Survey Says!

reader survey results

Once again, thank you SO MUCH for all your feedback through my Reader Survey last week. I wish I could respond personally to each one of you, but since I can’t, this post will have to do. Grab a cup of coffee, this might take a while.

As you would expect, there are many contradicting opinions, but there are some general themes that will inspire some minor changes and (I hope) improvements here on ye olde blawg.

Before I show the results, I want to share some of my favorite comments. There were so many that I can’t possibly list them all here without boring you all to death and appearing utterly self-centered, but here are a few.

I love getting your emails and really look forward to reading them.

You’re one of my favorite, read everyday blogs.

The strangest thing about not knowing you personally, is how much your words have touched my life and more importantly, CHANGED my life. It is awe inspiring to know that a complete stranger has to ability to do that.

I am truly humbled. Thank you. I know my blog isn’t the most deep and insightful piece of literature on the World Wide Web (and that was never the purpose) but to know that it’s touching other people is really awesome to hear.

Of course, not everyone is so easily pleased.

I think your header is dull :-)

Ha. Yeah, I’ve heard that a few times. I LOVE IT but I know it’s not everyone’s cuppa tea. Or, you know, coffee. Bwahaha…

Honestly you switched feeds and I never resubscribed. I do follow you on FB and have clicked over a few times. But. I feel you’ve lost your relatedness with readers. Sooo many opportunities and LOOK what I got. Blech.

OOOF. I would take this to heart except that I had so many more comments like this one:

I love your blog! I think it’s relatable and interesting!

And this.

I think you strike a great balance between being media and brand savvy without being a sell out. I think you are honest and we know that it is (often) through brands that you support your business… continue to be careful and always straightforward in this area (you are!)

Thank you. Believe me, I try. And yes, it’s a constant challenge.

Of course, there’s always someone . . .

Sadly, JoLynne, your blog has become like a train wreck to me–I can’t look away.  You are always contradicting yourself from post to post and always trying so hard, I can’t wait to see what you do next.  I’m sorry :(  I know you’re a good person, but there’s just something missing…I get that you connect with other bloggers and have a readership, but I always sense that you aren’t being “you.”  And, I should just stop reading your blog :)

And as if we needed further proof that you can’t please everyone:

I also am not Christian, so sometimes the religious references irk me.

I was drawn to the blog because you said you were a Christ follower and I expected some depth pertaining to that.

I would like to see more fitness posts…

I’m not interested in the fitness stuff.

Your fashion posts are great and motivate me to get dressed every day.

I think mom style is so repetitive. Skinny jeans, various tops.

As you can see, not every topic resonates with every reader, but it’s my hope that if I continue to post about what interests me, there will be a bit of something for everyone — or almost everyone. As for the rest, there’s always that little x in your browser tab . . .

I just read something by Scott Stratten as I was scrolling through Twitter that I thought it was timely.

He was referring to Twitter, I presume, but it applies to all areas of social media (and life, really.) I certainly want to know what you all think, and I will take it into consideration, but at the end of the day, readers will come and go, and that’s to be expected. It is the relationships that I’ve made with so many awesome women through this blog that keeps me going. You know who you are.

And now for the long-awaited survey results.

What are your favorite topics or features?

What are your LEAST favorite topics or features?

Popular features are clearly the Personal/Memoir posts as well as Fashion Friday and Daily Mom Style, followed closely by health and wellness topics. Recipes are right up there too.

The least favorite feature is obviously the Gluten Free Meal Plans. I was surprised that giveaways were listed more than product reviews in the Least Favorite section.

Let’s break it down.

Fashion/Daily Mom Style

The Daily Mom Style posts ALWAYS get a lot of interesting feedback. I learned this last year — people love ‘em or hate ‘em. There isn’t much in between. And the Fashion Friday posts seem to be among the most popular as well. There were a couple of comments expressing a desire to see more affordable fashions. I actually do try to show a variety of price points when I write my fashion posts, but I will be even more diligent about this. I truly believe that you can look great on any budget, and this is one reason why I’m so excited to be working with Target. I’ve been trying to include them in these posts because I think that’s a great place to find affordable styles that are on trend.

