How to Create an Anonymous Survey (And Why You Should Do It)
It’s hard to be anonymous online. With most companies trying to collect personal information at every step, people are reluctant to share their data unless absolutely necessary.
Chances are, your customers feel the same.
Your respondents may also be reluctant to answer online surveys to avoid follow-up emails and targeted ads. Or, they might not answer honestly in case you wanted to tie their negative feedback to their names.
The solutions to these problems? Anonymous surveys.
Some customer surveys work perfectly well without additional information about the respondents. This article will help you decide if an anonymous survey is right for your use case. And it’ll tell you how to run one with Survicate.
Ready? Let’s go!
What is an anonymous survey?
An anonymous survey is a survey that allows the participants to keep their identities private. No Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is collected—such as demographics, email, IP address, device, submission date, or any other data that makes it possible to identify the respondent.
Anonymous survey vs. confidential survey
Unlike anonymous surveys, confidential surveys link the survey data to personal information. However, the data remains publicly unavailable and accessible only to chosen administrators.
What are the benefits of an anonymous survey?
If your respondents are confident their answers cannot be traced back to them, you can benefit in the following ways:
Avoid response bias
Anonymous surveys will let you minimize the risk of survey response bias. Your audience is more likely to give honest responses when they don’t try to impress anyone. Or when they don’t have to worry about being pursued by your customer success team after negative feedback.
What’s more, you and other teams in your company will also be able to objectively analyze survey results if you cannot recognize particular customers.
Get more honest feedback
Anonymity may grant your respondents the courage to share their honest insights and opinions.
It’s useful in case of sensitive topics. For example, people will be reluctant to share their medical history unless they’re certain their answers aren’t connected to their names.
The same goes for employee surveys, where the respondents may fear retaliation if they say something negative about their company.
Increase response rates
The studies about the influence of anonymity on the response rates are inconclusive.
However, there are some situations in which anonymity can boost response rates—for example, when you have no trusted customer base that knows what to expect from you.
If your new audience is sure you won’t pester them with ads or pass their data around once they take your survey, they will be more likely to answer.
What are the cons of anonymous surveys?
No way to follow up
With no information on the respondents, you won’t be able to follow up with people who give you negative feedback.
And if you don’t help them fix their problems or offer compensation, you won’t be able to change their minds or prevent negative word of mouth.
No context for survey responses
There’s no way to correlate anonymous survey responses with customer journey points.
For example, let’s say someone has complained about your customer service in their response to an open-ended question. If your survey is anonymous, you won’t find out which interaction led to this feedback. So, you cannot clarify the issue with the customer nor offer extra guidance to the customer support specialist at fault.
No opportunities for deeper data analysis
Non-anonymous online surveys let you compare your survey response with different data sets.
For example, the integrations available for your survey software might make it possible to send your survey responses to other tools that collect customer data. You can match feature requests or satisfaction levels with user behavior, see which customer journeys cause the most dissatisfaction, and more.
Anonymous surveys don’t allow you to reap these benefits.
When should a survey be anonymous?
So you read about the pros and cons, but you’re still unsure if an anonymous survey is right for your use case? Don’t worry—we have you covered.
At Survicate, we advise against running anonymous surveys in most cases.
Most online businesses will benefit from the opportunity to contextualize the answers and follow up with respondents. Gathering respondent information allows you to run better-targeted marketing campaigns, make smarter product decisions, and improve customer support.
Still, we recommend sending anonymous surveys in some instances. Let’s take a look at them.
When you don’t want to follow up with respondents
Sometimes, the main goal of your surveys is hard data and numbers, not qualitative feedback. Or, you know that the survey scope or timeframe won’t allow you to contact your respondents anyway.
It might happen in the case of:
- surveys that have huge sample sizes (such as academic surveys or big-scale customer satisfaction surveys)
- quick, one-off polls investigating a specific aspect of your business (such as pricing, new product feature, or recent marketing campaign)
- general surveys that don’t directly concern your business (e.g., content marketing surveys that collect insights for reports)
In these situations, you have nothing to lose by choosing anonymous surveys, and you might gain a few more responses.
Pricing survey template
When you’re a newly established business
For initial product or market research, anonymous surveys are fine, especially if you haven’t set any follow-up processes yet.
Moreover, new businesses usually don’t have strong relationships with their audiences yet. Anonymity might remove the respondents’ doubts about their data being handled the right way
Market research survey template
When the data you collect is very sensitive
Demographic surveys or surveys that concern the respondents’ health or intimate aspects of their lives are usually better left anonymous.
Demographic survey template
Anonymous survey best practices
Here are a few tips that will let you get the most out of your anonymous survey.
