10 Survey Mistakes (& How to Avoid Them)


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Creating a good online survey takes time...and the last thing you want is for your survey to be ruined by one minor mistake.

To help you plan more efficiently and create more effective online surveys, SurveyGizmo has prepared this short document that identifies 10 common survey mistakes (and how to avoid them).

For more information, check out the following companion article on the top 10 survey mistakes we find in online surveys:

Published in: Business, Technology
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10 Survey Mistakes (& How to Avoid Them)

  1. 1. 10 Survey Pitfalls To Avoid Online surveys are easy-to-use tools to gather feedback and when implemented properly, allow you to collect actionable data quickly and inexpensively in order to make informed decisions. Upfront planning will help lead you to higher response rates and higher quality data, ensuring a more meaningful, relevant, and successful survey experience. To help you plan more efficiently and reap the benefits that timely, relevant information can provide, SurveyGizmo has put together 10 common survey pitfalls to avoid. 1. Not defining your survey's objective Why are you conducting a survey? Before you write your questions you need to clearly define what it is that you want to learn and then you can evaluate each question you pose against that objective. If the question doesn't serve your main objective, get rid of it. 2. Making your survey too long Short surveys that focus on a single objective generally have higher response rates and lower abandonment rates among survey takers. Research has shown that surveys should take 5 minutes or less to complete. Although 6 - 10 minutes is acceptable, longer than 11 minutes will likely result in significant abandonment rates. On average, respondents can complete 5 closed- ended questions per minute and 2 short open-ended questions per minute. 3. Asking too many open-ended questions. If you want specific information, ask specific questions. Studies have shown that open-ended questions are more likely to produce vague, brief responses or even no response at all. Open- ended questions are best used as a follow-up to a specific question (whether it is multiple choice, rating scale, yes/no....) to collect additional feedback. 4. Changing rating scale If you are using rating scales be sure to keep the scale consistent throughout the survey. Use the same number of points on all your scales and make sure the meanings of the numbers stay consistent throughout the survey. 5. Including poorly written or structured questions. Review your questions to make sure you are being concise, clear, and brief. Make sure you are not using double negatives, acronyms, or obscure technical/industry jargon. The more clearly your questions are written, the more quickly and clearly your participants will respond. Look for questions with worded with bias towards giving you a certain answer. If you’re doing a satisfaction based surveys learning where you can improve ultimately helps you more than just get high scores. Also be on the look out for questions where more than one answer can apply or where the user may have opinion. You can often fix the former problem by qualifying with a “choose the answer that best applies” and help out a user who can’t answer a required question with a “not applicable” choice.
  2. 2. 6. Question randomness Make sure your survey questions are asked in a logical order so that each question and topic flows into the next. Unless you are using demographic data to screen out survey participants it is usually best to collect demographics and any sensitive questions at the end after you’ve hopefully built some trust. 7. Forgetting to pre-test your survey Be sure that you pre-test your survey with colleagues, associates, friends, and even a few members of you target audience to find any unexpected obstacles. Testing your survey is a quick and easy step to make sure it is functioning properly and typo-free and that the questions are clearly written. Remember to pre-test your survey invitations too. 8. Failing to think about who your audience is Sometimes your audience is obvious, for instance if you are doing an employee satisfaction survey, but if your trying to understand your company position in the market place or gather market research for a new venture you may need a combination of current customers and non- customer panelists that fit a certain profile. You might consider surveying lost leads or past customers for some needs. Go back to the survey objective and consider which audience can best give you the answers you seek. 9. Not sending reminders After the first 2-3 days response rates typically drop off so you should consider sending a survey reminder email. While not appropriate for all surveys, sending out reminders to those who haven’t already responded can often provide a significant increase in response rates. When sending reminders, be sure you remove those who have already responded from your reminder list (SurveyGizmo does this automatically) and limit yourself to no more than two reminder emails, changing the time of day and the day of the week that you send out the survey reminders. 10. Failing to respect and understand your audience It is important to respect your audience's time by asking for it. Don’t just create a survey and send out an email blast with a default request. Make a brief case for your survey. Who should participate? Why would they be interested? What will you do with the data? Will you share the results or offer an incentive? Remember, just because online surveys are automated it doesn’t make it any less personal and you are asking for information from busy people. Also, consider offering a survey incentive as a thank-you. And don’t forget to thank people with a follow-up email after the survey (you can do this in SurveyGizmo email invitations) this is a great time to share back any preliminary insights if you’re doing so.