by Dipti Parmar

5 mistakes to avoid when creating foolproof surveys

Dec 20, 2016

The internet has made it so easy to conduct consumer surveys. The downside is that there are now too many surveys and their value is declining. Here are some things you can do to make your survey a success.

A mans hand and arm are seen depositing a survey into a sealed ballot box
Credit: Thinkstock

One of the biggest breakthroughs in marketing since the dawn of the internet has been increased accessibility and improved methods in conducting research.

Online surveys have made it simple to find relevant and up-to-date insights on consumer behaviors and opinions. The days of physically mailing out questionnaires and waiting for responses are long gone. Now, you can get better results in greater quantity for a fraction of the price.

However, as surveys have become much easier to produce and distribute, there seems to be an abundance of them on the internet. Perhaps too many. Unfortunately, a lot of them miss the mark in gaining valuable responses. In fact, according to Forbes, 80% of users abandon surveys halfway through (I’m one of them).

Consumers today are exposed to more information on the internet than they know what to do with. What can you do to make sure they finish your survey and provide the information necessary to grow your brand?

Let’s take a look at five crucial mistakes to avoid when creating a survey.

1. No introduction

This one should be obvious. But unfortunately, too many surveys omit this essential bit of information.

text of survey email intro Dipti Parmar

A courteous message thanking people for their time and providing a brief explanation of the purpose of your survey increases the likelihood that people will respond.

Without an introduction, how do respondents know why they are answering these questions? True, the title can give a general idea, but adding more detail to the background information and the reason for conducting the survey will provide more value to the respondents and they’ll be more likely to answer all the questions.

Start by talking about the purpose behind the survey and how you hope to use the information to improve your brand.

Also, be sure to thank respondents for their time. A small bit of courtesy can mean a lot.

2. The survey is too long

Generally speaking, people today have very short attention spans. According to New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, the current average attention span is around eight seconds.

With such a fast-moving stream of information on the internet, be sure to keep the length of your survey within reason. No one wants to spend an entire afternoon filling out a survey. Too much information could also complicate the results.

However, starting big never hurts. If you have already brainstormed a huge list of questions, go through the list and determine which ones are absolutely necessary. A survey should be short and quick to the point.

3. Forms are not secure

All too often, data sent through forms becomes readable to a third party. If you want to embed your survey on your website, protect it through SSL encryption. This is an especially crucial step when using Google AdWords for multiple campaigns.

Here are several things to keep in mind:

  • Data encryption is a simple and dependable way to keep all your form information secure.
  • Password protection for your forms is great when you have multiple groups working on the same project.
  • There are typically IP submission limits. But they can easily be reset by hour, day, month or year.

When creating a survey, or any other web form for that matter, the trust and privacy of the respondents should be your top priority. Luckily, there are a lot of tools out there to help in this area. One good form generator I use is 123ContactForm – it has readymade templates that come with several security features built in, unlike free tools like Google Forms.

Screenshot from Dipti Parmar

A screenshot from

4. The survey is sloppy

Creating a survey requires a close attention to detail. Any little error in spelling or grammar can make your brand look unprofessional. Be sure to take the time and do a thorough proofread.

Another reason users tend to abandon surveys is because some of the answer options do not apply. This is going to be inevitable in some cases. Be sure to include options like “not applicable” or “other.”

A great survey often takes a lot of time and effort to design. It can be tempting to want to see results and data as quick as possible. This mentality tends to be the root of many mistakes.

To avoid sloppiness in the final product, take the survey for a test run. A smaller, concentrated group can do a lot to detect little mistakes you’ve overlooked. The last thing you want is to find mistakes after the survey goes live.

5. No targeting

While it is understandable to want to throw out a big net to get as many responses as possible, it is important that the respondents to your survey are relevant to your brand.

For example, if your survey is about a certain kind of dog food, what good would the information be if it came from someone who has never owned a dog?

Examine your target market and identify their burning questions or concerns. Be sure to send targeted invitations. Quality is better than quantity in this case.

Over to you

There are many advantages to online surveys, such as low cost, design flexibility, and automation. If done correctly, you can collect valuable information to bring your brand to the next level. Think in terms of the big picture and don’t fall victim to these simple mistakes!