In my last post on blog polls we explored why using polls on a blog can be a great technique for building interactivity and ownership on a blog but today I want to give a few practical tips on how to use them (or at least how I use them):
- Keep Polls Relevant - Blog Polls are most effective when they ask a question that is relevant to you blog’s topic. I recently saw one blogger polling their readership on their favourite meal. This would have been a good topic for a food blog – but it was actually being conducted on a blog about a completely different topic. Keep in mind that everything you do on your blog can either add to or take away from your blog’s worth to your readers. Polls that actually communicate something relevant are much more likely to add to your blog.
- Don’t use Polls just for the sake of it - connected to keeping polls relevant is that you probably shouldn’t come up with a poll just for the sake of having one. If you can’t think of a good question that adds something just don’t have a poll. I used to feel the need for a weekly poll but put them on hold for a while over the last month or so simply because I was struggling to keep up with questions to ask and was a little bogged down of the admin of them (it does take some work to run polls, especially if you do ‘results posts’ – see below).
- Position them Prominently - I’ve talked extensively here at ProBlogger about how a key to effective conversion of advertising on a blog is where the ad is positioned. If it’s in a good spot you can significantly increase the amount of people who click it. The same is true for getting people to participate in your poll. Position your poll high on the page and in a spot where you think people will naturally see it and you’ll increase your chances of a result.
- Think ahead about options you give – Don’t just slap a poll up on your blog without thinking through the options you’ll give your respondents to vote upon. I’ve been guilty of messing up in this area myself from time to time – it can actually ruin your poll and make the results quite worthless if you’re not careful. Consider all of the options that your readers might vote upon and try to cover every base possible (within reason) in your options. Well defined questions with a set number of possible answers tend to work best. Open ended questions are generally not well suited for polls (note: some poll tools will allow your readers to add their own options as answers. While this increases the sense of participation for readers it can also be abused and can make your poll very very messy).
- Beware of inactive polls – While polls can demonstrate that your blog is alive (see last post) they can also highlight the fact that it is quite dead. If your traffic levels are quite low and no one actually participates in your poll you it can be a little embarrassing.
- Announce new polls - If a lot of your readership follows your blog via RSS they will never know you’ve started a new poll unless you post about it. Write a short post defining the question and highlighting your poll and you’ll get it off to a much better start.
- Provide a medium for Discussing the Poll – One of the techniques I use these days when running a poll is to include a link to the announcement post where people can give feedback on the poll results and even share comments on why they answered like they did.
- Write a ‘results’ post - In addition to writing an announcement post I like to always include a ‘results’ post. Once again this lets RSS readers know what they might otherwise have missed about the results but also is a great place to take you poll to the next level in terms of producing a post (or posts) on what you found. In these posts I give some key stats, generally try to graph the results of the poll and highlight the key findings. Bloggers love these posts and quite often link up to them.
- Don’t let the poll go on too long – Define how long the poll will run up front and announce that when you start the poll. I would recommend that 1 week is generally long enough for a poll (and perhaps 5 days is better). This gives regular readers a chance to see it and vote and for them to come back a few times in the days that follow to see how the results are. I find that the majority of votes are cast in the first 48 hours and that new responses after that only trickle in.
In my last post in this mini series on Blog Polls I’ll suggest a few blog poll tools that people might like to use.