Tuesday, 21 December 2010



I hate blanket surveys. This is not the research that looks into insulation and hot water bottles. It is the type of questionnaire that is distributed to everyone. Another name for this is saturation surveying.

I received one in my email box last week. It was from the HR dept of my employer (a big University). It was sent to all members of staff (I think and I’m sure they think so too – we have more than 800 teaching staff supported by up to 800 visiting lecturers). I answered another recently – the Staff Opinion Survey – and another the Staff Engagement Survey.

Every student at my University studies modules, let’s say six per year. Every module has a questionnaire and every student is expected to complete this module survey. That is 20,000 students being asked to answer 360,000 questionnaires over their degree. That is just the tip of the iceberg, there are other questionnaires: the National Student Survey (NSS), Library survey, the Student Barometer, the International Student Barometer and goodness knows what else.

After awhile the reflexes to refuse, delete and decline become second nature. Those who acquiesce will soon find themselves answering all the answers down the middle, perhaps one or two from left and right – this is called satisficing.

I’ve heard people justify this as “an opportunity for everyone to express their opinion” and “we need big enough numbers to be valid”. I have also heard, “this is a census - we need to hear from everybody”. It is NEVER a census. I think it is lazy and short-sighted. The only justification that I accept is for the NSS – because the results need to be broken down into small cells to allow sub-set analysis and course choice to be justifiable. But even then response rates are poor for some courses.

You may have guessed that I am very much against blanket surveys - I feel they reduce response rates in the long term and create an unbalanced final outcome. That unbalanced self-selected sample is sometimes weighted – but there is always a price paid when weighting is applied. Sometimes data collection is followed by sifting, effectively rejecting data records for some respondents who “mess up the results” – a sort of weighting that deletes records. Sifting basically means that we have wasted many hours of willing respondents.

Because we are asking more people to help than we need, we are wasting their time; we ultimately pay the price in response rate decreases in the future. And also by poor quality responses because of satisficing by respondents attracted by an incentive or simply wanting to help.

All of these blanket surveys should be banned and good old sampling used. Once selected these sampled individuals should be treated as VIPs – they hold the key to the truth. Instead we treat everybody with a lack of respect, polluting their lives with clutter and insincere requests.

Let’s take that University research. We need to stratify the staff by the most appropriate way for the study objectives (may be by department or not). We need to sample students in a way that ensures they are less likely to be selected for two or more modules.

We need to treat respondents like Very Important People. Look at all of these surveys to see how we are saturating students with surveys CLICK HERE

Monday, 2 August 2010

Pschitt drinks

Different nations have different cultures and one aspect of culture is the use of language. Even a brand name can take on different connotations when pronounced differently, or if spelt differently to keep the sound the same. There are many examples of brands that have not translated well across regions. There are brands that risk being ridiculed, perhaps as swear words – the lemonade drink Pschitt comes to mind, as does MR2 (which in French renders itself to a similar word to the drink).

I thought the Pschitt lemonade was just an urban myth, but we were served with it on our recent holiday in the South of France. As proof here is a holiday snap..

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Google v Facebook cont.

Google Wave failed. Google Buzz failed. Now it seems that there will be a new service on the block to face up to Facebook. Will they throw Facebook with GoogleMe?

Who knows? But you can read early news reports of this development

Friday, 25 June 2010

AMEX take on GOOGLE?

"American Express Open® the small business division of American Express® has launched SearchManager, a paid search management tool"

To cut a long story short small businesses (SMEs) can use this tool as a one stop shop to advertise across the web and understand the results.

This is what it says on the tin:

  • Manage Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Facebook all in one place
  • Utilize the intuitive dashboard
  • Receive standardized metrics

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tracking emails to web sites

To cut a long story short you can trace which email campaign led to which actions by carefully burying address data into email hyperlinks.

This is one I received in my email box

There are hidden messages in there. An excellent blog article explains Google UTM tags.

Take a look if your interest is EMAIL marketing. Click HERE to go to the BLOG on UTM tags

Thursday, 22 April 2010


The latest new thing for the future? Emails that speak?
Well Getresponse.com have introduced it now. I think you should see the video at

Amazing idea, but how can analytics detect whether emails are read or put into speech? - surely the experience is different and worth knowing.

Not so sure I want to hear that robot voice for all messages. I like to imagine the voice of the person I know when I read emails..

The video is great so take a look

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Business Failures: BEBO

For many years I have seen the importance of looking at business blunders, failures or mistakes. A new set of examples has emerged with the Internet . Today we learn that BEBO - a UK social networking site has failed in the shadow of Facebook. AOL bought BEBO for over 400 million pounds - it employs just 40 people but has 5.1million users in the USA (compared with Facebook's 210 million users).

So keep aware of the news stories, will Google buy it? What are the web metrics? What lessons can we learn?

Try a few links to news stories...

Monday, 1 March 2010

Free Books

Two incredible books are available free as PDF - I paid good money for these and to be honest I think you should too. However the author is a real hero. Just an email address and they belong to you

Use the knowledge well...