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Blog Polls – Add Interactivity to Your Blog

One tool that many bloggers use to add a level of interactivity to their blogs is to use Polls. You’ll see at the time of writing this post that I currently have a simple poll running asking readers to tell me what gender they are but previously I’ve run a variety of different ones ranging from asking about the blog platforms that readers use, to asking about their opinion on how I should improve this blog (ie I asked if I should move to full RSS feeds or stay with excerpts), to asking about their blog earnings.

Why use Polls?

Polls can bring life to a blog in a number of ways:

  • Discussion starters – The thing I love about polls is the discussion that they often start. I’ll write some techniques for encouraging discussion around a poll later but if you craft a question in the right way people will want to talk about their own (and others) answers.
  • Poll Results can lead to incoming links – I quite often notice that on the day I announce the results to a poll (and sometimes while it’s underway) that I find other bloggers linking up to my blog with posts of their own on the results. Bloggers love statistics and studies and will continue the discussion happening around your poll on your blog on their own blogs also.
  • Research for your writing – The current question around blogger gender is testing a theory that I have. I can see already that there is at least one post exploring the theme of gender and ProBloggers that will come out of what the poll has already found. Some poll questions don’t lend themselves to such posts but the results of others can be rich with starting points for you to explore in future posts.
  • Increases reader participation – If you’re trying to increase the interactivity of your blog or want to give your readers a sense of ownership over it a series of polls can be a very effective technique. I know that when I take part in a poll on other people’s blogs that it means that I’ve given a little something of myself or my opinion to that blog. It might not be much but it can be enough to make me return later or leave a comment – both steps towards becoming a regular and loyal reader.
  • They demonstrate your blog is alive – I find that the percentage of people who leave a comment on a blog is generally quite small in comparison to total readers. A lot of people lurk around a blog and like to be anonymous (for a variety of reasons). A poll will normally get a much higher participation rate and as a result can be a truer reflection to other readers of how many people are reading along. People like to feel that they are a part of something larger than themselves and a poll that shows that they are by the number of other responses can do this.
  • Polls can Help Shape your blog – Polls can also be great for helping you to determine which direction to take your blog in. A prime example of this for me was when I asked people to vote on if I should move to full RSS feeds. Interestingly when I asked for comments on this question in a general post I had a fairly high percentage of respondents tell me that I shouldn’t make the move. The comment thread got a little dominated by this perspective. However when I did the poll I found that most people DID want me to move to full feeds. The comments on the poll backed this up as people felt freer to share their opinion because they knew they were not alone. Getting a vote on what you should do with your blog can be quite effective – but you had better be willing to take the results seriously and follow through on them.
  • Increases visits from RSS – The day I start a new poll on ProBlogger I generally notice an increase in the number of readers coming to the site from my RSS feed. If you run a poll in your sidebar there is no way for RSS readers to either cast their vote or see the results without actually visiting your blog in person.

Tomorrow I’ll share some tips on HOW to use polls on a blog and will then suggest some blog poll tools to try.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Nice topic..

    Poll voters will also most probably come back, to see how things have turned out.

    A possible distinction is between Yes/No polls versus those with multiple choices. Relative to the width of your readership, a multiple choice poll might actually end up in a tie. I think I prefer straight-cut Yes/No’s..

  2. I would be interested in learning more about what software to use for polls. Especially for us that use blogger and similar services. I am sure there are some nice plug ins for wordpress that take care of it :) But what if you run your blog on another platform?

  3. I’m with you, Patrik. I love the polls that have been here at Problogger, but I’m a little inexperienced with PHP/MySQL and assume I’d need to know more about them to get an effective poll going. If you have any pointers, Darren, let us know!

    Thanks for the topic!

  4. How many daily visitors do you recommend having before posting a poll? It seems like it could almost be detrimental if you don’t have enough of a response. Great post, by the way – love the topic.

  5. Yeah, I too would love to hear thoughts on how many visitors you should have for a decent polling experience. My main blog gets around 100 uniques a day and I’ve run a couple polls. Both had a poor turnout, I think only like 10-20 votes.

    Though I’m glad they had at least double digits, it was kind of weak posting the results when a winning option would have like 5 whole votes. My blog has started to pick up some steam with regards to visitors, but I think I’ll hold off doing any more polls until the number of visitors increases a lot.

  6. I’d have to agree with all the other commentors — I’m using Blogger at the moment, so what tool would make the most sense for polls, and what level of visitors do you need before running with a poll?

    I think people are afraid of running a poll and not getting any results…

  7. I’m more interested in knowing which software to use for the polls: an external provider or some plugin for the blogging software.

  8. Great post, Darren, as I’m running a poll right now. Maybe you can address in your follow up — How long should a poll run? A day, a week, until it runs out of steam?
    I introduced the poll with an article, and about 1 in 4 people who visited the article participated in the poll.
    Great blog, by the way. I visit it daily.

  9. Shameless self plug here, however, you guys have requested it so… http://www.majikwidget.com works with blogger and any other blog platform.

    So everyone knows, this is our software and it is not my intention to advertise just simply answer all the comments. BlogFlux makes a nice poll as well. I do not know if it works with Blogger for sure.

  10. Interesting Finds: May 31, 2006 PM edition

  11. stay tuned for more info on polls tomorrow – I’ll answer most of the questions in that post. :-)

  12. I think blog interactivity is a *great* idea. I run a niche blog that teaches other photographers off-camera lighting. I have been doing the one-way thing for a few months now, with a full lighting course and regular “how-to’s” from my assigned photos shot for publication in the print world.

    Last month we set up a group on Flickr, so people could throw up their own stuff. It has been a big hit. Much reader-to-reader discussion is being generated, and a community is definitely forming.

    Today I threw up the idea of a structured group of assignments – specific challenges – that I would put up for the readers to complete. I had 33 very positive responses in a few hours – far and away my fastest and biggest comments response.

    So, in two weeks we will begin a sort of virtual “classroom” environment. I expect there will be pretty much continuous interaction between the readers throughout the course. I am also hitting up some of my vendors for “premiums” for the best three photos turned in from the course.

    I love the idea of a blog. I hate that it can easily become a one-way conduit for ideas. No one person can stay fresh very long in an environment like that.

  13. […] I decided to install Democracy for WordPress. This was partially inspired by Darren’s post at Problogger and for my own development efforts for the restaurant review site. Not sure if it allows you to change your vote, that would be useful for the first poll. I suppose we’ll find out. […]

  14. Yes I would be interested on when to properly implement this on your site especially to those who are just starting out.

    Plus is it ok to use those free polls codes (without ads) out there for those who use blogger?

  15. […] Following on from my last two posts on blog polls…. […]

  16. Interactivity in general is a great feature for any blog… whether it be map applets, gimmicky flash things, etc.

    Though I find that I like to view results first for any polls I see. If a visitor were to see a low amount of poll votes it might discourage them from voting at all, or maybe even lower their view of the blog’s credibility. So I figure there might be a threshold number of visitors before polls become an effective way of keeping traffic.

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