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Why (And When) We Like Google Consumer Surveys

Google has developed a useful research tool that will serve a specific need. Watch this video to learn more about Google Consumer Surveys. Read how Google validated their methodology in their white paper comparing Google survey results to traditional MR results.

Editor’s Note: Google Consumer Surveys continues to be a hot topic in the insights industry, and in the past week we learned a bit more about why. No less august sources than Pew Research and Nate Silver of the NY Times FiveThirtyEight blog heaped praise on the market research disruptor last week, with Pew stating “Comparative tests on more than 40 political, social and technology use questions over the past few months have found that the Google method produces results that are quite similar to the results of Pew Research Center’s standard RDD dual frame telephone surveys. The median difference across questions tested was 3 percentage points and the mean difference was 6 percentage points. In addition, assessments of the composition of Google datasets also suggest that they closely match the U.S. internet population demographically. A report on the comparative testing, along with a more extensive description of the Google methodology, is available here.” and Nate Silver going so far to say that Google Consumer Surveys were the second most accurate of all polls conducted for the U.S. election regardless of method and ending his analysis of how the pollsters ranked up by saying that “Perhaps it won’t be long before Google, not Gallup, is the most trusted name in polling.


In today’s post Dominique Romanowski of MMR Strategy Group details some of the experiments her firm has been conducting with GCS. I hope more researchers follow her lead here because I believe what we are seeing now in terms of the use cases for this platform is only the tip of the iceberg.  

By Dominique Romanowski,

Advances in technology have helped market research evolve, and provided companies with faster access to better information about consumers. Google Consumer Surveys is a new tool that can provide managers with an easy to use, inexpensive source of consumer feedback to help decision making. While not a substitute for more traditional research, there are times it can be useful.

Google Consumer Surveys was created as an alternative to online walls requiring payment to access content. Instead, readers see a teaser, and publishers allow consumers to access the content once they answer a survey question. Google pays publishers for each survey response and researchers pay Google for the information. Visit the Google Consumer Surveys home page to learn more.

Google Consumer Surveys as a research tool has a number of limitations, such as:

  • Only 2 questions are allowed per respondent.
  • Questionnaire format and length is limited.
  • Demographic information is inferred by IP address and browsing behavior.
  • Data can be cross-tabulated by demographic information only.

Managers familiar with research will weigh these limitations against the information they need for the decision they need to make. Depending on the issue, the best option just might be Google Consumer Surveys.

How can Google Consumer Surveys Be Useful?

Here are a few examples of how you might use Google Consumer Surveys.

  • Say a company in the travel industry was considering entry into a new market segment requiring a large capital investment. At the idea stage, Google Consumer Surveys could be used to explore general feasibility and collect information about purchase incidence or brand awareness in the new segment.If results were positive, more resources would likely be allocated for a traditional concept test] to generate the data needed to build a market sizing model and estimate demand among current and potential users before making a final go/no go decision.
  • Say a company in the traditional paper coupon business wanted to understand the impact of online competition. To better understand the magnitude of the threat, Google Consumer Surveys could be used to compare usage between the two media, even over time.If results showed online usage to be high, management might conduct usage and attitude (U&A) research to understand customer needs, the strengths and weaknesses of the online offer and how to improve its own services.
  • Say a snack food company had many product ideas, but had enough resources to develop only a few of them. Google Consumer Surveys could be used to generate some rough initial data that could be used to compare the appeal of all the concepts.Based on results, only the concepts with the highest potential would then go into full concept testing to measure diagnostics and consumer preferences.
  • Say an appliance company was facing a competitor that just launched a new product with revolutionary technology. Google Consumer Surveys could measure if the consumer associates the new technology with higher performance.

Results might lead management to run a market segmentation study to understand which consumers to target with their technology, how to position their brand and how to develop a differentiated but competitive line of products.

Why We Like Google Consumer Surveys

This post provides just a few examples of how Google Consumer Surveys can be useful. This quick and inexpensive research tool is far from perfect. As you can see from these examples, we believe that it will be most useful when combined with traditional methods that can provide more breadth, flexibility, and rigor.

All that said, we believe Google has developed a useful research tool that will serve a specific need and is here to stay. Watch this video to learn more about Google Consumer Surveys. Read how Google validated their methodology in their white paper comparing Google survey results to traditional online panel results.

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Dominique Romanowski

Dominique Romanowski

Vice President, MMR Strategy Group