Guest blogging is one of the most contentious topics in the content marketing sphere. You’re either pro-guest blogging, and have followed your own formula to see some success with your blog or business, or you’re anti-guest blogging, and you can’t seem to understand why anyone would write for someone else—often for free.

If you’re here, you’ve probably already read the same old spiel bloggers regurgitate on the many pros of guest blogging. They tell you that guest blogging can grow your writing skills, can help you network when you’re just getting started, and can aid you in developing your online “presence.” But, did those same successful people tell you how to avoid the same mistakes they made early on in their career? Probably not.

I’m here to tell you that guest blogging can be a waste of time when done incorrectly. When following their rules and expecting their outcomes, you’re probably going to be disappointed and might even give up prematurely.

However, many successful content marketers keep telling us there are benefits to guest blogging. The difference here is that low-quality guest blogging has become rampant. This leaves us who want to make a significant difference in our business by building high-quality backlinks, generating referral traffic, and improving our sales or business interactions, well, just left in the dust. Fortunately, I’ve been able to determine their formula by tracking their successes and failures, compiling this information here.

How has it worked before?

Guest blogging has been a crowd favorite of inbound marketing tactics among content marketers, ecommerce platforms, and B2B/B2C companies for over a decade. Some people have tried to say that guest blogging is a dying area of marketing, but when you look at the statistics, guest blogging—when done correctly—simply provides too many benefits for it to fizzle away.

There are many case studies published every month about how guest blogging changed someone’s business and brought them a slew of new email subscribers, website interaction, and/or customers.

One of the most notorious stories is that of Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer app, who used guest blogging to grow his business from zero to over 100,000 app users in nine months. Within those nine months, Widrich published around 150 guest blog posts, which roughly works out to about 17 per month. He says that those first blogs did nothing immediate for his business, but that it was a good source of trial-and-error to find the right frequency, style, and guest blog partners.

One of the biggest things Widrich looked at was not traffic like many other people tend to focus on. He focused his successes with guest blogging solely on the number of app sign-ups he received as a result. This makes sense if you think about it. Traffic means hardly anything if the people who are visiting your site aren’t buying or participating in what you have to offer.

Guest blogging brought Widrich’s business to the next level. However, you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking—who has time to write 17 blog posts a month for someone else’s website, especially if you’re trying to maintain your own company blog? Fortunately, you don’t have to follow this example to a T in order to make guest blogging work for you. However, you do have to decide that you’re willing to commit the time and energy necessary to making this strategy work for you and your business.

How to hone your strategy for success

Now that you’ve decided you want to employ guest blogging as an inbound marketing tactic, it’s time to build your own strategy for success. Like I said before, while not many prosperous content marketers have shared their exact recipe that has brought them all of their success, it is easy to learn from those who haven’t been as successful to see what went wrong so that you don’t repeat it.

Getting started

The first big step to take is to research which blog sites will make the most sense for you to publish your content on. The key word here is research. Research your competitors—see if they’re also using guest posting to build their brand and drive their traffic. See where they’re posting their guest posts and approach the same sites.

More importantly, find blog sites that align with the demographics of your customers. It might be easier to get published on a blog about knitting, but if you’re selling semiconductors, you won’t get the traffic you need. Another key take-away here is that your readership is more important than how many views you can get from a guest post. If you’re lucky enough that your product or service applies to everyone who has access to a computer, then sure, maybe go for applying broad. But, if your time is valuable, and you know where to find your target audience, you’ll benefit in the long run.

It might seem cool if your post gets 10,000 views, but if you’re unable to convert any of that traffic or the demographics are just completely wrong, you’re wasting valuable time that could be invested into other inbound marketing tactics. You can try websites like BuzzSumo to investigate what content is performing best for your competitors.

Establishing your content

Next, brainstorm some content ideas. Once you’ve found a few sites that make the most sense to help you reach your target audience, give them a taste of what your content looks like, either including your brainstorm ideas or a full rough draft. Your cold email pitch should to be personalized and include the title and concept of your proposed article. You should also incorporate some previous writing samples (like a link to a previous blog article you’ve already written). You might even try cold-calling to set yourself apart since cold-calling is not dead.

You may also benefit by starting to write content first that directly relates to your company or service, then finding someone who will publish it. This is a great strategy if you have a bit of time on your hands or are feeling particularly creative on a given day.

Knowing the benefits

Like so many other bloggers have written, there really are quite a few benefits that come with guest blogging. These include boosting your writing skills and habits, building backlinks and overall SEO strategies, attracting followers and potential customers, and growing your network. However, the potential benefits extend way past these general perks.

Common pitfalls to avoid

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned pro or someone who is just starting out, there are some major pitfalls that are easy to fall into when guest blogging. Avoiding and overcoming these problems can help keep you on the path toward guest posting success.

1. Stopping after you don’t see immediate results

Guest blogging is not a short-term strategy for success. Don’t start guest blogging if you’re not committed to investing your time into something that may not pay off for a few months or even a few years. However, the statistics don’t lie—it’s worth your while. You just need to keep up the motivation and remain patient while you build your empire.

2. Building their traffic, and not yours

This ties directly into knowing your readership. Do not waste your time building the traffic of the site you are guest blogging on if it means you won’t get anything out of it, as well. In biology, there are concepts known as mutualistic and parasitic relationships. A mutualistic relationship is one where both parties benefit, while a parasitic relationship is one where one party benefits, while another is harmed. Don’t buy into a parasitic relationship.

3. Not measuring your results

Measuring the successes and failures of certain guest blogging endeavors is a crucial step in determining how effective you’re being as a marketer. Determine your conversion rate on traffic coming to your site after each guest post. Then keep measuring it. See how it ebbs and flows depending on which sites you’re posting on. When you find a site that seems to correlate with your readership the most, make sure you’re maintaining that relationship at the highest degree.

4. Seeing some short-term success does not equal long-term gain

It is 100 percent okay to celebrate a successful blog post. Maybe you finally got something published on your dream site and you’re seeing an increased boost in converted traffic. However, the lifecycle of a viral social media post or blog post is very short, so the success you see today from that post may not bring you similar success next month or even next week. Keep up that enthusiasm and determination to continue to build strong results.

Following these tips may help you become the next best guest blogger. Keep these in mind the next time you consider guest posting, whether you’re a pro or just getting started.