How To Conduct a Reader Survey For Your Blog (and Why You Really Need To Do One!)

I’m thrilled to bring you this guest post today! Kiersten is a Momcomm reader and her blog is so gorgeous, I featured it (multiple times) in my book. Reader surveys are so important (I will have another one for you, just you wait!) and this post lays out the how and the why. 

Hello Momcomm readers! My name is Kiersten and I’m the blogger behind Oh My Veggies. Perhaps you’ve heard of it because Melissa did an awesome recipe index critique for me a few months back? I started reading Momcomm when I was a wee baby blogger and I’m excited to have the chance to give back a little bit. Also, Mel and I just realized we’re practically neighbors, so it seemed like the neighborly thing to do.

Why You Should Do a Reader Survey

Anyway! I’m here today to tell you about my experience conducting a reader survey on my blog and to help you set up your own. (Because I promise, you’re really going to want to set up your own after reading through this post. Honest.) I wanted to set up a reader survey for a while, but I was scared–I didn’t want to hear what people had to say because I was afraid of being criticized. Well, that was silly because:

1) anyone answering a reader survey is a regular reader and anyone who’s a regular reader doesn’t hate your blog.

2) the criticisms that regular readers will give you are, for the most part, constructive. I had a few people say some off-the-wall things, but it was easy not to take those personally because they were so out there. Think of your reader survey as a crowdsourced Momcomm blog critique–you’re getting feedback that’s meant to help you, not to tear you down.

While I spent so much time dreading the criticism part, I completely overlooked the fact that people would say nice things about my blog too. It can be good to hear that! So if you’re nervous about doing a reader survey, don’t be–you have nothing to worry about.

The reason I decided to do a reader survey is because I wanted to implement some pretty big changes on Oh My Veggies. I wanted to know if they were changes that people would embrace. If you’re thinking about changing your blog, selling a product or service, or adding a new feature, making a reader survey the first step in that process is a smart business move. I had been playing with the idea of starting a menu planning service, for example, and from my reader survey, I learned that hardly any of my readers are interested in this. It’s better to know now than to spend the time developing that and have it end up being a failure!

Here are some other reasons you might want to consider doing a survey:

  • You experience a drop in traffic and want to know why
  • You’re planning a redesign
  • As an annual health check for your blog to make sure you’re on the right track

How to Conduct a Reader Survey

I considered Google, Wufoo, and SurveyMonkey for my survey and ended up settling on SurveyMonkey because it seemed like the most user-friendly. If you ask 10 or less questions and get fewer than 100 responses, you can set up a survey for free. I knew I wanted to ask more questions, so I paid the $24 for one month and then I cancelled my plan after the month. (They make it look like you have to pay annually, but if you click on “See monthly plan” on the pricing page, you’ll get the monthly rates.)

Next, you’ll have to come up with your questions. I had help here because my husband works in clinical research and knows how to write questions for surveys. You want to avoid leading questions. These types of questions sound open-ended, but they plant a seed as to how the question should be answered. For example, instead of saying “Do I do too many sponsored posts?” or “Do I not do enough sponsored posts?” I asked:

I do one sponsored post a month. Is this…

…just right?
…too many sponsored posts?
…not enough sponsored posts?

Every question you ask should be worded in a neutral way. SurveyMonkey has some good tips for formulating your questions here: Writing Survey Questions. Here’s an example of the interface:

survey_monkey_questionSo what kinds of questions should you ask? Obviously, this depends on what your goals are for your survey. For mine, I wanted to get an idea of who my readers were (demographics), how they found my blog, what they liked about my blog, and what new features they’d like to see. I asked a total of 25 questions, which was a little bit lengthier than I wanted–I wouldn’t recommend more than that! I did a mix of multiple choice and free text questions.

How To Conduct a Reader Survey For Your Blog (and Why You Really Need To Do One!)

Once your survey is done, it’s time to get the word out about it. I decided to write a post on my blog about the survey and embed the whole SurveyMonkey form within my post. That way, people could answer the survey right there instead of clicking away to another site for it. Make it as easy as you can for your readers! I publicized the survey on Twitter and Facebook and reminded people about it in other posts. Although I didn’t do this, if you have a newsletter, you can publicize it there too. After a week, the responses slowed down to a trickle, so I closed my survey with about 550 responses.

One thing I’d suggest you not do is offer some sort of giveaway for answering your survey. I’ve known other bloggers who have done this and they ended up having to wade through responses from hundreds of people who had never even been to their blog before–they just wanted a chance to win! I worried that I would have no responses without offering an incentive, but as you can see, I still had a healthy turnout.

