I’ve been doing some free consulting on my own website, specifically for people interested in freelance writing. Although I started with the goal of helping people learn to work with clients, I’ve found that a lot of people have questions specifically about blogging. Mostly, it isn’t any one question…people just want me to look at their blogs and give them some pointers they can use to improve. Even outside of my consulting, it’s rare that someone approaches me with a specific question. People just send a URL and want a brain dump on how to improve as a blogger.
I’m not the smartest, best blogger in the world, but I can tell you right now how to improve your blog in a single step. Write this one down:
Ask your readers what they like and dislike.
I have a problem giving people advice sometimes, simply because I’m not their target market. I can give general blog pointers, but there’s no way I can give specific advice to someone writing a motorcycle blog, for example. I’ve never even been on a motorcycle, and I have no intentions of ever owning one. Asking me what your blog is missing or what you could do better isn’t going to end well. Or, at least not as well as it could.
You can go about asking your readers what they want in a number of ways. If you have a mailing list, I recommend that you start there, by emailing either a survey or a general question. You can also write a blog post asking people to leave comments or, if you’re struggling with a specific aspect, post a poll on your site, asking people to vote.
If you don’t have a huge readership yet, you can still look to your readers for advice. Connect with people on Twitter or Facebook and approach specific people who are vocal in your niche. Ask if you can pick their brains for a few minutes – most will agree – and meet on Skype for a half hour or so to talk about your blog. You can even meet with people one-on-one either over Skype or through email.
Don’t be afraid to approach people who aren’t gurus or experts in your niche. Let’s face it – they big names in any industry would love to help you, but they simply don’t have time to do a blog review for every reader. If they did, they wouldn’t have any time to actually blog! Plus…is that person really your target audience? They might be who you aspire to be as a blogger, but your average reader is going to be different in terms of knowledge and skill. You want your blog to be optimized for your readers, not for the experts in your field.
Be discerning when your readers give you advice. Remember, what is perfect design for one person looks horrible to another. The things that interest one person might bore another. You get the idea. Look for overall trends in what people are telling you. If 10 people in a row all say that your font is too small to read comfortably or that they want to read more about a specific subject, that’s probably advice you want to note.
The bottom line? Your readers are a great resource. Don’t be afraid to use their opinions to make your blog better for everyone.