The #1 Question You Should Be Asking Your Blog Readers

The fastest way to grow your blog starts with THIS question... When I was in college, I had a professor who was fresh out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (better known as MIT) and in his first year of teaching. He was a brilliant linguist – a genius if ever there was one – but his first semester teaching undergrads at B.U. wasn’t going so hot.

Did you ever meet someone who was so smart that they couldn’t connect with other people? Well, for about six weeks, the other students and I had this professor pegged as that guy.

We struggled and wrestled with the course material, wading through stacks of academic articles for which we simply had no context. We weren’t connecting the dots. It was clear our professor knew everything there was to know about what he was teaching, but we were all just missing the point.

I stayed up late nights reading, met with classmates at the library, and even skipped an ultimate frisbee tournament to try to wrap my head around everything I was supposed to know. I thought I was doomed to fail a class in my major, in a subject I loved.

But right after midterms, Paul did something we didn’t expect.

He asked us what we were struggling with.


Have you ever taken off your blogging cap and asked whether you were really helping your readers? Whether you’re making a difference in their lives and not just hitting “publish” three times a week because that’s what good bloggers do? (tweet this!)

I can’t remember exactly what our issues were at the time, but I do remember that from that point on in that class, everything changed. He started giving a different kind of lecture, one that started with questions and ended with all of us students arriving at new understanding.

Where Paul had been almost an adversary – something we’d have to overcome if we wanted to get a decent grade for the class – he became our coach and advisor, helping bridge the gap between what we didn’t already know and what we needed to master. He became my favorite professor, and I’m sure I told more than a few people to take classes from him.

What does this mean for you, Blogger?

I’ve already touched on writing for that one ideal reader, focusing on helping that person overcome challenges, solve problems, think differently, or be inspired. But if you’re somehow missing the mark, if people are coming to your site and leaving without so much as a comment, then you need to ask the right questions.

Even if you only have a handful of subscribers so far, what made them subscribe to your blog? What was the thing that caught their eye? Why did they decide that instead of just reading the content they came for and leaving, they should agree to hear from you more often and become part of your community? What are the things you’re doing well, and which of their problems have you not solved yet?

(but Jeni, you said just the #1 question!)

I did, and here it is:

What do your readers struggle with, and how can you add value to their lives?

If you’re smart, you’ll use the answers to all of these questions to plan your next steps on your blog – at the very least, what posts you need to write to really help your existing readers. But this process will help you do something even more powerful than getting to know the people who already read your blog – it will help you step up your game and blog better for your target audience as a whole.

And having a better blog, friend, will help you connect with new audiences, with more subscribers and a growing community that is passionate about sharing your work with others.

So tell me:

What questions are you going to ask today? How are you going to ask them?

What are you going to do once you have the answers?

Share this post, then leave me a comment below and tell me how you’re going to start (or keep!) connecting with the readers who need you.

Please consider sharing this post :: Love, Jeni
The fastest way to grow your blog starts with THIS question...

31 Comments • Leave yours below!

  1. says

    It’s pleasing to know that even a professor is learning all the time! How important it is to never stop growing. Must have been really humble of him to ask what his students were REALLY struggling with, as that is sort of indirectly saying that he failed to get his teachings points across despite his professor status.

    It’s a great question to always ask ourselves. How can we add value? Great article.

    Jeremy :)
    Jeremy recently posted..A Good Listener Does Not Just ListenMy Profile

    • says

      I appreciate you taking a moment to answer someone else’s comment, Jeremy! One other idea to add about my professor’s humility is that it also helped him become more approachable and “real” to the students. As I’ve said before, people don’t connect with blogs – they connect with people. I think you gain a lot of loyalty by showing that you’re really concerned with what will make your readers’ lives better.

      • Jeremy says

        Thanks for reply. You are totally right. People connect with PEOPLE, period! It’s a simple concept, really, and the quicker we realise this, the better.

  2. says

    I really do not think a blogger should ask readers what they should write or what they want them to write. Blogging is a personal thing (unless it is some sort of self help site) and you should write for yourself not other people.

    • Jeremy says

      You most probably write for others. And for yourself too! You just don’t lose your flavour of writing and personality to please everyone. :)


    • says

      I appreciate you adding your ideas, Noor. You definitely have to write about things you care about, and there are indeed lots of people who believe you should only write for yourself. I think it all depends on what your goals are for your blog – some people are content to top out at a few thousand readers, but lots of people get stuck at a few hundred and can’t seem to reach a bigger audience. If growth is important to you and you want to have maximum impact to help others, I think a two-way relationship (blogger to readers *and* readers to blogger) is important to establish, and asking questions like those I listed above can help move a blog in that direction. Of course feel free to take none, some, or all of my advice – whatever works best for you and your own goals. :)

  3. says

    Great post Jeni! I did a survey a little while back and gathered up the responses. The funny thing is..I feel like I haven’t really implemented them. I can’t really figure out how best to do that. Now that’s it’s been some time, maybe I should go back and revisit the survey and see if I can look at it differently and get some new ideas…and maybe ask the question again..”what are you struggling with :)” Thank you!
    shari lynne recently posted..Sisterhood Magazine and a Giveaway!My Profile

    • says

      Yep, it only works if you act on it. 😉 Thanks for sharing your experience, Shari Lynne – if you make any changes, I’d love to hear how it goes for you, so please keep me posted!