Personal/Memoir

You like those. YAY! They are my favorite ones to write. You want more of them. I hear you. The thing is, that’s a bit of a sticky wicket because I have children who are getting older and many of their teachers and friends’ parents read my blog. There are SO many posts I want to write that I can’t because I don’t want to embarrass my kids. But I do love to spin a story and I have fun sharing glimpses into the crazy life and times of Jo-Lynne Shane so I’ll be making these posts a higher priority.

Health & Wellness

A lot of people want more of these posts. Honestly, the reason I haven’t been sharing as much on this topic lately is that I feel like I said it all. I am not any less convinced of the benefits of eating real food than I was when I discovered Michael Pollan and revamped our eating habits but I’ve settled into a bit of a routine and I’m kind of on autopilot at the moment. But I’m sure I’ll get inspired again sooner or later. I’m actually working right now on a “Real Food Update” post so stay tuned.

Gluten Free Menus & Recipes

I can see that for my regular readership, the Gluten Free Menu posts aren’t a favorite, although I did get some comments from those who appreciate them. But there were more comments like this:

Your blog is becoming more and more about promoting gluten-free foods.

Gluten free I realize is very popular but there are those of us it doesn’t affect so I don’t read any of those.

I definitely want to address this.

1) I eat gluten free, so naturally my meals and recipes will be. Yes, it has become a bit of a fad, but for some it is a necessity. For me, I just feel better eating this way. Every time I fall off the wagon (and I do from time to time) I get horrible gas and bloating… I know, pretty talk! But the fact is, gluten and carbs in general do not agree with me. I created the linky for gluten free recipes in hopes of getting more ideas for my own cooking and to be a resource for others. Many have said that they rely on this column as a resource. YAY!

2) I get a lot of Google traffic from those posts. At the end of the day, blogging is a business for me, no matter how personal the content may be. And Google traffic = influence, revenue and opportunities. I’m certainly not going to try to deny it or sugar coat it.

But here’s the funny thing. Most of my gluten free recipes and meal plans are generally NOT specific to gluten free living. Meaning, they are often “naturally” gluten free because I use mostly wholesome, real food ingredients. They are just real food recipes that are tasty and happen to be gluten free. If I do use special gluten free ingredients (i.e. pasta, flour, tortillas…) you can use the regular version that you’re used to and it will turn out the same way. The only exception would be baked goods. So don’t count them out without taking a look!

That said, I do get a lot of offers to review gluten-free products. I am not paid to promote them. I am sent the product for consideration, and if I love it, I figure others will too. If I don’t , I don’t write about it. It’s really that simple. (See more below about product reviews vs sponsored posts.)

And of course I am a huge fan of Udi’s, which is why I happily accepted the position as Community Leader on the BlogFrog Gluten Free Community. The recipes I share when I link to that site are posts I would be writing anyway.

Of course if you have no interest in cooking or recipes, then you’ll just want to delete those and wait for the next post!

Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes!

Because the meal plans interest only a small percentage of my regular readership and don’t take much time to pull together, I am going to start posting them on Sunday nights (WHEN I can remember to plan ahead… lol!) This will free me up to post a more writing-based post on Mondays. IF I can find the time. I have enjoyed having a bit of a “gimme post” at the start of the week, since I rarely work on weekends. But I’ll try it and see!

Back to the survey results . . .

How do you feel about the sponsored posts?

I was actually surprised to see that over half of the responses suggested that my sponsored posts integrate well with my content and don’t get in the way. Believe me, I TRY. In fact, this comment kinda cracked me up:

I enjoy them but sometimes I get so into what your saying that once you say it’s sponsored I feel let down.

My first thought is, I guess I’m doing them right!

That is the goal, after all. Sponsored posts should be so authentic that they fit right into my regular content. It’s not like I’m writing anything that’s not true in those posts. But I certainly don’t want anyone to feel duped. Please know that I am always striving to keep sponsored content in its proper place. There are times when I realize that I’ve accepted too much and I have no choice but to keep my commitments, but also? I turn down opportunities daily for product reviews and sponsored content that are not a good fit for me or my site. That is not to say that I shouldn’t say no more often… I am sure that I should! But it’s a daily battle, and an ongoing reassessment process.

