You created a blog for your business and as you sit down to write a post, you feel anxious. You know the benefits of blogging, building customer trust, creating leads, building credibility and more , but you still feel like an amateur and you have so many questions like: What should you write about? How long should it be? Will anyone read it, or even see it? What is new for blogs in 2021? And what about this darn SEO stuff? No need to worry, we got this. Read on for the ultimate guide to creating blog content in 2021. BLOGGING BASICS What is Blogging? Most people think of blogs and blog posts as short articles consumed in quick doses online. For sure, 1-2 page articles, readable in 5 minutes or less, are the most popular blog format for good reason: people like to consume content in small, digestible bites. But blog posts can also be in the form of infographics , testimonials, listicles and more . Bloggers should sprinkle in content in these formats because it adds interest, texture, and ease of reading to your blog. HAS BLOGGING CHANGED FOR 2021? Yes. While blogging caught on long ago, guidelines, styles, technology, and trends do change and with the pandemic of 2020 transforming consumers to a nearly 100% digital world, there are some new tips. For now, just consider this: there are an estimated 500 million blogs on the web and 17 new blog posts are published every second. This is a content war and consumers have many choices for what to consume. With that much competition, how will my blog stand out and how do I drive traffic to my blog ? The answer is simple, but not easy. Create content that delivers value to your readers on a topic you are passionate about. What if I do not know what kind of content is valuable to my readers? Then it is time to take a step back. You cannot develop content that resonates with your consumers unless you have a clear understanding of who they are . If you did not yet create buyers’ personas, do that now. If you have, pull them out and look at your personas to gain insight to possible topics of interest. Brainstorm. Write down your topic ideas. Think about how those topics will impact your readers. When you hit on one you think is right, do some research to see what content already exists on the topic. Ideally if you can find a gap in the available information online you can use that as your angle. Should I blog about the pandemic? We are living through times we have never experienced before. Your readers will be going through financial crisis, loss of jobs, death of family members and friends, and a politically divided country that pits family member against family member. So, while you do not have to make the pandemic a focus, you absolutely should be guided by a sense of compassion and strive to help. But how will I make money that way? Right now, your focus should be on people, not products. Spend this year finding out how you can help your readers, and what they are going through. Find the right balance between caring and sharing, and making ends meet. Ok I have my topic- should I start writing yet? Slow down for a moment. After you have identified a relevant topic, it is time to crystallize your goal for that piece of content. What do you want to accomplish with it? Educating potential consumers? Entertaining existing consumers? Building brand awareness? Gaining recognition as an expert in a field? Identify your goal. Write it down. Now you can start writing. KEEP ONE WORD IN MIND AT ALL TIMES IN THE BLOGGING PROCESS: VALUE Remember that your everlasting mission is to bring value to your readers. That means you must create something that engages them and that resonates with them. Entertain them. Educate them. Inspire them. Solve a problem. Answer a question. Address a concern. That is how you provide value to your readers. Can I blog about how great my product is? No! That is not what content marketing is about. It is not only unnecessary but also unadvisable to blog directly about your product. Consumers are not interested in direct appeals and promotional pieces disguised as news or facts, especially now while so many are hurting. Sharing blatant sales appeals could alienate existing customers and repel new ones. The main benefit of blogs is for building trust and brand loyalty through value. Do not mess that up. If I should not write about my product or store, what should I write about? You should write about the things that are important to your target audience. As we said, you should provide value to your target audience. Let us say you operate an online store that sells 70’s style concert tee shirts. Your target audience is teens and adults who love music and attend live music events. Should you create blog posts about the cotton content in tee shirts? No! Your readers would not likely be interested in that. But what if you created content based on these topics: the current music scene, album and movie reviews, pop culture trends, the history of rock and roll, the best album cover art, and history of counterculture. Do you think your readers, who love music, might like those posts? Chances are good. Ok, I must admit I am not a good writer. Should I still blog? Great question! To answer consider two things: You do not need