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What Is Link Bait? 7 Successful Examples

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What Is Link Bait? 7 Successful Examples

Not every page on your website will earn you backlinks.

That is one of the many reasons why link building is hard. Pages need links to rank. Yet not all pages will earn them.

But there is a certain type of page you can create that will naturally earn links better than others. In the SEO world, we call them “link bait.”

Knowing why and how link bait works will help you create more “link magnets” so you can get more links to your website.

But first, let’s start with the basics:

Link bait is content designed to attract backlinks. It’s something so valuable and interesting that bloggers and journalists want to link to it.

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What is the purpose of link bait?

Link bait helps you rank higher on Google and get more organic traffic to your website.

There are two reasons why this is so.

First, because links are one of Google’s top three ranking factors, pages with more links tend to rank higher and get more traffic. Our study of over 1 billion pages confirms this.

Line graph showing the higher the median number of referring domains, the more organic search traffic

If you create a piece of link bait about a topic people are searching for, the links it attracts should result in more traffic to the page itself.

Second, you can distribute some of the “authority” your link bait attracts to other pages on your website using internal links. This can help boost the pages’ rankings in organic search.

Flowchart showing more "linkable" webpage can transfer link authority to product page through internal linksFlowchart showing more "linkable" webpage can transfer link authority to product page through internal links

Why does link bait work?

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Link bait works because it takes advantage of psychological principles that make people want to link to it. These principles are called “share triggers” and were coined by marketing professor Jonah Berger in his book “Contagious.”

They are:

  1. Social currency – People share things that make them look good to others.
  2. Triggers – People share things that are top of mind.
  3. Emotion – People need to feel something to share something.
  4. Public – People tend to imitate others’ behavior if they can see or observe it.
  5. Practical value – People like to pass along practical, useful information.
  6. Stories – People don’t just share information—they share stories too.

Best practices for creating link bait

Here are some best practices for creating link bait that “takes advantage” of share triggers.

Try to incorporate at least one or two into your link bait so it stands the highest chance of success.

1. Make your link bait practical

Making your content practical means creating something that the reader can use right away. Examples include tools, calculators, templates, checklists, and cheat sheets. For example, at Ahrefs, we created a whole bunch of free tools.

List of free Ahrefs toolsList of free Ahrefs tools

Each of them has a significant number of backlinks:

Table showing each free tool's page has lots of referring domains and backlinksTable showing each free tool's page has lots of referring domains and backlinks

2. Make your link bait opinionated

Another way to make your link bait valuable is to give the reader something new to think about. This can be done by tackling a topic from a unique angle and adding something unique to the conversation. 

Here’s an example: A few years ago, our chief marketing officer, Tim Soulo, published a “rant” about bad email outreach.

It was incredibly opinionated and born entirely out of his own experience. But people loved it.

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This resulted in over 2,500 backlinks from 533 websites:

Site Explorer overview of Tim's post on bad email outreachSite Explorer overview of Tim's post on bad email outreach

3. Make sure your link bait evokes emotion

If you’re as old as me, you may remember the glorious days of Upworthy. During its peak, it was as if every single one of the site’s articles went viral. (Although I’ve not seen anyone share Upworthy’s content in recent years.)

Upworthy is a website dedicated to positive stories. People kept sharing its articles because each one was engineered to make people feel awe, surprise, happiness, and a general sentiment that the world was not as bad as it seemed to be.

Of course, the content worked incredibly well as link bait too:

Site Explorer overview of a positive, inspirational Upworthy articleSite Explorer overview of a positive, inspirational Upworthy article

Positivity is just one aspect. There are tons of emotions you can try appealing to, such as anger, excitement, sadness, joy, etc. See if you can incorporate them in your link bait too.

4. Make your link bait visual

For someone to link to a piece of content, a four-step process has to occur:

  1. See – The potential “linker” stumbles upon your link bait for the first time.
  2. Consume – They click and consume it.
  3. Enjoy – The content makes a lasting impression on their mind.
  4. Link – They take the “bait” and link to it.

If your link bait isn’t visually appealing, this process gets cut off between “Consume” and “Enjoy.” This is because visuals help people to consume content quicker and easier, thereby increasing the likelihood that someone will enjoy the said content and, thus, link to it.

For example, check out this post on the most popular beer in every country. Instead of a simple listicle, the information is actually conveyed in a map:

World map with logos of different beer brands on various areasWorld map with logos of different beer brands on various areas

With over 533 backlinks from 179 websites, it did pretty well.

