Surveys are a key way to gauge your audience and collect important information. But how do you know if your survey will be effective? Even the best surveys can go wrong, especially if people aren’t sure what you’re asking them or have a difficult time answering the questions.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the most common types of survey mistakes and offer some advice on how to avoid them so that you can make sure your survey is as effective as possible.
|1. Plan your survey objectives and target audience.|
|2. Use clear and concise language in your questions.|
|3. Pilot test your survey to identify potential issues.|
|4. Consider the order of questions for logical flow.|
|5. Provide a mix of question types for depth.|
|6. Balance the scale and options for accurate data.|
|7. Avoid leading or biased questions.|
|8. Optimize for mobile devices and user-friendliness.|
|9. Keep the survey length reasonable for engagement.|
|10. Leverage skip logic for relevant questions.|
1. Create A Short And Catchy Title
A good title is important because it must do three things:
Be short. You don’t want to make people think too long about what they’re reading, or they might get bored and leave. Try to keep your titles under 25 characters.
Be catchy. A title that doesn’t catch someone’s eye will be ignored, so make sure yours stands out from the crowd by using all caps, bolded text, or other formatting tricks.
Don’t go overboard with this though! Your survey should still look professional and not spammy even if you add some fun elements to the design of your survey page (or even just in your survey’s title).
Explain what the survey is about without being vague or overly complicated which means including keywords like ‘survey’ or ‘feedback’ for Google Analytics tracking codes (which we’ll talk about later) to work properly with our surveys when creating them on SurveyMonkey.”
Conducting a successful survey requires careful planning and preparation. Before you start, make sure to check out our 14 tips for conducting a survey to ensure your survey is effective and insightful.
2. Keep It Short And Sweet
Keep it short and sweet. If a survey is too long, people will skip the questions they don’t care about, which means that you’ll get incomplete responses.
Ask for just enough information to be useful. If your survey is asking for too much information, people may feel like it’s too big of an ask and choose not to participate at all.
For example, if you’re surveying consumer habits in grocery stores (like what kind of products customers purchase), asking for details like their shopping list might make them feel uncomfortable.
Make sure it’s easy to read! People will be much more likely to answer the questions if they’re able to understand them without having to think too hard and use complicated language or vocabulary words that aren’t part of everyday conversation.
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3. Be Upfront About Your Intentions
When you create a survey, it’s important, to be honest, wi,th the participants about why you’re asking them to complete it. You shouldn’t use terms like “survey” or “poll” in your title, and there should be no hint of this being some sort of internet quiz or marketing scheme.
Instead, let them know right off the bat that they’re participating in something designed specifically with their needs in mind, and keep reiterating that throughout the questionnaire itself!
Here are some ways to do this:
- Use a clear introductory paragraph where you explain what will be asked of them and why
- Use a first question that makes clear what information is being requested from participants (i.e., “How old are you?”)
4. Ask One Question At A Time
You may have heard the old saying, “If you ask a question, be prepared to get an answer.” But this isn’t always true. Asking too many questions at once is one of the most common ways surveys go wrong.
When you ask too many questions at once, your respondents can get confused about what’s being asked and end up answering all of them incorrectly or not at all.
So how many questions should you ask in your survey? The general rule of thumb is one question per page but there are some special cases when two or three questions on a page are fine (more on that later).
Similarly, if you’re making an online survey with embedded video content (which we strongly recommend), try to keep it under five minutes long since most people won’t want to commit more than 10 minutes total for each survey session.
5. Use Branching And Skip Logic
The next step is to consider how you will branch your survey. For example, if you ask about a person’s age and they are married, do you want to then ask about their children?
If they have children, do you want to find out how many? How old are the children? These types of questions can all be answered with branching logic.
In addition to asking follow-up questions based on prior answers, consider using skip logic. This allows users who have already responded in a particular way (e.g., completed or not completed certain sections).
To proceed straight through other parts of your survey without taking away from their experience or data quality by forcing them back through those sections again just because they’re skipping ahead past them this time around.
Crafting effective survey questions is crucial for obtaining valuable insights. Learn how to ask questions that contribute to your marketing success with our guide on how to ask questions that will help you market.
6. Avoid Long Lists Of Demographics
There are some questions you should avoid asking, as they can be too long or complex to answer.
