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!
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.
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.
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.