Analyze Your Data

The thing I really really really loved about SurveyMonkey is that they take the data from your survey and create charts and graphs and fun things like that. This is really useful! Once I closed the survey, I downloaded all the responses as an Excel spreadsheet for future reference. I decided to write a post about the results because I wanted to respond to some of the comments I got, so my designer Shay Bocks put together a little infographic for me:

How To Conduct a Reader Survey For Your Blog (and Why You Really Need To Do One!)Yes, I am a nerd.

I spent a lot of time reading each response and thinking about whether or not I wanted to take action on the suggestions given. Ultimately, your blog is your blog–you have to take your readers into consideration, of course, but you can’t do anything that’s not true to who you are as a blogger just because it’s something your readers want. I got a lot of requests to do more product reviews; I don’t enjoy writing them, so I decided to start doing product round-ups once a month, but I probably won’t write full-length product reviews on a regular basis.

Because most comments on blogs come from other bloggers, it was nice to hear from all the readers who don’t comment–most of the people who responded to my survey weren’t bloggers and they had a very different perspective than the bloggers who answered my survey. I know all of you are bloggers, so I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but bloggers tend to be so supportive, they often tell us what we want to hear.

I asked an open-ended question about sponsored posts (“How do you feel about sponsored posts in general?”) and while my fellow bloggers had warm, fuzzy things to say about them, my readers were much less enthused. Much less. And while the overwhelming majority of respondents thought that one sponsored post a month was perfect, the majority of bloggers who answered that question said that I should do more! While feedback from our fellow bloggers is valuable, it can be skewed, which is why doing a reader survey is so useful.

Are you completely pumped about reader surveys now? GOOD! You should be! If you have any questions about the process, leave a comment here and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.

Kiersten Frase is the blogger behind Oh My Veggies, a vegetarian food blog with a focus on easy recipes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. She’s currently busy writing her first cookbook, which will be released by Workman Publishing in 2015.

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  1. says

    This was a fantastic post – thank you! You inspired me to do my own – been thinking about it for a while and this is exactly what I needed to just get it done.

  2. says

    I’ve been wanting to do a reader survey for ages – even gone so far as to play around in survey monkey – but I’m scared, too! This just might be the push I need, though. I’d love to learn a few things about my readers before the end of the new year. Thanks for this!

  3. says

    I LOVE this! Although I’m not a mommy-blogger (I’m a pet blogger) I find SO many useful tips and tricks here. I’m totally inspired to do a survey now. It feels like the right time. Thank you so much for the great ideas and suggestions. Although I’m a little over the whole infographic thing, I absolutely LOVE this one and will likely do one of my own to recap the survey.

    Thanks and Purrs!

    • says

      Ha! I know exactly what you mean about the infographics–I get several emails a week from SEO types “offering” me their free infographics to post on my blog. But hey, if you’re making it yourself, that’s different! :)

  4. says

    I’ve been toying around with the idea of a reader survey, so this post is great timing! Thank you for the info and tips, Kiersten.

  5. says

    thanks for a great post kiersten! (and thanks for hosting melissa.) i’ve never seriously considered doing a survey before, so this was very interesting. 550 responses sounds like a fantastic turn-out to me! feel free to not answer this if it’s too personal, but just wondering what kind of page traffic you normally get (to compare your 550 responses to)?

    • says

      At the time, I was getting around 250K unique visitors a month; for a food blog, that’s probably not the best way to gauge what % of readers responded just because the majority of food blog visitors are drive-by types of visits from Google, Pinterest, etc. A better comparison might be my newsletter subscriber count, which is around 6000.

  6. says

    Great idea. I’m always wondering if my readers want more of certain things, less of others, but never thought to do a survey. Also, what program do you or your designers use to create infographics? Thanks!

  7. says

    I do have trouble getting responses when I survey my readers. ONCE I got more than, say, two responses, and I was surprised to find that my readers also wanted to see MORE reviews. (I was a little afraid i was putting off readers with reviews, because I do them a LOT, but they asked for more.)

    One thing I would add, as a survey-TAKER: if you require an answer to a given question, be sure there is some sort of “out” if truly none of the obvious answers is a good fit. It is very frustrating to have to choose a “wrong” answer just so you can move on.

  8. says

    Thank you for sharing your survey experience – I’m working on a business plan for a new blog right now and getting down to the nitty-gritty of market research. Eeeeek! 😉 I’m a bity in love with your infographic btw – gorgeous! Thanks again for sharing and I look forward to connecting with Oh My Veggies { and Blog Clarity } again in the future.

    Amber at Adventures of a Rainbow Mama x


  1. […] Be wary of asking salary range since talking money gets a little personal. Plus, I suggest keeping your survey anonymous if you include any demographic questions. Otherwise, some might feel uncomfortable answering your questions. Kiersten from the popular Oh My Veggies wrote a guest post a while back about surveying your readers. […]