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How to Use Keywords to Combine the Power of SEO and Google Ads [Case Study]



How to Earn Topical Authority in 2022 and Beyond

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Spongebob and Patrick. Batman and Robin. Tom and Jerry.

These iconic dynamic duos simply wouldn’t be the same by themselves, and you can think of SEO and PPC in the same way.

You may be thinking, “But, I always thought I needed to spend my money on one or the other!”

Well, friend, I’m here to let you in on a little secret: These two, when paired together, provide you with a digital marketing double whammy. A marketing strategy based only on SEO or PPC is truly “putting your eggs in one basket”. Any business that doesn’t diversify the way they get customers isn’t realizing its full potential.

Both SEO and PPC are used for a common goal — search engine marketing (SEM) — and neither would survive without targeted keywords. Since both strategies have user intent and search demand in mind, you can:

  • Create an organic and paid strategy that surpasses your competitors and uses an optimized budget.

  • Maximize efficient content production that can be used both for SEO and PPC.

  • Expand brand SERP awareness by ranking both organic and paid.

  • Inform SEO campaign with PPC data and vice-versa (SEOs have deep insights on search intent, while Paid traffic specialists understand how keywords convert).

  • Achieve both short-term and long-term business goals.

When approached correctly, using SEO and PPC together can unlock significant opportunities for your brand, so let’s dig in!

A brief overview of SEO and PPC

Let’s take a quick look at the similarities and differences of these powerful strategies so you can better integrate both into your SEM strategies:

Main differences

Time to achieve goal

PPC provides more of a jump start, while SEO is similar to finding your life partner. SEO takes longer and is structure-based, whereas PPC is quick, focusing mainly on landing pages and click-through rates.

One important thing to mention here is that, even though PPC is faster in the beginning, it costs more in the long run. While advertising requires constant payments to sustain, SEO brings in returns long after content has been published, even if you simply just let it sit (though of course some sharing and promo always helps).

The best case scenario is to balance them both: use PPC to power up the engine, but let SEO be the fuel that consistently keeps the engine running.

Skills needed for task

You may think, “SEO is free”, and although it might be if you do it on your own, there’s still a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into a successful SEO strategy. SEO skills typically include:

  • Content writing

  • Ability to use a CMS

  • SEO tools know-how

  • Keyword research

  • SERP analysis

Think research, writing, design, editing, publishing, and promotion. Of course, if you hire an SEO strategist, it fast-forwards your plan because they’ve developed proven processes.

On the flip side, PPC requires skills such as:

There’s a lot more to it than that, but those cover the majority of the overarching skills.

Calculating ROI

PPC ROI can be found by observing the CTR and conversion rate in comparison with number of sales. The goal should be that you get more sales than you pay in ad spend and campaign management. With tools like Google Data Studio that integrate with your CRM, it’s possible to automate PPC ROI calculation.

SEO ROI can be found by using a similar formula:

Gain from investment – cost of investment / cost of investment.

Keep in mind, for B2B lead-based businesses, SEO ROI tends to be much more complex than e-commerce. With B2B, you need to track the organic traffic of pages purposed for lead generation, like your contact or inquiry form’s success page, because there is no direct website sale.


As mentioned above, both strategies mainly target the SERPs. As a result, the keyword process for both should ALWAYS have user intent in mind and consider search demand.

Long-tail keywords for SEO might look like:

Meanwhile, PPC keywords are separated into four categories:

  1. Phrase match – the ad is shown if there are different words before or after the keyword you’re targeting

  2. Negative match – a word or words you don’t wish to target while running your ad

  3. Broad match – a general phrase or word you’d like to target

  4. Exact match – an exact word/phrase you’d like to target

Organic keywords for SEO are more critical inside the context of a webpage compared to PPC keywords that are more crucial inside the ad copy (though ideally, both should have the keywords in the copy that appears in the SERPs and on the page).

Ultimately, they both share a common goal: to attract relevant users to your website with the goal of turning them into customers.

