Your 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:
- 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
- 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?
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.