10 Common Online Survey Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Learn about the 10 most common survey mistakes and how to avoid them to ensure your survey gets you number and quality of responses you need.


Kimberly Powell

January 26, 2016

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Survey response rates or completion rates are often a marketer’s first goal when distributing surveys to a group of people. After all, this is essentially the leading indicator of the quantity of feedback you will ultimately receive.

There are a number of mistakes people make when creating surveys. Some contribute to poor response rates or low quality response data, while others are big missed opportunities to get the most out of an engagement with your audience.

This post outlines the top survey mistakes to avoid, so you can get the most out of your surveys.

Top 10 Online Survey Mistakes

Survey Mistake #1: Too many questions

As surveys get longer, bad things start happening.

Respondents get annoyed, and they either leave without completing the survey or start carelessly filling out of your survey once their attention span has deteriorated.

Not only does your response rate suffer, but the quality of your data can also decline.  Both are bad, but the latter is much harder to determine.

How to avoid it:

  • Keep your survey questions to a minimum. Your survey shouldn’t take your respondent longer than a couple minutes to complete.

  • Keep your question types similar. Are you using a star rating system? Use this for all of your questions so that you survey takers don’t need to stop and read additional instructions before completing each question.

Survey Mistake #2: Wrong question type

Believe it or not, we see this all too often where survey creators use the wrong question type to collect their data.

This can cause a lot of confusion for your respondents. Once they are frustrated, the likelihood of them completing your survey becomes much less.

An example that comes up often is using a ranking question, when a multiple choice would be a better fit.

How to avoid it:

  • Slow down and take the time to make sure you’re using the right question types for your question.

  • Have a friend or coworker take your survey before you send it out, and see what they say about it. If they’re confused, your audience will most likely be confused too. If you’re still not sure, you can contact our support team and we’ll be happy to help suggest which type might be best in your situation.

Survey Mistake #3: Asking for unnecessary information

If you’re looking to keep your survey short and boost your response rate the best thing you can do for your survey takers is prevent them from having to answer unnecessary questions, especially when those questions are asking for information you probably already have like: name, email, company, etc.

How to avoid it:

  • Use merge fields to easily track who is responding to your questions and bring in personal information about your recipients automatically. When the survey link is clicked, we’ll automatically bring that information into your analyze tab so that each response is connected to the person who submitted it.

  • Check out our help article on the best ways to use merge fields to track responses.

  • Use our integration with CampaignMonitor that automatically pulls in the name and email fields for you.

Survey Mistake #4: Not including a redirect

While the most important thing might be to achieve a great response rate. The second most important thing should be get the most out of this interaction with your audience.

When someone completes your survey where do they go? Are you just leaving them on the thank you page to stare at a video, button or image?

How to avoid it:

  • You should focus on continuing the interaction with them by adding a redirect to the end of your survey. A redirect is a simple way to automatically send someone to a specific URL, like your website or a relevant landing page.

  • To add a redirect to your survey, see our help doc on how to create a redirect that works best for you.

  • If you’re using your survey at an unmonitored kiosk you can also create a redirect to go directly back to the beginning of your survey to start over for the next survey taker.

Survey Mistake #5: Boring survey design

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not taking the time to make their survey visually engaging.

Survey takers are going to have to stare at your survey for a couple seconds to a couple minutes, and nothing is worse than clicking on a survey from a great looking website or a beautifully crafted email and landing on something like this:

bad survey example

No one likes a boring survey, which is why GetFeedback makes it easy to create something beautiful and appealing for your recipients.

How to avoid it:

  • If you’re not sure where to start, use one of our pre designed themes and apply one to your survey that is mobile friendly and visually appealing.

  • Or, create your own theme by adding in your own logo, background image, and change the fonts to match your brand. Your users will thank you.

custom survey background images

Survey Mistake #6: No company branding

Your survey should be an extension of your brand. Every interaction with your audience is an opportunity to impress them. So once you have a beautiful survey created, make sure they know it’s yours by putting your logo on it and adding your branding.

It’s surprising how often people forget this simple addition, which can lead to customers not recognizing the survey as yours, and ultimately not completing it because they don’t understand who it came from and why they received it.

