Important: This method doesn’t work in MailChimp.
Two days ago, I learned something shocking: Turns out, the Internet doesn’t have all the answers!
I promised a friend to teach her how to embed a survey in an email newsletter so that people could answer the questions right from their email.
The response rate for surveys sucks big time. People are just too busy to click on a link, open a browser, wait for the page to load, etc.
So if you want to increase your chances to get a response to a survey, you need to make it as easy as possible to answer.
And what can be easier than checking off a couple of boxes straight from your email?
I knew it was possible to place a survey in an email body using Google Forms in a single email. But after I spent half an hour researching, I couldn’t believe it:
The internet was telling me that there is no free, quick & easy way to embed a survey in a newsletter!
First, I was shocked. Will I have to break my promise?
And then I thought: Really, internet? You can place a survey in a single email, but you can’t place it in a newsletter? This can’t be right.
So I set down, spent a couple of hours and figured out how to do it.
May I present you: The information that you won’t find anywhere else online.
5 and 1/2 easy steps to embed a survey in your email newsletter using Google Forms
After you follow these steps, all of your subscribers will be able to see all the questions and answer options within an email you send them.
The subscribers with Gmail/Googlemail addresses will be able to answer the whole survey within the email. Others will be redirected to the survey in the browser as soon as they try answering anything.
The content of the newsletter with a survey placed in an email body this way will also pass all the spam filters and will reach all of your subscribers, given your other settings are in order.
Step 1: Create a survey using Google Forms.
Google Forms is a free tool for creating forms of any kind, including surveys, that comes with your Gmail account. It is very intuitive, and you can start using it right away, even if you’ve never seen it before. If you need a tutorial on Google Forms, check out this article.
Step 2: Send the survey to your Gmail account.
Once you are happy with your survey, click a “Send” button in the right top corner.
Google Forms offers an option to embed a survey in an email. However, you can only send it from your own Gmail account. And who wants to send email newsletters from a Gmail account? (Correct answer: No one, because it would be flagged as spam and will probably not reach your subscribers at all).
So in this step, send the survey to your own Gmail account only. Make sure you check the “Include form in Email” box:
In the next steps, we will steal, I mean, obtain in a totally legal, although sneaky, way the code for the survey from the email with the survey you just sent yourself and paste it in your email newsletter using whatever software you are using for it (insert evil laughter here).
Step 3: Obtain HTML code for your survey
Check your inbox and open a message with the survey. Click on More -> Show original
A new tab will open. Scroll to the bottom and find the link “Download original”. Click on it and save the file (original_msg.txt) to your hard drive. This is the file that, among other things, contains the code for your survey within an email body.
Step 4: Prepare the code for the survey for your newsletter
Even if you don’t know HTML (or even if you are a bit afraid of it), don’t worry. In this step, you need to do a couple of simple search-and-replace operations. And I made a ton of screenshots to show you exactly how to do it.
Here’s what you do:
Open the document you just saved (original_msg.txt) in Notepad (or any other simple text editor) and copy-paste its contents into MS Word (or any other rich text editor).
Note: If you open the file directly with MS Word it will show the rendered HTML (like a browser), not the actual HTML code you need.
Using the Find & Replace function make the following replacements:
1) Remove all occurrences of =^p (this will remove a line break after “=”, together with “=”)
If you can’t use MS Word, google how to remove line breaks in the tool that you have.
2) Remove all occurences of 3D
3) Remove empty lines by replacing ^p^p with ^p
4) Find the first occurence of <table and remove all the text above it.
5) Find the occurrence of </body (it will be the only one) and remove it, together with everything after it till the end of the document.
Great! Now your survey is ready to be pasted in your newsletter.
Step 5: Insert the survey in your newsletter
Start creating your newsletter, as usual, using an email marketing software of your choice (I use MailerLite). When it’s time to insert the survey, copy-paste the code from Step 4. Make sure you paste it using the “Insert source code” functionality, and don’t paste it as a plain text.
At this point, your survey has been successfully placed within the body of your email newsletter and you should be able to preview it.
If you send it the way it is right now, your subscribers will be able to answer it.
Yet, in my opinion, it has too much unnecessary information that Google has automatically inserted.
Step 5 1/2: Remove unnecessary information (optional)
If you know HTML and CSS, the sky is your limit. You can style your survey the way you want by changing the source code you’ve just pasted accordingly.
If you are not comfortable with HTML/CSS, you can still remove some things that Google has automatically inserted by simply selecting the elements and pressing DEL.
To do that, select the elements you’d like to remove and press DEL. I would delete everything before the title of the survey:
…and after the “Submit” button:
…so that when your subscribers open their emails, the survey would something like this:
Is it cool, or what?
Here’s again the summary of the steps to embed a survey in an email newsletter:
Summary of the steps to embed the survey into your email newsletter
Step #1: Create a survey using Google Forms.
Step #2: Send the survey within an email to your Gmail account.
Step #3: Obtain HTML source code for the survey from that email.
Step #4: Prepare the code for the newsletter by:
- Remove all occurrences of 3D
- Remove all occurrences of =^p
- Remove all empty lines
- Find the first occurrence of <table and remove everything before it
- Find the occurrence of </body and remove it together with everything after it
Step #5: Paste the survey code into the email body of newsletter.
Step #5 1/2: (Optional) Remove the unnecessary elements by selecting them and pressing DEL and/or style your survey using CSS.
Now you can make it easier for your subscribers to answer your questions and start learning about the problems of your audience.
You can even use it, for example, to conduct quick polls or let your subscribers vote on a topic for your next newsletter!
Bonus tip: Embed your survey in your blog post
Did you know that you can also embed a survey in a blog post? You can do it in 2 different ways:
1) You can use the “Embedded HTML” option Google Forms provide on their website: After you’ve created your survey, click “Send”, then “<>” and copy-paste the code into your blog post.
Sadly, you can’t use the same code for your email newsletter, because it contains an iframe element that spam filters won’t let pass through. But hey, it works for embedding a survey in your blog post!
2) Or you can paste the same code you used in your email newsletter into your blog post:
Troubleshooting: What to do if your form doesn’t work
- Test the “clean” version of the form, without deleting anything from the original (i.e. without implementing the optional Step 5 1/2).
- Using MailChimp? Sorry, this hack won’t work for you. 🙁 MailChimp says that there may be problems with forms like this and many people reported in the comments that it indeed didn’t work for them in MailChimp.
- Google if your email marketing software has a problem with forms like this. You can google “how to embed a form in X”, where X is the tool you are using (Aweber, ConvertKit, etc.)
- Make sure neither the form labels nor any other text within the form includes “weird” characters. If you’re creating a form in French, for example, although the original form on Google Forms looked fine, some characters may get screwed up by the time you’re inserting the form code into your email marketing tool. So in Step 5 while you’re inserting the form into your email newsletter, carefully check all the characters in the form and correct them if necessary.
- Multiple choice options don’t work? Try placing these options in a drop-down menu. Drop-down menu doesn’t work? Try multiple choice.
- “Submit” button doesn’t work? It’s usually a sign that your HTML code has errors. Probably, while you were removing parts of it, you have removed too much or added an extra character. Go through the whole process again, testing the form every time after you remove a piece of code. This way, if you remove too much, you’ll be able to identify when that happened, reverse this particular step and try again without having to start from the beginning.