Even though the majority seems to think the sponsored posts are okay as is, I always want to be 100% transparent so I will start putting the disclaimer at the top of the post from now on.

Product Reviews VS Sponsored Posts

In case you’re wondering, yes, there is a difference.

I am not paid for product reviews. Yes, I get the product to keep, and that IS a form of compensation. (In fact, I am expected to pay taxes on these products. Which is why I am so selective. I don’t want to get stuck paying taxes on something I don’t like.) But if the post says “review,” then I was not paid or told what to say. I am free to share my honest opinions, pro and con. Also, I do not guarantee to run all product reviews, so when brands send me something, if I absolutely have nothing positive to say about it, I just don’t write about it. There’s no obligation so I am only telling you about things that I truly like.

However, if a post says it is “sponsored,” then I was paid, and I agreed to certain stipulations such as a due date and certain messaging the brand might want me to convey. I only accept sponsors that I can wholeheartedly endorse. Once again, this blog is a business for me and I made a decision long ago to accept sponsored opportunities IF I believe they are a good fit. The goal is to enhance my content, not detract from it. Often it is something I was planning to share anyway, and it worked well with a sponsored opportunity. Or the assignment inspired a story that I thought you’d enjoy. Either way, the stories and experiences I share within a sponsored post are always 100% authentic.

I hope this clears things up. I have found some really awesome brands through sponsored posts and reviews, and I hope you have too.

How do you feel about the giveaways?

While 50% of you don’t mind them and 30% say you like them, they were one of the more commonly mentioned in the “least popular features” question above. I am kind of surprised by that. I like offering giveaways because I DO get a lot of perks for being a blogger and I feel like it’s a way to share some of the fun. But I will continue to keep them at a minimum.

And I will no longer offer a bunch of optional entries on my giveaway posts. It will be a single comment, done. Clearly this is the preference of at least half my regular readers, and I admit that I was starting to feel icky about all those optional entries and “follow me here!” and “sign up there!” I have always built my communities on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest organically — meaning I don’t pay for followers or play tricks and games trying to gain fans. I liked that my giveaways gave an extra “leg up” to those who do follow me on other platforms, but I fear that it ends up looking more like a ploy to get more rather than a bonus for those who already exist so I am just gonna ditch it.

How do you feel about my blog design/layout/usability?

Overall, this is great to see! There was one comment, though, that I’d like to address.

Make easier to search recipes and fashion.

I’d love to hear how I can improve this. I have a Recipe Index (there is a graphic link on my sidebar as well as a link on my Menu Bar under the FOOD category.) Same with Fashion. I also have a drop down box on my sidebar with all the blog’s Categories, AND there is a Search bar where you can type in any search terms you like. I’m always open to making the usability better, so feel free to let me know in the comments if you have suggestions.

How do you feel about the monthly newsletter?

I was sad to see that 66% had never seen it. Guess I don’t do a very good job promoting it!

And the general consensus was that it is redundant because it mostly just outlines previous content.

I think it would be fun to have something in the newsletter that no one else gets. Right now, it’s a compilation of links to thinks we already had access to by following the blog. I just think it would be cool to be an “insider” when the newsletter comes. ;-)

I totally agree with this sentiment. That was the original goal, but it’s ended up being more of a recap of my regular content. Some people like that because they don’t read daily but don’t want to miss anything. But I would like to have something else, some insider info . . . I’ll be brainstorming ways I can do that.

If you’d like to get the newsletter, it only goes out about once a month (or less, lately, lol) and I am going to work on improving it. You can sign up here.

Email Subscriber Survey

As for the email subscribers, I asked if they prefer that I push through every post to the daily emails or just hit the highlights. The vast majority selected “read every post” and I suppose the “highlights” would vary from person to person so I will continue to send everything through.

I also asked what device they use to read my blog, and there are a LOT of mobile users out there! I hope my mobile version works alright. I do use a plugin so it should be easy to read that way as well.

Demographics

As for the demographics, 98% of you are female (shocker!!) and 73% of you are between the ages of 26 and 45.

Most of you live in the good ole U S of A, but I love that I have some foreign readers too. The Internet age is so nifty!! Only 7% are from my area (Philly).

I think that just about covers it all. And then some, probably.

