One tool that many bloggers use to add a level of interactivity to their blogs is to use Polls. You’ll see at the time of writing this post that I currently have a simple poll running asking readers to tell me what gender they are but previously I’ve run a variety of different ones ranging from asking about the blog platforms that readers use, to asking about their opinion on how I should improve this blog (ie I asked if I should move to full RSS feeds or stay with excerpts), to asking about their blog earnings.
Why use Polls?
Polls can bring life to a blog in a number of ways:
- Discussion starters – The thing I love about polls is the discussion that they often start. I’ll write some techniques for encouraging discussion around a poll later but if you craft a question in the right way people will want to talk about their own (and others) answers.
- Poll Results can lead to incoming links – I quite often notice that on the day I announce the results to a poll (and sometimes while it’s underway) that I find other bloggers linking up to my blog with posts of their own on the results. Bloggers love statistics and studies and will continue the discussion happening around your poll on your blog on their own blogs also.
- Research for your writing – The current question around blogger gender is testing a theory that I have. I can see already that there is at least one post exploring the theme of gender and ProBloggers that will come out of what the poll has already found. Some poll questions don’t lend themselves to such posts but the results of others can be rich with starting points for you to explore in future posts.
- Increases reader participation – If you’re trying to increase the interactivity of your blog or want to give your readers a sense of ownership over it a series of polls can be a very effective technique. I know that when I take part in a poll on other people’s blogs that it means that I’ve given a little something of myself or my opinion to that blog. It might not be much but it can be enough to make me return later or leave a comment – both steps towards becoming a regular and loyal reader.
- They demonstrate your blog is alive – I find that the percentage of people who leave a comment on a blog is generally quite small in comparison to total readers. A lot of people lurk around a blog and like to be anonymous (for a variety of reasons). A poll will normally get a much higher participation rate and as a result can be a truer reflection to other readers of how many people are reading along. People like to feel that they are a part of something larger than themselves and a poll that shows that they are by the number of other responses can do this.
- Polls can Help Shape your blog – Polls can also be great for helping you to determine which direction to take your blog in. A prime example of this for me was when I asked people to vote on if I should move to full RSS feeds. Interestingly when I asked for comments on this question in a general post I had a fairly high percentage of respondents tell me that I shouldn’t make the move. The comment thread got a little dominated by this perspective. However when I did the poll I found that most people DID want me to move to full feeds. The comments on the poll backed this up as people felt freer to share their opinion because they knew they were not alone. Getting a vote on what you should do with your blog can be quite effective – but you had better be willing to take the results seriously and follow through on them.
- Increases visits from RSS – The day I start a new poll on ProBlogger I generally notice an increase in the number of readers coming to the site from my RSS feed. If you run a poll in your sidebar there is no way for RSS readers to either cast their vote or see the results without actually visiting your blog in person.