How to Compare Website Survey Software
With so many options available, it can be a daunting task to compare website survey software. Features, delivery types, costs and more all change from one company to another.
We wanted to dive a little bit into how to compare all of these options, and help you to decide which one will work best for you and your business.
First, what is a website survey?
A website survey is a way to collect feedback, opinions or other information from people on the internet. Website surveys come in a lot of different flavors, and there are hundreds of ways of conducting website surveys.
The audience for your survey can also vary a lot – from surveying your website traffic, your email list, or even asking the internet as a whole or by demographic segments.
In this article we’ll be exploring a few of the popular ways to conduct website surveys, and the ways that you can compare and decide on what tools to use when running a survey of your own.
Let’s get started.
What types of website surveys exist?
Here are some of the more popular surveys that can be conducted online.
Long form surveys
A long form survey is probably what you think about when you hear the word survey. This type of survey is usually a list of questions on a single or multiple pages, and they will usually consist of at least 10-15 questions.
These types of surveys are used to collect a lot of information from each recipient, and are often the types of surveys used for market research, marketing research, focus group testing etc.
The advantage of this type of survey is that you can get a very detailed picture of the opinions or feedback from a respondent. The nature of the long form survey allows you to delve deep into whatever topic you are running your survey around.
One of the main disadvantages however, is attention span. Because long form surveys take longer to conduct, you need to have the full attention of each respondent. Often you will need to provide incentives for someone to fill out the entire survey, which can taint the end results of your survey.
In addition, conducting a long form survey online can be even more difficult. Online attention spans are very short, and this can lower the quality of the data that you get from your survey.
In general, long form surveys are not appropriate to run on your website unless you have a very strong relationship with your group of respondents, or you have a very good incentive to give.
Short surveys (micro surveys)
Short or micro surveys are almost a hybrid between long form surveys and polls. This is the type of survey that you can build using MARE.io, and they are incredibly useful and flexible for collecting survey data.
Short surveys are generally 10 questions or less, and can achieve much higher response rates than long form surveys because they are easy to fill out, and take a very short time to complete.
Short surveys can be deployed in a number of ways, which makes finding respondents much easier.
For example, to convince visitors to fill out a multi-page long form survey can be difficult. Often, you would send a long form survey to your newsletter list, or other users who you have a relationship with.
However, short surveys can be deployed directly on your site (as a pop-up), allowing you to survey all traffic to your site.
This makes short surveys especially good for the following:
- Segmenting your traffic into demographic groups
- Building a profile of users who have joined your newsletter
- Finding opportunities to optimize your website
- Generating leads that are segmented with additional survey data points
A website poll is usually a short multiple-choice survey that contains only one or a few short questions.
Polls are generally used to measure opinion, and often times the results are displayed to the visitor after the poll has been answered.
Polls are another great way to use MARE.io to collect information from your site visitors.
Great ways to use polls on your website:
- Get opinion information for an infographic or other piece of content on your site
- Get ideas for new content to post on your site
- Get information about your audience’s frustrations so that you can build products to address these frustrations
Ways of delivering your website surveys
For each of the above website survey types, there are a number of ways to deliver the questions. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, but finding the right delivery method can give you higher quality and many more responses.
Full screen website surveys
Full screen surveys are just the way they sound. These surveys will take up the entire screen, and are often the way that a long form survey is delivered.
One of the advantages of this type of delivery is that you have the entire attention of the respondent who is answering the survey.
One of the disadvantages however is that you first have to get your respondents to the survey.
This means sending an email or displaying banner ads on your site. With each step in your survey funnel, you will lose respondents as they get distracted or move on to other things.
Depending on your audience size, this can make it difficult to get enough responses to make your survey worth it.
Embedded website surveys
Similar to a pop-up survey (discussed below), an embedded website survey will integrate the survey directly into your site, much like a banner ad.