professional writing skills to write compelling content. In fact, most blog readers relate best to the casual and conversational tone of regular people writing about topics that are important to them. But: Keeping a blog active and engaging takes a huge amount of time and effort and you may not have that kind of time, or you may prefer your time be spent on other activities such as building your business. In that case, know that you can hire a quality content agency at a reasonable price. Ok Back to Writing. Do I really need a goal for every blog post? Yes. For every blog post you write, answer the question: what do I hope to accomplish with this piece? Let me repeat that: For every blog post you write, answer the question: what do I hope to accomplish with this piece? Let us say you, as an online concert tee e-tailer, have identified as your goal to build brand awareness about your company and its exceptionally high-quality, artist-made tee shirts. You then create a blog post about the topic of the upcoming Rolling Stones tour coming to the city, and you add to the post a photo of two concert goers wearing colorful and artistic concert tees designed by you. While you do not want to identify the tees as your products, directly, you can, at the end of the post, add the following call to action: ABC Concert Tee Company is excited to announce the launch of a series of 10 original art shirts to commemorate the Rolling Stones Tour. When your concert-loving reader sees this post, they will read it and get excited about going to the show. And they love those cool shirts on the people in the picture. Oh look, ABC Concert Tee makes those. You have built some brand awareness! You have reached your goal for the piece. And there is a good chance that your readers will want to buy one of those shirts. WRITING THE BLOG POST Ok so is there anything else I need to do before I create my blog post? Research. Research. Research. Look at competitors blogs. Find compelling graphics or photos. Research your issues. Decide what links and resources you will want to cite. Devote at least half your overall time to your research. Ok, I have my topic, I know my goal and I have researched the content that already exists. What should I know about basic format, tone, style, and voice? Regarding tone and style, you must know your audience to decide whether you want to use a formal, 3rd person view or a casual, first person tone. Are you a doctor’s office? Use a formal tone. Are you a tee shirt company? Use a casual tone. But do let your personality show and do not be afraid to write the way you speak. Structure is everything for your blog post. While you are free to create pieces that do not follow the usual format, doing so will make your piece likely to fall between the cracks. It is a content war remember! We suggest the following 8 elements should be in all of your blog posts : An Attention-Grabbing Headline A Compelling Introduction that creates curiosity. Make this section concise and touch on what the reader will be reading in this post and make it catchy! Subheadings: Sub-headings are important and particular for blogs. The average attention span is 7 seconds. Adding headings gives the reader a roadmap to see whether to sit and read or to move on. Therefore, make your headings concise and intriguing. An Informative and engaging body . Make your paragraphs short and your sentences concise. Appealing graphics . Always add a photo or graphic to your blog post. It adds visual interest and as they say about what a picture capture… Relevant internal links . Internal links are those that point from one page to another on your site. External links , by contrast, are ones that point to a page on another domain. A Good meta description. A meta description is an HTML tag used to describe the content of a web page. This description will show up below the title and URL of your page as it appears in the search engine results. To remain visible within Google, your meta description should be kept somewhere between 140-160 characters and finally: A Powerful call-to-action. Read on for more about Calls to Action (And for more tips on creating a great blog post, see this informative video. ) . 13. Do I need a Call to Action in all my blog posts? Yes. A Call to Action plays several important roles in your blog posts. It can convert, be a mechanism to collect information, keep the reader engaged, or engage them further with social media action. Calls to action can follow many forms including inviting a reader to check our your product or service, asking the reader to subscribe to your newsletter, inviting readers to like your social media pages, inviting commentary and engagement with your brand, and providing links to credible sources so they continue to engage in the content. Here are 8 types of Calls to Action for you. How long should a typical blog post be? Ideally, blog posts between 1000-2000 words are the most likely to be read, and the most popular length. The average blog post is 1151 words which is a 42% increase in the last 5 years. Will I face much competition for readers in 2021? Yes, more than ever. Your content will be up against that put out by brands and agencies with enormous marketing budgets