Using Surveys To Get Ideas For Ebooks

If you’re thinking about selling an eBook or course online about a particular topic but don’t know where to start then one of the easiest things you can do is setup a survey and use Google AdWords to drive people to that survey, asking them what questions they have about your particular topic of interest.

With just a simple HTML page and a text box, you can ask people interested in a specific topic exactly what their questions are and then use them as the basis of your information product.

In this post I’ll give you an outline of how it’s done. I’ll assume you’ve already chosen a topic to write about and will focus strictly on the survey.

To start, go to and buy a domain relating to your topic of interest. For example, we might get if we were going to setup a survey for people with lower back problems. Because we’re going to run Google AdWords to get people to fill out your survey, the domain name should include keywords relating to the topic you want to write about – this will help your ad appear higher in AdWords.

Next, get some cheap hosting and setup your survey page. You should keep your survey page short and simple. Here’s an example:

Just include one text box where you ask what questions your visitors have. You can also include a picture of yourself or what you’re writing about. Don’t ask for their name or email address as that’ll put a lot of people off because they think you’re going to spam them.

If you’re not familar with how to hook up a form to a PHP page then click here to download a sample one where I’ve done everything for you.

After you’ve set up your survey page you can use Google AdWords to set up a few ads to get people to complete your survey. Don’t pay more than 20 cents for a click. If you’re unsure how to setup Google AdWords to attract the most clicks then read my “Killer Google AdWords Ads” series.

Collect about 30-50 survey responses and you should start getting an idea for the types of information people are after. Use those questions as the framework for your eBook. Of course there’s more to creating an eBook but if you use a survey to find out what people are interested in you’ve got a bigger chance of writing a relevant eBook that will actually sell because you’re answering the questions (or problems) that people are searching for.

This post was โ€œguest bloggedโ€ my me, Mitchell Harper. I also run my own blog where I focus on tips to increase your website traffic to your blog. I have been online for over 10 years and run a successful software company called Interspire.

55 thoughts on “Using Surveys To Get Ideas For Ebooks”

  1. Interesting, at a level of 20 cents or less per click, I would expect that you wouldn’t get many visitors, but I guess it depends on the competition for the particular keywords you are trying to use.

    Cheers & Thanks,

    1. It’s just a survey page though, do don’t necessarily want the top AdWords spot!

  2. Marc says:

    While it’s never a bad idea to get feedback from the public, I suspect that you should be able to write a fair amount on your own if you’re going to be publishing an e-book…

    But I suppose for the minimal cost you’re pitching, it might be worth it.

    1. Alex says:

      Of course you would write a lot on your own, otherwise you shouldn’t sell the thing for more than 10 cents.

  3. James says:

    Great idea John.
    I have read about doing a survey to find a good subject but I had not linked it to actually using the questions for the base of the book.

    Asking for an email and making it optional might help build a great list to sell the ebook to later. You may not get many but anything is a start.

    1. It wasn’t written by John, Mitch wrote it!

      1. Mark Shead says:

        Actually the idea comes from Aaron Wall’s SEOBook. Of course he may have gotten it from someone else as well.

        1. I meant that John didn’t write the article, I’m sure that a few people have come up with this idea…

          1. Dave says:

            These days there’s no real new ideas…everything is recycled.

          2. Very true, or it’s made up: Fox News!

  4. derrich says:

    I’m seriously going to try this. I was up late last night on GoDaddy trying to find some domains. I just hope my niche is popular enough to bring the sales.

    1. Dave says:

      Make sure the traffic is there before your pick your niche.

      1. Or just make sure the niche isn’t too crowded!

  5. John Chow says:

    Personally, I would get their email address. Then after the eBook is complete, you can spam them and say, “The book is done and it answers your question! Get it now for $97! :mrgreen:

    1. That’s a great idea, get some contact info so you ca follow up on the lead!

      1. You’ll scare too many people off it you ask for their email address. If you don’t ask for their email address you’ll get 500% more responses. Trust me on that one, the difference is amazing.

        1. Marc says:

          Yep, that’s certainly true.

        2. โ“ Is there a way to follow up on the leads or do you just go after new ones?

    2. Mark Shead says:

      You might have the best results by making the email optional. Tell them that you are going to give special pricing to anyone who helps with the book–if they are interested.

      Then send out an email saying it is available for half price to the “contributors” (people who asked questions) and their friends, just for the first week.

    3. Dave says:

      I’d take the middle road John.

      Make the email address optional, so it won’t scare away anyone. Those who put it in…score ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. I wonder if just having it there would scare people away…

        1. Dave says:

          Probably some…but the fact that it is optional would be a nice middle ground.

  6. Mubin says:

    Hey Mitch:

    Your writing is getting better and better. I didnt know it was wasnt John until I came to the end!

    BTW any chance of getting your e-book with giving out emails? I dont wanna be spammed….

    1. LOL I don’t spam people Mubin. If you want the eBook just go to

      Don’t say I don’t do nuthin for ya ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

    2. It just signs you up to his euntreprenuer newsletter.

  7. Ryan says:

    Great strategy. I wanted to add in a tip from what I’ve read about this technique and the times I’ve used it:

    Although it may be tempting to make your ad say: “Take a survey, no obligation” or to offer freebies for completion, you shouldn’t. What you are really after is the person who is shopping for the info, not someone who has time to kill answering surveys, or who is looking for a related freebie.

    I suppose it could depend on the niche, but generally speaking you want your survey traffic to resemble your actual buyers as closely as possible.

