Some days it can be difficult to gauge whether I’m on the right path with Whispering Sweet Nothings or not since many readers don’t comment on posts but rather tweet, pin, or causally observe. How can I even begin to grasp if my audience is digging what I’m dishing out if I don’t have a solid grasp on who I’m talking to? A reader survey is the answer!
Whether planning a rebrand, exploring the root of a drop in traffic, or simply as a yearly pulse check, a reader survey is a great discovery tool for your blog. Although criticismcan be a hard pill to swallow, ongoing and open feedback is essential. Not only will your readers feel that their opinion is valued, it will also uncover areas of improvement if you plan to continue growing your little corner of the interwebs in the years to come.
1. Choose a platform
I used SurveyMonkey because it’s FREE. If you desire more than 10 questions or 100 responses, it’s $24 for the month and you can cancel as soon as you’re finished. GoogleDocs is another free and intuitive option.
Looking back, I would have splurged on the Premium version due to the wider range of features I didn’t realize I was missing out on until I got 110 responses in two weeks and the free version cut off my last ten respondents. Shucks! They may have provided valuable information. Lesson learned.
Picmonkey Pro features
- Unlimited questions
- Unimited responses
- Completely brand your surveys by adding your logo and custom colors.
- Customize your survey’s URL to surveymonkey.com/surveyname for eaasier access/
- Skip logic to create a custom path through your survey that varies based on a respondent’s answers.
- Discover hidden trends by segmenting your survey results with cross-tabs and filters.
- Download results into spreadsheets, PowerPoint, or PDFs to create more customizable charts.
- Display a thank you page at completion.
2. Define your objectives
My goal with this survey was to gather an idea of who my readers were (demographics), how they found my blog, what they currently enjoy, and what new features they’d like to see in the future. I was also open to constructive criticism in what I could do better to make this a fun place to hang on a Sunday morning over a cup of coffee.
Other topics to explore:
- Design (navigation, colors, fonts)
- Content (post length, post frequency)
- Social media engagment
- Community building
- Next step: Creating an ideal reader profile.
3. Formulate questions
- Pick the proper question types.
- Multiple choice: A closed-end question with pre-defined answers. Make the answers mutually exclusive (unable to all be true at the same time) unless you allow respondents to choose more than one. Nice for easy to analyze results.
- Free response: Beneficial for gathering opinions, likes and dislikes or additional comments. The caveat: you are bound to get heaps of “I don’t knows” and skips from people who don’t have the time or motivation to write out an answer. Also difficult to analyze in the long run as everyone will have a different answer.
- Rating scales: Useful for gauging behaviors and attitudes. Order answers negative to positive from left to right (ie. Strongly disagree to strongly agree) with an odd number of balanced choices and neutral in the middle. Currently SurveyMonkey doesn’t offer this question type.
- Ranking: For when you want a snapshot of least to most importance, such as for ranking types of blog posts that gain the most engagement.
- Be specific. Keep your questions clear and concise. If uncertain what you are looking for, you risk readers getting frustrated or, even worse answer the question randomly, skewing your results. Ask: “How many times a week do you interact with my blog?” rather than “Do you read my blog regularly?”
- Keep your language relaxed and conversational. Avoid confusing double negatives such as “don’t not” and absolutes such as “always” and “never” which may lure the reader away from answering. Stay away from “only” and “just” which can also carry negative connotations.
- Use logical order. Lead with interesting questions that entice your readers to respond. Make sure that one question leads naturally into another. Usually, the first questions will be broader and the follow-up ones will be more specific. Keep sensitive questions such as demographics to the end when you have built up more of the respondent’s trust. Reduce answer bias by randomizing the order of the pages in a survey or the order of questions within a page for each new respondent
- Explore one idea at a time. If you ask about multiple concepts in the same question it makes it hard to answer and near impossible to analyse their answers. Instead of: How relevant and organized are my posts? split these into two separate questions.
- Keep questions open ended but not too open. Stay neutral in tone and language for the most honest answers and avoid leading questions that subconsciously direct respondents to the answer you want. Instead of “Do I do too many sponsored posts?” ask “I do one sponsored post a week, is this …just right? Too much? Not enough?”
- Clearly outline instructions. Only necessary for questions with specific response requirements such as multiple choice lists. For example: “Please select all answers which apply to you” or “Please select your three favorite options”
- Limit response options. You will find that the answers are often more accurate and you get more of them. There is a marketing rule that says that the more choices you give people the less likely they are to make one. For example, instead of having an option where people can write their own answer give them three pre-defined choices.
- Don’t ask too many questions. Your survey completion rate will be higher if you keep it short and sweet. We’ve all been on the receiving end of poorly constructed surveys that require way too much time to complete. People will get bored and give up! I’d say ten questions which take 5-8 minutes to complete is perfect in most instances.
4. Create an intro
It is good practice to introduce your readers to the purpose of your survey to ease them in. Make the surveys anonymous, or people are less likely to give you honest answers. Keep it friendly and mention if any incentive will be offered for their time.
“Thank you for taking the time to complete Survey xyz for Blog xyz. Your feedback is important for the continued success of my blog. This survey should take only 5-7 minutes of your time. All responses will remain anonymous and you will be entered to win a $10 gift card by opting in at the end. Cheers!”
If not clearly intuitive, provide instructions on how to navigate and submit the survey, along with a contact email for questions. Mine was pretty straightforward, so I didn’t find this necessary.
5. Spread the word
6. Analyze the data
I realized open ended questions, while taking longer to analysem provided a wealth of info that I have since used to improve my ways of blogging. The results provided excellent insights into who my readers were, what they think of the blog and what they would like to see on the blog.
7. Publish the results
How long have you been reading Whispering Sweet Nothings?
How often do you visit WSN?
How do you discover my new posts?
How do you feel about the ratio of sponsored to authentic content I post?
If you read my posts, what keeps you from commenting?
What is your age?
Rank your favorite type of WSN posts.
What would you like to see more of on WSN?
8- Giveaways on products you truly love
7- Travel/Australia Adventures
6- Empowerment (Operation Beautiful)
Anything you would like to see less of on WSN? Lay it on me!
Since I’ve started my first job, I’ve become more selective with the brands I work with because I honestly don’t have the same amount of time I once did. One reader said they would prefer less sidebar ads- but admitted to being a total minimalist. Another didn’t dig the blogging tutorials. I thought bloggers loved posts about blogging? Lastly, one person doesn’t dig my classic list posts. Duly noted.