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Ask a Question: 10 Reasons Why Questions Work & 12 Tips on How to Ask Them [Day 25: 31DBBB]

Today’s task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challengeis to ask your readers a question.

10 Reasons to ask Your Readers Questions

questions.jpgAsking readers questions is a fantastic way to grow you blog for a number of reasons – here are 10.

  1. It gives readers a sense of community and participation – there’s nothing like coming to a blog where readers are interacting to give a blog a sense of being alive.
  2. It increases Blog Stickiness – people are more likely to return to a blog that they’ve contributed something to
  3. Question posts don’t take a whole lot of effort to write (although can take some moderation)
  4. Question posts are fantastic for helping you to gauge where your readers are at on certain topics.
  5. Getting reader responses can fuel future post ideas for your blog
  6. They open up opportunities for followup posts as you summarize the answers, pick up conversations and even answer the question yourself etc.
  7. Well worded questions can often rank well in search engines. Pick a question that people are going to be asking when they search the web for answers and optimize your page for that question and you could rank quite well.
  8. They can be great for generating incoming links to your blog as other bloggers pick up the conversation on their own blogs.
  9. When a reader comments it gives you means to enter into conversation with that person (either by responding with a comment and/or via email). In the early days of a blog it can especially be good to do this as those few readers you have can help to spread word of your blog into their network.
  10. Reader answers can sometimes be used as actual posts. I’ve promoted the comments people have made on my blog to actual blog posts (with a few extra comments of my own and giving credit to the comment leaver of course).

Some bloggers resist writing question posts because they are scared that nobody will answer the question. This can certainly be a little disheartening – but if you construct the post well and include your own answer to the question then at least there is something there of value even if the conversation doesn’t emerge.

Remember that only around 1% of blog readers tend to leave comments – so if you don’t get a lot of responses it doesn’t mean that no one is reading your blog – keep trying.

12 Tips for Asking Your Readers Questions on Your Blog

When it comes to asking your readers questions there are no real rules as to the type of questions and how you should go about it. However, here are 12 tips that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Keep the question relevant to Your Blog’s Topic
  2. Ask a question that builds on a previous post – for example, on DPS I wrote a post about the pros and cons of shooting in RAW vs JPEG. The post was quite popular so I followed it up with a post asking readers what they shot in.
  3. Ask questions that are answerable (this might sound dumb but sometimes questions are so hard to answer that people don’t)
  4. Ask questions that readers will want to know the answer to – so ask a question on a hot topic which you think readers will want to have insight into what others think or do.
  5. Suggest to your readers some possible answers – I find that when I give some options to choose between that it can help a discussion get going.
  6. Sometimes either/or questions (where there are only two answers to choose from) can be great for generating a debate – they are easy to answer and a great way to help train your readers to comment (the RAW/JPEG question post answered above is an example of this).
  7. You may like to try using a Poll tool to give your readers a way to vote on a number of options
  8. Controversial questions can be a great way to get a conversation going – but be aware readers could get fired up.
  9. Be willing to share your own answer – but if you’re confident you’ll get people responding you might want to consider holding off on your own answer and do it in a follow up post (this means 2 posts instead of 1 but also means you won’t skew your reader’s answers)
  10. Do you have a frequently asked question that you don’t know how to answer? Ask your readers for their opinion – you might learn something. I often use ‘community workshop’ type questions where I simply pose a question and ask readers for advice on the topic – the comments section really becomes the resource (see examples below).
  11. Sometimes more personal (yet on topic) questions can be worth asking. For example don’t just ask what people ‘think’ about some sort of theoretical question – but ask them what they ‘do’ or about their own lives. For example a while back I asked readers to tell me what their favorite lens was at DPS – it was a question answered by over 200 people – at the time it was my most commented upon post.
  12. Follow up your question posts with summaries of answers – if you get a lot of responses it can be well worth your time to collate the answers in a new post. This shows your readers that you value their answers but also creates an interesting post. For example – with the question post on what readers favorite lenses were I wrote a summary of popular DSLR lenses. The response from these two posts was fantastic as many readers not only had a say on a topic but enjoyed reading what others were doing.

Having all that in mind – your homework for today is to go back to your blog/s and ask a question of your readers.

Once you’ve done that, come back to this post and share the link with us so we can check it out and see how you’ve approached it.

PS – Some Examples of Question Posts I use ‘reader questions’ regularly on my photography site. In fact they are among the most popular posts on the blog in terms of page views and in terms of generating comments.

