I provide some form of contact method on all my niche sites. On some, I use a form. On others, I set out an email address. These days I put the image on an image and upload it to the Contact page to prevent spam inquiries. It seems to do the trick.
The question I want to discuss is whether I respond to people who visit my niche sites, take the time to contact me and ask questions.
My answer: I respond to regular visitor questions. I don’t respond to pitches. Most inquiries are from marketers looking for a link or something else. I seldom reply to those unless it’s enticing. However, if a visitor has a question about an article or that’s topical to the niche, I definitely take the time to respond.
For example, just today I had a reader email me with questions about two hotels I wrote about on a niche site. I’ve stayed in both hotels more than once. I guess I’d qualify as an expert about those hotels. I’ve stayed in the general area many times. It’s a popular resort area not too far from where I live.
Anyway, this reader was torn between the two hotels. She told me what her and her husband’s main goals of the trip were. I was able to tell her which hotel I’d opt for in her case.
I was feeling generous so I added quite a bit more info including restaurants to eat at, the spa to reserve and other activities she should consider.
She sure was grateful. I had fun sharing my experience with her. I’m not worried I steered her in the wrong direction regarding the hotel because the two hotels she’s considering are both exceptional 5-star hotels. It’s like choosing between tenderloin and lobster. Both are great.
To me, answering legit inquiries is part of the publisher gig
I take publishing seriously. I strive to publish a site people will like and find helpful no matter the niche. I make mistakes. There’s room for improvement. But overall, I put out a decent product and part of the product is I will do my best to answer inquiries from readers.
That said, I don’t get that many inquiries from my niche sites
It’s easy for me to say I personally respond to all inquiries because I actually don’t get that many. Most people don’t take the time to find the email address and then send an email. I know I don’t bother on sites I visit. It’s not really done but some people do it. I find it refreshing. I’m happy to take the time to respond.
I’ve had instances where people mailed me, as in snail mail me thank you letters and questions. I responded to those as well. I’ve had people email me to say such and such article was super helpful. I’ve also had negative inquiries such as why so many ads or you missed something in such and such article or you made a mistake here. I respond to all of it unless the email criticism is overly harsh such as big F-U or something like that.
I probably field the most inquires by far from Fat Stacks. I do my best to respond to every inquiry. Sadly some slip by but overall I think I do an okay job.
What can you do if you start getting more inquiries than you can handle?
I don’t have this problem so I can’t tell you from personal experience. My guess is you have two options. They are:
- Ignore them,
- Hire someone to deal with them, or
- Charge for your time
The more “neighborly” thing to do is hire someone to respond instead of ignore them. But it’s conceivable you end up in a niche where you get a disproportionately high number of inquiries to how much traffic you get. In other words, you don’t earn enough to hire someone to deal with it all and you don’t have time to deal with it all. In that case, you have to do the best you can and if you ignore a pile of them, so be it.
In the event you do get a lot of questions and you want to help you might opt to charge for your time. Create a buy button so folks can pay you a consulting fee in advance. With today’s tech such as online booking calendars, it’s a piece of cake. Other than Fat Stacks, I’m not in niches where people would pay me to answer a question but such niches are out there. I suppose I could charge money for Fat Stacks inquires, but I don’t bother. As long as the questions are pretty simple, I’m happy to answer. If they require a pile of work, I explain I’m not in the business of offering any consulting help. An example of an inquiry that would be too much is to audit someone’s site. I don’t really have time for that. However, if someone asks me which ad network I’m using, I’m happy to tell them.
Another option to reduce inquiries if you’re inundated…
Another option is to set out on your Contact page what type of inquiries you respond to. You could restrict them to website technical problems, legal issues etc. but state you don’t offer free advice or something like that. You might soften it by explaining it’s just you and you get so many inquiries daily that’s impossible to handle, etc.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.