How PPC and SEO work together to drive business growth through keywords

PPC can instantly unveil important keywords that can be transferred into your SEO strategy. For example, take AS Marketing’s very own client, Kindly, a B2B tech company based in Norway who sells various conversational AI tools for websites. With this project, we first focused on using organic keywords to build SEO content strategy. Then once content was published and started ranking, we regularly checked the same search terms within our Google Ads campaigns. This meant we could see the top keywords that our ads were appearing for in pretty much “real-time”, allowing us to combine this data so that we could create content that worked for both channels.

As a result of our collaboration, we achieved the following results:

  • 312% organic traffic growth globally and 10X organic growth in Sweden, one of their key markets

  • 5X increase in keywords ranked #1-10 in 11 months

  • 107% increase in conversions

For a detailed overview of how this works, here’s our step-by-step guide to leverage this information.

Step 1: Bring the keyword data together

It’s all in the data friends. Seriously, fuse together SEO and PPC data in a spreadsheet, or even better, track ongoing efforts and data in Google Data Studio (for free!)

Here are the top metrics to jot down:

  • Search Volume: how many times a word has been searched on a monthly basis.

  • Competition: what others in your niche are ranking for.

  • Cost Per Click: how much it costs when someone clicks your link.

  • ROI: what is your average return on investment for both PPC and SEO.

  • Organic Impressions: how many times a site is viewed in a search engine result page.

  • Organic Clicks: how many people have seen your site via organic search and clicked on it.

  • Organic CTR: this term goes hand in hand with the one above. Organic click-through rate pertains to the percentage of people that have clicked on your page when they’ve seen it in the search results.

  • Organic Position: when you determine the organic position of a particular keyword, you can see which keywords are being ranked in Google’s top 100 results. This report also helps to gather useful competitor ranking data.

  • Paid CTR: paid click-through rate is the same as the organic click-through rate but for ads. It is the percentage of people that have clicked on your ad after viewing it.

  • Conversions Data: is crucial in order to improve your content and messaging. A conversion is a point at which a recipient performs a certain action. It could be filling out a form or booking a call. Conversion data is commonly tracked in Google Analytics.

When you have everything laid out in front of you, it’s easier to spot patterns and recognize how both SEO and PPC efforts are panning out.

Step 2: Do keyword research

And now for the most important part of this entire process: the stage where you find keywords that can work both for PPC and SEO.

As you go through your keyword research process to find your SEO driven keywords, make sure you utilize Google Ads ‘Search Terms’ report. This part of Google Ads allows you to see search terms that have triggered your ads, making it easy to find “real-time” keywords. It also allows you to see what search terms are trending, so if you notice the same type of keywords keep appearing, it’s probably worthwhile to dig deeper into how you can utilize these keywords into your content strategy. Here’s an example of what to keep your eyes peeled for:

Screenshot of a Google Ads dashboard with red boxes around the Keywords tab, search terms tab, and an arrow pointing to the download button.

Throughout this process, you’ll also want to check items like:

  • Understand each keyword’s customer journey stage: How close to buying are the users? Are they in the MoFu (middle of the funnel) or the ToFu (top of the funnel) stage? Understanding the funnel stage is important, because you wouldn’t want to send someone to a sales landing page if they’re just trying to understand the basics of a new concept.

  • Gather more insights on search intent per each keyword: If PPC and SEO search intent matches, that’s a great case for a dual-purpose page! For instance, we noticed with Kindly that many users were searching for keywords related to their core product, a conversational AI chatbot. With this search intent match in mind, we used previously created SEO landing pages and also drove paid traffic to them in order to increase the amount of conversions and leads generated.

  • Understand how well your content is performing for each query: Is the content good enough for those keywords? Do you need to strengthen examples, incorporate more images, or shorten the article?

  • Create actions to improve SEO and PPC from the same keyword analysis: Which keywords have higher search demands and which have higher competition? Depending on your ad budget and authority ranking, you want to approach SEO and PPC accordingly.

