation of scammers. It’s so easy to be flagged as a scammer these days and you must work extra hard to appear the very opposite. These tips will make that happen, and will also get your emails to bypass the filters.

Mission Accomplished.

You’re going to see great results from this if applied correctly. I’ve learned by not selling, you kind of are. When they know you’re in business, and all you do is help, curiosity takes over them. When they see your free tips work tremendously, what will your paid versions do?

Thanks for reading and I wish you higher email rates!

Did I miss something? Leave a comment below and let’s see what you have to offer to the Problogger community.

Don’t miss the other side of the coin: How to Write Successful Emails and Improve Open Rates

Luke Guy is both graphic artist and blogger, publisher for LukeGuy.com, and graphic designer for hire. He’s loves to blog and helping people with dreams in starting a business.

Happy New Year! What are Your Blogging Resolutions for 2015?

Image via Flickr user Amodiovalerio Verde

Image via Flickr user Amodiovalerio Verde

Well here we are again, folks – the start of a new year. The time when we’re usually bursting with motivation and promises to not repeat the mistakes of the past. I know I’ve learned a lot in the last 12 months (especially my bad habits, which I’ve vowed to ditch in 2015!), and I have spent some time thinking about what my priorities will be for this space, my blog, and my work habits this year. Namely: use my time more wisely, slow down and focus more, and remembering to always be useful.

So have you taken some time to get your priorities in order? Sworn off Facebook and will bump up your email list efforts? Ready to write an eBook? I’d love to hear how you’re starting 2015 with a bang.

Happy New Year! Here’s to all your successes!

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

Selling eBooks and Digital Products on Your Blog? You Need to Know About EU VAT-MOSS

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Jawat Khan.

Ask any professional blogger and he’ll tell you that selling eBooks, eCourses, trainings, tutorials and other forms of digital products is one of the most profitable ways of making a sustainable income from your blog.

It’s not easy, of course.

You need to spend countless hours creating high quality content, responding to reader comments, building relationships, spending money on advertising and creating products that people would gladly pay for.

It’s real hard work. And anyone who’s been on this path knows its challenges, and the personal and professional sacrifices that it demands.

Unfortunately, it just got a whole lot harder.

The EU VAT-MOSS Legislation

The European Union has recently introduced a new value added tax (VAT) that’ll come in to effect from 01 January 2015. This new VAT will be applicable on any digital products that are sold to buyers anywhere in the EU.

And this is where it gets really tough for us.

The tax will be calculated on the basis of the buyer’s location, NOT the seller. So even if you reside outside the EU you’d be required to pay this VAT on each sale that you make to a customer based in any of the 28 EU member states.

So, for example, if you’re a blogger based in Australia and a buyer from Germany or any other EU state purchases an eBook from your blog, YOU will have to pay the VAT on top of your product price.

What’s more, you’d need to collect evidence of your sales that indicate the buyer’s location based on his IP address and credit card information. You’d then need to submit this evidence along with your returns every quarter.

Honestly, one of the best things about making an online income, for me, is the lack of administrative costs and unnecessary legal documentation. But with this VAT, all of us, the bloggers and digital sellers, would need to collect evidence and submit returns on our sales.

To make this process slightly simpler, you can register with any “Mini One Stop Shop” (MOSS) in any EU member state (UK or Ireland being the most convenient). Your VAT will then be distributed to the relevant countries according to their tax rates.

You are also required to keep the record of your sales, as evidence, for at least 10 years to avoid any legal problems in selling to EU customers.

All this is very complex legal stuff.

The objective of this post is not to give you any legal advice. I’m no expert myself. But I just want you to know about the potential repercussions of this law on your blogging income. You should definitely seek professional advice on this matter and study this law in more detail here.

So What Can Be Done About EU VAT-MOSS?

Being a blogger myself, I know you might be confused and upset by this law. Some of the most prominent freelance writers, bloggers and digital sellers have express public outrage on Twitter in reaction to this law. They’ve also started an online petition that is gaining momentum quickly. You can vote on this petition here.

But apart from expressing disappointment at this law, you need to do the following things.

  • Consult with your ecommerce software provider and tell them about this development. You’ll need their help in collecting buyer data as purchase evidence. You need to collect buyer location data based on the IP address and credit card information.
  • You need to keep this record with you for at least 10 years so that you can present it anytime it is required.
  • You need to submit your VAT returns every quarter to MOSS.
  • Or you can take the hard decision and stop selling to EU buyers completely to avoid any of these legal issues. But you’d need the help of your ecommerce software provider here as well, because you’d need to block buyers from selected countries on the basis of their IP address and credit card information. You can’t do it manually.

