At the end of last year I conducted my first ever reader survey. I’d been putting off doing it for years because I was terrified of what people were going to say.
My first fear was that no one would actually fill it in. But my second fear was that people would tell me they hated my blog.
But I finally plucked up the courage to do it and I can honestly say it was the best thing I EVER did for my blog. Yes, I just said EVER.
If you only take one piece of advice from The Blogger Course, make sure it’s this: Hold a reader survey.
Basically, when it comes to your blog, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.
Looking at your stats is a great way to see what your audience are enjoying. The posts that get the most pageviews and social shares are obviously the ones they like the most! But have you ever thought about asking your readers what they’re enjoying and why they actually read your blog?
Here’s a very simple reader survey I did and it had great results.
It might fill you with terror but here are some reasons to hold a reader survey.
You may have readers you never expected
It’s easy to blog for a certain person and create your ‘ideal reader’ in your mind but what if you’ve somehow attracted an audience who are the complete opposite to the person you thought you were blogging for?
I always expected my main readers to be female, as it’s mostly women who email me or talk to me on social media. So I was very shocked when nearly 40% of the people who responded to my survey were male.
I didn’t change my tone or style because of this but it did made me rethink some of my posts and make them less targeted specifically to women.
Finding out more about your readers helps you create targeted content for them
It’s easier to create content you known your readers will love when you know who your readers are.
When it’s anonymous, readers will tell you exactly what they think
This was surprised me and you may need to put on an extra thick skin when you’re reading through your responses. People will tell you the honest and brutal truth, and they really won’t hold back!
There will be a lot of positivity in there too
But remember that the majority of people who answer your reader survey will be your loyal and dedicated readers. They’ll be the people who come back week after week to see what you’ve been up to and they’ll follow all your social media channels. So it’s fair to say that they already like you and your blog!
While I didn’t do a survey for an ego boost, parts of it really boosted my confidence as a blogger and I loved hearing back from hundreds of readers who were enjoying my blog.
If people are taking the time to answer your survey then they’re going to like something about your blog and hearing what they’re enjoying will give you so much motivation.
It will enable you to see your blog with a fresh pair of eyes
If you’re stuck in that situation where you can’t see the wood for the trees then doing a reader survey can be a big eye-opener. It will help you to see your blog from your audience’s point of view and you’ll discover things about your blog you hadn’t even considered.
It will confirm what you already know
There’ll be a lot you already know about your blog but might not want to admit to.
I’d already realised that my blog readers prefer content written by me, rather than content written by contributors. I knew this but I didn’t want to admit it because I love having a team of writers. And a team of writers also brings in more traffic through Google searches as we cover so much more ground!
But my readers made it very clear in my reader survey that they wanted to see more posts from me and less from my contributors – something I knew but I really needed to see it written in black and white to do anything about it.
My top tip for holding a reader survey
Tips for planning your reader survey
How to host a reader survey
I’ve always hosted surveys using Google Forms and then embedded them into my blog. This is a simple and free way to do it and it looks good too. It’s also easy to analyse the results as they’re displayed in charts with percentages.
Planning your questions
Planning your questions is actually a lot tougher than you may imagine. You might find that if you ask the same question but word it slightly differently you’ll actually get very different answers.
My advice for questions is:
- Ask yourself what you really want to know beforehand and tailor your questions to what you want to find out
- Keep it as short as possible – people have short attention spans and will get bored
- Don’t have any ambiguous questions where there could be many different answers – if people get confused and don’t know how to answer then they’ll give up
- Use a combination of multiple choice and answers people fill in themselves – multiple choice is quick and easy for definitive answers but a box to fill in gives readers a chance to really say what they think
- Be careful not to ask ‘leading questions’ – this is a question phrased in a way that leads to the response you want.
- Ask a friend or your course buddy to test it out before you put it live and ask for their honest opinion to check it’s easy to fill in and the questions all make sense.
Incentivising readers to respond
Many bloggers use an incentive to encourage more people to respond to their survey. I’d be wary about incentives because it could attract the wrong kind of people to fill out the survey, particularly if it’s a great prize. You’ll get people responding simply because they want to win the prize and not because they know anything about your blog. They’ll be giving you answers based on the design of your homepage as they won’t have seen much more than that.
My advice is that for a short and simple survey you probably won’t need an incentive as readers seem to enjoy filling these out.
If it’s a longer survey and could take more than 10 minutes then you might want to incentivise people with a prize.