Creating online surveys is one of the quickest and most reliable ways for content marketers to collect feedback from their audiences. What should you look for when you’re choosing software to create, distribute, and analyze your surveys? Start with these nine features.

1.  Import/Upload Capabilities

There’s a multi-step process to creating any survey which usually starts with question creation. More than likely your questions were written beforehand, reviewed by multiple people on the company ladder, and edited to perfection. Look for software that lets you upload the survey from a Word Doc or Spreadsheet. This will save you – or your intern – considerable time when you don’t have to copy and paste questions into the templates.

2. Branding

Some software lets users brand their surveys for free, but others require a paid account. Keep an eye on whether customization is paid or free when looking for the best tool. You want to be able to add your company’s logo and color scheme to keep the questionnaire on-brand. You wouldn’t send out a press release without your company’s logo, so why are you sending out the survey?

Screen shot 2013-07-26 at 7.46.46 AM3. Piping

Depending on the length or nature of your survey, look into piping to break up the questions. Piping gives surveys the look and feel of a flow chart from behind the scenes, but makes answering questions easier for whoever is taking them. For example, if Question A asks, “Have you ever traveled outside of the United States?” answering “no” will move users to the next topic while answering “yes” will bring users to Question B, “How many countries have you visited?” Piping saves people time from having to answer questions that don’t apply to them and helps you when it comes to analytics.

shutterstock_1177680944. A/B Testing

A/B testing helps you see which questions work. As respondents click through, they will either take survey one or survey two. For example, a customer satisfaction survey with A/B testing might provide completely different results if they ask one set to “rate customer service on a scale of one to ten” and ask a second set to “rate whether they agree or disagree that customer service was fantastic.” One question is more leading.

If the survey is going to be used for a long period of time, consider updating it every few months by writing new questions and using A/B testing. Surveys are meant to get the data you need, not necessarily the answers you want.

5. Question Randomization

Randomization is different from A/B testing because all readers get the same survey, but the questions are in a different order.

Both randomization and A/B testing are meant to cut back on bias. With question randomization you can choose which questions are presented at random and which stay in the same order. This keeps the data accurate and avoids leading questions. For example, the questions “Do you like Christmas? Do you like presents? Do you like snow?” can paint a picture of fluffy snowflakes and Christmas carols, while asking “Do you like snow?” first can make users think of cold mornings and shoveling the driveway. The true accuracy of snow’s popularity is measured through randomization.


6. Export/Import Data

Many survey platforms offer analytics, but you will also want to export your data into spreadsheets to manipulate it yourself. The software might provide an answer to question A, but unless it’s paired with the answer to question B it’s meaningless.

Also, if you’re looking for software to use in the long run, finding one that allows you to import previous data will make comparing trends over time easier. For example, if you are taking a 2013 survey and want to compare the results from 2012, importing data will make comparing and contrasting easier. Another example would be using the same survey but changing platforms, you will want to keep following the same set of data.

7. APIs

Readers are looking for any reason to bounce and abandon your page, and the fact that they need to click through to another site to take the survey is a common one. Look for software that will keep readers on your page and make your life easier. It should let you send out emails, collect data, and create reports without having to leave your WordPress account.

8. Custom Redirect

Thank-you messages are common upon completion of surveys, but after that users are left to flounder away from the site and visit other parts of the Internet. With a custom redirect, you can bring survey participants back to your homepage to keep them on your site longer, or even create a micro-site with exclusive content that rewards people for taking the survey.

The redirect keeps readers interacting with your content instead of bouncing to other sites. Plus, if you’re targeting new audiences with your survey, this is a chance to introduce them to everything your brand has to offer and build your traffic.

shutterstock_825158119. Multi-User Access

If your entire team is developing the survey, or multiple levels of management need to review it, look for a software that lets the whole team collaborate on a project. The worst case scenario is that one person signs-in before another can hit the save button, and the whole survey is lost.

Some survey websites not only let multiple people collaborate on projects, they also give them different access levels – like Google Docs and Smartsheets. You can assign one person to be the owner and editor, but give access to multiple other people as users to review and track the results. This keeps too many cooks from entering the kitchen.

These nine features can be broken down into three categories: tools to make creation and collaboration easier, tools to maintain the quality of your results, and tools to help your brand. Know what you’re looking for when choosing a survey software, and you’ll be gathering effective data before you know it.