10 Steps to create a great online survey

Using an online survey as part of your marketing campaign, allows you to gain customer insight that you may have thought impossible to collect.

A great online survey provides you with clear and reliable customer insight to improve your decision making. A great survey will have high response rates, will gather high quality data and will be user friendly.

Follow these ten tips to create a great survey:

1. Define the purpose of your survey

Unclear goals lead to unclear results, and you don’t want to end up with a set of results that provide no data and provide no value. A great survey will have a focused objective which is easily understood. Think about:

-  What is the goal of the survey?

-  Why are you creating the survey?

-  What are you hoping to accomplish?

-  How will you use the data you are collecting?

-   What decisions are you hoping to impact with the results of the survey?

It may sound obvious, but all surveys need planning. It could be the difference between receiving quality responses or unreadable data.

2. Keep your survey focused

Short and focused surveys will help with both quality and quantity of response. It is better to create a survey that has one objective, than a long survey with multiple objectives.

Humans are a fickle bunch and want things done quickly. If your survey is too long the reader will get bored and abandon the task – leaving you with unfinished surveys that don’t help anyone.

Make sure each question is focused on helping you meet your objective. Don’t throw in questions that you think are ‘nice’ or unrelated if they don’t provide informative data.

Research has shown that a survey should take 5 minutes or less to complete, but if you can’t do that, it should last no longer than 6 – 10 minutes. Abandonment rates shoot up if the survey takes longer than 11 minutes to complete (Gallup).

3. Keep the questions simple

Make sure your questions get straight to the point and avoid industry jargon. Don’t use acronyms that your users won’t understand; if you do have to use them, make sure they are explained.

Make your questions specific and as direct as possible. Ask ‘How satisfied are you with our response time?’, instead of ‘What was your experience of our response time?’.

4. Use closed questions when possible

Closed questions that are answerable with Yes or No make it easier to quantify results. Closed questions can take the form of Yes/No, True/False, multiple choice or rating scale.

Open ended questions are great for providing information and ideas, but closed questions are perfect for collating and analysing data.

5. Keep rating scales consistent

Rating scales are a great way to measure and compare variables. If you do choose to use rating scales, for example, from 1 – 5, keep it consistent throughout your survey.

Use the same number of points, and make sure meanings of high and low are consistent throughout.

Switching rating scales will confuse readers, and will lead to untrustworthy responses.

6. Order your survey logically

Make sure your survey flows in a logical order. Introduce the survey in a way that encourages users to complete the survey, for example, ‘Help us improve our customer service. Please complete the following survey’.

Start with broader questions, and then move to narrow scopes. Collect demographic data and contacts details at the end of the survey. And ask sensitive questions at the end.

7. Test your survey

Test your survey to a few members of your target audience or co-workers. This allows you t find glitches and deal with unexpected answers.

8. Consider your audience when sending invitations

Statistics show the highest open and click rates for surveys take place on Monday, Friday and Sunday. And the quality of responses does not vary from weekday to weekend. However, you must consider your audience. For example, if you’re sending a survey to business people, it makes sense to send the survey during the working day. Or if you’re a sales business, avoid the end of the month as people have less disposable cash.

9. Consider sending reminders

This may not be appropriate for all surveys, but think about sending reminders to those who have received an invitation but haven’t answered.

10. Offer an incentive

Again this will depend on your audience and the type of survey you are sending out. People are more likely to complete a survey if there’s something in it for them. Research has shown that incentives can boost response rates by around 50%.

Keep the incentive appropriate – overly large incentives can lead people to lie in order to receive the gift or discount code.


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