Several ecommerce software providers have made announcements on what they’re doing about this law and the additional requirements that it has brought with it. PayPal recently announced that they’ll be able to store buyer location with their API. But there hasn’t been any announcement from them about data storage and country blocking.

In the last week, Selz has introduced a series of features that cover all the VAT-MOSS requirements. By enabling the EU VAT-MOSS feature in your Selz dashboard, you can receive automatically degenerated reports about the exact location of your buyers based on their IP address and credit card.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 5.57.11 pm

 

Selz will calculate the applicable VAT rate in your buyer’s country, which you can add on top of your product’s sales price. It also stores this information for up to 10 years and lets you export it into an excel sheet for MOSS submission.

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In case you decide to completely block EU buyers (approx. 507,000,000 potential customers) Selz allows you to apply country based restrictions on downloads.

Conclusion

There’s a hot debate in the blogging community about the EU VAT-MOSS that will come into effect from 01 January 2015. There’s still some confusion about its application and how it will impact bloggers and digital sellers from different countries. You can follow Twitter updates on this subject on #VATMOSS and #VATMESS hashtags. At the same time, you should make sure that you have the right tools to record the required buyer information for VAT submission, in case the law remains unchanged.

Jawad Khan is a Content Marketing Specialist at Quality Trade, a leading marketing and trading platform for B2B companies. Follow Jawad on Twitter and Google+

Say Goodbye to Bad Habits: Five You Should Ditch in the New Year

Say Goodbye to Bad Habits: Five you should ditch today // problogger.netI don’t know about you, but it’s around this time of year when I start thinking about all the things that didn’t quite work out over the last 12 months in my blogging efforts. Things I got wrong, things I didn’t try hard enough on, things I know I should do better. In short, it’s time to re-evaluate how I blog, so I can blog better.

And what I know for sure is: Next year, I want to blog smarter, not harder. I want to slow down and focus on the priorities and make sure they’re being done properly.

I’ve developed a few bad habits over the years, and from what I’ve heard, I’m not the only one. Let’s refine our workload and jettison these ways of thinking that don’t serve us well. Let’s swap them for a more intelligent strategy that will make our blogs stand out from the crowd and provide use to our readers.

Are you guilty of any of these?

1. Thinking an email list isn’t such a big deal

Well, I hate to break it to you, but it is. It truly is the only method of communicating with your readers that you are in control of. Your words, straight to your reader. No algorithms, no fast-pace feed, just your information they can access at their leisure.

I revamped my site earlier in the year, and didn’t bother putting my email subscribe boxes back in because they didn’t fit the new theme. I didn’t have time to redesign them, and I didn’t want to pay for something I knew I could do myself. My laziness has cost me hundreds of valuable email addresses, and the ability to share what I have with interested people.

I know some bloggers wonder what the point of a mailout is, and wonder if its only people with something to sell who would concern themselves with having one – but it’s invaluable for any blogger who want to reach their audience. Even if you think you will never need email subscribers, offer your readers a way to sign up anyway. You won’t regret that.

2. Forgetting to share your posts on social media

I try to share my posts at the same time each day, both because those times get the most engagement, and also to provide some consistency for readers who get my updates. But often real life got in the way of manually updating my channels, and sometimes it meant I didn’t get anything up all day. I resisted using scheduling tools for a long time, for many reasons, but in the last few months I’ve experimented with a few. I cannot believe how much better my blogging experience is now that I’ve settled on a schedule that works for me, and the ability to schedule my post updates across all social media (except Instagram and Pinterest, I still prefer to do those in the moment) has become so much easier.

I’ve been using CoSchedule for the last month or two on my personal blog and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. An editorial calendar plugin that keeps your content organised and also allows you to schedule social media posts from right within your WordPress dashboard before they’re even published. Your post goes live, and your scheduled social media updates follow after, at a time you’ve pre-chosen. Genius.

3. Wasting time

Oh boy – this has been a big one for me. I work from home with very small children, and I have limited amount of child-free time each week to get a lot of things done. I couldn’t afford to waste a second – but I was wasting lots of them. I found myself either procrastinating or getting caught up in less-important tasks, which left me little time to get the big stuff done. I felt behind the 8 ball for a lot of 2014 until I sat myself down with a big task list and a determination to be in charge of my schedule, instead of letting it be in charge of me.