Site Explorer overview of VinePair's article on the most popular beer in every countrySite Explorer overview of VinePair's article on the most popular beer in every country

5. Make your link bait newsworthy

If there is one thing that is top of mind for most people, it’s the news. And journalists and bloggers are constantly on the lookout for stories to cover.

For example, the biggest news story of the past two years is logically the pandemic and the resulting changes it created. In 2020, Nulab ran a series of surveys regarding remote work and published them in a post.

Not only did the post earn 103 backlinks from 80 unique websites…

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Site Explorer overview of Nulab's post about remote work during COVID-19Site Explorer overview of Nulab's post about remote work during COVID-19

… but it also received links from major publications like Huffington Post, Yahoo, ZDNet, Refinery29, and more:

List of domains and corresponding DRList of domains and corresponding DR

So if you want big news publications to link to you, your content will need to incorporate some newsworthy elements. Here’s a great list to look through and apply to your own content.

Another strategy to make your content newsworthy is to do newsjacking. Newsjacking is about monitoring live news and spotting opportunities to put your brand in the center of conversations by reacting with expert commentary and thought leadership pieces.

We interviewed Will Hobson, the PR director at Rise at Seven, to share tips on how to successfully execute newsjacking. You can read his tips in the post below.

Recommended reading: 9 Great Public Relations Tactics With Campaign Examples 

6. Make your link bait a story

Bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari wrote:

Humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better.

Humans are storytelling animals. It’s how we function as a society. So it’s surprising to no one that we share and link to stories.

For example, rather than bash people over the head with logic and reasoning about why debt is bad, Wealth Simple decided to go with a story angle.

Excerpt of Wealth Simple's article where a couple shares their experiences dealing with debtExcerpt of Wealth Simple's article where a couple shares their experiences dealing with debt

It earned a respectable 85 backlinks from 62 referring domains:

Site Explorer overview of Wealth Simple's article about debtSite Explorer overview of Wealth Simple's article about debt

Plenty of which came from large websites like Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Slate, and more:

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List of domains with corresponding DRList of domains with corresponding DR

Telling a good story is difficult. But if you can do so with your link bait, it may be worth a shot.

7. Include what other people are already linking to

If people are linking because of certain reasons in competing pages, it is logical to assume that the particular reason is important to that topic.

So before you create your link bait, you should look for common link reasons in a similar page’s backlink profile.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Search for a topic you’re writing about
  3. Look at the SERP overview
  4. Find a similar article with lots of referring domains
  5. Click on the number in the Backlinks column
  6. Skim the Anchor and target URL column for commonalities

For example, if we do this for Greatist’s post on the perfect kettlebell swing, we see quite a few people linking because the post mentioned the benefits:

Keywords Explorer resultsKeywords Explorer results

If you’re writing about the same topic, mentioning benefits may give your link bait a chance to get more links.

Seven successful link bait examples

Here are seven of our favorite pieces of link bait, each of which attracted tons of links, shares, and attention.

We also reached out to their creator(s) and asked, “What do you think made your particular piece so successful/popular?”

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Their thoughts are included below.

1. 13 Reasons Your Brain Craves Infographics

Picture of a brain with the article titlePicture of a brain with the article title

This piece earned 75,300 backlinks from 1,500 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of NeoMam's article about why the human brain craves infographics Site Explorer overview of NeoMam's article about why the human brain craves infographics

Here’s what Danny Ashton, founder of NeoMam Studios, had to say:

I believe timing played a big part here; we published it when infographics were a hot topic in 2013. I think the interactive format also helped—a lot of people hadn’t seen anything like it back then.

I also made sure we only used scientific studies to support each point, as most other stuff out there was a mix of pseudo-science and opinion.

And the fact that we promoted the hell out of it helped too!

Danny AshtonDanny Ashton

2. Inception Explained

The word "Inception" in all caps and subheader of the article below itThe word "Inception" in all caps and subheader of the article below it

This piece earned 714 backlinks from 324 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of article "Inception Explained"Site Explorer overview of article "Inception Explained"

Here’s what the creator, Matt Dempsey, had to say:

I think it was successful because it paired a subject matter people were interested in with a new medium people were delighted by.

The site tapped into a film millions of people knew and loved but most didn’t completely understand—you just had to check the Google search trends for ‘Inception explained,’ etc., beforehand to see the demand for a succinct explanation.

I also used parallax scrolling, which was a very new technique at the time. I think this was the most complicated and intricate implementation of it, so it resonated well with the tech/design community.

