Login to eSurveysPro.com

Online Survey Software


Optimizing On-line Response Rates

Learn how to get more responses for your online survey

We are frequently asked "What response rate can I expect from online surveys?" The question itself is so general that it can't be answered without referencing a specific survey, a specific audience, the method used to notify people of the survey, or the type of information requested. This article will provide you with guidance on what you can do to optimize response rates for your surveys.

Make the Survey Easy to Use

It is easy to create a simple survey that answers a few questions, just as it is easy to create a complex survey that answers many. The challenge is to create a short, simple survey that answers many questions.

Your questions need to be easy to understand, clearly worded and grammatically correct. They should not be ambiguous or contain double negatives. Keep the wording of your questions as short as possible, avoiding flowery statements and long descriptions whenever possible. Since we are talking about web based surveys you can always include hyperlinks within your survey that point to more detailed descriptions that are contained in another location.

Choose a font and background color that makes your survey easy to read. While eSurveysPro makes it easy to create extremely colorful surveys with elaborate backgrounds and a large combination of fonts, the best surveys usually have white backgrounds, sans serif fonts (Verdana is a great choice) and simple black text. You want your respondents to focus on the content of your survey, not some small graphics and odd looking fonts that may be attracting their attention.

Provide Motivation

What will it take to motivate people to take your survey? Depending on the type of survey there are several different forms of motivation.

  • Material Goods. This works great when trying to get feedback from someone you do not know well or does not have a vested interest in the information you are gathering. Material goods can be in the form of a chance to win something like a Palm Pilot or other high tech gear, a free T-Shirt or coffee mug, etc. Obviously the material reward you provide should be of value to your respondents if your goal is to get them to take your survey.

  • Information. Sometimes the only reason a person needs to take your survey is the promise that they will be able to get access to the results of the survey itself. This is a good motivation method if you are surveying a group or trade association where getting information on how others answered the survey has value to the respondents.

  • Responsibility. When you are conducting surveys of employees the simple act of requiring people to take the survey may be all the motivation you need, though if the survey will cover sensitive information it may be important for you to ensure the respondent's anonymity. Another type of responsibility motivation is to stress to your potential respondents how important the information they provide will be; this is often used with non-profit organizations that provide a service that the respondents support.

It is important to remember that every survey requires some form of motivation for the respondents and that each of those forms of motivation must be tailored directly to your audience.

Leverage the Relationship

The relationship you or your organization has with your potential respondents will dramatically influence the response rate you achieve. People tend to get more involved with something they feel strongly about, either positively or negatively, or a person or group they have a relationship with.

Indifference kills response rates. When a person receives a generic request from some unknown entity to take a survey they are far less likely to participate than someone that receives a highly personalized invitation that demonstrates a relationship with the requester.

A good message contains specific information on the customer and looks like it was sent directly from the customer service agent. While the customer doesn't know who John Smith is, Smith clearly knows something about the customer and by demonstrating that reinforces that there is indeed a relationship.

Choose the Right Notification Method

There are several notification methods that you can use to get people to take your survey: E-mail, web site links, pop-up surveys and embedded surveys.

  • E-mail Notifications. These work great when you have a well defined audience. While it is possible to purchase lists or enlist the aid of a panel, communicating to existing customers, members, etc. through e-mail is extremely cost effective.

    By properly constructing your e-mail notifications (see above), this method can provide you with the highest possible response rates.

  • Web Site Links. If you are looking to obtain general feedback from web site visitors you can place a link on your site that pulls up a survey. Simply placing a link on a page does not ensure that people will click on it. To increase the likelihood that a survey link will be clicked you should make the link prominent and position it next to a relevant section on the web page.

  • Pop-up Surveys. One way to get a person's attention is to use a pop-up window and present your survey request in that. This method has fallen out of favor recently because a number of sites use this same method for advertising. To use this method effectively you should have a very small pop-up window that has minimal text in it, essentially containing a click link to your survey. It should be triggered by an event that is appropriate for the survey you are requesting people to take.

  • Embedded Surveys. You can dramatically increase some response rates simply by embedding the survey into HTML content. This works extremely well for content related evaluations where the reader is asked at the end of an article or story to rate the effectiveness or appropriateness of what they just read.

Not all of these methods should be used for all surveys - choosing the right mix of notification methods can have a rather large impact on response rates.


Increasing the response rates for your survey is always a good idea, however there is one caveat that must be observed. Every method you use to attract people to your survey introduces a form of bias that affects the quality of information you collect. If you use e-mail notifications for your survey you will have introduced a bias on e-mail usage that would nullify asking questions like "Do you use e-mail regularly?" The bias introduced into a survey should always be taken into account when determining the validity of your data.

Survey Templates

Customer satisfaction surveys

Take a look at our survey samples related to customer satisfaction. 5 templates are available right now.

Human resources surveys

Take a look at our survey samples related to human resources. 5 templates are available right now.

Marketing research surveys

Take a look at our survey samples related to marketing research. 2 templates are available right now.

Services evaluation surveys

Take a look at our survey samples related to services evaluation. 2 templates are available right now.

Academic questionnaire templates

Take a look at our academic questionnaire samples. We have 2 templates available right now.

Tips & tricks

Steps in preparing an online questionnaire

Learn how you can prepare your online questionnaire. How to conduct an online survey.

10 Easy Ways To Increase Response Rates

It's never easy to have people answering your survey. Check out this article about how to increase your response rates.

Survey Design - Writing Great Questions for Online Surveys

The design of your questionnaire is very important. This is a guide that will point out the common problems.

Measuring Customer Loyalty and Customer Satisfaction

Are you interested in what your customers think about your products? Create a survey and study that.

Most Effective Ways To Invite Survey Participants

See which are the most effective ways to invite people to answer your surveys.