Make New Friends, And Keep the Old

I’m Sarah Wendell, and I’m co-founder and current mastermind of the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. If you're not familiar with our community, Smart Bitches is one of the largest and most popular sites focusing on romance fiction.

Our site is over 12 years old, which is quite an age for a blog that is still growing. Both on the site and on my podcast, Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, we welcome a global community of readers. During first quarter 2017, Smart Bitches received over 1.56 million pageviews from over 180 countries. Our readership is 98% women, and in that same time period, comprised of 36% new visitors, and (behold the power of math!) 64% returning visitors. In other words, our readers stop by and hang out with us.

We want to be the friend who likes all the same movies and tv shows you do, and has the comfiest couches and the best snacks.

A lot of blogging advice talks about acquiring new readers, expanding reach, increasing engagement on social media, and adopting new forms of social media (because there’s a new one, or a new version of Facebook, semi-weekly, right?). As an entrepreneur, I absolutely pay attention to those concepts.

But I’ve found that it’s also very helpful to focus on the returning visitors, the people who eagerly come back to see what’s new. What are they searching for? How can I help them find what they might want?

If you’re running a blog, those questions are key:

  • What does my blog do?
  • What are people who visit me looking for?

The most helpful element which has guided me through content development and feature refinement is a mission statement.

Our mission statement is to connect romance readers with one another, and with the books they want to read.

Therefore, my job is to make sure our content satisfies that goal.

Book reviews, characters discussions, and collections of titles on sale are obviously connected, but so are our regular examinations of romance cover art, (WHY SO MUCH FUCHSIA WHY), and our coverage of romantic comedies, television drama, and bookish and literary accessories (yes, you do deserve that gorgeous scarf with books printed on it, no question).

The most valuable commodities for bloggers, I think, are consistency, authenticity, and generosity.

Consistency (and an ample dose of sarcasm and silliness) is part of what keeps our community active and engaged - or, in more casual terms, coming back to hang out with us. We want to welcome readers, both new and returning, by helping them become friends with one another over the shared love of romance, and by helping them find new books to read.

It’s both complex and very simple. Our to-be-read stacks are taller than we are at this point, but it’s a small price to pay for the knowledge that we’ve found our friends, and they keep coming back to visit us.

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