This type of survey delivery can reach all of your website visitors, but because these widgets are static, it is very easy for a visitor to scroll past your survey and never answer it.
Pop over surveys
Pop over surveys take over the user’s screen and displays a full page survey.
This type of delivery can capture a lot of your website visitors, but unfortunately they can also be very obtrusive, and lead to a high bounce rate and a bad user experience on your site.
This type of delivery can also cause respondents to enter bad survey data just to get rid of the survey, which can lead to false positives in your results.
Use with caution.
Pop up surveys
Pop up surveys are one of the most effective ways to deliver a survey on your website.
Pop up surveys will pop up at the bottom of a visitor’s screen based on their behavior (how far they’ve scrolled, how long they’ve been on the site, what page they’re on etc.) and they will follow the visitor as they continue to interact with your site.
The reason they are so effective, is because they don’t force the user to take an action. The user can choose to answer the survey or not, but the survey does not take away their ability to continue reading your content, or using your site.
Pop up surveys also come with contextual data. This means that with every response that you get from your survey, you also get to see what type of content they were reading on your site.
For example, two respondents who answer your survey from your blog or your shopping cart page are having very different experiences on your site. This information will give you greater insight into the reason why users respond the way they do.
Gated surveys are popular to push visitors into answering your website surveys. A gated survey will display in front of popular content, and not allow the visitor to access the content without first answering the survey.
Gated surveys on popular content will get a lot of responses, but the main drawback with gated surveys is that many of those responses will be bad data.
Users might answer all “A” for example in a multiple choice survey just to get rid of the survey and to access the content.
Another issue is that it is difficult to accurately determine if a respondent was answering with fake answers, or if they were actually giving their opinion.
We don’t recommend using gated surveys for most applications, but they can be useful for premium content.
Exit surveys are a last effort to capture survey data from your visitors before they exit your website.
Essentially, when a user makes an action that looks like they’re about to leave your website, the survey will display (often a pop-over survey).
Exit surveys are a great way to get additional responses to your survey, and also to try to generate additional leads or newsletter subscribers before visitors leave.
The advantage of using pop-over surveys only as an exit survey is that you do not negatively affect the usability of your site.
What types of survey software is available?
There are various ways to access and to pay for survey software. Below are the most common.
Free survey software
There is a lot of free survey software out there of varying quality. Often, many of the important features are not available unless you pay for the software.
MARE has an ‘always free’ option that lets you deploy website surveys anywhere on your site, and many of the features you have to pay for with other survey software are available for free.
One-time payment survey software
Generally this type of survey software is downloadable. Often this type of survey software will be for a mobile device so that you can conduct surveys in person at trade shows, conferences or other public spaces.
Usually you need to pay additional fees for upgrades as they come available.
Subscription survey software
Many website survey software companies charge on a subscription basis (including MARE for premium features). This means that you will pay monthly, quarterly or yearly for the software.
Subscription software is popular because you don’t ever need to worry about paying for support, or buying additional upgrades. The subscription fees are usually far less than the one-time payments of downloadable survey software.
Market panel surveys
Market panel surveys are effective when you want to access respondents in a particular demographic, but you do not have access to the respondents yourself.
For example, with a market panel survey you could survey Women in California that are married with no children.
Generally these surveys are paid for by the respondent, or by the campaign (pre-set number of responses).
What you should look for when comparing survey software
What question are you trying to answer?
This is the most important factor when comparing survey software. Make sure you have a clear question that you are trying to answer before starting your survey campaign.
If you’re new to running website surveys, you may want to start by answering basic question like why visitors bounce off of your checkout page, or what type of job titles your users have.
Later on you can get more advanced and start to segment your visitors and users by referral sources, user preferences or how long they’ve been a customer.
Here are some other common places to start:
- Are you looking to improve your website?
- Are you looking for product or content ideas?
- Do you want to generate leads?
- Are you looking to collect market research data for optimizing your marketing or ads?