Some of the biggest things that has turned my productivity around:

  • checking email at certain times only
  • doing specific tasks only on specific days
  • having an editorial calendar
  • timing myself to see exactly how long tasks would take so I’d stop underestimating the time it would take to do something
  • organising tasks in order of priority

4. Failing to have an editorial calendar

Who needs those? I mean, unless you run a themed blog that creates content in line with the holiday calendar, right? Wrong! Part of the problem was that I was wasting time because I didn’t know what to write about. I found that once I sat down with either a headline or a topic, I could write a post no problem. But if I was sitting down to a blank slate, I wrote less than half of the posts that I needed to.

It didn’t take long – just a few minutes of brainstorming, and a few more minutes shuffling that around to certain points on the calendar. I always know in advance what I’m expected to do, so I find that I waste less time and get more done. I challenge you to come up with 12 post ideas right now – and you will know at least one thing you will be writing per month next year. Or create a theme a month and write to that theme as the year goes by. Go on – you only need 10 minutes, a pen, and a piece of paper.

5. Ignoring networks

I get it – you’re shy. Or you think your blog isn’t “big” enough to play in the big leagues. Well, I’m not sure how you expect to get in the big leagues if you don’t chat with the people who are either already there, or trying to get there too. While you might think there is a hierarchy of people out there in blogland, the reality is there’s room for everyone. Get chatting with other bloggers, no matter who they are. Jump in on Twitter conversations, start discussions on your Facebook page, join a linkup or blog hop, lend a hand to a fellow blogger in a group or forum asking for advice. Share other bloggers’ posts, link to them on your site, invite other writers on your blog, and offer to guest post for other sites in your niche.

If you ask any “big” blogger what was a turning point for them, or how they managed to grow their traffic, more often than not, you’ll hear them say that another blogger bigger than them linked to their content. It’s a world of collaboration, and it will get you further than where you’re going on your own. Make a friend!

So I dare you to ditch these bad blogging habits before the year is out. Replace them with smarter ways of driving your blog forward and increasing the enjoyment you get from it.

Which ones are you striking off your list this year? What will you do instead?

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

 

Care to Share? What Was YOUR Most Popular Post of 2014?

Share your most popular posts of 2104

So last week we went right through the top five posts on ProBlogger 2014 in each of the categories of monetization, creating content, social media, writing, and general tips. Some of them were surprising, but most weren’t – good advice is good advice, after all! I know a lot of you have seen real results from making these changes to the way you work.

So what we wanted to know was – what is the most popular post on your blog this year? Can you see why it was popular? And more importantly – what can you learn from it that will help you for your content next year? Is it a topic you can find a new angle on? Something you can update for your readers? Something you can turn into a series, an eBook, an eCourse? Is it a topic you enjoyed writing about? Is there a way you can repackage it, say as an audio file or a slideshare? The possibilities are endless, and having information you know your readers already resonate with is a great place to start.

So link up your most popular post in the comments and share it with the ProBlogger community. If you read one you love, tweet it to your friends and followers. I can’t wait to see all the different genres everyone covers.

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

Most Popular Posts on ProBlogger 2014: General Tips

This week we’ve covered the five most popular posts in the areas of monetization, content, social media, and writing tips. Today we bring you the top 5 general tips that readers found most useful. I hope they do to you too! Read it now, or pin for later.

ProBlogger Popular Posts of 2014: General Tips - we covered grammar mistakes, one thing to do daily that will change your blogging, SEO must-dos, project management websites, and if Content isn't King - then what is?

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1. 5 Quick Grammar Tips to Improve Your Writing – Plus Free Downloadable Cheat Sheet

A super-handy overview of apostrophes, when to use that/which/who, when to use “everyday” vs. “every day”, commas, and capitalization. The cheat sheet is perfect for printing out and leaving it in your workspace so you’re never stuck with a grammar issue again.

Image by zev

Image by zev

2. Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging

We even started doing it at ProBlogger HQ at our regular meetings.

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3. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO and Thousands of Visits will be Forever Lost

SEO kingpin Rand Fishkin stopped by ProBlogger to give us the absolute ultimate in SEO advice. Simple things you can do right now to ensure you’re getting the maximum exposure of your work.

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4. Top 10 Web-Based Personal Project Management Tools

You’re looking for a sweet app to streamline your worklife? Us too. Here are 10 of them that will keep you (and your team, if you have one) on track.

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5. Content isn’t King: Here’s What is

I know I’ve made this mistake in 2014 with my own blog. Content is great – but useful content is what gets you places. Are you useful?

 

Did you use these tips this year? Have you figured out a way to serve your readers by meeting their needs with your blog? I’d love to hear it!

