Wednesday, July 1, 2020

One of the Best Survey Sites Available? An In-Depth Look at YouGov (Online/App)




WHAT IS IT?
YouGov is another GPT site, where you get paid to fill out surveys. But before you go casting it aside, know that it has at least one thing going for it: some of the lowest disqualification rates in the business. I've taken close to 40 surveys total over the span of a year and have only been disqualified twice. That's a way better acceptance rate than any other survey site not named Prolific. This is because, like Prolific, their surveys aren't so much about finding the right demographics to support the research of a specific brand, but rather gaining insights about people's behaviors and ideas in general.

So what can you expect from the site? And is it right for you? Well, read on and let's find out!

SIGNING UP AND TAKING SURVEYS


Signing up is as easy as filling out this form and verifying your email address.
The sign-up process with YouGov is shockingly straightforward: fill out your email address, create a password, verify your email address, and voila! You're done! That's right, unlike other websites that ask you for all of your info and promise to keep it private (yeah right), YouGov doesn't ask you for any specific details up front, and will only ask you for the typical cluster of broad demographic information (race, household income, zip code, etc.) at the end of every survey. Other sites promise that this information is used to “pair” you up with surveys that pertain to you, but given the incredibly high disqualification rates for those sites, that’s clearly just a load of BS used to set your mind at ease.

YouGov, on the other hand, really is different: their DQ rates are among the lowest in the industry. And they do this because of the way they operate: whereas most of these questionnaire companies are paid by specific brands or industries to target the opinions of people that fit the specifics of a certain demographic (an athletic shoe company releasing a line of hip sneakers, for example, won't care about the thoughts of some 40 year old who only buys one pair of work boots a year), YouGov just looks for people's general attitudes on a wide variety of (usually trending) topics.

Which brings me to another plus: many of these surveys are actually somewhat interesting. I say “somewhat” because there are a lot of political-themed questionnaires (I find politics to be on the same plane as religion: something people can argue for hours about despite there often being no provable “truth” either way), but you at least won't get the mind-numbingly boring “watch this advertisement and tell us if you'd buy this product” types offered up by other questionnaire sites elsewhere. Instead, you'll get a lot of questions about your thoughts and opinions concerning current events, with multiple choice answers ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”.

These are the kinds of questions you can expect.
Furthermore, these surveys rarely last longer than 10 minutes, meaning you can be back to your regular day without being bombarded by studies that say they'll only take 5 minutes, but drag on for 20 or more. I'd say this is a survey site for people who usually hate survey sites, simply because it functions in a way all of them should (but very few actually do).

Another great feature is the website's “lax” attitude: you often have days to complete surveys, versus the hour or less you get with other popular sites, who offer them up on a “first-come-first-served” basis and then close them down once they hit the desired number of responses. With YouGov, they'll send you the initial survey offer, and then follow up with a reminder either 24 or 48 hours later (I forget which). And just because they don't notify you any more after that, it doesn't necessarily mean it's not available to take: I've seen a few surveys stay active for a week or longer in my dashboard. This is yet another way they stand out, and a great option for people who are too busy to actively participate in sites that seem to hit their threshold by the time you get the email.

Of course, it can't all be unicorns and rainbows, so you know there has to be some kind of “catch”...and there is: the frequency (or rather, infrequency) of the surveys. On average, I’d say I usually get around three per week, but keep in mind that this number can fluctuate—there are some weeks where I might get only one or two, and I'm sure some where I get none (I don't really pay much attention, honestly). It all just depends on what's happening around the world.

NAVIGATION
If you can get lost here, please quit the internet.
For me, perusing their site is very simple, because I don't: Available surveys are delivered straight to my email, and I just take them from the invitation there. Once it's done, I close out, delete the email, and move on with my life.

