Blogging 201: Give ‘Em What They Want, Part II

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.

Welcome to Blogging U! This course isn't currently active, but you can learn more about what we offer and register for upcoming courses on the BU home page.

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 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 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. I think it’s less about the size of your audience (although that’s obviously something to consider), and more about having a pool of regular readers who understand you and your blog and can give you feedback that’s relevant. Polling a small group of regulars could be pretty informative.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. love your post , thinking about writing , but i’m confused about which languages to use. My inspiration is just all over the place.


  2. I must do this once I get more followers. This is such an obvious and genius idea but I’m sure everyone’s not doing it. Funny how we just don’t think of some things. Thank you for the advice. Eventual feedback—here I come!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve done this a while back, and it is quite disheartening when two or even only one person responds, but still, I guess you’ve gotta try things out. I’ve always been of the opinion to have a fully functional amusement park whether there’s anyone there to ride the rides or not (that may have totally not worked as a metaphor).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The metaphor is brilliant! (It makes sense to me!) It really is a bit like that. We are writers and people have to choose to read what we write or not and that may be based on how ‘amused’ we can be by that post, so in some ways it is a bit like an amusement park. Just a shame we can’t charge for the rides!


  4. I have a growing fanbase but just not enough dedicated followers to get enough feedback on my site (some days I get a stream of comments and some days I literally hear crickets in the comments section). I put a poll on one post a couple months ago but was afraid to check the results because I feared being heart-broken by zero responses. I’ll give this poll/survey a go for sure in brainstorming new features for my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would never have thought of polling my readers – but what a great idea! I persoanally love polls (and quizzes and puzzles, and word games… ha!) so why it never occurred to me, I don’t know. I will, however, sit on it for a little while, as I have a pretty large crop of new readers thanks to BlogU, and I would like them to settle in a bit before polling them. Thanks for the advice, Michelle! Much appreciated…
    Mother Hen


  6. Fab idea – but is it bad if I leave this until the new year?! Having set up my blogging schedule up until Jan I am struggling to fit in all of these lil extras 🙂

    Might be a fun idea as well to get my readers to help me pick my bloggers New Year Resolution?!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi, I should have made it clear I live in South Africa and our currency is South African Rand and that is the reason for the R symbol. To give you a rough indication R10 is approximately $1


  7. Good morning, everyone! The beginning of the month, I embedded poll forms in most of my posts (recipes, music and short posts) and I’ve got a contact form embedded in ALL of them. I think I’ve had about two folks use the contact form and nobody has even tried to poll form. The polls were set up just very basic. Would love a Blogger U participant comment on perhaps why they think nobody uses them?

    Your input would be greatly appreciated!


    1. Here are just my newbie opinions. I think your front page should show your most recent posts. Landing right on your about page detracts attention from your latest work. As for your polls, I like how they are short and sweet. But I can’t answer some of your recipe ones. I feel as though I should bake them before answering them. Maybe you could ask questions like “Are you inspired to make this yummy rummy pie?”, or “Don’t you wish you could smell this right now?” or “Do you wish someone would make this for you?”

      Your pictures are beautiful and I would definitely try your recipes.

      I hope this helps 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never actually considered a poll until now. I’ve recently created a separate music blog so I guess now would be an ideal time to create my first poll. Thanks for this idea!


  9. I did this about a year ago. I got about 6 responses. One or two seemed more like they had an agenda and their response was very long-winded. One response was a good one and I STILL haven’t gotten to it yet! I’ve been waiting for a good hair day because I will have to take pictures of myself to add to the post! Maybe I should give up on that idea (of a good hair day). I don’t remember the other responses but I feel as long as my blog keeps growing, I must be “giving ’em what they want!”


  10. Alright. I made one! I am so happy I chose North Loves South. My opinion of my computer skills has decreased since I created this blog. It takes me a while to figure things out, but eventually I do. No I understand why my grandparents aren’t into new technologies. My poll slides along the side of the site. Check out my poll and give me your opinion. I will do the same for you!


  11. Very excited to have my first REAL response to my survey on so big thanks to the blogger who went and completed it. From that I have added another more evaluative question as I realised I could only do so much with the information I gathered.
    I wouldn’t have done this without Blogging 201 so thinks!!