If you don't give your blog readers what they want then they won't come back for more, and they certainly won't subscribe to your blog. It's hard enough to get new readers to your blog for the first time when you're new to blogging, so when people do find your blog you want to make sure they stick around.
A lot of the time we bloggers have to guess what our readers want to read, or just write to please ourselves and hope it touches a chord with our readers. Neither of these approaches are ideal, but when you start blogging and don't have many readers, that's all you can do.
After you've been blogging for a few months you'll probably notice certain blog posts are more popular than others. People retweet the posts they like best, share them on Facebook or mention them to friends. Sometimes a post can turn out to be a reasonably common search engine phrase that brings you a steady trickle of visitors. It didn't take me long to work out why many bloggers love numbered lists ~ blog readers seem to love them too.
Certain numbered list blog posts I've written here, like 101 Ways To Feel Happy, 3 Keys to Living Your Dream Life, 5 Tricks For Getting People to Say Yes, 7 Good Reasons To Go For a Walk and 51 Steps to Launching a Hot Blog, have turned out to be some of the most popular posts on my blog. Funnily enough I also find numbered lists the easiest posts to write. Hmm, I should do another one soon!
How Can Bloggers Learn What Their Readers Want?
The best way to find out what your blog readers want is to ask them. You can ask readers on your blog with a quick question at the end of a post to see what they want to read about next. Or you can ask your followers on Twitter or Facebook if they're interested in reading about your latest fetish.
But unless you have a significant amount of blog readers or followers, the results will probably be disappointing and the number of replies not big enough to give you a true indication of how the masses feel.
Happily, there is a better way.
Survey Your Blog Readers
People love answering questions about themselves, especially their likes and dislikes. We all feel valued if someone asks our opinion and consults us about something, rather than bulldozing ahead without paying us any heed.
Most of all people love to help so if you ask them to complete your survey as a favour they probably will.
But there is a limit to how much people want to help you. Make sure your survey is:
- Short and quick to answer.
- Well laid out
- Straight forward.
- Has plenty of free space so people can write what they want. It's annoying when you do a survey and none of the answers are quite right but you have to pick one anyway.
How to Create a Blog Survey
There are probably a zillion ways to create an online survey – the pro bloggers recommend Survey Monkey which offers a free basic plan to get you started – but I decided to use Google Documents to create my survey. I've already got enough blog costs – hosting and MailChimp for my email newsletters, so I don't want to take on any more costs, especially if there's a cheap, effective solution to be had. And that's what Google Documents offers bloggers who want to run a survey.
I found out about it from my blogging buddy Karol Gadja – just so you know, he's a bloke and the name's pronounced Karl. Karol has a top blog and top lifestyle dashing around the globe and blogging about his travels, business and entrepreneurial ideas. His blog is called Ridiculously Extraordinary for a reason – please check it out.
Karol's timing writing about blog surveys was perfect for me. I've been overdue doing a survey here for months. In fact, as I've already written the first draft of an ebook I really should have done the survey before I started writing it to make sure it's something my readers want. But procrastination happened and I put it off until I saw Karol's blog post about how to use a free survey and it catalysed me into action.
Blog Survey Tips
Take a Look at my blog survey. Here's what I did right and these are my blog survey tips:
- A mixture of drop down menu questions and free fill boxes let's people take part easily and spend as much or as little time on the survey as they want.
- Make it clear at the beginning how long (or short!) a time the survey takes.
- Thank people in advance and let them know their time and co-operation is appreciated.
- Let people tell you who they are if they want to and take a moment to thank them personally if they do.
- Let people fill in the survey anonymously if they prefer so they can say what they really think.
- Keep blog survey questions short and to the point.
- When you've given people enough time to complete the survey share the results. Under form choose show ‘summary of results' to get the lovely little pie charts you see below – I should add these pie charts to the list of things that make me feel happy. I love them.
What I did wrong:
Some survey questions were too vague. For example,
“How much would you pay for a blogging ebook or course?”
