As an extension of our recent discussion of online panels for survey research, we take a look at another useful survey resource. In this case, it is the Google Surveys option found within the Google Analytics Solution. This service enables marketers to obtain data by presenting survey questions to online users as they access certain content found on websites affiliated with Google’s AdSense product. For example, a magazine website may initially block access to an article by presenting a research question. When exposed to this “survey wall” users can then choose whether to answer the question before they are given access to the content. (For websites erecting the survey wall, they benefit by receiving payment for each completed response.)
For marketers seeking respondent information, the cost for using the service is relatively low (as low as 10 cents per response). However, the real benefit with this tool is the access it offers to a large number of respondents in a relatively short period of time. The key to getting strong response rates appears to be with the incentive offered to the participants, namely access to online content. According to Google, the presentation of a survey question to gain access to wanted content results in significantly higher response rates than can be achieved with other methods.
While Google Surveys offers significant advantages for conducting online research, calling this a survey tool may be a stretch, at least from a marketing perspective. It is probably better described as a polling tool. Google Surveys are not intended to serve as an in-depth questionnaire. Instead, this tool is designed to ask online users only one or two specific questions (though up to 10 questions are permitted). The ramifications for this are important to understand. Marketers cannot use this tool for multi-item questions and have very limited ability to follow up a respondent’s comments. Consequently, it will not work if a marketer is seeking to gain deep insight into customers’ feelings or behavior. (It should be noted, Google does offer another option for this within its Google Docs, where multi-item questionnaires can be completed. However, unlike Google Surveys, the marketer will have to recruit their own respondents when using the Google Docs questionnaire.)
But, the fact it is not a full-blown survey instrument does not mean it is not useful. Marketers can find this to be a tool that will help prepare for a more in-depth survey. For instance, a marketer may not be entirely sure who consumers believe are the marketer’s key competitors. The marketer can use the Google Surveys to help identify the competition and then included these within questions appearing in a more detailed survey.
In terms of its scientific value as a research tool, Google suggests the results obtained from this survey approach are on par, if not better, than what is achieved with more expensive and time-consuming online survey methods. They also suggest this tool will “approximate” random sampling, which is an important requirement for conducting reliable and valid research.
Despite its limitations in not being a full-fledged survey tool, Google Surveys appears to be a nice addition for conducting marketing research and is something marketers of all types should investigate.
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