  4. says

    We have a nice blog and we get good traffic but our readers just don’t seem be connecting with us and I’m not sure why. They cone to the site, read, and leave. Some will come back but only when we maybe update with something that interests them and they see it on Twitter or Pinterest. I feel like we aren’t a site our readers are bookmarking to check back on, you know? I thought about posting a poll to see what they want to see more of but I’m not sure how many would respond. We offer an ebook for signing up for our newsletter and it helped grow our subscriber numbers but only 20% actually open the weekly update. Any suggestions?
    Amber recently posted..Easy Burlap Candle Wax Potpourri Sachet Bags and MoreMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Amber,

      Of course there could be any number of different things going on here, but I think since you have the statistics available, it’s probably a good idea to step back and look at which of your posts are getting the most traffic, which posts have the lowest bounce rate, and which posts have the highest amount of time readers are spending on the page. Then take a look at the same information on your newsletters – which types of headlines get the most opens? Which ones have the most clicks through to your website? Part of understanding what your readers need is looking at the behavior of the people who are already there and experimenting with giving them more of what they’re already responding to…and also cutting out the things they’re not responding to.

      One other question I might ask you is, do your site readers know what the benefit of subscribing is for them? Aside from the free e-book, I mean. Do you tell them what to expect and why you’re the best person to deliver that?

      Just a few thoughts. :)


  5. says

    After your last post, I sat down and wrote a list of 45 future blog posts with my one reader in mind (after reading your article, I knew exactly who she was!). It has helped me immensely to keep her in mind when I’m writing and when I’m deciding what to write.

    Asking myself how I can add value to my readers’ lives will help me focus that list even more, helping me to get closer and closer to the blogger I want to be. Thanks Jeni!
    Sharla recently posted..Christmas Sticky TreeMy Profile

  6. says

    I ask as part of my site’s autoresponder series because the answer to this question can give you so many ideas for posts and opportunities to help someone directly via email, which can make a fan and friend for life. I need to do a better job of doing this more often, more than just in the autoresponder, because it’s such a powerful question. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. says

    Great idea! Thank you! I plan to do that tonight on my Facebook page and see what feedback I get. Then I will do the same on my blog. If I help them, they will keep coming and and use me as a resource.
    Thanks again

  8. says

    I would like to solicit ideas and struggles from my readers, but I’m not sure how best to do it. I’ve seen FB engagement drop off terribly in the past year (since Pinterest became big), and my comments slowed before that. I rarely have readers comment on the open-ended questions I put at the end of blog posts, and nowadays when I post questions on FB I don’t get a response (because they’re not seen by anyone). ??
    Gina recently posted..Cranberry Mustard Dip for Holiday AppetizersMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Gina, I appreciate you sharing your challenge here. Have you thought of holding a live event – like a Google Hangout – where people can ask you questions? Like a Q&A session your readers are invited to. The questions you get there would really help you get a taste of what your larger audience probably wrestles with. Plus, you’ll be introducing yourself in a much more personal way to your readers, and people are more likely to interact with someone they feel they know. I hope this is at least a little food for thought… So glad you’re here!

  9. says

    Often is the case, the best answer (approach) starts with a simple question. The one caveat I have with this “what are you struggling with” question is when it comes from the person (too soon). For some reason, it doesn’t seem as sincere when that question comes up too soon in the relationship.

    The question I ask my clients is; Who do you want to be a hero to? Given my profession in the social seo space, it fits more often than not.
    Neil Ferree recently posted..Content Marketing System Best PracticesMy Profile

  10. says


    I cannot thank you enough for this post, and for the free 5-ways to grow a blog download. I appreciate your shrewd understanding of blogging, and I love that you encourage us to think realistically about our blogs, NOT idealistically. There is a huge difference between the two, right? :)

  11. says

    I’m just starting out. This isn’t my first blog, but it’s the first one that I’ve been passionate about. Interesting how one of the first rules of blogging is to write about your passions. I hadn’t been doing that until now.

    What I have been doing in the meantime is seeking to understand personal branding and marketing. I’ve wanted (for years) to write a novel and one of the most complicated aspects of doing so is marketing the novel and branding yourself as the author. The most important thing I’ve learned is how significant communication is in creating relationships with the people who will eventually purchase the product.

    I ask questions all the time. It’s not just about creating a call-to-action in the blog post itself, but about communicating through social media. Commenting isn’t everything: Questioning serves the purpose of finding out where the reader is today and what s/he needs to get from the blog.

    Today was launch day for me and I already have a small handful of people asking me for tutorials about how to play the ocarina. Knowing what the reader wants to get out of the blog will help me to know what content to keep refreshing, what to pare back on, and how to keep people coming back.

    Fingers crossed, it’s also going to help in the future with advertising partnerships. If I’m delivering what my readers want, my hope is that some of the sellers I currently buy from will be interested in reviews and advertising partnership because I’m answering the questions that their customers ask.

    Becki recently posted..5 Reasons You Should Learn to Read Sheet MusicMy Profile


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