Guest blogging. It’s been around since blogs have been around. And it continues to be one of the best strategies a content marketer can use to bring targeted traffic to her site.

Consider what happens when you create a useful, engaging post for someone’s popular blog. It introduces you to a new audience. It establishes and improves your brand. It gives you credibility, which is valuable if no one knows you. It opens up opportunities for you to network with folks in your field. It generates publicity as your post gets shared in the social media space. And of course, your site receives more traffic.

If you’re not guest blogging, you’re leaving a lot of opportunity on the table. But now is a great time to change that. I’ll give you a 4-step process below for getting started on the right foot, and getting the most mileage from your efforts. Read them carefully. Each step contains a number of useful tips.

Step 1. Create A Strategy

Most people approach guest blogging without a clear plan for what they want to accomplish. The problem is, if they haven’t figured that part out yet, there’s no way they can identify the best avenues to pursue. More often than not, they waste a lot of time and generate poor results.

Before you reach out to blog owners, sit down and formulate a plan. First, figure out what you want to achieve. Backlinks? Publicity? Traffic and sales? All of the above?

Second, start to identify blogs that can bring you the results you’re looking for. Use Google to perform searches with “guest post” and your target keywords. Do the same on Twitter.

Once you’ve put together a list of blogs to target, it’s time to put together a pitch. Prepare to do some research.

Step 2. Investigate Your Target Blogs

Think of popular blogs like magazines. They don’t accept every submission they receive. They pick the most promising pitches, and give the folks pitching them a green light. In order to improve your chances of getting picked, you’re going to have to do some basic research.

First, go through the blog’s archives. Note the flavor of the writing, and the type of folks for whom the blog is written.

Second, check out which entries have received the greatest number of comments. Which ones have received the most social media shares? That’s a good way to identify the ones that have really taken off with readers.

Third, look for posts written by other guest bloggers. Did they do well with readers or did their material fall flat? Try to figure out the reasons in either case.

Step #3. Create Your Pitch

Most popular blogs that accept posts from third parties will have a page devoted to guest blogging guidelines. Look for that page and note the rules. (Ignore them at your own risk.) Then, start preparing your pitch.

In an email, introduce yourself and explain who you are. Provide a bit of background on your expertise, and explain why you’re qualified to write a blog post on the topic covered by the blog. If you have written for other blogs in your field, include links to the posts.

Next, introduce your idea. Write a short summary of it (2 or 3 small paragraphs are fine), and explain your intended approach. If you have a few ideas, include them all.

Step #4. Write Your Guest Blog Post

Let’s assume you receive the green light from the blog owner. It’s now time to create your blog post!

One of the most important things to remember is that you’re not being given the go-ahead to promote your business. You’re expected to write a first-rate blog post that matches the pitch you sent to the blog owner. Don’t mention your products or services. Any links to your site should be reserved for your author’s box at the end of your post.

Try to link to a few of the blog’s past entries within the body of your post. Use keywords that are related to their subject matter.

It’s also a good idea to include one or two external links to resources about items mentioned in your post. You can link to Wikipedia entries, reports published by credible sources, or even the Twitter account of a known personality.

Lastly, create your author’s box. This is your bio. This is where you toot your own horn, and explain why you’re an authority in your field. Include a link to your site or blog, and mention your products and services. You can also use the space to generate traffic to your social media accounts.

Follow this 4-step system to guest blogging on a routine basis, and you’ll slowly become a bigger player in your niche. You’ll generate a growing number of backlinks, a bigger stream of traffic, more social media interaction, and a growing number of sales.

Now, that’s an outcome worth fighting for!

Your Turn!

Have you ever guest posted on a popular blog? Did your post generate the results you were looking for? What, if anything, would you do differently today? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience!