How to Build a Great Contest
Posted by Arnaud Joakim
This post was originally in YOUmoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
A few weeks ago I launched my very first contest on one of my various french websites. My objective was to increase my Facebook fans, Twitter followers, newsletter signups and improve the notoriety of my website. The contest is now over and I’ve had time to analyze the results and I must say I am quite impressed!
It took me quite some time to plan out my contest. I read all the blog posts and articles I could find on building an online contest but what really helped me were the thousands of contest pages which already exist on the web. So many websites are currently doing contests and you notice the size of this industry when looking at specialized websites which index all the contests online. So I analyzed about 20 existing contest webpages in my niche and took all the best ideas plus added some of my own magic to condense them into one ultimate contest page.
If you want to start a Facebook & Twitter contest, you’re in the right place.
Building my contest page, I had a few goals in mind. What was my target? Anybody that speaks French (it’s a French website), that has a Facebook or Twitter account and that’s interested in laptop computers (the niche of my website). I needed to find what on-page elements had to be present in order to create the maximum amount of buzz and convert visitors into participants.
List of on page elements to include on your contest page. They are in order of how my page was built.
- One great image at the top of your contest page. This will be the graphic identity of your contest so make it nice, include your logo if you have one. I also included a picture of the products they could win.
- Describe your contest (in your text, include links to various pages on your site. Your contest page will receive backlinks and should have a high PR. By deep-linking to your articles, you’ll send some link juice):
- Why you are doing this contest? Your site’s 3rd anniversary? A new product just came out?
- What prizes are offered? Include more than one!
- How to participate? If there’s more than one way of participating, make sure you insist that they should participate using both methods.
- Include buttons for visitors to participate. Make it easy for them! They should need to click and voila, done.
- Now you can add more information about your contest. What are the details?
- When does it end?
- How many winners?
- How will you contact the winners and when will the prizes be sent?
- Add more details on the various prizes. If it’s a laptop, give the specs.
- Include a photo of the first, second and/or third prize. They should want it!
- Add the comment form. If you are using WordPress be careful! By default, the comment form goes under all the existing comments. If someone has to scroll down 100′s of comments to leave a comment, he won’t. I had to modify my php wordpress template.
- Note: To keep the page loading quickly (speed is important for SEO), I configured WordPress to only show the last 20 comments in order of earliest to oldest. It would have been ridiculously slow if I was showing all 907 comments! WP or the plugin All in One SEO adds canonical urls pointing to the original contest page URL, so multiple pages of comments won’t get separately indexed thus creating duplicate content.
To get a strong buzz around your contest you need to use the power of social media. Luckily for you, it’s also how they should participate. Here’s where the magic happens.
To participate via Facebook
A visitor must click the LIKE button (social plugin) which you have added yourself into the page. This is linked to your Facebook page (you need one!) which receives an additional LIKE (It also posts a link on their wall).
Second, they have to click the Facebook Share button. This posts your contest link onto their Facebook wall. Make sure your page TITLE and the first paragraph of text are well written and attractive because all their friends will now see your link in their activity page. Some say using LIKES and SHARES are the same, they both post something on their wall. It’s up to you to use just LIKE or both.
Finally, I asked visitors to post a comment on the page. This will be useful to get their email address to contact them. They will give you a valid email!
Everybody that participates via Facebook will advertize your contest on their wall for all their friends to see. You’ll get a lot of additional participants, people who would never have found your page otherwise!
To participate via Twitter
A visitor must Tweet your specific message. You need to include a few important things within the 140 characters. ex:
Win a #laptop! Retweet this message & follow @YOURNAME to participate! #YOURHASHTAG http://www.bit.ly/YOURCONTESTURL
Include the prize(s). Explain how they can participate via Twitter. Include your own unique Hash Tag (awesome for statistics). Shortened URL to your contest (Great for stats also!)
It’s pretty easy to create the Twitter link. Start with http://twitter.com/?status= then add your tweet. You mustn’t have any spaces or special characters. Spaces should be replaced by %20. Search for an online tool to convert your tweet if needed.
Secondly, I asked them to follow me via Twitter. Follow @yourtwittername linked to my Twitter account.
Lastly, they needed to leave a comment on the page with the URL to their tweet. You also get their real email addresses this way. Note: Because of the #! inside the Twitter URLs, WordPress is unable to convert into a working URL. The only active part is http://www.twitter.com. I couldn’t find a fix for that.
Everybody that participates via Twitter will have a tweet on their feed for all their followers to see. If you get a few big fish, you’ll get loads of RT and new followers that way.
Visitors found my contest page through these sources:
- On my homepage and in my sidebar I included a big red banner telling people to participate. My site gets 3,000 views per day.
- About 7,000 people signed up to my newsletter in the last six months who are interested in laptops (my niche). I sent them three eBlasts dedicated to the contest over the two-and-a-half weeks. My newsletter CTR is pretty bad at 10%.
- A friend of mine accepted to send my contest eblast through his email signup list (an extra 5000 emails).
- The same friend (thank you!) accepted to add a banner on their homepage (targeted) linking to my contest.
- Twitter users clicking through their followers tweets.
- Facebook users who are friends with someone that participated.
- Google indexed my contest page pretty quickly and I was in fifth place in the SERP for a popular query similar to "Win a laptop".
- I submitted my contest to ALL the websites specialized in indexing contests.
