Note from Nick: This an excerpt from my new guide, “The Dead-Simple Guide to Guest Posts,” available on Amazon

I write here regularly, and one of the ongoing themes I use in my writing is the idea of “defining our own success.” Success means many different things to people, and everyone has their own version of the definition.

Blogging and building a platform online is no different — we can measure success in terms of dollars, readers, subscribers, downloads, or many other metrics — or we can choose to forgo those definitions altogether and just base success on how we “feel” when we help someone else.

All of these definitions may be correct. No matter what, we can probably agree on a certain definition of unsuccessful:

A blog or website that sits on the Web, void of traffic and readers, slowly sinking into obscurity.

If you’re like me, you’ve been there before, and it’s a frustratingly boring place to be in.

So how can guest-posting help you? How can it help you achieve your definition of success?

1. Marketing/Awareness

First, guest posts are great forms of marketing. Think of the most popular building in your town, one instantly recognizable from the highway. Now imagine you get to place a huge billboard on the front of it, advertising your services or products.

Guest posting is sort of like this, except way better. It’s totally free, the billboard is actually a link back to your website (offering a much simpler call-to-action for the readers), and the readers of this particular post are probably already interested in what you’re saying — after all, they’re fans of that blog, right?

Guest posting has worked for me and many of my clients when we’ve used the strategy for marketing. We’ve sold courses, books, and other products using guest-blogging as the main traffic strategy, and it’s worked like a charm in almost every instance.

Further, guest posting has the benefit of generating awareness for you or your product. People start seeing your name on sites they read often, and they’ll eventually start associating you as an expert, or at least a trusted source on their topic of interest.

2. Generating Buzz

Like Marketing/Awareness, one of the great benefits of a guest blogging campaign is the buzz you’ll generate. You don’t have to be selling something, or you could just be “priming the pump,” getting ready for a release in the near future, and guest blogging on a lot of sites in a short period of time will generate some good attention and buzz for you.

I use guest-posting whenever I launch a book or release something big, and I try to “book” my posts on their respective sites in a 2-3 week range. When it’s successful, I’ve received many thousands of visitors in a short amount of time, leading to a sense of excitement and anticipation for the launch — and of course more sales when the big day arrived!

3. Sales/Brand Exposure

If you’re a marketer by trade, you understand the importance of branding and brand exposure. Sure, having your name “in lights” on all of these websites in a short amount of time will probably gain a few more sales, but the long-term effects of a properly-executed guest-posting campaign is that people will start to recognize you and your brand. You can “hone” your message over time, and you can start creating a brand that you want, instead of letting the market create it for you.

For a business, marketing and advertising are considered necessities. Unfortunately, they can be expensive, and not always directly measurable. Guest posting, on the other hand, is totally free and can be extensively tracked and measured, providing you (or your boss!) with specific, usable data like overall ROI, time-vs.-reward reports, and overall sales numbers based on guest post traffic. This is invaluable data for a company trying to move product, but for independent authors, consultants, and platform-builders, it’s also extremely useful stuff!

4. List Growth

If there’s one thing I harp on over and over again about building a platform, it’s the importance of building and growing a mailing list. It can take the form of a weekly or monthly newsletter, but it should be something that collects peoples’ email addresses, letting you send targeted updates directly to their inbox.

And — surprise, surprise — guest-posting is a great way to do this! When I first launched, I guest-posted on over fifty websites, asking people at the end of the posts to subscribe to my newsletter. The results?

See for yourself:

From February to April, I had over 200% growth!

As I’ve been changing the blog and offering more products and services, I’ve not asked for sign-ups to the mailing list as much in my guest posts. However, I know that if I need to bump the number of subscribers for an upcoming course or launch, I can plan a guest-posting campaign that targets my mailing list signup in the byline.

There are countless other ways guest posting can directly boost your bottom line, increase your readership, and get you closer to “success.” But there are also some very important indirect benefits of this strategy:

5. Practice

Writing is practice. Even if you publish your work, post it as a blog, or send it to a newsletter list, you’re still practicing the act of writing. Guest posts are no different — you’re practicing writing for an audience, honing a message, writing succinctly, and working with other blog owners.

This practice is crucial to long-term success as a writer (and if you read my blog, you know I believe everyone is a writer!). If you ever want to write and publish a book, practicing writing in this small way can significantly increase your writing ability. Think of every post you write — whether it’s on your blog or someone else’s — as a little essay; a little bit of writing practice.

6. Research

I’ve learned so many things from guest-posting that I never thought I’d know. For instance, I often write guest posts for sites that focus on the craft of writing (fiction, nonfiction, etc.). I’m no expert when it comes to the craft of writing, but I usually have one or two tips I want to give to the readers. To “fill out” the post, I’ll sometimes spend an hour or two reading a book on the craft of writing, or research something online that fits the topic of the post. I use the research, cite the source, and then submit the post.

Over time, this has helped my ability to research, find information quickly and accurately, and it’s certainly boosted the amount of trivial knowledge floating around in my head!

There’s one final thing I need to mention here. It’s probably the most important benefit of guest-posting, and it’s certainly the one that you should focus on the most (and it’s also #7): engagement. Engagement is the one thing that is necessary for success, no matter which definition you’re using. People buy from people and companies they trust, and real relationships are based on engagement with real people.

Guest-posting is a great way to build that type of engagement — through the comments, “shares” and “likes,” and with the blog owner. I pride myself on answering and responding to every email I receive (go ahead, try me!), and I truly believe it’s helped me achieve the small amount of “success” I’ve had.

Focus on engagement and how you’re helping others, and you can’t go wrong. You don’t need to constantly bend over backwards for people, but you should try to go out of your way to help someone in need — guest-posting offers an easy way to do that. Find the “question” your readership is asking, and help them answer it. Don’t charge them for it, but don’t be afraid to ask them to reciprocate by visiting your site or newsletter, either!

Leave a comment below, and let me know what you think! Also, if you’re interested in guest-posting, check out the guidelines here.