Following are a few ‘reader question’ posts that I’ve run on DPS – I hope that in sharing them you’ll get some ideas for different types of questions to ask:

  • Which Digital Camera Manufacturer is Best? – a question that there really is no one answer to and which caused some real debate. I followed it up with a summary post – Best Digital Camera Manufacturers.
  • Win a Prize By Telling us About Your Digital Camera – in this instance I offered a prize for people to answer the question (they answered in the DPS forum).
  • What Digital Camera Do You Use? – another question aimed at getting readers to share their own experiences of gear that they use. This gave me valuable data on the type of reader I had but also provided me with great data for a follow up post.
  • What Shooting Mode do you Shoot in Most? – asking this question then gave me an opportunity to link to posts that I’d previously written on the topic at the bottom of the post. I also followed it up with some posts on the same topic as the question itself really opened up a topic that some of my readers hadn’t explored much before.
  • How Would You Photograph a Funeral? – this is a ‘community workshop’ type post where I posed a question from a reader and let my readers give their advice and tips. I find these question posts particularly effective as they not only answer a reader’s question but the answers from the community become a fantastic resource. Other examples of this include ‘How to Photograph Grandma‘ and ‘How do I Photograph Kids?
  • Share Your Best Shot Ever – this post simply asked readers to share a link to their best photograph. It gave readers a chance to show off their work a little – it was very popular.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

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. venkat says:

    It’s always good to ask questions which gives interaction of readers with others as they share their views.As questions also give usefull info from readers which even blog authors don’t know.

  2. Robyn says:

    I used this task to find people to respond.

    hopefully I will recieve helpful comments

    http://outbackselfhelp.blogspot.com/2009/05/what-would-you-ask-before-coming-to.html

  3. BizMind says:

    I’m way behind now. Though, I try to catch up. Since most of my visitors are interested in business, I choose to post a question of what business development courses they would like to take if they lack business know-how.

    Entrepreneur-minded people can post comments in my post. Here’s the page to go:

    http://entrebankph.com/what-business-skills-development-courses-you-would-like-to-take/

  4. I have asked 2 questions recently which have had no comments and this has got me down somewhat. So for today’s task, I have tried to rephrase the 2 questions by following Darren’s tips. My questions were:

    1) Is there more to life than Twitter?

    2) Do you think it is a good idea for the summer G8 Summit to be held in Aquila?

    Janet’s Abruzzo Edublog – http:civitaquana.blogspot.com

  5. Interesting, I have resisted this for that exact reason: with a low subscriber base I have always been afraid that i would post a question and no one would respond. But I am up for trying again:

    Question: What’s your big “Ding”? http://www.avishparashar.blogspot.com/ Thanks!

    (A “ding” is an unexpected interruption or annoyance. Readers of my blog know this, and I explain it in the post too)

    Thanks!
    Avish

  6. MJ Doyle says:

    It’s funny that this came up today because I just tried asking a question in a post I wrote two days ago (I remember reading about the benefit on this blog a while back). No comments yet, but here’s what I did:

    http://www.sosyourlife.com/invite-opportunity-organizing-paper-clutter-part-1/

  7. Megan says:

    Lately, I’ve been trying to ask questions in my posts to try to get readers more involved. the most recent was about whether they make their own granola or buy it and what recipes they use or brands they buy.

    http://megan-deliciousdishings.blogspot.com/2009/05/henriettas-table-granola.html

  8. I asked a question last night about whether it’s better for one or both parents to work when you have a baby. It’s brought out a lot of first-time commenters. Awesome assignment.

    http://www.fiscalfizzle.com/2009/04/readers-weigh-in-is-it-better-for-one-or-both-parents-to-work/

  9. Clay Hebert says:

    Great assignment, Darren. Now that Tropicana relented and almost all the cartons are back to the original design, I asked readers what they thought.

    <a href=”http://dailysense.com/?p=568″ DailySense.com: A branding mistake, corrected

  10. Clay Hebert says:
  11. Jackie says:

    Definitely questions makes our blogs dynamic. And people love that, I know I would. So thanks for that lesson.

    Jackie
    http://www.internetmarketing.com-seemore.info/

  12. Lynn says:

    I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit with the challenges, but I hope to go back to the others sometime, and I did do this one. My question is here:
    http://infantbibliophile.blogspot.com/2009/05/help-me-give-my-google-reader-new-life.html

    Lynn at Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile

  13. R Kumar says:

    This activity is sure to increase the interactivity of a blog. Most of the blogs have a one-way delivery system where the blogger keeps on writing about things that he feels are valuable and the readers can choose to read the post or, browse away if that does not interest them. But in a blog post like the one that you have asked us to write, the readers will have a choice of expressing themselves, consequently giving the blogger information on what to write next and what is it that the readers want to read.
    I was always scared of a post returning no comments and hence was reluctant in an interactive kind of a post, because that would demoralize me. But once I started getting some comments in my blog, I gained the confidence to do it. But the right way of doing it is to keep doing it with a bit of tweak here and there, each time you do it and check the performance of the post based on the number of visits to the blog and not the comments.

  14. Every single post on my blog is a question! A trivia question, more specifically. The only thing is, I’m not asking for visitors to answer them. The answers are provided along with some additional info. The question format does seem to help with search engine queries when people type in a question similar to what I have asked. So #7 in your 10 Reasons list is especially fitting for my blog.