Avoid questions that ask for too much information. You don’t need to know the exact address of their childhood home, but you do want to know where they spent most of their time growing up.
If someone is going to have a hard time remembering where they lived when they were 10 years old, then it’s probably not worth asking them about it.
Avoid questions that ask for irrelevant information. If someone has just lost their job due to a layoff at work and you’re asking if they intend on buying more books after reading this one.
It might seem like an overwhelming question at the moment and cause them frustration while answering your survey (which no one wants).
Avoid questions that ask for information easily forgotten or confusingly worded by people who aren’t familiar with English as a second language (ESL). A simple mistake such as using “had” instead of “has” can change its meaning entirely!
7. Be Consistent In How You Ask Questions
You must be consistent in how you ask questions. If there is a particular type of question that you are using, do not mix it up with another.
For example, if your survey includes multiple-choice questions, don’t add an open-ended question to the end of the survey without an explanation or warning.
The following are some types of questions to avoid:
- Double negatives (e.g., “I have never not smoked”)
- Double-barreled questions (e.g., “Are you satisfied with our service?”)
- Questions with options like agree/disagree (“Do you agree or disagree?)”
In general, avoid asking people to rank things or rate things on a scale from 1-to 5 unless there is a clear context for why this makes sense about the topic at hand and how it fits within your overall survey design
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8. Pay Attention To How You Ask Questions
When you’re writing your survey questions, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Don’t ask personal questions. Questions like “How many sexual partners have you had?” or “How old were you when you lost your virginity?” fall into this category.
The answers may be useful for researchers and doctors, but asking them in a survey could make respondents uncomfortable or even make them feel judged by the researcher. (It’s also worth noting that the answers might not always reflect reality.)
Don’t ask too many complicated questions at once. If someone has just filled out one lengthy questionnaire full of multiple-choice questions with four options each, don’t give them another one when they’re done!
It will seem overwhelming, and some people might not complete it just because it’s so long even if all of their responses count towards your final results.
Pay attention to how sensitive your topic is: If there’s anything, in particular, that might upset people (for example racism), try asking about it indirectly first before putting it front-and-center in an open question format.
Avoid using vague wording whenever possible; instead, use specific words that convey what’s being asked instead of leaving room for interpretation.* Never put negative phrasing into any type of question; i.e.; “Do not hit anyone” vs “Don’t hit anyone!”
9. Avoid Double Negatives And Double-Barreled Questions
One of the most annoying things that can happen when conducting a survey is receiving answers from respondents who don’t understand what you’re asking.
Double negatives and double-barreled questions are two of the biggest culprits for confusing respondents, so it’s important to avoid them.
What Is A Double Negative?
A double negative is when two negatives are used together, as in “I don’t have no money.” Here’s an example: “You don’t like any sushi?”
(This kind of sentence sounds weird because with each negative word “no” and “any” the meaning becomes more extreme.) The proper way to say this question would be “Do you like any sushi?”
How Do I Avoid Double Negatives?
Keep the number of negative words in your questions down by using fewer than three in all possible circumstances; ideally, there should only be one.
If your survey includes more than one “not” or another negation word per question.
Try rewriting it so that each answer option makes sense without being qualified by another negative statement (e.g., not knowing anything about politics isn’t necessarily a bad thing; if someone doesn’t have time for politics now but plans on getting involved later).
10. Make Sure The Language Is Accessible To Everyone
It’s important to remember that the language you use in your survey will determine how many people are willing to participate.
Avoid jargon. Don’t use words or phrases that only a few people will understand. If you need help making sure your survey is accessible, check out our tips for writing surveys in plain language here: https://blog.bestpracticetips.com/how-to-write-a-survey/
Keep it gender-neutral and avoid offensive terms. Make sure all pronouns used in your questions refer to both genders (he, him, she) instead of just one (him).
It’s also good practice to avoid using words like “mankind” or “forefather” as they can be perceived as offensive by some readers.
11. Avoid Jargon, But Use Industry Terms For Clarity’s Sake
Jargon: jargon is the technical language used by a specific group of people, who are generally members of the same profession or industry. For example, if you work in a hospital, you might use the word “acuity” to refer to how sick a patient is.
This may be confusing for those outside of your field because it’s not clear what this word means or why it’s useful as opposed to other descriptions like “seriousness.”