    1. Hi Ryan. It really depends. You need to test: ask for their email address for a week and see your response. Next week, don’t ask for their email.

      You can’t segment transactional and relational shoppers JUST by asking for their email address, because it’s not about that. It’s about TRUST, and if you don’t ask for their email address you’ll get 5 times more responses to your survey.

      Sure, you want their email address to notify them about your eBook, but it’s a trade off: more responses and no contacts, or less, lower quality responses in exchange for a handful of (possibly invalid) email addresses…

      1. Dave says:

        I skimmed through your e-book. Not bad. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing blow your socks of stuff, but not bad for beginners.

        Like the affiliate links at the end….very evil ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Ryan says:

        Just to clarify, I didn’t ask about email addresses. I was talking about gearing your marketing strategy toward your potential product, as opposed to your survey.

  8. You can use Mitchell’s PHP form OR you can use, a web app that allows you to easily create good-looking forms without having to write a line of code, and them use them by embedding them in your blog or website (they provide all the instructions, that happens to be just one ๐Ÿ˜€ ). This way, if you don’t know absolutely nothing about PHP it won’t be an excuse to don’t apply this excellent idea.

    And no, I’m not related to in any way.

    Besides that it’s a pretty good idea I’ll happily apply it in some way or another. Good post Mitchell ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Ah yeah Wufoo – I saw them a few months ago and they have an incredible form generator.. and no, I don’t work for Wufoo either :mrgreen:

      1. Dave says:

        are you sure? ๐Ÿ™‚

        Just pullin’ your leg heh heh

  9. I didn’t even know it wasn’t john..great post mitch!

  10. Nick says:


    What do you typically put on the “thank you” page? I would think that is a reasonable time to
    provide an opt-in box.

    I’m going to wait until godaddy has one of their $1.99 .info sales and pick up a generic sounding domain and set it up for whichever one of my blogs about which I want to collect information about. I can stick “this survey is sponsored by blah blah blog” on it, then the thank-you redirect is simple, straight to the blog post of interest.

    1. Hey Nick. That’s exactly what you’d do:

      “If you’d like to know when I release my ebook please enter your email address below. I respect your email privacy and will never spam you.

      [text box to get their email address]”

  11. Marc says:

    Is it just me or does the guy in the picture look suspiciously like John from a distance…

    1. Dave says:

      It’s just a coincidence….or is it?


      1. I don’t think John is that buff – but I am! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. Marc says:

          I don’t know… I know in older pictures he’s not that buff, but he might have been bulking up in the last couple of months.

  12. Bonnie says:

    I first heard this idea from Alex Mandossian back in 2003. He developed a software program around it (called ASK Database or something like that). But doing it the free way is certainly more appealing!

    I agree that it would be good to give responders a CHOICE about leaving their email. I believe Alex advised “bribing” people to give you comments by promising to give them a FREE copy of the ebook when it was ready. That would certainly get some opt-ins! (Then when you give them the freebie, ask for their comments and collect testimonials!)

    People in general are often reluctant to fill out surveys. If the Adwords campaign led them to believe they would find a page with ANSWERS to their problem, rather than ASKING them questions, they may be a bit annoyed. Annoyed people may leave comments… but not the helpful kind! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Dave says:

      I think if you said the the ebook was going to be ready real soon and gave them the option to opt-in to be notified when it was ready you could solve some of these problems.

  13. Interesting way about going that route. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Nick says:

    I like to get the email and give them a free copy of the book when it’s done. I also ask them for a testimonial.

    1. Dave says:

      Or maybe just offer it to them at a discount. It’s more evil that way ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Bubba says:

    Good post, a couple of thoughts:

    1. Loads of comments about people wanting to add an email address field. This is the greed talking, put the greed aside. The value of, what are hopefully, honest comments/feedback is what your after. The more the better.

    2. Your example shows nothing more than a landing page from Google AdWords. If you like your quality score, or dont have a great quality score in AdWords, make a site! It doesnt have to be grant, but throw some links in the footer to a few pages (contact, privacy policy, about, more info, etc…). Appease the big beast (Google) and your costs shall decress ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Dave says:

      On further consideration, I think asking for their email after they’ve filled out the survey is the ideal setup. Then you get the best of both worlds.

      The higher conversion rate and the ability for people to give you their email address if they want.

  16. zaki says:

    Another great fantastic stuff from Mitch. I did not know about this before. Very good idea. Easy to implement. I might want to try it later…
    Thanks ๐Ÿ˜ฅ ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜†

  17. Jeff Kee says:

    Learn your target first before you can market.

    1. Dave says:

      Isn’t it wiser to just blindly jump in? :mrgreen:

      1. Marc says:

        That’s been my experience ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Nice post Mitch. I’ve heard about this technique before – but they usually recommend also collecting e-mail addresses so you can build a list of potential customers. But I guess you could sacrifice that to get more responses…

    Thanks for the survey sample – code examples are always nice.

  19. One thing – I was checking out the code example and in post.php it says “I’m still collecting feedback and I will send you an email when my eBook is ready to download.” — you probably want to remove that since you’re not collecting e-mail addresses ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. Yah I have thought about writing an ebook, but then I remembered how short my attention span is. I can’t stand writing about one topic for more than a post worth for my blog!!


  21. Keeping the surveys short is ideal; any longer than the sample and people might get bored — great insight, Mitch! ๐Ÿ™‚

Comments are closed.