Master of All You Survey: Implementing Opinion Surveys

A recurring theme in Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strips is the Dad opinion poll, in which Dad’s poll numbers are invariably “way down,” according to Calvin. Dad seems unconcerned about these results and their implications; when Calvin remarks that, “You’ll never keep the job with that attitude,” Dad’s response is, “If someone else offers to do it, let me know.”

Unlike Calvin’s dad, you should be concerned with the opinions of your customers and other website visitors. But how do you find out what they are? One increasingly easy way is by implementing opinion surveys for your site.

Top Reasons to Use Opinion Surveys

Why should you be interested in your visitors’ opinions? They help with some main factors:

  • Monitor your visitors’ characteristics: Are the demographics of your site visitors shifting? If so, you may need to update the visual design of your site, your product or service offerings, or pricing to keep up.
  • Uncover site design flaws: Find out areas of your site that aren’t working for your visitors and what they would rather see.
  • Get feedback on products and services: Getting customer opinions on your products or services is the best way to ensure you are offering the right things to the right people at the right price.

Survey Implementation Choices

These days, there are several choices when it comes to getting opinion surveys in front of your site visitors:

  • Designated survey page: You can set up a temporary or permanent survey page on your site (or more than one), and put links to the survey page on your other site pages. This often requires some coding and a connection to a database to store the results.
  • External survey services: You can set up a survey on one of the available survey services, such as SurveyMonkey. This approach enables you to implement sophisticated surveys without any coding, but the disadvantage is that the survey is on an external site that takes visitors away from your site.
  • Pop-up surveys: You’ve seen them before—you log in to a site, and a friendly pop-up opens, inviting you to take a short survey. They are thus slightly annoying, but they keep visitors on your site. Generally, these are implemented through a third-party provider.
  • WordPress survey plugins: Numerous survey plugins are available for your WordPress site. Make sure you choose carefully!

Do’s and Don’ts

Here are some things to keep in mind when doing a survey:

Do: Get professional help, or at least do some research, if you don’t know how to craft a survey properly. Wording and ordering the questions to get the most useful information is a bit tricky. If you don’t ask the right questions, or word them in a way that influences the answers, you will get useless data.

Do: Offer incentives, such as a gift card or promo code, to reward survey participants. You will get a much better response rate and more meaningful information that way.

Do: Make it anonymous, or at least give participants the option to provide names and contact information. People are more likely to provide honest criticism if they know it can’t be traced back to them. (This invites abuse, as well, so you have to pick your poison.)

Don’t: Abuse the data you collect! Always be mindful that the participants are providing information for your benefit only, not to sell to outsiders. (It’s a good idea to mention this as part of your privacy policy.)

Don’t: Rely too heavily on free-text responses. Although open-ended questions are great for job interviews, they don’t work so well in surveys. Because they are time-consuming to answer, many participants won’t do it; it is also time-consuming to read and glean information from them. Instead, rely on yes/no and “on a scale of 1 to 5” questions.

Don’t: Get hung up on response rates. Survey response rates are typically very low. If one of every 10 visitors responds to a survey, you’re doing really well.

With a well-executed survey, you can get a great deal of valuable information about your site, your product and service offerings, and your customers. Put this information to good use, and you will keep your customers happy.