Industry terms: industry terms are words or phrases that have been adopted into common usage and accepted by many people in an industry as meaning something specific (although they may not mean exactly that).
Industry terms don’t need much explanation because they’re already widespread enough to be understood by most people (and probably shouldn’t be confused with jargon).
One example of an industry term is “outlier,” which refers specifically to data points that fall far away from most others on a graph or chart it means something different than saying someone was an extraordinary outlier within their chosen field!
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12. Keep Your Survey Questions Focused On Respondents’ Immediate Experiences, Not Past Experiences That May Be Difficult To Recall
If you’re asking respondents to recall an experience they had in the past, it’s important to give them clear instructions on how to answer the questions. For example: “Remember a time when…” or “Tell us about a specific instance when…”
If you want to be able to conclude general trends in behavior, focus your questions on experiences people have had recently and can easily recall. For example: “What did you do this morning?” or “Who is the last person you talked with?”
13. Use Scales Whenever Possible
Scales are a very useful tool in survey research. They can help you get deeper information from your respondents, and they also make it easier for you to analyze the data later.
How to use scales: You should always try to use scales instead of open-ended questions wherever possible.
For example, instead of asking how much someone likes something on a scale from 1–to 5 (or some other number), it’s better to ask them to rate their feelings on an actual scale with those numbers.
If there is no existing scale that fits your needs exactly for instance, if you want people to rate their level of agreement with statements rather than give them options like “yes” or “no” you could create one yourself using items such as “strongly agree,” “agree,” etc.,
And then have participants tick boxes next to each item instead of writing in their answers. This makes data collection quicker and easier for both researchers and respondents!
When not using scales: There are two main situations where this strategy would not work well:
When there aren’t enough options available within an existing format that already exists off-the-shelf; or when there isn’t any suitable pre-existing format at all (like when asking about vocabulary size).
14. It Is Important To Think Carefully About The Content Of Your Survey Before Launching It
It is important to think carefully about the content of your survey before launching it. You need to understand both the question you are asking and what answer you want from it, as well as how to collect and interpret that answer.
The best way to do this is by conducting focus groups with people who fit within your target market. Try asking them if they have any questions about your product or service, and then use their feedback as a basis for creating a survey.
This will help ensure that the opinion data collected reflects the needs of your target audience, which will help you make more informed decisions about how to move forward in future marketing campaigns.
We hope this helps establish a good foundation for your survey. Let us know if these tips were helpful in the comments below!
Tip: To ensure that your text has been well received, go back to the previous sections and make sure you understand them. If something doesn’t make sense, ask questions before moving on.
As you work on each writing assignment, keep track of the time it takes you to complete each step. Make sure to also record any obstacles or challenges that arise as you work through them.
Once you’ve finished each assignment, review how long it took you to complete each step and what went well or not so well about them. Jot down some notes about how your experience went.
Here are some additional resources to deepen your understanding of survey conduct and optimization:
How to Conduct a Survey: Explore in-depth insights and practical tips for effectively conducting surveys and gathering valuable data.
A Comprehensive Guide to Survey Conduct: Learn best practices and strategies for successful survey administration, ensuring accurate and actionable results.
10 Key Things to Consider Before Creating Surveys: Discover essential considerations that can impact the quality and effectiveness of your survey designs.
How can I ensure the reliability of survey results?
Ensuring the reliability of survey results involves careful question design, appropriate sampling techniques, and minimizing biases in survey administration.
What is the recommended survey length for optimal participant engagement?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, shorter surveys tend to have higher participant engagement. Aim for concise and relevant questions to keep respondents’ interest.
How can I increase survey response rates?
To boost response rates, consider using personalized invitations, offering incentives, and optimizing the survey layout for mobile devices.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when creating surveys?
Avoiding leading questions, ambiguous wording, and excessive jargon are crucial to prevent biases and inaccuracies in your survey responses.
How can I analyze and interpret survey data effectively?
After data collection, utilize tools like statistical analysis software to process and interpret the data, identifying trends, correlations, and insights that drive decision-making.
Costantine Edward is a digital marketing expert, freelance writer, and entrepreneur who helps people attain financial freedom. I’ve been working in marketing since I was 18 years old and have managed to build a successful career doing what I love.