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Blogging 201, Day Twelve: Give ‘Em What They Want, Part Two

The best way to learn what readers want is to ask. Create a poll and/or a survey to collect feedback on your site and its content.

Back on Day Five, we dipped our toe into the stats pool by looking at data about your blog. Along with quantitative data, it’s also great to gather qualitative data to learn more about what readers think about your content and shape your editorial calendar.

Note: if polling and surveying your readers feels a bit premature — no worries! We suggest giving it a try, but feel free to bookmark this assignment and return to it in a few months. These are good tools to have in your back pocket.

Today’s assignment: create a poll and/or a survey to collect feedback from your readers on your site and its content.

Why do this?

  • Because qualitative data in the form of poll and survey responses deepens your understanding of what readers love (or don’t love).
  • Because qualitative data can help illuminate traffic drops and boosts that you might see over time as you review your blog’s stats.
  • Because polling and surveying readers is a great way to connect with them.

Stats are a useful tool, but they’re just one part of the story — in talking directly with readers, you’re able to flesh out that skeleton. Not only do polls and surveys teach you a great deal, but actually making changes to your site based on feedback readers offer demonstrates that you care about what they think, furthering your relationship with your audience.

The difference between a poll and a survey

A poll allows you to ask one multiple choice question, and readers choose from several answers. You can allow the voter to select just one or let them to choose multiple answers, and you have the option of adding an “Other” field where readers can write in anything they like. You can choose from different colors and styles for the poll itself, but a basic poll looks like this:


 
A survey lets you ask multiple questions using a range of question types: you can ask for a comment, an email address, a name, an address etc., as well as ask different kinds of multiple choice and ranking questions. Here’s a sample survey:

Creating and using polls

You can create a poll right from your WordPress.com dashboard. Click on the “Add Poll” button and follow the instructions to customize it, then click “Embed” to plunk it into your post. (If you get stuck, Polldaddy support is friendly and awesome.)

Since you define the question and answers, you can use polls to collect lots of types of feedback:

  • Brainstorm ideas for new regular features you’d like to implement and poll readers on which they find most interesting.
  • Choose a few favorite posts you’ve written and ask readers to choose their favorite.
  • Ask readers how often they’d like to see new posts.
  • Let readers vote on key decisions, like what to name a new character in the fiction you’re writing or what the subject of your next photos should be.

To see your poll responses, head to Feedback → Polls in your dashboard.

Creating and using surveys

You also have a simple surveying tool right in your post editor — the “Add Contact Form” button. You can use this to ask open-ended questions.

Creating a survey takes a bit more effort, though the payoff is worth it because you can ask open-ended questions and gather deeper feedback from your audience.

To create a survey, you need a Polldaddy account (don’t worry, you can use your WordPress.com username and password). Click “create new” and select “survey,” and off you go — you get to set an intro message, choose from different questions types, and completely customize everything, including the color and style of the survey. When you’re done, you’ll get a shortcode for the survey — drop it right into your post. If you need help, Polldaddy support is standing by.

Since surveys are so flexible, there are even more ways you can integrate them into your blog:

  • Create a survey that asks readers to rank your regular features in order of how much they like them.
  • Create a survey to ask readers their opinions on your site’s design.
  • Create a survey to find out how readers found your blog. Did they find you via the Reader? By someone else’s blogroll? Random Google search? That massive billboard you took out on Rodeo Drive?

You can also add a survey or contact form to a page and leave it open all the time, so readers can share thoughts when the fancy strikes.

To see your poll responses, log in to your Polldaddy account. If you’re using a contact form, head to Feedback → Feedback (not a typo!) in your dashboard.

Collect some feedback

As we mentioned earlier — now may not be the right time for you to go out and begin to survey and poll your readers. There are no mandatory assignments — just ideas for how you can build your blog’s audience and solidify your brand.

But if you have more questions than you’re getting answered in The Commons, or want to ask broader questions about your blog or content, get thee to your dashboard and start a-polling! What you learn may just surprise you.