  • Check SERPs for keywords that rank both organically and with paid advertising with similar content: Is it helpful to rank both paid and organically? Should you focus your resources or create content that works for both? The answer here isn’t clear-cut. It depends on your strategy, target audience, competition for the keyword, and general business goals.

Step 3: Create content with the right format

How can we get the most bang for our buck here? By creating landing pages that work for both PPC and SEO with sections like this:

  • Conversion hero header with organic- keyword-optimized H1.

  • Section blocks that cover conversion elements but also answer key audience questions. This will ensure your text is broken up, easy to read, and efficient.

  • People Also Ask ranking opportunities with a FAQ section at the bottom. Target long-tail keywords and craft valuable content to capture the audience that uses People Also Ask when searching.

Infographic with details on how to create landing pages for both PPC and SEO

One important caveat here is that this strategy won’t work for every keyword. This is why understanding search intent and reviewing SERPs is so important, because it’ll reveal where those content opportunities are. For example, if you find that SERPs are filled with blog article results and no ads for a certain keyword, you may consider only creating the blog article.

Going back to our client Kindly, we mentioned that we regularly checked PPC search terms against our SEO keywords and ensured we understood the user intent of every keyword. It became clear that PPC was driving MoFu and BoFu keywords, meaning users were pretty much ready to buy the product. In this scenario, we knew we needed a high converting landing page that was focused singularly for the purpose of PPC.

Some examples of high converting keywords were “AI Chatbot for my website”, “AI Chatbots for Lead Generation” and “AI Chatbot for ecommerce”. From this data, we knew we needed to create a landing page that accommodated different types of use cases, so we created a landing page with a dynamic headline that catered to all keywords.

That is just one scenario, and this strategy may not work for everyone, so it’s important to understand what your customer wants and when they want it. Then you can understand when to lean into your PPC or SEO strategy and at which point of the sales funnel.

Step 4: Implement & track your strategy

For aligned SEO and PPC synergy, keep these applications in mind:

  1. Identify new keyword opportunities for both channels. Use the Moz keyword explorer tool to prioritize keywords that matter, outrank your competition, and research keywords that align with your business goals.

  2. Optimize SEO efforts by targeting keywords with higher conversion rates. Keywords that have high search volume AND high conversion rates are the most likely to bring in the big bucks.

  3. Improve PPC efforts by aligning ads with organic search intent. For instance, say you discover a specific keyword with a high conversion rate for your PPC campaign. With this data, you can easily incorporate that keyword into your content marketing strategy to strengthen your SEO efforts.

  4. Reduce costs with PPC in the middle term by targeting favorable opportunities with SEO efforts. As you continue to grow through organic search, it’ll become easier to spot what works from what doesn’t and apply that to your PPC campaigns. For instance, specific copy that resonates with your audience on your website can be repurposed for PPC ad copy.

  5. Boost usage data (page acquisition and interaction etc.) with PPC to gain more data and inform SEO efforts. By increasing traffic to your site through PPC, you can further analyze your SEO strategy and understand which content types are most interesting to your audience, which pages don’t resonate, and which pages are obtaining the most conversions.

  6. Last but not least, actual conversion tracking is important!Event tracking allows us to see the impact from both SEO & PPC efforts. For example with Kindly, we set up tracking not only for the number of leads, but we also tracked micro conversions such as button clicks on the navigation. By doing this, we were able to see the process of the sales funnel and which awareness, consideration and conversion keywords triggered that process. Consequently, we could determine the best URLs for each PPC campaign. With this in mind, you can also optimize your website for all marketing purposes and notice where users drop off.

    Merging your SEO & PPC keywords brings proven results

    By taking the steps above, you can begin to merge your SEO & PPC strategies together and be more in tune with your sales funnel, i.e. generate more leads and sales. By keeping your marketing strategies as best friends, you can achieve great results such as in the images below:

    SEO Results:

    Screenshot of organic traffic and organic keywords over time.