Matt DempseyMatt Dempsey

3. How a Car Engine Works

Sketch of parts of a car engine and text surrounding the sketchSketch of parts of a car engine and text surrounding the sketch

This piece earned 2,100 backlinks from 400 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of Animagraffs' article on how a car engine worksSite Explorer overview of Animagraffs' article on how a car engine works

Here’s what Jacob O’Neal, the CEO of Animagraffs, had to say:

Personally, I think there are four main reasons the content performed well:

  • It’s ‘evergreen’: It will stay relevant for a very, very long time.
  • It’s a fresh new format: It’s a media format no one’s really done before that delivers learning super fast. It’s a combination of moving images and text, but not a video. Videos require audio and some wait time for things to be explained, speakers/headphones, etc. The learning process can be encumbered or a bit inefficient. With Animagraffs, text is right there if you want to read/learn what the text is pointing to, right this instant.
  • It’s well organized: The big, bold, moving illustrations catch your attention first, then supporting illustrations, and then the fine print of a particular point that really interests you. It appeals to all age groups and all levels of interest and intelligence.
  • We didn’t fake it: We didn’t hold back on the ‘smart, boring’ stuff. We design for the toughest crowd first. For example, if we’ve impressed seasoned auto mechanics, we’ve done the job right. No sacrificing quality for cheap views. This is in pretty stark contrast to a lot of marketing that focuses outward first and then inward. No one recommends trying to get friends by pretending to like what others like… why is marketing done this way? It’s better to lead with real, quality work, no matter how tempting it may be to invert the process for a quick buck.
Jacob O'NealJacob O'Neal

4. 90.63% of Content Gets No Traffic From Google. And How to Be in the Other 9.37%

Drawing of a traffic light and article title below itDrawing of a traffic light and article title below it

This piece earned 6,600 backlinks from 2,600 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of Ahrefs' data study Site Explorer overview of Ahrefs' data study

Here’s what our CMO, Tim, had to say:

First of all, I didn’t know that it would perform better than any other study I did. Otherwise, I would only publish the studies that do well and never publish anything that flopped.

As for why this particular one performed so well, in my opinion, it’s because it provided people from the SEO industry with a striking stat that helped them pitch the importance of SEO.

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90% of content gets no traffic from Google—that’s a killer argument to audit your own content and decide if you were investing enough in SEO for the past few years.

Bottom line: People love data-backed claims. So if you can do some form of industry research, there’s a good chance people from your industry will reference your work.

Tim SouloTim Soulo

5. Why Do I Procrastinate?

First page explaining what the "Why Do I Procrastinate" quiz is aboutFirst page explaining what the "Why Do I Procrastinate" quiz is about

This piece earned 201 backlinks from 52 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of the "procrastination" quizSite Explorer overview of the "procrastination" quiz

Here’s what the creator, Manasvini Krishna, had to say:

These are some of the reasons, in my opinion:

  • Popular subject – I think the subject (procrastination) was a common problem that many of us (and definitely our target audience!) struggle with. Knowing we should be doing something but somehow not wanting to do it, or able to do it, is a familiar feeling to most! Most of us can relate.
  • Interactiveness and engaging – I think the fact that it was an interactive quiz designed to specifically identify and isolate your problem at that moment helped. In general, quizzes are great because everybody loves to learn a little bit about themselves. And they’re fun to take!
  • Different take than usual – The quiz gives immediately actionable and non-judgemental suggestions on how to solve your specific problem that you diagnose with the quiz. Many of us are used to viewing procrastination with a lot of guilt and negative feelings associated with it, so a solution based on the ‘procrastination equation,’ which basically just looks at procrastination as an equation, the various parts of which can be increased or decreased to fix the procrastination problem, is refreshing and not very common. (The quiz is based on a book called ‘The Procrastination Equation.’)
Manasvini KrishnaManasvini Krishna

6. Investment Calculator

Options to toggle answers to various questions on left; on right, key data based on what information was providedOptions to toggle answers to various questions on left; on right, key data based on what information was provided

This piece earned 1,100 backlinks from 306 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of "Investment Calculator" Site Explorer overview of "Investment Calculator"

Here’s what the creator, Caleb Barclay, had to say:

Here are some initial thoughts:

  1. Design as differentiator: Free-to-use tool (no email exploitation), 10X improvement from competitor sites, designer websites linked to us.
  2. Launch with controversial subject: We found a highly opinionated group that kick-started exposure (Hackernews).
  3. Usefulness made it highly shareable: We needed this tool personally and spent a lot of time designing its utility (scratch your own itch).
  4. Personalization: Users participating in generating personalized content make it more sticky.
Caleb BarclayCaleb Barclay

7. The 35 Best Countries to Raise a Family in 2020

Excerpt of "best countries to raise a family" articleExcerpt of "best countries to raise a family" article

This piece earned 529 backlinks from 273 referring domains.