Assure your respondents that the survey is anonymous
Let your audience know their responses are anonymous in the survey introduction—otherwise, they’ll have no way of knowing you’re not collecting their data.
The more sensitive the survey, the more details you need to provide. Inform what personal information you collect (if any), who will handle it, how long it’ll be stored, and anything else you find necessary.
The best place to do it is inside your survey email or directly in the survey “welcome” screen, like so:
Survey a large sample
Imagine taking a survey you think is anonymous, only to realize that all the questions are clearly aimed at people from your specific location, industry, business size, and position. It doesn’t exactly sound like your answers can’t be traced back to you, does it?
If it’s clear from your survey design that you’re only interested in hearing from a small chunk of your audience, the respondents might still feel at risk of being identified.
Of course, some research types have obvious limitations (e.g., a customer satisfaction survey will only concern your existing customer base). However, you should always try to survey the broadest respondent group possible.
Additionally, remember that you won’t be able to contextualize survey data. So the only way to obtain quality data from an anonymous survey is to ensure your sample size is statistically significant.
Pick survey questions carefully
Even when you don’t collect any respondent data with a tracking code or third-party tools, your survey might still not be anonymous enough if you include too many demographic and personal questions.
Make sure the question combination doesn’t create a respondent profile that becomes revealing.
Disable data collecting settings of your survey software
Most online survey tools come with features that allow you to recognize the respondents’ attributes. If you use survey software with which you’ve collected customer data before, make sure to change your settings and processes when launching an anonymous survey.
If you run your surveys with Survicate, pay attention to:
- Code that collects visitor attributes on your site
If you have installed the piece of code that lets you pass visitor attributes to Survicate, your website surveys will not be anonymous. You need to remove the code first. However, remember that all users who have answered any of your non-anonymous website surveys may still be identified. Clearing cache or local storage will help.
- Code to assign attributes to respondents in your mobile app
Just like in the case of website surveys, you need to remove the code if you installed it to run anonymous surveys.
- Your link survey URL
All link surveys are anonymous by default unless you manually choose a tool you want to identify respondents with or use merge tags.
- Connected integrations
Check your survey distribution channel
If you send your surveys with a CRM or a messenger such as Intercom, you might still receive information on survey participants—for example, who clicked the link to your survey and when. Make sure your distribution settings guarantee anonymity before you proceed.
How to create anonymous survey with Survicate?
All Survicate surveys are anonymous by default. You're all set as long as you don’t take extra steps to collect your respondents.
Now—to ensure your surveys are fully anonymous—let’s see how to launch them correctly.
How to send an anonymous link survey
- Create your survey. If you haven’t designed surveys with Survicate before, don’t worry—it’s very easy. The survey creator is intuitive, easy, and code-free. You can also choose from one of our ready-to-go survey templates.
- In the “Configure” tab, make sure to leave the “Identify respondents with” field empty.
- Connect your survey to a third-party tool of your choice—remember that most distribution tools won’t work with anonymous surveys.
- Copy the automatically generated survey link.
- And you’re done! You can distribute your survey via email, chatbot, or wherever you want.
How to send an anonymous website survey
As previously mentioned, if you’ve run a non-anonymous website survey with Survicate before, be careful.
Any respondent that has already been identified in one of your previous surveys might be identified in your new survey as well.
You also need to remove the attribute-collecting piece of code from your page. However, this means all the other surveys launched on your website will also stop collecting identities.
If you’re ready for it—or if you’re brand new to Survicate—here’s what you have to do:
- Install the basic Survicate tracking code on your website.
- Create your survey.
- Set up the survey targeting. You can choose from all the available triggers.
You can choose audience triggers, too—but due to the anonymous surveys’ limitations, “attributes” and “logged in status” filters will be unavailable.
- Connect with a third-party tool if you want. Just remember—sending your survey results to any user behavior tracking software will break the anonymity.
- Launch your survey, and you’re good to go!
How to run an anonymous mobile app survey?
To identify app users, you need to add a code that will let you pass user traits from your app to Survicate. As long as you don’t do it, all mobile surveys are anonymous!
If you already have the piece of code installed, you need to remove it. Just like with website surveys, all the respondents who have already taken one of your non-anonymous mobile surveys may still be identified. Clearing the app cache will help.
Proceed with setting up your mobile app surveys as you normally do. You can choose survey triggers, but you won’t be able to target certain respondent groups.
Anonymous surveys are a great way to obtain honest feedback, avoid bias, and win the trust of your customers.
If you don’t have an established user base or collect sensitive data, anonymous surveys might increase your response rates. They are also a good choice when you have a huge sample size or don't need to follow up with your respondents.
With Survicate, running anonymous surveys is a piece of cake. We guarantee full data security, so you and your respondents can have peace of mind.