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Eli Schwartz

How to Use Surveys to Build Links

Eli Schwartz

Anyone who has ever dabbled in any link building efforts is keenly aware that the easiest way to generate links organically is to publish unique and interesting content that others want to share with their readers. Yet, many site owners and bloggers are at a loss for an inexpensive method of creating truly interesting data. They don't have the ability to break news on their own or spend vast sums of money to conduct research.

If this is an issue you’re facing in your link building efforts, a skillfully designed and promoted survey could be your answer. You could easily build a tool with an online tool like the leading survey website, and get started in minutes.

While the primary goal of a survey would be to collect unique data for the purposes of creating a linkable asset such as a data-rich blog post or infographic, there are a number of other business advantages. Surveys allow you to generate feedback from your audience and engage with the very people you are trying to sell or obtain links from. Additionally, a successful survey would guide you in tailoring content offerings to your existing audience and thereby increase the likelihood of getting a link. In the process you may also get some fantastic customer quotes to use in your marketing materials.

Here are the steps you need to get started.

Survey Goals

The first step is to decide your survey goal. What do you hope to accomplish with your survey? Your ideal end result should define the questions you need to ask and the amount of effort you will need to expend in promoting it put into creating it. Would you want to just get links to your site even if they aren’t relevant to your niche?

For this type of content you can run a survey about the latest news event. As an example, ask respondents who they plan to vote for in an upcoming election, or if they approve of recent technology updates on a popular product. Are you looking to better understand your own target market and audience? You’ll need to ask more specific questions that are pertinent to your business.

Armed with your survey goal, you’re ready to start brainstorming questions. If your goal is to better understand your audience, then ask how they use your website, why they choose your products, and what they think of your competitors. Develop specific questions and consider using rich media, like images and video.

Discover how they arrive at your site — by way of search engine or social media? If they use a search engine, is it Google or Bing? Open-ended questions can also be a great source of rich information, but keep in mind that analyzing your data can feel overwhelming if you end up receiving a ton of responses.

If one of your survey goals is to engage influencers, reach out to them directly for their input. Invite them to co-brand the publication of the results if they help you with creating the survey. You can also find great ideas on social media by asking your fans and followers to share the kinds of things they would like to know more about. Are they curious about your company name? Your employees? The source of your products? If you’re really stuck on ideas of questions to ask, build on existing research by probing into specific areas of interest to you. For example, Google vs. Bing is always a hot topic. Research topics to revisit, and look for different angles to dig even deeper within previously published analyses.

Once your survey is complete, it’s time to launch it.

Survey Launch

If you have a mailing list, ask recipients to complete the survey in your next email blast. Promote the survey on all of your social channels, and ask your fans to spread the link. Reach out to your influencers and ask them to share. If you are interested in targeted demographics or you require more respondents than you might be able to get on your own, you can use SurveyMonkey Audience.

Set a deadline for when your survey should close and start to analyze your survey responses once the deadline is up. One of the ways to dig even deeper into your data is with the cross tab feature. People who answered X, did they also say Y? Are women more likely than men to answer Z? As an added bonus to the data you’re collecting for link purposes, if you asked questions related to your business, you can then identify any pain points that your target audience might have with your product or website.

Now that you’re finished analyzing your data, you’re ready to develop your data into a linkable asset. Every survey you complete actually gives you multiple opportunities for building an asset that can attract links and publicity.

Follow These Five Steps:

1)       Publish the results into an engaging and embeddable infographic.

2)       Write a blog post that summarizes the survey results.

3)       Release a summary of the results data in a PowerPoint or PDF that you can share on Slideshare.

4)      Create a YouTube video that explains the survey and the results.

5)      Release the raw survey results in another blog post that encourages people to download and conduct their own analysis with the data.

While inevitably some sites will link to the Slideshare or YouTube links instead of your site, you will at least get brand mentions that could lead to links later on.

It’s probably most beneficial to release each asset one at a time instead of all at once, so each publication can be a new attempt at generating links and exposure. Utilize press releases and social media to spread the word about your survey. If you had the assistance of influencers in the creation of the survey, reach back out to these same influencers to see if they will link to your results on their own sites. You can increase the likelihood of a link from them if you share attribution with the influencers in the publication of the results.

If you’ve been successful at generating organic pickup of your survey results, you may find there have been sites that scraped or quoted your data without giving you attribution. Set up an alert that searches for keywords within your survey, and immediately reach out to any sites that neglected to link to you appropriately.

Survey Conclusions

It’s important that once this process is complete you debrief and figure out what was successful and what can be improved upon. Could your initial research, pre-survey, have been a little bit better? Or were your questions clear with no ambiguity in the data? Use your conclusions to plan your next attempt and make it even better.

Happy surveying!

Author bio:

Eli Schwartz is the in-house SEO at SurveyMonkey. He’s responsible for maintaining organic search best practices on SurveyMonkey properties across 16 international languages.

Eli Schwartz is the in-house SEO at SurveyMonkey. He’s responsible for maintaining organic search best practices on SurveyMonkey properties across 16 international languages.

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