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Involve Your Website Visitors With Surveys

By Carole Pivarnik
Posted Sunday, September 26, 2004

Want to get the attention of your Web site visitors? Just ask them what they think! People love to share their opinions,
and a survey not only lets them do that, it can also provide useful information. Plus, promoting your survey gets additional market exposure.

What is a Survey?

A survey asks a series of questions about one topic, attempting to get an accurate snapshot of opinion. The more who participate (or in survey lingo, the larger the sample), the more accurate the results usually are.

Should I Conduct a Survey?

Yes! Surveys are a great way to interact with your visitors and get them involved.

What Should My Survey Be About?

Survey visitors on topics that matter to them. That way, you'll get more participation and higher quality responses. Plus, the responses will be more useful to you. After all, what customers care about is important to your success.

Customer service; ordering processes; site navigation or content; product mix; and customer needs are all good topics. But be careful to focus on one topic. Covering too much ground can confuse participants and make analyzing results difficult.

How Many Questions Should I Ask?

Five to ten questions is a good number. More could require too much effort, resulting in reduced participation or incomplete surveys. Fewer might not provide enough information to make your survey very useful.

What Questions Should I Include, In What Sequence?

Every question should provide an answer that helps you make meaningful business decisions. In addition, related questions can help clarify those decisions. For instance, if participants tell you their favorite ice cream flavors, you'll know which flavors to stock. But if they also tell you when they're most likely to visit your shop, you'll also know which days you should stock those flavors.

Some other tips:

Make the first two or three questions easy to answer.
This engages the participant, making it more likely they'll complete your survey.
Avoid leading questions that indicate the preferred answer.
Keep questions short and to the point.
Don't combine two questions into one.
Don't ask questions that assume knowledge on the part of the participant.
Provide a way for participants to submit comments, usually as the last question.

How Should I Implement My Survey Online?

You could one of many online survey services or customize a program yourself (or even write one from scratch). Unless you have the skills to create your own, a service is probably your best bet. Some options include:

SureCode Customer Survey (learn more about it at (
Free WebWare (
GuideStar Communications (
Zoomerang (
Cool Surveys (
InfoPoll (

How Should I Promote My Survey?

A successful survey needs many participants. Unless you have a high-traffic site, you'll need to promote your survey. Use free ads, online newsletters, press releases, personal invitations, newsgroups, emails to previous visitors, and any other avenue you can think of to invite participation. You might even offer a chance to win some kind of reward. This popular technique can increase participation dramatically.

How Long Should My Survey Stay Active?

Always set a time limit on your survey. This creates a sense of urgency that encourages people to respond. In addition, your data will be most useful if it is "here and now" information rather than three-month old opinions. The Web and the world change quickly, as do visitor needs and interests. To stay on the cutting edge of business success, you need to be able to respond to those needs and interests.

The Survey Went Great. Now What?

When your survey has been conducted, analyze what your participants told you. Some tips:

Figure out what percentage of participants chose various responses for each question. Did 75% choose one answer while 25% another? These statistics are key in making intelligent business decisions as a result of your survey. Compare completed versus incomplete surveys. If over half of your surveys are incomplete, you might want to change it and conduct it again. Examine comments provided by participants for further insights. If possible, send thank-you notes to participants. If feasible, share results or potential benefits from the survey.

To sum up, surveys are a powerful tool for engaging your Web site visitors and getting opinions that can help you succeed. Why not put a survey on your Web site today? Your visitors would love to tell you what they think!

About the Author
Carole Pivarnik is a Senior Web Developer and Affiliate Program Manager for SureCode Technologies, Inc., a company that lets anyone add interactive databases to their Web sites with no programming. Email her at, or visit ( article may be freely reproduced so long as the content remains unchanged, including About the Author information.


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