Top Six Entrance Sources to the contest page (Google Analytics):
The Aweber email lists brought in 63% of the visits! That’s huge! Twitter came in 13th place. I received a lot of traffic from contest specialized websites but generally their audience mass participates to contests. Meaning they will be low engagement and it’ll probably harder to make a buck from them as they will not convert. It’s still nice to get the extra Facebook LIKE or Twitter RT.
Tip: A few days before the end of my contest, I changed the title and first paragraph on my page to add a sense of urgency. Two days left to participate! All the new Facebook Shares now had the updated title and description which prompted users to participate right now. Same with Twitter, I updated my tweeting message to let everyone know it was their last chance to participate. I noticed my old Twitter message was still being tweeted 80% of the time! I suppose these are people which ReTweeted their followers message. That means the buzz on Twitter really worked well!
Results and statistics
My contest lasted two and a half weeks. Here are the statistics from the various tools I used to track the success.
- Google Analytics stats for the specific contest page:
- Pageviews: 11,709
- Unique views: 6,264
- Time on page: 1:21
- Bounce Rate: 36%
- Bit.ly Stats (mainly Twitter):
- Clicks: 164
- Tweets: 97
- Facebook Shares: 776
- Facebook Likes: 174
- Comments: 145
- Blog Comments on WordPress:
- 907 comments added on the post
- Aweber (I use the lightbox popup email form)
- I doubled the number of signups from 900 to 1700 for the 2 weeks.
- My Facebook page went from 300 to 1,600 LIKE so 1,300 new LIKES in 2 and a half weeks!
- According to sharethis, there’s 1100 SHARES.
- Increase from 1,700 to 2,100 followers, 400 new followers.
- Tweeted 334 times (How do I check stats on RT?)
- How can I get stats on the Hashtag?
Pageviews during the contest:
These are the pageviews to the specific contest page recorded by Google Analytics. You clearly see when I sent my 3 newsletters to reach a maximum of 1750 pageviews in one day.
Visits coming from each of the newsletters I sent (3 total – GA Goals). Sent to 11,000 emails using Aweber. To track inside Google Analytics, you can add a tracking code to all your newsletter links using: ?utm_source=aweber&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=YOURCAMPAIGNNAME
The email list isn’t very high quality (CTR 10%) as I do not ask for a double-optin so there’s a lot of garbage emails. I regularly clean the list removing emails which haven’t opened my newsletters. A lot of people recommend to use double-optin but I decided not to use it as my list grows faster. I’d rather just manually clean my list.
Aweber new signups in last 30 days:
I sent the first eBlast to the targeted emails on April 26th. The more visitors landed on my contest page, the more users would see the lightbox email form which converts to 3.8%. It appears for all new visitors after 10 seconds.
New Facebook Likes in last 30 days:
As you see, there are 3 peeks which correspond to the three eBlasts I sent to the email lists. A lot of people decided to wait the last minute to participate so the highest peek was on the last day of the contest. Also, you’d be surprised how many people actually go back to your Facebook page to unlike it after the contest has passed.
How could I have improved my contest?
If my site was a little bigger, I would have prepared a nice video with a pretty lady explaining the rules and asking people to participate. Video marketing is huge and if done properly it would have been a great source of visitors.
I’m not very familiar with tools to analyze the Twitter activities. I’d love to see the Buzz that was generated by Twitter users, number of ReTweets, statistics on my unique Hash Tag… Maybe someone can recommend a few free services?
I believe only one blog spontaneously wrote an article about my contest. An extra backlink and a few additional visitors but that’s not enough. I should have spent some time contacting blog owners in my niche to ask if they could advertize for my contest. In exchange, you could offer the same when that blog launches their own contest.
Maybe next time I’ll try Facebook ads and other PPC campaigns to promote the contest. The cost can rise pretty fast so set a budget and stick to it.
The results of the contest surpassed my expectations.
The three prizes cost me around $1000 and that was my only expense. I monetize my niche using Adsense and eBay and my revenue did rise during the contest but I didn’t make an extra $1000. I still think it was worth it because of the additional 800 targeted newsletter signups, 1300 Facebook Likes and 400 new Twitter followers. I’ll be able to market products and services to these new leads and in the long term, I’ll make a lot more than $1000.
Facebook is a lot more powerful than Twitter mostly because there are just so many more people using it. Twitter users often have a Facebook accounts but the opposite is not always true. With both platforms, I was truly impressed at how easy it was to create a buzz. If they have something to gain from sharing your message, they’ll happily complete the actions you request of them as long as you don’t make it too complicated.
By requesting that users leave a message on the blog post to notify that they have participated, I got to read a lot of great comments from users complimenting my site and the contest initiative. It felt quite nice to read so many positive comments and I read all 907 of them! Some users regularly visit my site but never left a comment before so it was great to get their feedback. This contest has definitely increased the number of loyal readers.
If your site doesn’t have much traffic and if you are lacking access to a newsletter email list, think twice before starting your contest. It does take some time to setup and manage properly. Offer prizes which people will want to win but which will not cost you an arm and a leg. Certain electronic products can be cheap, easy to buy and will get people participating.
This was a great experience which I will definitely do again. I’ll make sure to come back to this great article to remind myself how to do it right. Hopefully some of you will contribute your own tips & tricks.
Note from Moz: Remember to check the laws regarding contests and emailing in your country.
About Arnaud Joakim – Helping businesses in Montreal reach their web objectives - http://emarketelite.com/