Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Online Surveys

Surveys and feedback

Surveys can be a great way to learn more about your audience and what they want from your business. There are several factors involved from designing a survey that generates responses, to getting access to a list (and in a GDPR world that’s more complex) and ensuring the survey is completed.

Our tips share ways to get the most from your online surveys.

Choosing a Survey Provider

There are lots of options online for creating surveys; some are free and some offer a paid service. In general, a free survey provider is fine if you’re creating a short survey for a small business; however, as limit your question and respondent number. However, medium to large enterprises will tend to need a more robust survey provider that offers a wide range of survey-building options.

Some good options include the ever-popular Survey Monkey, as well as other services such as Google Forms, Typeform, and Survey Planet. Most of the free service providers also have paid plans, which makes it easy to upgrade your survey options as needed.

As you might expect, Google Forms offers the most comprehensive free service, with unlimited questions and respondents and lots of customisation options. It also provides a free “skip logic” option, which is a useful customisation option that allows respondents to skip specific questions depending on their answers to previous questions.

How to Avoid Survey Fatigue

Survey fatigue is a problem that faces every organisation that wants to use this method of collecting data, and it’s one that’s growing worse over time. In the early years of the internet, completing online surveys was something of a novelty, and people were eager to participate. These days, however, the shine has worn off the concept, and the ubiquity of online surveys means people are less interested in participating. People are less likely to participate in surveys overall, and are more likely to abandon a survey before completing it.

Modern online survey design must therefore take the problem of survey fatigue into account, to minimise the effect of the problem and encourage sincere participation.

Reduce the overall number of times you ask people to provide feedback

If you’re constantly inundating your audience with survey requests, survey fatigue is guaranteed to become an issue. In large organisations, consider scheduling surveys using a master list or calendar, to make sure survey requests are spaced out evenly over the year.


Communicate your plans for the data you collect

People are more likely to complete a survey if they know the purpose of the information they supply. After you’ve collected and analysed the data, send out a short email blast to let respondents know the results. If they know they’ve made an impact by completing your survey they’ll be more likely to complete future surveys too.

Make the survey experience as straightforward as possible

Long or convoluted questions, complicated rating methods that are difficult to work out, and similar issues make it more likely that people will abandon a survey before completing it.

Avoid this problem by crafting questions that are simple and straightforward, and that are focused tightly on the data you’re really interested in. The more questions you ask the more likely it is that survey fatigue will set in, so keeping it short and sweet is the best way to go.

Encouraging Survey Participation

When a survey is well-designed and has a clear purpose, it’s relatively easy to get people to participate. This is especially true when there’s a good incentive to complete the survey, and even more so when the incentive is financial in nature.

Incentivise the survey

Financial or otherwise, incentives are always a good way to encourage people to participate in surveys. Good survey design does tend to play a more important role, however. the issue is having a budget to offer the incentive and finding an easy way for the respondent to claim it!

If your survey is poorly-designed or overlong, people are likely to give up even if it means giving up the incentive too.

But obviously, not every organisation can afford to offer financial survey incentives. If you can’t or don’t want to offer financial incentives, what other options do you have for encouraging survey participation?

Offer alternative incentives

The most popular alternative is to offer respondents something else of value in exchange for completing a survey. Some possible options include discount coupons, industry-relevant reading material

The good news? Instant incentives are more effective than promised or potential incentives, even if the latter is a financial incentive.

What this means is, offering an ebook or white paper download as a survey incentive is likely going to be more effective than offering survey respondents the chance to win a gift card, coupon, or cash prize. An instant reward is a better incentive than the possibility of a financial one.

Particularly when the brand involved is a large or popular one, people tend to realise their chance of winning such a prize is low. As a result these kinds of incentives do lose their lustre. When someone knows they will receive a free incentive immediately after completing a survey, the drive to complete it is much stronger.

Use a psychological approach

Taking the psychological approach means framing your survey requests in a way that makes people want to comply. The easiest way to do this is to simply ask for their help.

Social responsibility dictates that when someone asks us for help, we provide it if at all possible. So, by framing your survey request as a request for help, your audience is more likely to want to complete it.

This is even more effective when you combine a request for help with information about what you plan to do with the data you collect. Sometimes it’s hard for survey respondents to see how the questions you ask in a survey are relevant. Telling them exactly what the relevance is therefore helps to boost your response rate.