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  1. Creative polls with hilarious options are great fun – because they are quick to do, readers enjoy them. Some blogs feature a funny poll once a week….and readers get into the action by offering “other” responses. Comments get as good as the original poll.
    Polls can be used another way. Feature an intriguing picture on day and ask readers to suggest captions. The next day feature the picture and a poll of several of the cation suggestions. 2 days of easy posts.
    Surveys will give you more info – if your readers are thoughtful or you’ve developed relationships with them. Time is always a factor for bloggers. (Don’t get discouraged if responses are slow at first)
    Poll daddy is very popular!
    Once again, great ideas to explore. Always something exciting at WP. Enjoy the games!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve not created a poll yet, trying to catch up, finally relented and put a blog roll on my site hehe, tried to join twitter, but my email is not receiving an activation email which is very annoying. I do think fun polls are great i did think about starting one but it got very confusing the form etc, ie the technicalities etc x

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  2. Hmm, I never saw polls and surveys as a tool to connect with my readers. Will be trying that out sometime next month after I finish what I’ve planned.

    For me personally though, my readers’ comments are more or less enough to help me gauge whether they’re liking my content or not. I believe WordPress also taught us about analysing stats awhile ago, and coupled with today’s tips, it should really help you up your game in the blogging arena, as well as improve your editorial calendar.

    My blog is http://LhuWenKai.com, and I also appreciate direct comments on what people will like to read and see on my blog. In my opinion, the comments section is where the magic happens. It’s the only real direct and quick line of communication between you and your readers, so make use it to encourage and draw in more comments, asking your audience questions, or even set up opportunities for collaborations :)

    Come over and say hi! And leave your blogs in the comments section because I wanna learn from you guys as well :)

    Take care.

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  3. If anyone wanted to do a survey that wasn’t actually embedded in your blog, but online as a link there are some other tools. https://www.surveymonkey.com/ has a free account option that allows you to do up to 10 questions with up to 100 responses. It does say that the survey is embeddable but I haven’t tried it. There are payment options that allow for more questions and responses. Prices here https://www.surveymonkey.com/pricing/
    Another service I have used which is very similar but doesn’t have any restrictions on the number of questions or responses is http://www.surveyface.com/ If you actually want to get meaningful data there is an art to question writing. There is some help and advice here http://www.surveyface.com/oseapp/survey_tips.php

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  4. Last days have been more and more challenging: watching stats to know what my readers want, that can be done in secret, fine, of course; reaching out and buddy up, not so secret anymore and much more scary, now polls and surveys… I guess I will wait a little until my self confidence has grown a bit and I have more experience with blogging. Thank you for the advice, though, and it’s a promise (to myself I guess), I will try it one day. And – as for polls and surveys – I do enjoy the course, yes, thank you very much!

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    1. Yes, things have been getting a little more challenging each day. So glad that you’ve found value in the assignments. All of these assignments are ideas for you — and not everyone will be ready to do them. They may not be applicable for all bloggers, just a tool you can bookmark, so that you’ve got it in your back pocket.

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  5. I feel like polls are too “Hey you! Interact! Click! Like me like me like me!” I think any poll I incorporated would be making fun of polls.

    TAKING polls, however… totally love them.

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  6. I love polls. My readers like polls (mine) because, well, my polls are funny. They’re also helpful to me, but I have to make them funny. Good post. Everyone should give polls a try.

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    1. I like this idea Juliette – a poll that is entertaining in its own right, but also helpful for the author too. Win win really. I am a way off polls yet but can see how they could fit with what I do after reading your comment. Thank you.

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  7. OK I am still catching up here. I just tried to open a twitter account, semi did it but the email confirmation is not coming through so semi stuck on that at the moment. I finally put a blog roll on my sidebar if anyone wants to take a look and give me an opinion would be really grateful. I always thought they made blogs look messy but its not tooooo bad, opinions always welcome please, pretty please, did I say that enough? hehe

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    1. Hey eclectic, I love the look of your blog and especially the titles you have given your widgets! I’ve had no inspiration there, but you’ve given me some so I’m going to think about changing my titles again. I like the blog roll, the pictures and the way you introduce them really gives your blog a feel of being part of a community. You do have a lot going on in the side bars, I don’t mind but it does destract me a little from the posts in the middle. So, here’s your first opninion ;)

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      1. Thank you Laurien soooo much. I would love to know which bits you found distracting, was it the blogroll? I only just introduced that and was reluctant to and might take off. What do you think? xx

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      2. Thanks! Made the header (and the jewelry on it ;) ) myself, so that is awesome to hear!!!

