Affordable Research, Accurate Results.

“According to a Public Policy Polling survey, most Americans find lice and colonoscopies more appealing than Capitol Hill.” – Ron Fournier, American Journalist, 1963.

Let’s face it, if you have a question (or two) that needs answering or are urgently needing an opinion on some or other matter, there’s no shortage of online survey platforms to choose from today that are more than happy to draw on the views of the web’s billions of daily inhabitants on your behalf.

But which one should you go for? Where do you start? With the hope of at least putting you on track with answering these questions, I’ve compiled a two part review, focusing on the pros and cons of one of these survey tools – Google Consumer Surveys (GCS) – developed by the biggest player in advertising, online search, and ecommerce in the world right now. In part two, I provide a run-down of ways to get even more value out of the raw data received from GCS using the InsightVX visual data analysis platform and put the polling accuracy claims of GCS’s data to the test.

Released in March 2012, GCS provides content publishers with a “soft wall” to accessing content on their sites, enabling their site users to complete mini surveys that reveal premium content, instead of having to begrudgingly pull out their credit cards and sign up for a paid subscription. The $0.05 paid by Google to publishers per survey submission means that this service provides a big win-win for both parties, as the revenue on a high traffic site can rack up impressively quickly – some sites claim an average CPM of $19 (or R214, 11/2014)(Source: Forbes), while users get access to premium content in exchange for minimal effort. As far as obligatory name dropping goes, notable publishers using the service currently include AdWeek, Pandora, and the New York Daily News.

Below is an example of a typical question where a user is asked to give his or her opinion on a specific topic:

So…pretty straight forward and unlikely to cause much in the way of mental fatigue.

Answering and submitting the questionnaire reveals a few lines, paragraphs or a page of content that was previously grayed out, depending on how the publisher has tweaked the settings of GCS on their site. As far as these settings go, ultimately, for publishers a balance has to be found between raking in the cash and keeping irritation levels below a point where users will a) Stop viewing the particular content and b) Be put off from reading content on their site ever again. The formula for success for those wanting to make money from the service is simple – tiny chunks of Google’s money x big reader volumes = substantial earnings, so the key is obviously trial and error and perhaps a bit of modelling to find a set up in terms of advertising frequency that delivers maximum results for the particular website.

The final, most important piece of this survey ecosystem is inevitably the guy with the question to ask. The guy who ultimately wants to know: “Which colour of dog toy appeals to you (or your dog) more?” For marketers, business owners, researchers and the like, GCS sums up their offering with the following blurb:

“Imagine surveying the web with a tool so precise it could predict the 2012 presidential election. With Google Consumer Surveys, you choose your target audience, type your question and watch the results roll in within hours. Get complete results in days; not weeks. It’s easy, affordable and better yet — it’s accurate.”

Imagine indeed. In addition to these inspiring claims, GCS also offers users of their service the ability to run customer satisfaction surveys with their burning questions on their own website free of charge – including results, summarised .xls reports and visual analysis, as enjoyed by premium users.
For those wishing to survey the web, at the time of writing this, pricing ranges from $0.10 per complete for one question, to $3.50 per complete for a 10-question survey. Custom surveys are also available, starting at $2000, but with the added bonus of being able to target respondents with a specific zip code – a conceivably highly valuable feature for organisations needing a drilled down perspective.

Once your survey has been created, your questions asked, and once the internet has had sufficient time to mull over the issues most bothering you – as little as 24 hours according to GCS – those sweet, sweet results will start pouring in. Now you can finally get the answers you’ve been waiting for, but as with all survey data, the truth requires work. To aid you in your quest for the truth, GCS provides you with a couple of distinct options as far as data analysis is concerned: take your raw data and leave; or use GCS’s online visual data analysis tool.

See the video here:

Being a touch biased towards more robust, offline analysis tools, I nevertheless gave GCS’s visual analysis a shot. At first glance, it works rather nicely – simple tick box operated cross-tabulation, the ability to export (to Excel) and share results, a summary of what GCS considers to be your top survey insights, instant graphing and some basic statistics. At second glance, accompanied with the desire for deeper insights, the online platform starts to fall short – actually stops dead would be a better description (consistent with most online data analysis platforms). But this is actually ok – as a small business owner or individual concerned with customer satisfaction or the results of a poll, your needs are adequately met. Neat, visual results, logically laid out on the page, that give you a better understanding of an
issue than you had before, and some slides emailed to you that you can use to impress your boss. Great.

However, in the next installment (coming soon), I test the accuracy of the survey data presented by GCS to see if it lives up to the claims, and also draw attention to how, as a researcher, marketer, or member of an insight division, you can reject the limited capabilities of online data analysis platforms, take your analysis offline, and give your GCS survey data the shot it the arm needs to deliver truly actionable insights.

Written by: Rob Anderson