and resources. It is a competitive environment but that almost anyone can succeed by mastering the concepts discussed here. Do I need to worry about plagiarism? Yes. Plagiarism can kill your reputation and credibility, not to mention your ranking and the trust of your consumers. Be sure to check your work with one of the online tools available such as this this one. What are the most important takeaways for writing high quality blog content? Below are the best practices for creating compelling and engaging blog posts. Grammar Will Always Matter – make your grammar impeccable. Grammarly can help. Do not Use Filler Words or Flowery Language. Speak clearly and as if you are speaking to someone standing next to you. Make your content appealing with graphics and photos. Understand what value your readers want and create that. Content Atomization is the new normal (breaking down information into short bits) SEO matters but it is not everything – which is why we saved it for last. OK, tell me about SEO. Do I need to go back to college to learn it? No, but you do need to understand some basics, and here they are. You got this. What is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and the title is self-explanatory. It just means that you want to optimize the chances of your blog content being found when a potential consumer is researching your niche. After all that is the whole point of sharing content in the first place, right? Further, you want your blog to show up at the top of the list on the first page of a user’s search results. To increase the chances of that happening, understand the following SEO strategies: Do Keyword Research. Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing search terms that people enter into search engines with the goal of using that data for a specific purpose, often for search engine optimization (SEO) or general marketing. Keyword research can uncover queries to target, the popularity of theses queries, their ranking difficulty, and more . There are many tools available to help you find the best key words for your topic. Once you have your keywords, use them several times in your blog posts. While keywords are still important, they are part of optimization and not the whole thing. Title Tag and Meta Descriptions. Write a compelling title tag and meta description. Title Tags are clickable headlines that appear in search results. Meta tags show a brief summary of a page. Format graphics and Photos . Remember to format any photos you use so that they fit properly within your online platform. Make sure your page loads quickly . Be sure that your page loads quickly, as you will lose potential users if it takes too long. Use Internal links and backlinks . Internal Links are one of the most neglected tactics in SEO marketing and potentially can greatly impact your ranking. Backlinks are links that point from a page on one website to a page on another. They are the links from third party sources that point to your website, in comparison to internal links that exist between two pages within your website. Did SEO change much for 2021? Yes. 2020 and pandemic living changed content marketing in many ways, and SEO is no exception. Here is a list of the biggest changes for 2021: Voice searching will be more common, so optimize your content for that. User Driven SEO optimization. If your content is not optimized for the actual people that will be reading your blog then you will not be as successful at reach them. The needs of the user must be considered rather than merely targeting a keyword. Value is everything. Provide value to your consumer by giving them high quality content on subjects that are important to them. Mobile Friendly design is mandatory, as most people are using their phone over a laptop or pc most of the time. Analytics tools are there to help you. Use them to guide your strategy and to determine what works and what does not work. The security of your page is critical. Consumers do not trust websites to keep their information private and security is important to them. ARE YOU READY TO CREATE BLOG CONTENT THAT RESONATES WITH YOUR READERS? As you have learned, to reach consumers in a content war, you must provide them with value in the form of high-quality, reliable content that resonates with them. To develop high quality content that resonates with them, you must first understand who your audience is. Once you understand the traits and habits of your readers, you can develop appropriate and effective content to speak that speaks to them. Remember that only the best content that is the most relevant to them will reach your targeted consumer. Use SEO strategies to increase the likelihood that your blog post will be found by your target audience. And always keep in mind that your readers are likely to be experiencing loss and difficult times. Be compassionate. Now take this information and create a new blog post today! Get in touch to learn more about how we can drive your brand forward. As a full-service Iris Writing International is passionate about helping brands find their creative voice. As a full-service content agency, we are obsessed with watching the effects of great copy on a business. Talk to us about how we can help.