In a nutshell, survey bots are programs/algorithms that allow for automated completion of online surveys. In most cases, bots are a means for unscrupulous programmers to rack up cash, rewards, and sweepstakes entries for participating in paid research studies without actually taking the time to share honest opinions. On the surface, these ‘participants’ look to have qualified for and legitimately completed a survey, but the validity of their survey data is complete garbage. These bots are becoming more prevalent and more sophisticated and should be an obsession of the insights industry to weed out. For a fun, fear-inducing exercise, Google the term Survey Bot. What you would hope to see in your results is a collection of market research and academic thought leadership on how to avoid and prevent such parasites. However, what you actually see is a laundry list of available tutorials, services, and software downloads for executing your very own bots and gaming the system.
It’s certainly a scary issue, but not an insurmountable one. Clients and suppliers need to remain vigilant and work together to minimize the impact of survey bots. A handful of effective and relatively painless techniques to do so include:
- reCAPTCHA – Those “I’m not a robot” widgets that we see on so many eCommerce and social media sites are quite easy to insert into most online surveys. If you’re using a survey platform that doesn’t allow them, it may be time to start shopping for a new provider.
- Quality control questions – A great method to help control bots (as well as to keep human participants on-task and engaged) is to pepper a handful of short quality control questions throughout your survey. Open-ended questions and multimedia (e.g., asking respondents to listen to an audio snippet and respond) tend to be more difficult for bots to overcome.
- Rely on sample providers who are equally obsessive about data quality – Any reputable online sample provider should be working on your behalf to prevent bots from making their way into your survey. Additionally, any that do slip through the cracks should be removed and replaced at no additional charge.
The quality control steps described above provide an example of Accelerant Research’s approach to service that we take on each project. We sweat the details. We invite you to request a cost estimate from us and experience the difference that we provide for yourself. Simply give us a call (704-206-8500) or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).