    PPC Results:

    Screenshot showing engagement rates, event counts, and conversion rates.

    Now, let’s crack on to the recap:

    • Quickly discover high converting keywords from PPC and incorporate them into your SEO strategy

    • Create content that converts both via organic and paid channels

    • Improve brand SERP awareness (helloooo organic and paid traffic!)

    • Align and combine your short-term and long-term business goals

    And to extend on what I mentioned previously, ‘knowledge is power’ BUT it isn’t power until put into action.

    Here are your actionable steps to slingshot your business forward by combining SEO and PPC:

    1. Bring the keyword data together

    2. Do your keyword research

    3. Create content with the right format

    4. Implement and track your strategy

    Teamwork makes your dream work!

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OpenAI’s Drama Should Teach Marketers These 2 Lessons



OpenAI’s Drama Should Teach Marketers These 2 Lessons

A week or so ago, the extraordinary drama happening at OpenAI filled news feeds.

No need to get into all the saga’s details, as every publication seems to have covered it. We’re just waiting for someone to put together a video montage scored to the Game of Thrones music.

But as Sam Altman takes back the reigns of the company he helped to found, the existing board begins to disintegrate before your very eyes, and everyone agrees something spooked everybody, a question arises: Should you care?

Does OpenAI’s drama have any demonstrable implications for marketers integrating generative AI into their marketing strategies?

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain (and give a shoutout to Sutton’s pants rage on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), or keep reading his thoughts:

For those who spent last week figuring out what to put on your holiday table and missed every AI headline, here’s a brief version of what happened. OpenAI – the huge startup and creator of ChatGPT – went through dramatic events. Its board fired the mercurial CEO Sam Altman. Then, the 38-year-old entrepreneur accepted a job at Microsoft but returned to OpenAI a day later.

We won’t give a hot take on what it means for the startup world, board governance, or the tension between AI safety and Silicon Valley capitalism. Rather, we see some interesting things for marketers to put into perspective about how AI should fit into your overall content and marketing plans in the new year.

Robert highlights two takeaways from the OpenAI debacle – a drama that has yet to reach its final chapter: 1. The right structure and governance matters, and 2. Big platforms don’t become antifragile just because they’re big.

Let’s have Robert explain.

The right structure and governance matters

OpenAI’s structure may be key to the drama. OpenAI has a bizarre corporate governance framework. The board of directors controls a nonprofit called OpenAI. That nonprofit created a capped for-profit subsidiary – OpenAI GP LLC. The majority owner of that for-profit is OpenAI Global LLC, another for-profit company. The nonprofit works for the benefit of the world with a for-profit arm.

That seems like an earnest approach, given AI tech’s big and disruptive power. But it provides so many weird governance issues, including that the nonprofit board, which controls everything, has no duty to maximize profit. What could go wrong?

That’s why marketers should know more about the organizations behind the generative AI tools they use or are considering.

First, know your providers of generative AI software and services are all exploring the topics of governance and safety. Microsoft, Google, Anthropic, and others won’t have their internal debates erupt in public fireworks. Still, governance and management of safety over profits remains a big topic for them. You should be aware of how they approach those topics as you license solutions from them.

Second, recognize the productive use of generative AI is a content strategy and governance challenge, not a technology challenge. If you don’t solve the governance and cross-functional uses of the generative AI platforms you buy, you will run into big problems with its cross-functional, cross-siloed use. 

Big platforms do not become antifragile just because they’re big

Nicholas Taleb wrote a wonderful book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. It explores how an antifragile structure doesn’t just withstand a shock; it actually improves because of a disruption or shock. It doesn’t just survive a big disruptive event; it gets stronger because of it.

It’s hard to imagine a company the size and scale of OpenAI could self-correct or even disappear tomorrow. But it can and does happen. And unfortunately, too many businesses build their strategies on that rented land.

In OpenAI’s recent case, the for-profit software won the day. But make no bones about that victory; the event wasn’t good for the company. If it bounces back, it won’t be stronger because of the debacle.

