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Embedding in Surveys, Mobile

How to embed a survey inside an email invitation

Making a survey to email to thousands of email addresses may sound easy. But the main struggle with surveys always is: “Will people be bothered to click on the survey link and respond?”, or “Can I embed my questionnaire inside the email invitation that I’ll send out?”

Luckily, there is a way to do this with SurveyLegend, but there is always a “but”! And it all goes back to how email providers work.

How do email providers work?

Email providers (such as Gmail, Outlook, YahooMail, etc..) have very strict rules when it comes to the type of content that can be embedded inside an email. This is hugely because of security concerns. As we all know, there are loads of fraudulent emails out there, through which senders try to phish for sensitive information. They may have any malicious reason to trick the reader of the email into giving away information such as their bank account number, their personal details, or their passwords.

Now imagine if you logged in to your Gmail account, and saw an email from your online bank with a two text-boxes where you could enter your user name and password, and a login button. Maybe there would be a headline saying: “You have received 10 000 dollars, please login to accept the payment”. Hmmmm…. Well, you’re smart, so you’d not trust that email. But believe it or not, there are many people who would give away their sensitive information easily, and fall victim to such phishing attempts. In this case, it would be Gmail’s fault which allowed having interactive web-elements such as text boxes, within the content of an email.

This is exactly why email providers won’t allow you to have any interactive elements inside emails, except one thing. The only interactive thing you can have within the content of an email is links! Well, links can be dangerous too; but without them, emails would be completely worthless. So Email providers have decided that for us, it’s much easier be more secure by scanning text and links inside an email to find suspicious attempts, than scanning complex interactive elements such as login forms and such.

Ok, but how can I embed the survey inside the email then?!

Knowing about the strict limitations of email providers, one may think that it is impossible to embed a survey or poll inside an email.

Well, it’s mostly true; but there is still a way to collect data from your respondents, using the divine “links”! This is thanks to a tracking system in SurveyLegend which works with a notion which we call “External ID”, and I’ll explain how you can use them, but I should first tell you what external IDs are and how they’re used in normal cases, very briefly.

What’s an external ID, and what is it for?

In SurveyLegend, each one of your questionnaires has a unique link, which you can send out to people to collect responses. When the link is opened by a respondent, they type their answers or they select choices; and all these is recorded by our system, to generate the graphs in the analytics page, or give you the raw data.

But what if I told you, you could add some custom identifier to the survey link itself, which would also be recorded by our system when the link is opened by a respondent? This is the very “External ID” which I was talking about. You can read much more about Using External IDs in survey links here, but in short, External ID is a little piece of text which is added to the end of your survey link. When the link is opened, whatever that little piece of text is will also be recorded along with the provided responses. Think about it as a way of tagging the respondent in advance, before they even start answering.

Embed survey questions in the invitation email, & use External IDs to collect data

I guess we are now forming an understanding about what kind of survey questions can be embedded inside an invitation email, right?

Because we only can use links in emails, it means we only can embed single-selection question types inside the email invitations. Single-selection question types are the ones that allow respondents to select only 1 choice out of all presented choices; such as NPS, Opinion scale, Single selection, Rating (stars, thumbs, emojis), Sliders, Picture selection.

So, what we need to do is making a copy of any of these question types which we want to use, inside the invitation email. Then we should link each one of the choices to our main survey, but for each choice, we need to have a custom ID, which will help us specify which choice is clicked by each reader.


As soon as respondents click on a choice, a new browser tab will be opened (they will be redirected to the survey); which means they will not see our invitation email anymore. This seems to force us to have only 1 question in the email invitation, and therefore this question better be our most important question in the survey. The one that we really need an answer for.

So, we start with a simple example:

    1. Step 1: Create the survey

      First, let’s imagine that we want to send a customer satisfaction survey to customers who have visited our shop. Having built our survey, we should also have the long link of your questionnaire which we want to share with our visitors.


    1. Step 2: Choose the most important question

      because we can only have 1 question embedded in the email, we need to decide which one of our questions is the most important one which we really need an answer for, even if the respondents don’t provide us with any further feedback.


      Usually in customer satisfaction surveys, the most important question is the NPS question.

      So for this example, we really need to know if our customers are loyal and how they feel about us. Therefore, we decide to make an email which includes this pivotal question.


    1. Step 3: Design the invitation email

      If you know HTML and CSS, you can of course design your question and make it really beautiful. Give it colors, and even use images. But for now, we just use Gmail’s own email editor to make a simple email in plain text, with a NPS question in it.



    1. Step 4: Add links with external IDs, for each choice

      Now we need to add our survey link to each one of the choices. For example, we could decide to add this id: nps-10 for choice 10. So if respondent clicks that choice and comes to our survey, we already know that they have selected choice 10 of the NPS question. From here, it’d be wonderful if they decide to continue and fill in our entire survey. Otherwise, we have at least made sure to collect that one important response that we needed, which is their level of Loyalty!

      We can generate these custom links instantly using the link generator in the share step of our respective survey. It would look like the below example:

      Generate a link with an External ID

      Simply copy the generated link, and paste it as a hyperlink in your survey invitation email, as illustrated below.


We keep adding links with IDs to each NPS item (nps-9, nps-7, nps-6, etc…), until all get their custom IDs.

  1. Step 5: Send the invitation email, and view collected responses

    After sending the survey, there are two ways we can see the external IDs.
    In exported data
    One of them is when you export your collected data, like the example below, in which each row represents one participant.

    A B Z
    How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague? Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with our company? External id
    10 Very satisfied nps-10
    1 Very dissatisfied nps-1
    9 Somewhat satisfied nps-9
    7 Very satisfied nps-7

    In “Individual Responses” view
    The other way is by going to the individual responses view. The IP-addresses are stated for each respondent, under the Metrics tab.

    An illustration of individual responses, showing how IPs and External IDs are shown to survey creators.


    The illustration above shows an example of what is shown under the Metrics tab in the Individual Responses view. Note how IPs and External IDs are shown to survey creators.


When a respondent answers your NPS question from the email, we catch their response. But these types of responses which are based on External IDs will not generate any diagrams or charts, and they are not shown in the Live Analytics view. Therefore it might be a good idea to repeat your NPS question in the survey again. If respondents care, they will answer again, if they don’t, you at least know that you have their initial response and can see it in Individual responses view or in the exported data.

Styling embedded questions

It is possible to make the embedded questions look like real ones in the survey. But for that, you need to know HTML and CSS, or use programs which allow you to design emails which you want to send to your respondents.

About the Author

Kiarokh Moattar

I eventually grew up after painting on many walls, getting too many scars, watching loads of animated movies, taking care of lots of injured animals, and inventing crazy strategies to bypass the "dictatorship" of the adults, and got a B.A. in Psychology. Shortly after, I grew up a bit more and got two M.A. degrees in art & design. Today, after growing up slightly more, I realize that I've been working with many companies and brilliant people, inventing new tech solutions, designing & coding cool stuff, making cute illustrations; while still truly enjoying, loving, and adoring the mother nature and all amazing cuddly creatures out there.

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