But if you actually have to navigate through the site, doing so is super-easy: all your information can be accessed from the “My account” button at the top right of the homepage, save for your points balance, which are in huge numbers that blast you in the face from the middle of the screen the moment you sign in. You can also view your account history, including surveys you've taken, when you took them, and how much you received for taking them.

You can see how you've responded to virtually every
question they've ever asked.
In the most intriguing bit of info, you can also find out who you are as a person: I never knew this until I happened to snoop around, but they keep track of every response you've ever answered to any of their opinion questions. And you can even go back and see the specific questions that lead you to answer in that certain way. For example, you can click “strongly disagree” to pull up every question that you answered that to, completely separated by the date you answered it. Most people won't care about this, but as a fan of statistics and aggregate data, I think it's pretty fun to see how my attitudes and opinions on various topics (might) have changed over the preceding months. Plus, this is the information that they're submitting to other parties, so it's kind of refreshing to see all of that together in one place; it really gives you an idea of how you look as a person to the companies requesting this info.



What's also cool is that they at least give you the perception of privacy: I've been a member for over a year and have cashed out twice, yet have never filled out my YouGov profile. That means they don't have my name, address, or any other information on file. Now, I'm sure they have a way to get it if they want it, but it's neat that no individual surveys will ever ask you for that information, and neither do they, nor is it required information to cash out. This makes them seem a little more trustworthy when compared to other sites who say they keep everything private, yet still have you fill out every single little detail about your life.

Here's how my personal profile looks after a year and two cashouts.
Now, I'm not saying they are more honest and trustworthy than any other data-collecting agency, because no one knows what goes on behind the scenes or even what most of this data is used for. All I'm saying is that they require less information upfront than other sites, and don't hound you to keep everything up-to-date (like Swagbucks does).

MOBILE APP
For those “on the go”, YouGov is available in a mobile version, for both Android and iOS. Admittedly, I have never used it, and don’t ever plan to, because the browser version works just fine on my phone: I just click on the email link, am taken to the survey, and then close out when done, a process that works just as well on both desktop, and mobile devices. Considering the lack of other paid activities on the site, I can’t see the app offering up any more functionality than that, but for those that just enjoy having apps on their phone, it’s there for you if you want it.

GETTING PAID
It's a slow slog, but it is legit.
Each survey you complete generally pays out 500-750 points, which are banked immediately upon completion. At the end of many surveys, you can also get a chance to take a part in YouGov ratings for an additional 100 points, which has quickly become my favorite aspect of the site. In it, 30 random things pop up, ranging from athletes, to actors, to musicians, to brands, and anything else that might be considered “popular”. You are then to rate that person or band or brand, from “strongly dislike” to “strongly like”, or if you've never heard of them, there's a marker for that. It's pretty fun being able to show your support (or hatred) for a certain person or brand, and while it makes no difference in the long run, getting some extra points for it is pretty nice. Sure, 100 points isn't a lot at all (it would take 250 sessions of this just to get to the minimum for cashout), but it's more than the usual 0 you'd get if you just went through them for fun, and it really does add up.

Once you hit enough points to cash out (as of June, 2020 the minimum amount is 25,000 points, which is good for a $15 Amazon card) you can navigate to the “Redeem” page. Redeeming a gift card is as easy as clicking on it, and then clicking “Redeem”, at which point the points will be subtracted from your balance.

These are all of the "cheapest" gift card options.
Payouts are one area where YouGov trails behind others, as it can take up to three weeks to receive your gift card code—that's quite a while compared to the usual 7-day maximum waiting period offered by other sites. From my own experience, it has taken over a week, but less than two, both times I requested payout, so you probably won't have to wait the full three weeks most of the time, but keep in mind that holidays and other high-traffic times can push it closer to the three-week limit (and maybe even beyond).

HOW MUCH CAN I MAKE?
I say it every time, but I’m going to continue to do so: You’re not going to make a living wage. While I think most people know that going in to any of these endeavors, there are a small amount who might think it's possible—put that thought out of your head right now.