  15. Seslichat says:

    thkans

  16. Angel Taylor says:

    This is a good idea, I hadn’t thought about doing this but it is a wonderful way to get your readers involved. I will definitly try this out on my own blog. Thanks

  17. I was working on a question post when I got your assignment. It did take me several days to finish however, due to problems with the poll plug-in I tried.

    I took my most popular post
    Top 100 Best Novels Of All Time – A Compilation of the Best Books
    and created a poll around it
    asking my readers to tell me what there 10 favorite novels from the list were. (
    Readers Choice Poll: What is the Best Novel of All Time?
    ) I also created
    another post asking them which books they think should be on the list.

  18. Giovanni says:

    You are totally right.
    One of the first things I did with my blog is setting up a post page asking a question to my readers and.
    The best part of it is that I am redirecting my subscribers to that page so that they can answer to my question.
    What do I get? The answers are a mix of personal and buseness and allow me to get a good connection with my readers.
    Thanks for this article.

  19. I have asked readers questions at the end of each post for a while now. I genuinely like to know their point of view. And yes, it gets the reader to interact!

    http://www.peacefulwmn9.com

  20. Maddie Grant says:

    I actually don’t do this often enough, and I now have started a little list in draft of things I might want to ask people. But I did ask my Yapstars (Young Association Professionals) to tell me their story over on Yapstar.org, and that has turned out to be really really awesome.

  21. To be truthful, I haven’t tried asking questions to my readers. Actually, I merely depend on their comments, feedbacks or suggestions on whether I should do this or that. Although, I will like to do so, since interaction and giving your readers a hint of apprecitation is always valuable if you want to obtain a user-friendly site and a site that is always frequented by visitors due to you being friendly. Apart from this, asking also brings about comments even a few on your first time.

  22. Elena says:

    One thing I’ve learned from reading this is that a question has to be well thought out. If not, then you do run the risk of not having comments. Mine being a new blog has been very difficult to get any comments. In fact, I am surprised when I do get them. Still, the examples here are instrumental in making your blog more multi-dimensional. Have a great day.

  23. Wayne says:

    I use questions in my travel blog almost every day. This, I have found is a good way to encourage people to respond with their comments.

    Here’s a blog on “What to do in Sedona?” I used with a great amount of success: http://www.traveltothewest.com/?p=1174

    I also did a current blog using current events – swine flu – and its effect on travel on another blog: http://www.traveltothewest.com/?p=1312

    I would appreciate any comments you all have with these two.
    Thank you,
    Wayne

  24. elizof says:

    I pose questions to my blog readers all the time and the challenge is getting them to actually respond to the questions. I have taken quite a lot of the tips I have learned here and applied them to the way I write my blogs. I now leave out the tendency to answer questions on every facet of my topic. This is something I must admit I used to do a lot but no longer do… I agree that asking questions and leaving room in the blog for thought and opinion is a great way to make people think and respond… Would love to hear from you!
    Thanks Darren.

  25. Viviana says:

    I try to ask questions in a lot of my posts to get interaction with my readers but I must be doing something wrong as I don’t get many responses or comments.

    This is my most recent post which does ask a question – any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

    http://www.theleantimes.com/?p=556

  26. Sam sall says:

    Hi,
    In my post for this task is asked about what make you submit a post to social network service like digg it
    http://www.speechstarter.com/when-do-you-dig-it/

  27. Great post Dareen , I’m grateful to you , thanks a lot.

  28. mas-aripp says:

    How far we can ask a question to the visitors? If I ask them about something outside my posts for example politics, then visitors maybe dislike it. What is your opinion ?

  29. I followed the advice and plan to pose a question every Saturday. The first question I asked my readers today is whether they prefer to exercise at a gym or in their own home.

    http://fitforfaith.blogspot.com/2009/05/exercise-at-gym-vs-at-home.html

  30. JayeL says:

    http://artquiltmaker.com/blog

    My blog is about creativity, design and quilts.

    The recent question I put to my readers was about the arrangement of a quilt. You can see it: http://artquiltmaker.com/blog/2009/05/tarts-arrangement/

  31. Justice44 says:

    Hi Darren,

    Again excellent post. I will use this in my identity theft blogs. Actually, I plan to ask questions about being an identity theft victim.

    I have used a lot of questions as threads in forum post. I was unsure if question blogs were appropriate. However, your reasons why they are valuable are convincing.

  32. I think the number of comments on this post goes to show that questions work!

    I think questions are useful for any writing whether a blog, article headline etc. They are a great way to engage readers and as you said create a sense of community by bringing like minded people together!

    Great post!

  33. ed hardy says:

    I always learn from Pro bloggers, and you’re actually one of them! Thanks for sharing Darren :)

    your ten reasons for why we should ask questions to our readers to grow our blog are very amazing. people always curious about what are added following their answers to our questions. that one way to increase your blog pr.