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Weekly Trends + Using Polls

Posted By Kimberly Turner 19th of September 2010 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

Last week, along with the list of the ten most-blogged-about topics of the week, we talked about how to get more comments on your blog. But the truth is, some readers aren’t going to comment, no matter what you do. If you want them to interact, you need to give them another option. Polls are quicker and easier than comments and many readers who won’t take the time to form a fully thought-out comment are more than happy to hit quick button to share their opinion via poll. When used for the right reasons, polls can increase interaction and participation.

Every week, we look at the ten most blogged-about stories of the previous seven days (trends provided, as always, by Regator) and today, in addition to those, we’ll see how some bloggers made use of polls in their posts…

1.  MTV Video Music Awards/VMAs
Example:
Gold Derby’s “Poll: Will Chelsea Handler flourish or flop as MTV VMAs host?
Lesson: Be sure your polls work with your blog’s topic matter. Occasionally, I’ll run across a blog that is hosting a poll on a question unrelated to its subject matter in the sidebar. I assume that questions about political affiliation or age on a parenting blog, for example, are done for either the sake of marketing research or the blogger’s own curiosity, but they are useless because they aren’t fulfilling a need for your reader. In this example, the blog is about awards shows and the poll is on how a particular celebrity will fare as an awards show host. It’s a great fit.

2.  September 11/9-11
Example:
Gallup’s “Nine Years After 9/11, Few See Terrorism as Top U.S. Problem
Lesson: While not a blog, I have included this example from Gallup because the site can be a good resource for poll results and statistics. You need not run your own poll to make use of a poll on your blog. Seek out results from places such as Gallup, which allows you to search for polls on a variety of topics, then deliver commentary or start a discussion around the results.

3.  Tea Party
Example:
Poll Watch’s “Beyond the Primaries: How Much Impact Will the Tea Party Have Now?
Lesson: People love stats. People love stats twice as much when you present them in some sort of infographic, pie chart, or line graph. I can’t really explain why, but you know it’s true. Present your findings (or the findings of the poll you’re referencing) in a visual way for maximum impact, even if it’s just a very simple pie chart like the one seen in this example.

4.  Lady Gaga
Example:
Ministry of Gossip’s “Lady Gaga wears a meat dress — need we say more?
Lesson: Give voters enough options to accurately portray their feelings on the subject. When you’re selecting the options for your poll, think beyond a simple “yes” and “no” system. In this case, the blogger could’ve asked, “Did you like Lady Gaga’s meat dress?” and provided two simple options. Instead, she broadened the choices to: “A cutting-edge political statement,” “A cutting edge-fashion statement,” “Tasty,” and “Pathetic.” Do note, though, that three of the four available options are positive. Try to provide balanced choices so as not to subconsciously guide voters.

5.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell/DADT
Example:
Joe.My.God’s “CBS Poll: 75% Support Gays In Military”
Lesson: Hosting polls can give readers an alternate means of interacting with your site, but posting results from polls—either your own or another source’s—can be a way of starting a discussion in the comments. This example provides results with minimal commentary, but it prompts a conversation in the comments.

6.  Google Instant
Example:
Lifehacker’s “Do You Like Instant Search?
Lesson: When you display results, take caution not to look like a ghost town if your blog is still working on building its readership to a good level. In this example, Lifehacker displays not only percentages, but the actual number of votes cast for each option. Their total is 7,857 votes—pretty darned respectable. If you run a poll for several days with only eleven votes cast, you run the risk of showcasing your lack of traffic. Use percentages instead.

7. Mexico
Example:
Immigration Chronicles“Illegal Immigrants or ‘Illegal Aliens’”
Lesson: Use polls to find ways to improve your blog. In this example, a blog focusing on immigration issues is polling its readers to learn about the specific terminology their readers prefer. If you’re not sure what your readers would like to see more (or less) of, how they feel about a particular issue you cover regularly, or if they’re tired of a certain feature, what better way to find out than to ask?

8.  Pope Benedict XVI
Example: Politics Daily’s “Pope Benedict’s Visit to the U.K. May Be a Flop
Lesson: We’ve all heard the “lies, damned lies, and statistics” warning…and for good reason. You can find numbers to support nearly any hypothesis. You can increase your credibility by citing several sources and, most importantly, clearly indicating where your data came from. This example compares results from a British Social Attitudes poll with a Guardian/ICM poll.

9.  Toronto International Film Festival
Example:
IndieWIRE’s “criticWIRE @ Toronto: Grading All The Films”
Lesson: Consider polling a specific group of people rather than the general public if it will lead to more accurate results. In this example, IndieWIRE started a “criticWIRE poll,” asking critics to indicate how they felt about this year’s TIFF selections. By restricting the poll to critics, many will find the results to be more trustworthy, and it’s likely that the results will be shared on other blogs.

10. Oprah Winfrey
Example:
PopSugar Australia’s “Pop Poll: Is Oprah Worth the $3 Million Bill To Aussie Taxpayers?”
Lesson:
Make your polls easy to interact with (don’t require registration) but not easily gamed. This example shows a clearly laid-out, attractive poll that allows easy voting. And unlike many polls, refreshing the page does not allow you to vote again. Obviously, polls in your posts aren’t highly scientific, but do what you can to avoid having results manipulated.

Please share your experiences with using polls in the comments. Have you found polls to be effective on your blog? What tools do you recommend for creating polls?

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.