Thank you again for participating. I especially appreciate those who took time to write lengthy comments. I enjoyed those thoroughly, even the ones that stung just a bit. If you have any further questions or input, feel free to respond in the comment section. I answer most of my comments, either here on the blog or via email (often both — I have a plugin that allows me to comment here and also email the individual to whom I am responding) and I absolutely love hearing from you.

Truly, it’s the comments and the interaction there that keeps this blog going. So thank you!!

If you didn’t get to take the Reader Survey last week and you want to chime in, it’s still open.

Comments

  1. says

    This is such a helpful post for newer bloggers like me. The first part made me laugh. There will always be someone unhappy but you should continue to write what feels right to you. I agree that you have to find your awesome people. :) Please keep doing what you’re doing, your site is one of my favorites. Daily mom style and fashion are my favorites, too.

  2. says

    Hey, JL. Good summary. Just a couple of things. You’re right that each reader will probably only be attracted to one or two aspects about your blog, and that’s fine. So a survey like this will have a hodge-podge of positive and negative from each person. That’s normal. About gluten-free. I have 5 or 6 friends who are gluten-free devotees. Regarding food, that’s all they think about. I understand it’s important to those who practice it, but I’d really like the gluten-free folks to realize that the vast majority of the population is NOT with them on that. We’re fine with our gluten. I understand that eliminating gluten has been a huge health issue for you — great! We all have changes we’ve made in our lives that have produced better fitness or health. I do. But I don’t write a blog post about it every week. I hope that doesn’t come across as harsh — I don’t mean it to! I just wonder if the responses you see in your survey reflect that most of your readership really isn’t interested in this part. Keep it on the blog. Keep it accessible. Post recipes there for folks who need it. Just my 2¢ worth. When posting recipes, instead of splashing “gluten-free!” across the top, simply state that it’s a recipe for pasta or chicken, and then put the gluten-free option in parentheses within the recipe. That way, the recipe feels like it’s for ALL you readers, not just a handful. It’s your job to make the recipe accessible, not theirs.

    I didn’t address the “design/usability” part of the survey, b/c I usually read it in my feed reader and never click on that stuff here. But when I saw that part of the results, I decided, on a whim, to attempt to search for something I might want, say, a recipe. So I clicked on FOOD, and dropped down to RECIPES and then to RECIPE BOX (which seems like a lot, just to find a recipe). And then I found that you want me to sign in with one of my media options, before I can read a recipe. And I’ll tell you, that’s enough for me to CLICK AWAY. I want to read a recipe, not participate in the web’s manipulation of my travels. I’ll go look at a few other pull-downs, but if you’re making your readers jump through hoops just to read your old content, I think that’s unwise. You need a real, simple PAGE up on the top, where a mom can click on FOOD and go immediately to a page of alphabetical recipes, each as a live link that takes her to the original post with that recipe and pics. Simple.

    I know your blog is a business and a money-maker for you. There is a fine line, a difficult line to maintain, between serving your readers and making money because you’re pleasing them, and manipulating your readers gently to make money hoping they don’t realize it. I don’t think you err on the latter point. But I do think it’s something that monetized blogs should be wary of. Blogging is a community whose citizens walk in each others’ doors and don’t always know if they’re in someone’s kitchen or in her shop.

    • says

      So this is all very helpful. I read this comment earlier this morning and I’ve been dying to get home to ‘splain a few things. :-)

      The reason I “splash” gluten free on the top of my recipes, lol, is mainly for my dear friend, The Google. Gluten free recipes do really well on Google, and not only does it bring passing traffic to my site, I have also gained some new readers and friends when they discover my blog that way. But I honestly never thought of it as alienating to the reader. I guess the key is to (once again) strike a balance. I do not write posts sheerly as Google bait (many do), but I do keep Google in mind when writing and titling posts. So I will work on this!

      In fact, due to the responses from the survey, I had already changed the way I titled my Menu Plan this week, and I added the gluten free after the title, as a hashtag, along with the real food hashtag, hoping that people will see that it’s more than just gluten free. Although I’m not sure I love the hashtags, they look hokey to me. I’ll play around with it.