Site Explorer overview of "best countries to raise a family" article Site Explorer overview of "best countries to raise a family" article

Here’s what the creator, Asher Fergusson, had to say:

I think what made my research on the best countries to raise a family in 2020 so popular is that it was original research on a topic that is close to home for a lot of people. And then on top of that, with the USA not ranking so highly, it was very controversial for most Americans. This helped it get on the front page of Reddit and then it went viral in the press, which brought the study countless awesome links and 35,000 hits per day for a while. My biggest error is not updating the study for 2021, but I plan to do an update for 2022, and I imagine it will go viral again and attract a bunch more links.

Asher FergussonAsher Fergusson

How to find good link bait ideas

The simplest method for finding great link bait ideas is to piggyback off what’s working for your competitors.

Here’s how:

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  1. Enter your competitor’s domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Go to the Best by links report
Best by links report results overwhelmingly show listicles Best by links report results overwhelmingly show listicles

Eyeball the list to see what kind of formats and topics resonate with people in your niche. For example, if we did this for the Hong Kiat blog, we’ll see that listicles are popular in the design niche.

Whereas, if we analyzed our own blog, we’ll see that data studies are the most popular in the SEO space:

Best by links report results overwhelmingly show data studiesBest by links report results overwhelmingly show data studies

Final thoughts

Link bait is more than just creating something unique or visually appealing.

For it to attract links, you’ll need a combination of well-crafted content, a well-defined audience that has the ability to link to you, and a well-executed promotional plan.

It doesn’t matter if you create the greatest piece of content in the world—you won’t get any links if people don’t know it exists.

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.

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Top 6 Free Survey Maker Tools For Marketers

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Top 6 Free Survey Maker Tools For Marketers

The number of online surveys has risen dramatically in the past decade, according to the Pew Research Center.

From short social media polls to lengthy feedback forms, it’s never been easier to survey your target audience and find out what exactly they’re thinking.

When it comes to free survey makers, you have plenty of options to choose from.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is you have to wade through your options to figure out the best survey tool for you.

In this article, I’ve done that dirty work for you.

Below I outline the top six free survey makers, with a simple bulleted list of their pros and cons, so you can quickly select the best one for your needs.

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But first up, the caveats.

What You’re Missing With Free Survey Makers

When something’s free, there’s usually a catch. The same goes for free survey makers.

Free survey tools, or the free plan offered by a paid survey tool, often come with the following limitations:

  • Limited export options. You may not be able to export your survey data for review in Excel or Google Sheets. There may be a PDF-only export option or no export ability at all.
  • Limited analytics. Free survey tools often skimp on the analytics. You may be left to your own pivot tables and Excel expertise if you want to create anything fancy from your survey data.
  • Limited survey functionality. This runs the gamut, from a limit on how many respondents or questions you can have per survey, to only allowing so many question types (e.g., multiple-choice, long-form, etc.).
  • Limited extra perks. By perks, I mean those other features that make software from good to great. With survey makers, that might mean easy-to-access support, the ability to embed surveys in email or webpages, multiple user accounts, or integration with other email marketing or CRM software.
  • No branding. Free survey makers give you their tools for free. In return, you provide them with free brand awareness. Don’t expect to be able to swap out their logo for your own. You’ll probably be stuck with their branding, along with a prominent link to their site throughout the survey or on the thank you page (or both).

If any of the above is a dealbreaker for you, you should plan to drop a little dough on a paid survey tool. That’s why I’ve also included the starting price for all six of the tools featured below.

In case you end up having to upgrade later, it’s easier to do so from a tool you’re already familiar with.

Top 6 Free Survey Tools

Without further ado, I present the best free survey makers you’ll find today. These are listed in no particular order.

1. Google Forms

Screenshot by author, June 2022

Do you live and die by your Google Drive?

Great news: Google also offers free survey software via Google Forms.

Alright, I know I just said these were presented in no particular order, but I’ll openly admit Google Forms is my personal favorite. Just look at all of the features they include in their free plan!

All you need is a free Google account to get started.

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Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • Unlimited questions.
  • Unlimited responses.
  • Export to Google Sheets.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Ability to embed images and YouTube videos.
  • Ability to embed the survey on your website and share to social media.
  • Survey analytics, updated in real-time.
  • Integration with Google Docs, Sheets, Slides.
  • Unlimited collaborators.
  • Customizable survey templates.
  • Free branding.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Enhanced security and collaboration options.
  • Integration with your existing Google Workplace account.

Price: Completely free. Google Workplace pricing starts at $6 per user per month.

Best for: Anyone and everyone, for business or casual use.

