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Run a Reader Survey on Your Blog

Reader-SurveyYour task today in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project is to ask your readers how you can improve your blog.

At least once a year I like to write a post on my blogs inviting my readership to comment on a number of areas of my blog. These include:

  • Content (topics covered, post length, types of posts, post frequency, depth of exploration of topics etc)
  • Design (navigation, colors, fonts etc)
  • Blog Features (RSS feed, blog tools etc)
  • Community (how it could be enhanced)

While some blog readers will give you this feedback from time to time whether you ask for it or not – others like to wait to be asked and many wouldn’t even give it any consideration until they are asked.

Why Survey Your Readers?

There are two main reasons why this exercise is worth doing:

  1. Blog Improvement - the most obvious benefit of asking readers to review your blog is that you find out what they like and don’t like about it so that you can make improvements
  2. Reader Participation – asking this question draws readers out of their lurking state to make a comment or send an email. In doing this you actually create users who take a little more ownership of the site and who feel like they are being valued and listened to

How to Survey Your Readers

A few more tips that I’ve found helpful when running reader surveys

  • Determine What You Want to Know First - I find that these reader surveys are more effective when I have some sense of what I want to find out first. While simply asking ‘how can I improve’ might get some good responses – having some ideas on possible future direction for your blog can be helpful in forming the questions that you ask readers. Use this process to test possibilities. For example in a recent reader survey at DPS (see link below) I asked if readers would be interested in buying a ‘best of… ‘ type ebook to test whether this might be something that I could develop down the track.
  • Ask Specific Questions – all some of your readers will need from you to give good feedback is an invitation to do so. However other readers will need a little guidance and asking some specific questions will give them the framework to give you the type of feedback you want. So ask a mixture of general questions (like – ‘tell me what you think about my blog’ and very specific ones (like ‘do you like video post?’ or ‘would you like a forum?’).
  • Set ‘Rules’ – you’ll notice in the two examples that I give below of the most recent times I’ve asked readers for feedback that I’ve set some ‘rules’ in place. The reason I do this is to attempt to get readers thinking positively and constructively about the feedback that they give. Comments like ‘this site is crap’ don’t really help you improve your blog – so encourage your readers to make suggestions and be constructive.
  • Set Good Expectations - the other thing it is worth doing is giving readers a sense of what you’ll do with their feedback. If you intend to respond to each comment, tell readers that that is your intention. If you can’t respond to each suggestion then tell that. This will save you pain later when readers email to ask why you didn’t get back to them.
  • Be Willing to Hear Critiques – don’t ask for feedback unless you are willing to hear it (and not just the glowing praise). The whole point of this exercise is to find things you can improve upon – as a result you’ll hopefully have some of your blog’s weaknesses identified. If you’re not in the headspace for this type of feedback simply don’t ask for it.

Examples of Reader Surveys

If you’d like to see how I do this – I recently gave readers opportunities to comment on my main two personal blogs at How Can I Make ProBlogger More Useful to You? and How Can We Improve Digital Photography School.

So put together a reader survey and post it on your blog. I tend to do it simply as a post and let the resonses come in via comments or email – but you might also want to use an actual survey tool (although I find the response rate to using these is lower). Once you’ve done it I’d love to hear about how you found the process.

What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? Did readers respond? What tips would you give others wanting to do reader surveys?

Another Example

For another example of how do this check out this recent post over at Copyblogger in which Brian asks readers to tell him what Copyblogger means to them. It’s a great question because not only does he learn a lot but readers are responding in ways that cement their readership as they’re telling each other what they like about the blog.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. This could quite easily be the most miss-used methods of improving a site. I hadn’t even considered it until reading this. Thank you.

  2. YouNeed2See says:

    Help out your users too. You might say if you give me some decent feedback here I will happily take a look at your website and give you feedback as well.

    This will give them even more encouragement to give you feedback because they know you’ll be visiting their website as well.

  3. John says:

    True. It is essential for making your blog reader friendly, get your readers feedback.

  4. Darren, have you ever search in google ?

    http://www.google.com/search?q=31+days

  5. Dan Cole says:

    No better people to ask how to improve a website then the people who judge it everyday. Thanks for pointing this out Darren.

  6. Good post! I have yet to do this, but I bet it’s great for initiating interacting and soliciting opinions from readers!

  7. Brandon J says:

    I don’t have daily readers on my site. Most of my readers come from search engines; dealing with finances for military members. So a survey doesn’t really help.

    I do think that site interaction is a great idea though. A survey or polls help out a lot. I have a poll on my site and a lot of people participate in it.

    Maybe when I get more loyal readers, I will do the survey.

  8. Darren,

    I get about 100 unique visitors a day and if I’m lucky 1 or 2 comments; do you think I have enough traffic on my blog to get any feedback on what I can do to improve my site? I don’t want to put it out there and be left twisting in the wind with no comments :(

  9. I don’t know Darren, but, have you ever organized a contest?
    Take a look at our contest, maybe you get surprised ;)

    Kisses!

  10. We think is a very very very useful tip to get links and traffic. Surveys will provide you feedback, a contest will provide buzz.
    We’are tying to get the ROI in few months so the marketing budget for our contest is very important.

    See u!

  11. Sean says:

    I never though of doing this!

    My blog rank is still a little too low anyway, only had it for 2 month now and working on it.

    Getting traffic is time consuming!

  12. Deelip says:

    Its not useful unless you have very good amount of traffic.

  13. almostgotit says:

    In so much that every blog post is a reader survey, it might be interesting (especially for blogs with a smaller readership) to play with this idea. Posts tend to get fewer comments as they recede chronologically, but why not think of ways to keep some of them at the top of your blog where they can continue to generate comments by posting links to them in a sidebar?
    (or) Try putting them on a wordpress “page” that stays on top of your site?
    (or) Use a wordpress “page” to make an index of “reader survey” posts? This will deepen your site, as well, which gives readers more up-front stuff to explore without making the site messy: and (*bonus!!*) adds more google bait (relative links) as well!

  14. Brad V. says:

    Like some already mentioned, this might not be too useful unless you have a pretty healthy traffic stream coming in. There’s nothing worse than asking a question or posting a survey – and no one responds!

    Once my readership goes up to a respectable level, then maybe I’ll try it.

    But great post nevertheless. Reader interaction and making readers feel like they really are valued (which they should be) is the most important part of blogging, next to writing good content, of course!

  15. Friedbeef says:

    I did this very successfully on my site. The thing that helped me the most was when I identified which category on my blog my readers MOST disliked (interviews). Now I’m phasing that out of my main blog.

  16. Frantz says:

    How can I set a pool like your on my typepad blog ? Is there a widget ?

  17. lisa Parks says:

    I have had my blog up for a couple of weeks now, but have had nor readers or responses. What can I do to get readers and responses?

  18. YRP Jen says:

    What survey software is used on this site? It is clean and simple like we’d like to use. I saw PoleDaddy.com but if I can find a free survey that would be optimal of course. Thanks!