      Second, and the part of your comment that I found REALLY enlightening, the recipes……

      Okay, so the Recipe Index button on the sidebar takes you directly to the page with my recipes. But I realize not everyone realizes that is there. It really does blend in, but that is what I use when I want to browse my recipes for meal plan ideas.

      But you can ALSO get to my Recipe Index page through the RECIPE link that is under FOOD in the Nav bar. If you click on FOOD – that will take you to ALL my food posts cuz that’s a broader category that includes all the sub-categories under that. If you hover over FOOD and get the drop down box, then you will see the RECIPES option in the subcategories. You can click on that, and that takes you to the recipe index. But if you hover over that, then you see the next set of sub-categories, and herein lies the problem.

      That Recipe Box along with Shopping List – the ones that ask you to sign in…. that is buried for a reason. I was actually trying to hide that – so if you found it hard to get to, I did a good job, lol. What I did NOT do a good job of is making it clear that you can click on RECIPES and get to my recipe index.

      The reason those links are there is because they are part of the agreement to use the plugin that I use to make my recipes pretty in my posts. They require me to include those links in my Nav Bar. I didn’t really realize that when I signed up for it. It is free to me – the plugin – but I did pay to have it styled to look pretty and match my blog within my posts so I have continued to use it.

      To discover that it is distracting people from finding my Recipe Index is really frustrating. The only way to get rid of those links is to use another method of posting recipes. I will have to go back thru ALL the recipes posts and rewrite them using a NEW plugin. This will take oodles of time or cost me to pay my assistant. And I need to find one and pay to have it styled pretty. Sigh…….

      HOWEVER, it is clear to me that I will need to do this. It will take some time, though. Thank you for letting me know. See, I should always have some friends test out things when setting up a new blog design. I’m too close to it.

      Meanwhile, I will add a direct link to RECIPES on my Nav Bar. I was trying to keep it simple with only the basic main categories, but I can see that I need to revisit the organization I have going on there.

      “Blogging is a community whose citizens walk in each others’ doors and don’t always know if they’re in someone’s kitchen or in her shop.” THAT is really clever. I like that analogy. This is why I try so hard to be so blatant about what products were given to me and what posts were sponsored, but it sounds like there is still some room for improvement.

  3. says

    I think you do a wonderful job of staying you while sharing sponsored material on occasion, and sharing post that are relevant not only to your life but to readers as well. You have a wide range of opinions here, and I think you’ve addressed the largest concerns wisely.

    Personally I don’t attach gluten free to my recipes or menu plan often (even though they always are!) because so many of my readers don’t have issues with gluten, and most of my family does not. I think people who aren’t gluten free don’t realize how many recipes and meals are just naturally gluten free. Especially dinners.

    In the end I think you need to be excited about what you’re writing about, and engaged with the content. As long as that’s still there your writing is what keeps me coming back. :)

    This has me motivated to do my own survey soon.

  4. says

    Sheesh! Wow the things people say when they are asked for their opinion. I may be too chicken-hearted to ever have a survey on my blog. ;-)

    I love your blog. I think your layout is easy to navigate and it kind of seems to fit you, so that’s what’s important. Honestly, you are one of the bloggers I look up to. When I think of what I want my blog to be like when it grows up, you are one of three sources of inspiration. I hope I get to meet you one day a blogging conference. It’s my goal to earn enough money to go to one in 2014.

    Anyway, keep up the great work. I know blogging is more work than most people think. Please don’t let any negative comments get under your skin. We just cannot make everyone happy no matter how hard we try.
    ~FringeGirl

  5. Jennifer says

    I just found your site while googling for gluten free meal plans. So far I love the recipes and all the allergy friendliness to them.
    I didn’t take the survey but hope you keep up the gluten and allergy friendly recipes.
    Thanks,
    Jennifer

  6. lizzy says

    Hi Jo-Lynn ,please please please do not rid of your, How You Got Off Nexium For Good. This specific blog is loaded with a wealth of great information for us your readers. Thank you for such a great blog, I signed up to receive emails anytime somebody post and always look forward to reading the post, or chiming in every now and then. Thank You!

    • says

      That post still gets comments almost daily!! I won’t be taking anything down. :-) I was trying to figure out how to choose content for future, but all the existing posts are here to stay. :-)

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