2. SurveyMonkey

surveymonkeyScreenshot by author, June 2022

SurveyMonkey is the online survey tool. Established in 1999, it’s still the most well-known online survey software.

Despite the limitations of its free plans, SurveyMonkey continues to be popular thanks to its intuitive interface and brand recognition. Notable clients include Allbirds, Tweezerman, and Adobe.

One nice perk is that you can test out any of the paid features with your free plan. (You just won’t be able to actually use it in your live survey until you pay up.)

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • 10 questions.
  • 15 question types.
  • 100 responses per survey.
  • Over 250 customizable survey templates.
  • Ability to embed the survey on your website.
  • Mobile app.
  • One user.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited questions, question types, and responses.
  • Data exports – this is a biggie!
  • Custom branding.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Team collaboration.
  • Advanced security (single sign-on, HIPAA compliance).
  • A/B testing.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $16 per month for individuals, $25 for teams.

Best for: Those who want a tried-and-true survey maker with all the features you could ask for.

3. Typeform

typeformScreenshot by author, June 2022

Many online survey tools are designed for the general public.

Readers of Search Engine Journal will be happy to hear that there’s a survey tool created just for us. Typeform was built specifically with marketers, UX researchers, and business owners like us in mind.

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

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  • Unlimited surveys.
  • 10 questions per survey.
  • 10 responses per month.
  • Basic question types.
  • Basic reporting and analytics
  • Ability to embed the survey on your website.
  • Integrations with MailChimp, HubSpot, Trello, Google Sheets, Zapier, and more.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited questions and responses.
  • Custom thank you screen.
  • Custom branding.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Team collaboration.
  • Ability to accept payment.
  • Ability for survey respondents to upload files.
  • Integration with Facebook pixel and Google Tag Manager.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $29 per month.

Best for: Enterprise users, UX researchers, and marketers hoping to track customer behavior.

4. Zoho Survey

zoho surveyScreenshot by author, June 2022

Zoho Survey is part of the same Zoho suite of apps that caters to sales, HR, IT, finance, and virtually any kind of business user you can think of.

Given their tenure creating SaaS software for business, their survey tool is just as robust as you might expect. Customers include big names like Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, and Change.org.

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • 10 questions per survey.
  • 100 responses per survey.
  • Ability to embed surveys in email or website, or share to social media.
  • Export to PDF.
  • 250 survey templates.
  • Password protection and HTTPS encryption.
  • One user.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited questions and responses.
  • Ability to export to XLS or CSV.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Custom branding.
  • Team collaboration.
  • Real-time responses.
  • Multilingual surveys.
  • Integration with Google Sheets, Tableau, Shopify, Zendesk, Eventbrite, and others.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $25 per month.

Best for: Zoho users, or anyone who needs an extra level of security for their surveys.

5. Alchemer

alchemer survey makerScreenshot by author, June 2022

Alchemer is an advanced survey maker developed for the enterprise client.

Paid features include custom coding so you can customize every single element of your survey, from the survey URL to the form logic.

They stand out among free survey makers for being one of the few (besides Google Forms) to offer unlimited questions and Excel exports in their free plan. Clients include Disney, Salesforce, Verizon, and The Home Depot.

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Three surveys at a time.
  • Unlimited questions.
  • 100 responses.
  • 10 question types.
  • Export to Excel.
  • Customizable templates.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • Unlimited responses.
  • Unlimited question types.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Custom branding.
  • Ability to embed surveys in websites.
  • Export to PDF, PowerPoint, or Word.
  • Ability for survey respondents to upload files.
  • Survey analytics and reporting.
  • Ability to accept payment.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $49 per month.

Best for: Enterprise users needing to create long surveys with advanced logic and question types.

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6. Jotform

jotform survey makerScreenshot by author, June 2022

With over 10,000 templates, Jotform takes the cake as the survey maker with the most form templates on our list.

Jotform also stands out for letting you accept payments with the free plan (although you’re limited to 10).

This popular survey maker includes clients as wide-ranging as AMC and Nickelodeon to Redfin and the American Medical Association.

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Five surveys.
  • 100 questions per survey.
  • 100 responses per survey.
  • Ability to embed surveys in email or website.
  • Export to PDF or Excel.
  • 10,000 survey templates.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • Unlimited questions and responses.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Custom branding.
  • HIPAA compliance.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $29 per month.

Best for: Users who want a template for every kind of survey possible.

Which Survey Tool Will You Use?

There truly is a survey maker for everybody.

The above options are all solid choices. Which one works for you may depend on your organization’s needs and your personal preferences.

Take advantage of the free trials and see which one you like best.

More Resources:

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Featured Image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock



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