In retrospect I see how obvious it is that people will pay more for a course so I should have made this two separate questions.
My biggest, stupidest mistake:
The survey didn't work in the email newsletter sent to my mailing list, but I didn't realise this and tell people reading it by email to go to the blog to fill in the survey. So all my 600+ email subscribers saw was the annoying message “loading…”. Well, it annoyed me. I missed out on getting the answers from some of my most valuable readers – the people who've subscribed for email updates. Still kicking myself.
The lesson is to always check your newly published blog post in a feed reader before the email goes out. My clever geek says I just need to remember that things like video, flash, audio or anything that's not text and image probably won't work in an email. Apparently he's told me this before and I think I finally get it now.
Blog Survey Results for Get In the Hot Spot 2010
The main reason for doing the survey was so I can create an ebook that people will actually want to buy. The results have helped me rename the product, choose to create an ebook and not an email course and add in case studies which several people requested and will make a great addition.
A few interesting things came up not related to the product:
Several people mentioned they want me to do blog consulting and I will. If you'd like one on one advice from me shoot me an email and we can talk about it now. It will take me a while to put up the details on my blog but I will be doing it.
Several people want me to write more about writing and I will. I don't feel as if I have much to say in this area but I owe it to you to share what I do know.
Number of people surveyed: 47 – it doesn't sound much when you consider I have around 1,500 total subscribers (by email and RSS) but I think it's enough to give me a reasonable sampling.
Great Feedback Examples
What product would you most like to buy from me?
“Blog consultant. “I will spiff up your blog for $X”. Perhaps hands on?”
“Your blog seems to have an eclectic mix of interesting, well written, posts. You may be best doing something a bit off beat, or start with some of your popular posts and rewrite them into a book.”
“With all the FREE e-books out there, I think an e-book people have to pay for will be tough unless the content is super specific and rare. Since there is so much info on blogging, and none of it “validated” so to speak, I suggest another topic. But I think the price will be low. Go for volume, not high pricing.”
“An interactive product where I could ask questions, like a webinar.”
“Ebook about overcoming fear or starting a business.”
What type of information do you most want to read at Get In the Hot Spot?
“Writing information, time management.”
“I just like your perspective. I look to you for honest, uplifting stories that inspire me. That's when you're at your best.”
“A webinar on the do's and dont's in blogging, examples of what you (or other bloggers) have accomplished and how, and pitfalls to beware of. “
“Ideas on the business of blogging.”
“Help on gaining clients and networking with integrity.”
“Effective blogging, personal empowerment, personal branding – Annabel style. Help for people who are not for becoming A-list bloggers but want to be effective.”
“You might have already covered this, but marketing for the “marketing averse” might be a good topic. Probably a similar post on sales would be useful too. Maybe it's just the social scientist in me, but I grimace at overly slick and glossy marketing and books that talk about aggressive sales techniques just don't work for me. Ugh! Also I don't intend on doing all of my business online, so if you have any thoughts or experience that you want to share on “mixed mode” businesses, that would be great.”
Is there anything else you want to tell me or think I should know?
“Your blog is very inspirational and clear.”
“Stories from your life are always welcome!!”
“I commend you on taking the first steps to start making $ with your blog. Keep it up. Find more ways. Increase your own income exponentially.”
“I've enjoyed and got inspiration from most of what you've done so far, so I'd say keep going with your instincts.”
“Sending blog site(s) for review and critique.”
The Beloved Pie Charts
Not all of them, just a sample I hope you like them as much as I do.
Thank You For Being Part of the Successful Blogging Team
Thank you so much to my wonderful readers for coming this far with me and helping with the survey. It's been an exciting journey and a pleasure to share it with you. I'm looking forward to the next stage of this blogging adventure.
Please take a moment to tell people about the hottest blog about blogging on the internet and make sure you've subscribed so you don't miss the next exciting installment at Successful Blogging!
I'm can't wait to help you more, it's a pleasure to be growing and learning with you.
Good luck with all your plans!