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

 

Most Popular Posts on ProBlogger 2014: Writing Tips

So useful content is king, and we need to provide it consistently. But how? And what if writing isn’t our strong suit? I always find that writing tips, guides, and productivity hacks score high in the interest scale of ProBlogger readers. These were the five most-read posts this year.

Problogger best of 2104: Writing Tips

Abraham Lincoln Axe Quote 1

1. 6 Lessons in Writing Irresistibly Magnetic Blog Post Headlines

We all know headlines are what can make or break your post: if your headline sucks, people just won’t read. This post has six ways to nail it, every time.

Image via Flickr user Dan Patterson

Image via Flickr user Dan Patterson

2. 9 Crucial Tips for Self-Editing Your Blog Posts (That Everybody Can Use)

Tend to waffle? you won’t after reading these super-easy tips.

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3. How to Repurpose Your Content (and Why You Should do it)

Darren gives us a hefty post filled with great ideas on ways to take what you’ve already written and package it anew. A very effective use of resources.

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4. 15 Quick and Easy Productivity Hacks for Busy Bloggers

We all waste time – Pooja shows us how to cut out the crap so we can make the most use of the time we have.

Image via Flickr user Toni Birrer

Image via Flickr user Toni Birrer

5. In a Blog Slump? Here’s what to do

When you’ve lost your writing mojo, everyone is succeeding but you, and you feel like throwing your laptop out the window – these are my top tips to get back in the game and feel the love again.

 

So what about you? I’m willing to bet you’ve slumped at least one time in 2014. What was the best writing tip you picked up this year?

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

Most Popular Posts on ProBlogger 2014: Social Media

Social media and how to navigate it was, again, a big issue in 2014. Which platform is best? How do we use it effectively? Are we still using Google Plus? Where did everyone on Twitter go? These are the answers we found…

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1. 5 Ways to Promote Your Blog Without Relying on Google Traffic

As Darren has said before, putting all your eggs in the Google basket can be risky (and devastating – he almost lost his business). We learned how to boost our traffic without relying on the Google fallback.

2. How to Socialize Your Posts for Maximum Effect

What’s the point of promoting our blogs on social media if nobody is reading it? This Theme Week post had great tips on how to be effective across the board to drive traffic back to your site.

3. Facebook Theme Week: Boost Your Organic Reach with These Tips

2014 made one thing abundantly clear: not everyone wanted to pay to be seen on Facebook. In fact, some bloggers really resented it. We delved into what strategies are effective on Facebook to work with their algorithms instead of against them. We outlined the best ways to organically reach the majority of our audience with what we have to promote.

4. Facebook Theme Week: Case Studies of Popular Pages and What They’re Doing to Get Great Engagement

Another post in our week-long discussion about what the biggest Facebook pages in the world were doing to interact with their fans and drive up engagement. It turns out their strategies are very simple – and they’re all ones we can do, too.

5. A Social Media Etiquette Guide You Might Find Useful

An in-depth infographic that laid it all bare: What’s, right, what’s wrong, and what works? On what platform? You’ll find it very comprehensive.

 

What do you think? Do you struggle with Facebook too? Given up on G+?

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

Most Popular Posts on ProBlogger 2014: Creating Content

Content is King, as they say (or is it?!) so it’s no wonder that this topic was one of the most popular this year. Write great, useful content and promote it well – it’s the baseline for a successful blog.

Which of these top five posts resonates with you?

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1. How to Consistently Come up with Great Post Ideas for Your Blog

Part of our Creating Content Theme Week, a behemoth post of advice that will mean you will never be stuck for a post idea again.

Create Content To Promote Your Blog

2. How to Promote Your Blog with Content that Will Grow Your Traffic, Links, and Shares

It’s everything you want in one package: how to get traffic, links, and shares. Tips on how to get your content to shine.

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3. Three Ways to Define What Your Blog is About

Do you need a niche? What would you say yours was? Darren gives us the ins and outs of making a stand on your genre.

HOW TO CREATE MASSIVE VALUE CONTENT

4. Create Massive Value Content and Blow Your Readers’ Minds

If you followed the very first link on this page, you’ll find what is actually King – and this post will help you provide it for your readers.

carly for pb theme week

5. Content Week Case Study: Carly Heitlinger of the College Prepster on Where She Gets Her Ideas

Carly has barely missed a day blogging in six years. Here’s how she keeps content fresh, current, and more importantly – consistent.

 

What do you think? Anything to add on how to create great content? Where do YOU get your ideas?

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).