When you own your own blog, lots of decisions have to be made. What color should you make the background? Is the font too small? How often is too often when you’re posting content? Which logo looks best? And on and on and on…even after you launch the blog, there are decisions to be made. It doesn’t ever end.
Hopefully, you have enough vision for your blog that you can make most choices rather easily. Well, perhaps easily isn’t the word, but hopefully you can make a choice and feel confident that it’s the right one.
But what about the times when you can’t? What if you feel like there are two or more choices that could be equally “right”? What if the decision you are making isn’t something that can easily be changed if you choose incorrectly? Decisions like that can keep you up at night. They certainly have caused a number of sleepless nights for me, and when it comes to business decisions, I’m usually pretty confident.
I’ve found the perfect way to make decisions, though. Over the years of blogging that I’ve done, there’s one weapon, one secret weapon, that I return to again and again and again…and it’s a weapon that every blogger had in their arsenal. In fact, even if you don’t yet have a blog, even if you only have a Twitter account or Facebook page, this secret weapon is something you possess.
What exactly is the weapon I’m talking about? Your audience.
I’m not suggesting that you should crowd-source every decision you make, but when you truly don’t know the right way to turn, your audience – the people who are your readers or who will become your readers – can help point you in the perfect direction. What they reveal could be extremely helpful – often their answers are skewed one way or another, not split 50-50 like the choices might be in your own mind.
The easiest way to ask your audience what they think, in my opinion, is to set up a poll. You can do so for free at Survey Monkey*, which is my personal favorite poll tool, though there are other options as well, some of which you can even embed in a blog post or on your sidebar (Survey Monkey allows this, but it can also be hosted on their site). Once you have your poll set up, blast it to everyone – your email list, your social profiles, even your friends and family if you think their input will help. If you don’t have a huge fanbase yet, you might not get much of a response – but even ten people weighing in can give you some insight, especially if all ten people feel strongly one way or the other.
Seeing responses might also give you a reflection of your own opinions. If you see everyone voting one way and find yourself feeling upset that they’re not picking the other choice, it’s a good indication that you didn’t feel 50-50 about the choices anyway. Remember, you don’t always have to listen to your readers. One of the things I like about Survey Monkey rather than on-site poll options is that they’re blind – people make their choices, but they can’t view the results. This discourages bandwagoning, as well as gives you more freedom to choose what you want, not the popular vote, when the poll closes.
As a mini case-study, let me show you what I’m doing right now. My next blogging project, which is zombie-themed, doesn’t yet have a URL, and after thinking about it, I just couldn’t decide on my own. So I came up with my top picks, based on what was available, an created a poll, which you can see here. A few things to note:
- It’s super simple, with only one question.
- There’s an optional comment box where users who are so inclined can explain their answer. This really helps me out, but it doesn’t pressure people to leave a comment if their choice was just a gut reaction.
- I gave people a way to sign up for my mailing list at the end. Most of the people responding are already on my mailing list, but I’ve put out a net to catch people who aren’t, but who want to be.
I hope that some of you will head over there and vote – and for the reason I’m not going to tell you my results so far, but I will say this: there are two strong front runners. I didn’t really expect that, but now that I’m thinking about it, it makes sense – they really are the two best URLs on the list. Chances are that you’ll vote for one of them if you do vote.
Asking my audience has time and time again helped me make decisions about my blog. As an added bonus, making my readers part of a decision helps build buzz about my projects and makes the community strong – people like to be a part of your choices when they feel connected to your site. Even if you ultimately don’t go with the popular vote, polling your readers can really help you make blog decisions. Have you tried it before? What have your experiences been?
*FYI, the link to Survey Monkey is not an affiliate link or anything. My post sounds a little gushy about them, so I wanted to make that clear. I don’t know if there’s even an affiliate program associated with Survey Monkey. I legitimately just love their service!