With that win on the for-profit side, hundreds, if not thousands, of generative AI startups breathed an audible sigh of relief. But a few moments later, they screamed “pivot” (in their best imitation of Ross from Friends instructing Chandler and Rachel to move a couch.)

They now realize the fragility of their software because it relies on OpenAI’s existence or willingness to provide the software. Imagine what could have happened if the OpenAI board had won their fight and, in the name of safety, simply killed any paid access to the API or the ability to build business models on top of it.

The last two weeks have done nothing to clear the already muddy waters encountered by companies and their plans to integrate generative AI solutions. Going forward, though, think about the issues when acquiring new generative AI software. Ask about how the vendor’s infrastructure is housed and identify the risks involved. And, if OpenAI expands its enterprise capabilities, consider the implications. What extra features will the off-the-shelf solutions provide? Do you need them? Will OpenAI become the Microsoft Office of your AI infrastructure?

Why you should care

With the voluminous media coverage of Open AI’s drama, you likely will see pushback on generative AI. In my social feeds, many marketers say they’re tired of the corporate soap opera that is irrelevant to their work.

They are half right. What Sam said and how Ilya responded, heart emojis, and how much the Twitch guy got for three days of work are fodder for the Netflix series sure to emerge. (Robert’s money is on Michael Cera starring.)

They’re wrong about its relevance to marketing. They must be experiencing attentional bias – paying more attention to some elements of the big event and ignoring others. OpenAI’s struggle is entertaining, no doubt. You’re glued to the drama. But understanding what happened with the events directly relates to your ability to manage similar ones successfully. That’s the part you need to get right.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader



The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Introduce your processes: If you’ve streamlined a particular process, share it. It could be the solution someone else is looking for.

Jump on trends and news: If there’s a hot topic or emerging trend, offer your unique perspective.

Share industry insights: Attended a webinar or podcast that offered valuable insights. Summarize the key takeaways and how they can be applied.

Share your successes: Write about strategies that have worked exceptionally well for you. Your audience will appreciate the proven advice. For example, I shared the process I used to help a former client rank for a keyword with over 2.2 million monthly searches.

Question outdated strategies: If you see a strategy that’s losing steam, suggest alternatives based on your experience and data.

5. Establish communication channels (How)

Once you know who your audience is and what they want to hear, the next step is figuring out how to reach them. Here’s how:

Choose the right platforms: You don’t need to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick two platforms where your audience hangs out and create content for that platform. For example, I’m active on LinkedIn and X because my target audience (SEOs, B2B SaaS, and marketers) is active on these platforms.

Repurpose content: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of content. Consider repurposing your content on Quora, Reddit, or even in webinars and podcasts. This increases your reach and reinforces your message.

Follow Your audience: Go where your audience goes. If they’re active on X, that’s where you should be posting. If they frequent industry webinars, consider becoming a guest on these webinars.

Daily vs. In-depth content: Balance is key. Use social media for daily tips and insights, and reserve your blog for more comprehensive guides and articles.

Network with influencers: Your audience is likely following other experts in the field. Engaging with these influencers puts your content in front of a like-minded audience. I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily engaging with content on X and LinkedIn. This is the best way to build a relationship so you’re not a complete stranger when you DM privately.

6. Think of thought leadership as part of your content marketing efforts

As with other content efforts, thought leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It thrives when woven into a cohesive content marketing strategy. By aligning individual authority with your brand, you amplify the credibility of both.

Think of it as top-of-the-funnel content to:

  • Build awareness about your brand

  • Highlight the problems you solve

  • Demonstrate expertise by platforming experts within the company who deliver solutions

Consider the user journey. An individual enters at the top through a social media post, podcast, or blog post. Intrigued, they want to learn more about you and either search your name on Google or social media. If they like what they see, they might visit your website, and if the information fits their needs, they move from passive readers to active prospects in your sales pipeline.

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips



How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

Image Source

The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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