A Guide to Anonymous Feedback

Creating an Anonymous Survey Online + Template

Definition: An anonymous survey is a convenient way to collect feedback while keeping identities confidential. An anonymous survey does not store your respondents' IP address, location, device, or submission date. You can create an anonymous survey using an anonymous link or by using an anonymous email collector.

The anonymous seal: Each anonymous survey includes a seal at the top where respondents can click to learn how their identities are protected.

When to Use Anonymous Surveys

Employee Surveys

One of the most common uses for anonymous surveys is to capture honest employee feedback. Anonymous employee surveys can help encourage new ideas, increase productivity, and reduce turnover. SurveyKing gives you the ability to run anonymous surveys quarterly or annually, helping your organization benchmark and compare results over time.

Academic Research

Anonymous surveys are perfect a way to capture feedback from university students. Researchers can also use anonymous academic surveys in K-12 to evaluate courses, faculty peer reviews, and parent feedback. Schools can use the data captured from anonymous academic surveys to improve the learning experience or even identity new after-school actives.

Special Projects

You might need to interview at-risk groups, such as immigrants. Anonymous surveys are a perfect way to collect valuable feedback while protecting the identities of the group. These groups are often unfamiliar with online survey tools, so seeing the anonymous seal on surveys gives them the confidence needed to provide honest feedback.

How to Create an Anonymous Survey

To create an anonymous survey, you can either use an anonymous survey link or an anonymous email collector. An anonymous survey link is the easiest method and can be included in an email or posted to social media. An anonymous email message is sent from the SurveyKing platform and is ideal when you want to send reminders and track competition rates.

The Anonymous Survey Link

The anonymous survey link is the easiest way to collect anonymous survey responses. Large organizations can add custom data to the link to capture additional data points. To ensure anonymity, only one anonymous link is available per survey. Steps needed to create an anonymous survey link:

  1. Navigate to the "Distribute" page of your survey.
  2. Click on "Anonymous Link."
  3. From here, you can copy the link and place it into an email or on a website. You can add custom data variables to the link as needed.

The Anonymous Email Collector

The anonymous email collector is ideal for employee or academic surveys. You can upload a list of respondents and send an email invitation out. The benefit to this method is our system will automatically track who has completed and not completed the survey. You won't have access to see which respondents have or have not completed the survey, only a button that says, "Send Reminders." You can also include custom data with this collector type.

To ensure anonymity, there is only one anonymous email collector per survey. If you wanted to send out a new campaign, such as a second-round employee survey, you would want to click the "Clear Messages" button. This will reset the anonymous email collector. Note: This will NOT delete survey responses.

  1. Navigate to the "Distribute" page of your survey.
  2. Click on "Anonymous Email Message."
  3. From here, you can add email addresses and any custom data into the upload grid. You could also do an Excel upload for a quicker upload.
  4. You can choose to either send the email immediately (with a five-minute delay) or schedule it for a future date or time.
Important! Many survey platforms, such as SurveyMonkey, still show email addresses with completion dates, even when the "anonymous feature" is marked. The survey author could use this to identify respondents indirectly. Other platforms also allow you to create multiple collectors and mark them "anonymous," meaning employers could create multiple links to track answers indirectly.

How Anonymous Surveys Protect Identities

An anonymous survey does not store your respondents' IP address, location, device, or submission date. This ensures that the survey administrator cannot indirectly identify respondents. SurveyKing also takes additional measures that other platforms ignore to help further ensure anonymity.

Taking an Anonymous Employee Survey? Ask fellow employees to see their survey link. All links should contain the same set of characters. For example, "surveyking.com/a/eqirtg7" is a link to an anonymous survey. You can include custom variables like this live example surveyking.com/a/eqirtg7&c1=Dallas Office. The important part is the "a/eqirtg7." Anything else after this is a custom variable and is protected with k-anonymity.

Identities are protected with the following measures on SurveyKing:

  • IP addresses and device information are not stored.
  • The submission dates of responses are not visible.
  • Custom data added to the URL (for large surveys / studies) are protected with k-anonymity.
  • Table rows for individual results are randomized, making it impossible to indirectly track the last respondent who answered the survey. Respondent numbers on these tables are also hidden, eliminating the ability to indirectly track respondent answers.
  • All anonymous surveys include an "Anonymous Seal" at the top of each survey.
  • Internal logs of anonymous surveys strip away the query string, adding an extra layer of protection.

Using Custom Data with an Anonymous Survey

Custom data is important for large scale studies, such an employee survey for a multinational organization. A large organization may want to segment their data by employee location. Asking employee location on the survey may subconsciously trigger mistrust, leading to skipped questions or unreliable answers. Custom data is the solution to this problem, and this data is protected using k-anonymity to protect identities.

Below are some interactive examples of anonymous survey links with custom data appended to the end of link.

Example: surveyking.com/a/eqirtg7&c1=Dallas Office

Custom data can also be used to help benchmark results. If your company sends out a quarterly employee survey, you could add "qtr1","qtr2",etc. to the link and then setup a comparison on your reports for each quarter. This would quickly allow you to compare quarterly results while maintaining anonymity.

Example: surveyking.com/a/eqirtg7&c3=QRT1

K-Anonymity Explained

K-anonymity is how respondent identities are kept anonymous when custom data is included with the survey. This feature works by hiding response counts and statistics that do not meet an aggregate total of at least fifty.

With the employee survey example, if there is only one employee in the "Boston" office, you would not filter or segment the results based on office location. Only if there were fifty or more employees in "Boston" would the filters or comparisons show data.

Viewing answers indirectly via filters or comparisons would also be impossible using k-anonymity. Sticking with the employee survey example, if there is only one employee in the "Boston" office and fifty employees in the "Chicago" office, you could filter by the "Chicago" office and subtract that data from the total to figure out the answers from the "Boston" employee. In this situation, k-anonymity detects that there is only one response from the "Boston" office, and thus no results would be displayed.

Anonymous Survey Best Practices & Tips

Anonymous surveys are best used where respondents feel that their answers may have negative repercussions. Here are some other tips to keep in mind as you are creating your anonymous survey:

  • Prior to sending the survey, convey to your respondents that the survey is anonymous and that the SurveyKing system is being used. When your employees see the anonymous seal, they will be comfortable giving their opinions. Many employee surveys state, "This survey is anonymous" without using the anonymous link, leading to distrust.
  • If sending an employee survey, try not to ask questions related to identities, such as names, departments, or locations. This will trigger mistrust and also add unnecessary length to the survey. If possible, add this data dynamically with custom variables and let k-anonymity keep the identities protected.
  • Ask questions that have been obvious pain points to your organization. For example, you could ask, "What do you think of the recent changes to the paid time off policy?." With anonymity guaranteed, employees will feel comfortable sharing their true feelings, and your organization can address issues brought to light by candid responses.
  • Include question types like MaxDiff or Ranking. These are ideal for anonymous surveys since they help determine preference; honest preferences will give your organization actional feedback.