        There is nothing in specific that is distracting, more the amount of info coming all at once from all sides. So much to read makes it hard for me to focus on one thing. I like the blog roll because it is pictures and photo’s, which is kind of easier for me because I don’t need to read them but do get some info hovering over if I want to. So all in all for me I would use less widgets. Of course my personal preference entirely, someone else might have a different view on this!

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    2. Love your blog and all the art. I REALLY neeed to change my layout soon. Gotta dish out the $ to do what I want to do and not ready to do that yet.
      Appreciate any suggestions you might have on all my blogs – there’s there.

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  8. Does this mean that there’s only two days left in Blogging 201? Im starting to get a lump in my throat :(

    I love this idea, but haven’t been sure how to try it out until now. I have a bit of an idea of what readers like about my blog, but I’d like to know more. And besides, I like sharing and incorporating ideas from others.

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    1. As are we! We’ve had such a blast seeing people getting into the challenge assignments, asking questions, etc. The outpouring of support for one another has been so fantastic.

      We’ve got more 201-level courses coming up soon — one on the craft of writing, and another on more technical aspects like CSS, HTML, as well as topics that delve deeper into customization.

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  9. How funny, I actually scheduled a post asking my readers to help me review a product (that I’m not using yet). I’m hoping it will give me an idea of whether or not to buy this, and help others make their decision too. A survey fit right into this, so I made my first one. No idea if anyone will fill it out but at this moment I’m feeling excited! Thank you for all the extremely useful information, and all in the right time too! ;)

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  10. I’ve read everyone’s comments here and considered whether or not to add a poll or survey on my site. While I know polls are the backbone of the internet, I find them irritating on a personal level. So, I have decided not to use them on my site in the same way I would not want paid advertising on my site. When people are at Gathering Flavors, I want it to be a relaxing experience. As another blogger said, I rely on Comments and Stats to see what has hit a nerve and what has not. I also have a weekly newsletter I send out to people that offers a summary of what is going on on both of my sites. People seem very comfortable replying to those when I ask a direct question and will often add their reply to a comment form when asked to do so…. It feels less cutesy than a poll, survey or rating system, and more real… Again, this is my preference and I respect other peoples choices as to whether to poll or not poll, survey or not survey….

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  11. I’m with Dena on this one.
    In fact I do not like polls very much. I rely on comments and e-mails to know what readers like. Besides as a “writer” (word I use with caution) I write as much for myself as for others and I don’t see how/why an author or journalist or anyone writing would ask his readers about a subject.
    I think it’s quite nice to write without always knowing if the readers will like it or not. Writing with a poll results as a direction removes some freedom and inspiration.
    A blog is after all something personal and I couldn’t/wouldn’t write according to other people’s ideas and opinions.
    Likes and dislikes, however, are always welcome in the comments section :-)

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    1. Polls and surveys aren’t for everyone. Our goal is to share as many ideas as we can. We know that every blogger is different and some ideas are “poll-arizing.” :)

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  12. I’ve been having a lot of trouble coming up with a title for the first book in my fantasy series, The Lokana Chronicles. I’d been toying with the idea of creating a poll to help me choose the title, and this was the push I needed. Thanks! :)

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  13. I had never considered doing a poll before, but now I’m going to take your last suggestion and ask how people got to my site. I think this would be very useful data!

    Where do we place the poll within our blog though? As a sticky post on the front page, within a regular post, or on the about page? Or somewhere else altogether?!

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    1. I’d suggest placing the poll in a regular post, although a sticky post is a great idea, too. That way, it will stay at the top of our posts until you remove it.

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  14. I have used a poll for the first time and asked a silly question as a bit of fun so will be interested if anyone actually takes it! I’m not really into polls and surveys as my blog isn’t aimed at any particular audience. That’s my biggest fear with creating polls, surveys or even asking for feedback – what if no-one votes, leaves a comment or replies at all?? Ahhh….my insecurities are starting to show now aren’t they?
    Feel free to vote:

    http://debz2653.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/care-to-take-a-fun-poll/

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  15. Trying to catch up still on my assignments at work and at Blogging 201! I am too nervous and not brave enough to create a poll now. I’d rather wait till I grow out a bit before I do that. Currently, I can’t boast of a big audience. I would think that I should have a reasonably large audience before I do a survey… Wouldn’t the results be skewed otherwise?

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