After moving from New York City to Chicago and getting married, Rachel Bertsche realized that her new life was missing one crucially important thing: a local best friend. So she decided to go on one friend date every week for a year, and she documented her quest on a WordPress.com blog at MWFseekingBFF.com.
But before Rachel even started the blog, the 27-year-old writer put together a book proposal based on her search for a local BFF, and successfully pitched it to agents, and then editors. She says, “After I sold the proposal, I decided to start a blog so that I could have a place to document my journey and some of the research I was finding. I also wanted to start building a community and to engage with readers.”
It’s now been over two years since Rachel first launched MWFseekingBFF.com. So did she accomplish her blogging goals? “Absolutely!” Rachel says, “When my book, MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend, came out, I had a whole audience for the memoir that wouldn’t have existed without my blog. And I made new friends through blogging — I’ve met some of my readers, and other bloggers, in real life. My book ended up becoming a National Bestseller and hitting the NY Times Extended Bestseller List. I continue to update the blog because I enjoy it, and also I have a lot of loyal and wonderful readers who seem to enjoy it.”
Rachel says that the discussions generated by her blog posts were a great aid to the book writing process. “Blogging also helped me uncover what issues surrounding friendship were most interesting to my readers, and brought me new ideas. Readers said things in the comments that would switch on a light bulb for me, or they often alerted me to new research on friendship. While my book is very different than my blog (it’s not a compilation of blog posts by any means), writing my posts made me feel like I had a platform to bounce book ideas off of.”
We asked Rachel to share her advice on how to grow your blog audience. Here’s what she had to say:
The first thing I did was to read and comment on other blogs that I thought had a similar audience to mine. Leaving thoughtful comments with a link back to your blog is a great strategy. But you need to actually engage, and respond to the post. Readers are smart. Comments that are clearly only self-promotion will be obvious. Don’t write, “Great post! I think you and your readers might also be interested in my blog [link here].” Instead, get into the discussion. Respond to the issue at hand.
When you go to leave a reply, don’t post your blog link in the comment. Readers understand that they can click on your name and I think leaving the link in the post reeks a bit of self-promotion. (To change the link, go Users → Personal Settings in your dashboard and find the Website field under Account Details.) If you regularly comment on someone’s blog, that person will likely eventually stop by and read your blog, too. I’ve found the blogging community to be one of the most inclusive and generous out there.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I started out, I emailed some of the bloggers I most admired. I told them I loved their blog and asked their advice on how to find success. They were people who had clearly cracked the nut and each had their own tips for what worked for them. Then you can pick and choose.
Finally, give credit where credit is due. When I read a blog post that I love or that spurs an idea for my own blog, I always reference the post and link back. Blogging is about community and sharing, and this sets the tone. Just recently, I wrote a blog post inspired by a post on 1000AwesomeThings.com. I linked back, and hopefully turned a bunch of new readers onto the site. Because there was a decent amount of traffic sent to his blog, or maybe because he received a pingback, Neil Pasricha then came and commented on my blog! This is the author of two #1 International Bestselling books! I was so thrilled. I emailed Neil to thank him, and that began a back and forth, where I was able to ask him his blogging tips.
The bottom of line of all these lessons is to engage. Blogging is about community. It’s most successful not as a solitary endeavor but when you enlist the help of others, and in turn help them, too.
Learn more about Rachel and her book at MWFseekingBFF.com.