What I learnt about conducting a research with Digital Marketing professionals
Transitioning into the world of SEO freelancing I found myself confronted with topics I’ve never dealt with before. One of it is the question of how to do my work properly if I don’t have access to my usual online tools (thinking of Sistrix, Semrush, Ahrefs, etc). Normally, my employers would take care of the costs, but being on my own now and just having acquired the first client – how would I do it? Swallow the bitter pill and pay for the tools, even though my income stream is just starting to flow? Or is there some solution I don’t know of yet?
That made me think further: Am I alone with this or is basically everyone confronted with the same thing when they start their freelancing career? If so, how do they deal with it, did they find a solution? Moreover, if there is no common fix, wouldn’t it be worth finding a (legal ;)) solution for it? So, with a mix of curiosity, an urge to solve my issue and a hint of entrepreneural spirit, I came up with a little survey and asked Digital Marketing freelancers about their tool costs. Read on for what I learnt about conducting a survey and if this is a valuable approach to find answers to your problem.
Coming up with survey questions
If you have people in your network who studied psychology, you’ll most probably know about the complicated nature of conducting *meaningful* surveys. There are so many factors that play into why and how people answer your questions in the way they do. Mea culpa – I shortcut the process of coming up with bullet-proof questions that leave no room for speculations, but I think it’s OK. The most important question for me was if people are in the same boat as me and what their methods are to still perform as they do.
I came up with eight pretty straight forward questions that would give me the information I need. Answering this little survey would cost a participant about 01:30 minutes of their time. From my own experiences with surveys I was focussed on two things: Keeping it short and having people be interested in the results. In that sense, the rate of participation would already be an indicator about how urgent the problem on hand is! The higher the engagement, the more urgent the issue, since people feel they want to take part and know about the topic. Now, the only thing I had to take care of was putting out the word.
Creating a survey using SurveyMonkey and Typeform
I already had my questions, now it was time to create the survey itself. In order to do that I used both SurveyMonkey (see here) and Typeform (see here). Those two are very nice tools to create a survey in no time, and, pretty important for me at this point, they let you do it for free. Of course, there are some restrictions, but if you keep your questionnaire simple and easy like I did, that should be no obstacle. In general, I found Typeform a tiny bit more user-friendly, for the following reasons:
- You are pretty free when it comes to the visual design of your questionnaire. I was able to use a custom background, custom colours for any element, and there’s even the opportunity to upload an image.
- You can choose your target group’s language for automated text parts (such as the “Start the survey” button).
- The URL of your survey contains your account name as sub-domain which makes it at least a little bit more personalized.
- Any URL mentioned in the opening text will turn into a (followed) link that people can click on (in Surveymonkey it’s just a text interested people would have to copy&paste).
In both tools you’ll be able to collect 100 responses each month. In my case I used Typeform for the German audience (since it has the translation function I just mentioned) and SurveyMonkey for the English speaking target group. If you need more responses and more functionalities, for example “conditioned questions” where you want certain users to not be shown questions based on a preceding answer, the price for both tools is absolutely reasonable. 30 USD per month for Typeform, and 37 USD per month for SurveyMonkey.
Finding your target group and engaging them
I’ve tested a series of platforms to find the right group of people and have them interested in participating in the survey. The trick here was to do this without any budget, because, remember, I’ve only come up with the whole research because I didn’t have a huge marketing budget!
If you’re searching for freelancers to work for you Upwork is a cool platform to go to. My first thought was to make an innocent post there and approach people to spend 2 minutes on the survey. I know, very naïve, and definitely not d’accord with Upwork’s guidelines (as I learnt later). They don’t want freelancers to do anything unless it’s paid – rightfully so. My short adventure on that platform still brought home some participants of the survey.
I don’t know what it is with that platform, but for me it seems kinda dead. Sharing content seems to have no impact whatsoever (proven by the fact that even posts from people with a huge network get only little interaction). I thought groups could be more effective, but – at least the ones I chose – are only used very passively by their members. On top comes that even with Xing premium you only have FIVE messages you can send to people you don’t know per month. And yes, it’s totally debatable if that’s a good or bad thing – for Germans privacy is a huge deal, so Xing is just adapting to their main target group, I guess. You need to spend those five messages wisely. In my case people either didn’t see the message (because they don’t use the platform anymore?) or they responded veeeery slowly / not at all.
In LinkedIn, a lot more sharing/liking is going on than in Xing, but that also means it’s swamped with content. You need to find the right moment for your post (for example, HubSpot says it’s Tu-Th 5-6pm, Sprout says it’s Wednesday 3-5pm). With a premium account you get to contact 10 people outside your network. Most of them ignored my message as well.
Things got a lot more interesting with Twitter, at least for the Enlish speaking audience. I had the biggest rate of interaction on that platform, but then again, my network is horribly limited with under 100 followers (I’ve only started to be reasonably active there this year). So even when I tried to raffle off a free conference ticket the tweet about the survey got a meagre 5 shares.
There are many groups for freelancers, but the ones I found were more the kind of “Who wants to work for/with me?” marketplaces. Sharing a link to a survey obviously doesn’t yield much interest in there. It did however get good feedback in the facebook group of the conference whose ticket I was raffling off.
Someone on Facebook gave me the tip to try asking in Reddit groups. Apart from the fact that it’s highly recommended to check the SEO topics in there (you’ll be confronted with so many issues/solutions, it’s impossible not to learn something new), people in there are indeed really active. Only drawback from my side was that I’ve only been enjoying Reddit as a passive member so far. In order to post stuff myself I first had to sign up and earn “Karma” points by commenting other’s questions. It’s definitely fun, but also requires some time until you can finally post something. Still working on that, so not much about the performance with regards to get up participation of the survey.
In a nutshell:
Here are the platforms that I tried to find freelancers on:
- Call for participation on my own platforms (Website, Twitter, Upwork, LinkedIn, Xing).
- Call for participation in groups (LinkedIn, Xing, Facebook, Reddit).
- Direct messages in professional networks (LinkedIn, Xing).
Here are the things I’ve tried to increase engagement:
- Letting people know the whole thing only takes 2 minutes.
- Telling people that/when I’m publishing the results.
- Commenting on more successful tweets about conducting surveys in the field.
- Raffling off a free ticket to a conference I’m speaking at.
It’s not over yet
I’m sorry, but you will have to bookmark this article and come back in one month! The survey is still running and I’m not done reaching out to my peers. But if you’re curious: So far, the highest interaction resulted from letting people know about my speaker gig at BrightonSEO in combination with the raffle tweet – at least for the English version of the survey. For the German version I’m still searching for an effective way to get people to answer it. Stay tuned for any news on this.
I’d be happy if you had some experiences to share! Let me know via these channels.