Have a clear picture in your mind of what you want to accomplish before you decide to purchase any type of survey software.
Who will see the surveys?
Who do you want to respond to your survey?
Do you already have a list of respondents?
Do you want to collect information from your website visitors directly?
Each of these questions factors into which type of survey software will work for you.
If you want to collect survey responses directly from your website, MARE is probably the way to go (but we’re biased :)).
Is context important?
We think that context is ALWAYS important, but you need to decide whether it will be valuable for you to know what a user was reading, doing or thinking while they were taking your survey.
If it is, then a pop-up or pop-over survey software is going to be your best bet.
If not, you still might want to consider collecting this information, because it may factor into your marketing decisions down the road – it’s always better to have MORE data!
What features are integrated into survey software?
In addition to the above ways to deliver and display your website surveys, various types of survey software can also offer some or all of the following features.
Piping is a feature that allows you to change survey questions based off of previous survey answers.
For example, if your first question asks a visitor to rate the blog post they were reading out of 5, and they rate it a 4, then your next question could be:
“Why did you rate this blog post a 4 out of 5?”
Piping is useful in a lot of ways to customize your survey questions and to keep respondents engaged. It also reminds respondents of the context of the question.
Skip logic or branching
Skip logic or branching lets you change the order of your survey questions based on the responses provided by a user.
For example, if your first question is a multiple choice question asking
Comparison reporting is important for understanding the data that you collect with your surveys. Here’s how it works:
Cross survey analysis
Cross survey analysis allows you to see survey responses based on answers from other surveys.
Size, type, look and feel
Being able to customize the look and feel of your surveys is important for getting a high response rate. If your survey looks like your brand, then you will build more trust with your visitors, and they will be more likely to respond to your survey.
Mobile responsive surveys
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you know that mobile is huge. More and more visitors hit your site via mobile devices every year, and there’s no reason to not capture their attention.
This is why making sure your survey software is compatible with mobile devices is really important. MARE surveys are responsive, and work on all shapes and sizes of devices. Plus, you can segment your responses by whether the visitor was using a mobile or desktop device.
Speaking of segmentation, being able to dive deep into your data is important.
Many types of survey software (such as Google Forms) won’t let you do this kind of segmentation – unless you export your data to another program.
However, if you really want to have a successful survey campaign, and learn key insights about your audience, then you need to be able to segment your data.
Here are a few data points you should be able to segment by:
- Geographic location
- Device (see above)
- By respondent’s answers
- By the page where a respondent filled out your survey
- What source or referrer the visitor found your site from
- If a visitor performed a conversion action or not
These segments are important because you will find that different groups may answer your survey very differently.
If you find that the user experience of your site is significantly lower on mobile devices for instance, then you know where to focus your attention for improvement.
It can be very valuable to target visitors by each of the same segments mentioned above.
Let’s say in the last example that you ran a survey and discovered that mobile users had a lower rating (or NPS) score of your site than desktop users.
You have your web team perform some upgrades to your site, and you now want to test the updated site against your previous benchmark, yet you don’t want to have to survey all users over again.
You can do this by targeting only the mobile users in your follow up survey. This ensures that you don’t survey too many users, but still allows you to test your new website updates against your old data.
When a visitor is answering your survey, you have captured their attention. They are actively engaged with your site.
Taking advantage of this engagement can lead to a big boost in leads or conversions on your site.
Many types of survey software will allow you to collect lead data with your surveys (including MARE) and it can be an incredibly powerful feature.
There’s definitely a lot to consider when comparing survey software. There are definitely some other features available that aren’t listed here, but we’ve tried to give you an overview of the most valuable options.
Of course, if you’re looking to get started quickly, you can setup a new MARE account and deploy your first survey in just a few minutes.
MARE offers a lot of the powerful lead generation, segmenting, reporting and targeting features we’ve discussed, so no matter what kind of survey campaign you want to run, you can probably run it with MARE.
If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a comment in the form below.