How to avoid it:

  • To avoid this easy mistake remember to whitelabel your surveys whenever possible, and brand them using your company logo. This will remove the GetFeedback logo from your surveys and replace it with your own, ensuring they know the survey is yours.

  • Another option is to add your logo at the beginning of your survey. This is a great entry into the survey and easily identifies the purpose of the survey and your company.

Survey Mistake #7: No personalization

While a lot of organizations go the extra mile to personalize their email campaigns and even websites in some cases, most forget to include this simple extra touch to their surveys.

Adding in personalization can help better engage your customers or clients, helping to increase responses overall and showing your audience you took the extra time to tailor the engagement specifically to them.

Adding a small touch of personalization to surveys by including the customer’s name at the very beginning can go a long way for engagement and completion rates.

How to avoid it:

  • Add personalization to your surveys by using merge fields to pass through certain information about your recipients, for example their first name.

  • You can then use this in your surveys as a greeting: “Hello, John!” or to confirm their CSAT score you can pass through their first name along with the score they selected for their support experience: “Thanks for your feedback John! We’ve recorded your score of 5 out of 5 stars!”

  • You can learn more about personalization in our help docs, along with different examples on how you can use it within your survey.

Survey Mistake #8: Too many required questions

It’s very natural for you to want your respondents to answer every question. But having too many required questions in your survey can often lead to abandonment.

While in some cases you might truly need to have a required question, keep them to an absolute minimum to make it easier for people to complete your survey. Wouldn’t you rather have most of the information from your survey, rather than none of it?

How to avoid it:

  • Think carefully about whether every question is absolutely necessary or just a ‘nice to have.’ If it’s a nice to have, don’t make it required.

  • If a question is absolutely necessary, remember to take precautions to make sure that you’ve included all possible answers that your recipients might want to select.

  • Consider an ‘Other’ option as a response. Especially if you’re using the multiple choice option, make sure to give people an option outside of the choices you’ve provided. This will allow people to opt out of the question or give them an avenue to provide an alternative answer.

Survey Mistake #9: Not offering an incentive

While it might sound cheesy, giving survey takers an incentive to complete your survey is a great way to boost response rates.

A common mistake that we see too often is companies sending out a survey to customers asking for their feedback without giving them something in return for their time.

This is an especially good idea when your survey runs on the longer side.

You’ll see improved response rates if you make sure to clearly state in your email and at the beginning of your survey that after completing your survey, they’ll receive something for their time.

How to avoid it:

  • Add a coupon code at the end of your survey that shows up once the survey has been submitted.

  • Let survey takers know that they’ll be entered to win a prize once the’ve completed the survey.

  • Give the first X people who complete the survey a gift card or promotion.

  • Making the incentive digital makes it a lot easier from a logistics standpoint to deliver the incentive on the backend.

There is one caveat here: the richer your incentive, the more likely you are to get lower quality responses.  People will see the offer and breeze through your survey carelessly to get the incentive. So be careful, and make sure that the incentive is inline with the preferences of your target audience, whenever possible.

Survey Mistake #10: Sending surveys with an unreliable email platform

How you send your survey is just as important as how you create it.

A big mistake you can make is using an unprofessional email platform to distribute your surveys.

Email providers that are unreliable, won’t help you make the right decisions to guarantee high deliverability.  They also won’t help you create professional, engaging, branded emails.

The email you use to deliver your survey is the prelude to the survey itself.  If it looks bad, or hits a spam filter, your users are very unlikely to continue engaging in an experience that starts off so poorly.

How to avoid it:

  • Read this article from Campaign Monitor to see 9 things hurting your deliverability.

  • Do your research when choosing an email service provider and contact them to see what type of guidance they can give you for the best open rates possible.

  • GetFeedback offers the ability to send your survey straight from the application, or you can use our parent company Campaign Monitor directly to send beautiful mobile friendly emails.


So remember, while online survey tools today make it easy to send great looking surveys, your goal is always to have people respond with useful information which you can take action on.  It is very common to make a simple mistake or two, and ruin your response rates or the quality of your data. Following this list should help you avoid most of the common mistakes, so you will see success from your survey program.

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