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3 tips for building an anonymous survey, and how to decide when to use it

3 tips for building an anonymous survey, and how to decide when to use it

It’s often unnecessary to know who’s responding to your survey. Many issues—big or small—can be effectively tackled by acting on just the responses themselves.

That’s why we recommend you default to using an anonymous survey—a survey that keeps respondents’ identities private even after they answer all of its questions.

You’ll be rewarded with more candid responses that can help you make better decisions. And you can still slice and dice your data by respondents’ age, gender, product/service they use, etc.

How to build an anonymous survey 

Bought into creating an anonymous survey? Here’s how to build one in SurveyMonkey:

1. Look at each survey collector you’re using.

You’ll need to turn on anonymous responses for each collector (or way to send your survey) you use. Learn how in our help center article.

2. Don’t use identifiable custom data or Custom Variables.

Try to stay away from using custom data or Custom Variables that are inherently personal, like the respondent’s home address.

Note: Custom Variables use the survey link to pass one or more values for each respondent into your results; while custom data allows you to store additional information about each respondent in Contacts (which can then potentially be viewed in your results).

3. Review the questions you’re asking—both at an individual and at a holistic level.

It’s clear that questions like, “What’s your name?” directly tell you who the respondent is, but so can other questions when you look at the survey as a whole.

For example, if you ask a respondent what their job title is and what organization they work for, you can more closely pin down their identity.  

So be willing to sacrifice a question here and there if it helps keep respondents’ identities private.

Pro tip: Let respondents know you’re running an anonymous survey at the get-go. A great place to do this is in your survey’s introduction. It can read something as follows:

“Thank you for participating. We value your feedback, and we’ll keep all of your answers anonymous.”

Keep your team's surveys anonymous
Learn how SurveyMonkey Enterprise can make your team’s surveys anonymous by default.  
Learn more

Is an anonymous survey right for you?

There are a few exceptions to building an anonymous survey. To help you decide whether or not to keep respondents’ identities private, ask yourself the following questions:

“Is there a chance I’ll want to follow up with respondents?”

If the answer is yes, don’t keep the survey anonymous.

Use our Contact Information question type to ask for personal information at the end of your survey, and on a separate page. Keep the question optional in case your respondents aren’t comfortable providing their information, and in the question prompt, mention that the information will only be used for following up on their feedback.

Pro tip: Only include the contact fields you need. Adding more than is necessary doesn’t provide value to your team and is more likely to deter respondents from filling out the question.

It’s worth noting that if you already have respondent’s contact information, you don’t need to ask for it. Simply include each item you want to use and already have (e.g. phone number, email, etc.) as a Custom Variable or as a custom data field. Regardless of which you use, you should still ask the respondent a yes or no question at the end of the survey to see if you can follow up with them.

“What’s my relationship with the survey recipients like?”

The better the relationship you and/or your organization has with your audience, all else constant, the more you can lean towards using an open (or non-confidential) survey as respondents are more likely to trust you with their feedback. Examples that may come to mind are HR professionals surveying their colleagues, or, even more obvious, friends surveying each other.

That being said, keep respondents’ identities private unless you really need to use them.

Now that you know when to build an anonymous survey and how to do so, you can better meet the wants of your respondents while collecting more thoughtful survey data!