Each survey you take usually awards you somewhere in the ballpark of 500-750 points, with a minimum cashout requirement of 25,000 points to get a $15 Amazon gift card (yes, that is the only option). At the minimum 500 point rate, it would take 50 surveys to hit that goal. In reality, though, they will probably accrue much quicker than that: according to my dashboard, I've “only” completed 35 surveys, and have already been able to cash out for $15 gift cards twice.

However, what that information doesn't provide is just how long it's taken me to complete those 35 surveys, and since YouGov's detailed stats only seem to cover the last couple months—and oddly enough, don't include a sign-up date—I'm unfortunately unable to provide that info. I'd say I've definitely been a member for at least a year, and taking into account the couple of month-long breaks I took from all GPT sites, I'd say I've completed about 85% of the total surveys they've sent me within that time.

Factoring that in, I might have been able to cash out an extra time had I completed those neglected surveys, but that would only take me up to $45 in total earnings in over a year, which sounds about right in terms of what to expect.

They do offer one other paid option, though you have to be invited via survey to use it: YouGov Pulse, which downloads an app to your phone and then pays you $50/year (in point value) to keep it on there. As can be expected, the program tracks what apps you use and what websites you visit, and is supposedly anonymous. I was actually invited, but turned it down because I hate the thought of random apps running in the background (plus, my Huawei phone would probably shut it down anyway); judging from the poor scores on Google Play, I made the right call, with many users complaining of battery drain, and general usage issues stemming from the fact YouGov Pulse basically runs as a VPN (the usage of which on virtually all survey sites can get you permanently banned), and submits large amounts of your usage data in the background.

Personally, I don't find the monetary gain worth it, but if you don't mind it, or you have an extra phone laying around that you rarely use, you can chuck it on there and make a few extra bucks per month. It's still not a lot, but it's something more than you'd get from just sticking to surveys.

SUPPORT
By virtually all accounts, this is YouGov's Achilles heel.
I've never had to contact YouGov for any support-related reason, so once again, I'm of no help to anyone here. However—and I'm actually kind of surprised here—ratings on Trustpilot are incredibly negative, with many users claiming their account(s) were shut down right before hitting their cashout limit, and with no response from the company. Bear in mind that most of these issues seem to affect users in the UK a lot more than US users (they are run as separate companies), but any review that mentions “support” on either side of the ocean pretty much unanimously agrees that it's nonexistent. That's a terrible shame, because outside of this, they really seem to be trustworthy; despite my experience, it's certainly something to keep in mind if you're thinking about signing up.

For the record, I've cashed out for Amazon gift cards twice with absolutely no problems either time, and have never had an issue banking my points (or at least, with no problems that I've ever noticed). But it does kind of make me pause knowing that, should something go wrong, there might be a chance that I can't get a hold of them, and that's not really a confidence-building feeling.

OVERALL
PROS (+)
+Very few survey disqualifications
+Most surveys last 10 minutes or less
+YouGov Ratings can boost your point total over time
+Email notifications bring surveys to you
+Technical issues are a rarity.
+Only need a verified email address to sign up.

CONS (-)
-Virtually unanimous complaints of nonexistent support 
-Can take a while to receive gift card after redemption
-Infrequent surveys limit maximum earning potential
-No other paid activities to earn additional cash

YouGov works as a no-frills survey site, with very few disqualifications, since most of the surveys are opinion-based, and concerning current world events. This means they're usually a lot more interesting than the advertiser-based surveys found on other sites. It also gains points for privacy, requiring only an active email to sign up (with basic demographic information collected at the end of every survey).

However, infrequent surveys and a lack of other paid activities severely limit the amount of money people can earn. That, along with nonexistent customer support (note: I never experienced this, but this is a virtually unanimous consensus across the board according to online reviews...even among fans of the site) can bog down what could otherwise be a near-perfect experience. It's still recommended, but not as enthusiastically as it should be.

RATING: 7/10

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