By Susan Guillory

When you’re first starting your business blog, you won’t see a lot of web traffic. That can be frustrating, especially if you’re trying to use your blog as a marketing tool. Still, there is another way to write informative content to your audience and have it read by hundreds — if not thousands — of people.

The secret? Guest blogging.

When you write valuable, targeted content that gets published on a more established blog that caters to your niche, you introduce yourself — and therefore your brand — to tons of people who might not otherwise have heard of you. Or, if they have heard of you, you’re appearing again and again on sites they value, and that repetition makes them think twice about checking you out.

Just like with any marketing, guest blogging works better with a few deliberate strategies like the following.

1. Be Picky About Where You Pitch

If you really want to see traction from the sites you contribute to, aim high. Sure, there are millions of smaller blogs that would be happy to get your free content, but they probably won’t send you more than a faint trickle of traffic.

You want to identify key blogs that attract your target demographic, and that do so by the droves. Some elements to take into consideration when looking for guest blogging opportunities are:

  • How much traffic the site gets
  • Its Alexa ranking (start with blogs ranking in the top million for the US)
  • Whether there are many active and engaging comments on posts
  • Whether the blog owner does a good job of promoting content
  • Fresh, steady stream of content

2. Customize Your Pitch

Usually, good blogs will give you instructions on how to contribute (the way Small Business Bonfire does here). Read and heed these directions, because if you wander off the path, you’ll ruin your chance of getting a guest post accepted.

Read posts others have written on the blog to get a sense of what works, and what the blog owner likes. Search to make sure the topic you want to cover hasn’t been covered already, or come up with a unique angle.

Then, when you’re ready, send a customized email. I say customized because many people simply copy and paste their guest post pitch, and no one likes getting a canned email. I like to comment about a post I liked on their blog. Then I move into the topic(s) I’d like to write about, with a brief summary of how I envision the post.

3. Be a Good Guest

Just like you’d be respectful if you were a guest in a friend’s home, you want to extend that same courtesy if you are invited to contribute a guest post. That means meeting deadlines, being communicative, and following submission guidelines to a T.

It also means that after your post is published, you be supportive by sharing it far and wide. Blog owners like it when you bring your own followers to their blog, so share your post on social media and to the rest of your network.

If the blog owner likes your work, she’ll invite you to contribute again. Having an established channel for your content is a fantastic way to drive traffic back to your own blog and website. Consider it one of your steady marketing activities, and commit the time and energy it takes to write killer content.