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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How To Have A Successful Blog Contest

Having just concluded my first blog contest with (what I consider) roaring success, I'd like to share what I learned.  I've also had a few questions regarding same so although I am by no means a "blog contest expert" I will still share what I've learned because that is what I believe to be the crux of blogging: sharing and learning.

I've blogged on and off for several years tiptoeing around many different topics.  I've finally settled in to Blogger with a pouch full of topics that I am comfortable writing about. Don't get me wrong, I'll deviate from time to time as my interests can be quite varied but nonetheless I have a basic core: family, survival/preparedness, and medicine.

At some point, I decided to commercialize my blog in an effort to earn a little money on the side.  I don't expect to make much. Wifey and I had more than a few chuckles over my first month's earnings of $0.44. Yep, 44 cents. But I didn't start blogging to make money, I started blogging because I like to write. I always have enjoyed it and used it to my advantage in assisting roommates and bosses...but we'll save that for another day...maybe.

Point is, I write because I like to write but if it makes enough income to say...pay for my monthly internet service, then it is a win-win situation.  Now that's still a pretty lofty goal. My internet runs about $70 a month. Having never made more than $5 in any given month means I have a long road ahead of me.  That's where the commercialization comes in to the blog.

Blogger makes it very easy (being a sibling of Google) to advertise on a blog.  A few clicks and you can add Adsense advertisements seamlessly integrated into your blog content. Now, ads are great at generating income for your blog...but only if a substantial amount of people are seeing them.  To give you an idea of how they pay, I average 1-2 cents per day when I have 100 pageviews. All that means is that my blog homepage has been seen or refreshed 100 times in a given 24 hour period.  Nobody clicked an ad, this is just a basic flat rate for "impressions" of the advertisement. Your results may vary, of course, and there are rules and restrictions (the 100 pageviews can't be me hitting the refresh button 100 times).

To increase the number of ad impressions, I need more visitors to my blog. To increase the number of people that visit my blog, I chose to have a blog contest. From my research on this topic, here's the basic rules to having a successful contest:

1- Decide WHY you are having the contest. Do you want more blog followers, Facebook followers, or Twitter followers? Do you want more comments posted or perhaps some guest articles submitted? I, of course, wanted all of it! Wifey helped bring me to my senses.  Since I didn't really know how Facebook and Twitter would benefit my blog substantially, I opted for "follow my blog" and "advertise my blog" as a means to get more exposure. I chose to ask folks to advertise my blog on their blog or facebook page.  I can't deny the power of Facebook so I created a "fan" page just for my blog knowing full well that not everybody uses Facebook. In fact, some of my favorite authors are anti-FB (sorry Claire).  I completely understand the reasons people steer clear of the all-intrusive-information-sharing websites like FB. For the other 200 million that DO use FB, I submitted.

2- Decide what the GUIDELINES will be.  I laid it out: Do one of these four actions, then leave a comment letting me know you did the action.  This gave me a record of eligible entries into my contest.  I was able to verify each action to make sure it was completed. If you have a huge list of entries, you could wait until you draw your winners and THEN verify the actions of the winners.  If you find that a winner wasn't truthful, discard that entry and draw for a new winner. Set a start date and an end date. Use one of the many random name or number generators on the internet to help select a winner.  If your comment section is numbered, use a random number generator. Whichever number is selected, correlate it to the same comment number and there's your winner. I took the names of all the entries (equal to the number of times they had entered) and input them into this random name picker.

3- Pick some GREAT prizes.  This stumped me at first.  I didn't know what to do or offer.  I decided to purchase a $10 Home Depot card with my own money and offer it as a prize.  I justified that this was a small amount to pay for an insight into blogonomics.  Then I decided to email a company that I reference a lot in my blog (hello Seed For Security!).  I bought a seed pack last year and have had great success growing my garden from it.  I sent them a simple email telling them a) I bought your product and love it so much that I've blogged about it (and gave my URL for proof), b) I'm thinking about having my first ever blog contest and wondered if you would be interested in sponsoring it, and c) if you aren't interested, I totally understand.  These three things told the company that I truly cared for their product, I blog about it, and I will have no ill feelings should they choose to not participate in my contest. I sent emails to three sponsors and all three replied that they would be happy to participate. I made it a point to let them decide what product to offer as I made no attempt to presume anything.

4- Double check your final contest blog post.  Make sure all rules are clear.  If something unclear pops up in a comment after the contest starts, address the comment in a reply AND go back to the blog post and clarify for future readers.  I actually made a mistake that could have been costly.  I forgot to put in the rules that prizes could only be shipped inside the USA.  If someone from Pakistan had won, I would have had to cover the cost of shipping a package. Luckily, all my winners were fairly local. Check any links you provide in your contest such as links to a Facebook page. You don't want contestants giving up on your contest because your links are bad. Always include pictures of your prizes on the contest page.  We are a visual society.

5-  Keep it simple.  I started with a laundry list of ways to enter. I wanted guest posts and trackbacks, FB and Twitter followers, RSS feeders and on and on.  Wifey finally said "You know, all the contests I see are WAY easier than yours".  After much consulting, she helped me whittle my contest down to the basics. Some experts in the contest field will suggest giving great detail on all aspects of your contest to reduce the chances of a sore loser.  "Contest ends at midnight" and "must reply to winning email within 24 hours" are some details that get more specific.  I reduced the contest length from one month down to two weeks.  Seems most contests only run 1-2 weeks from my research. A quick "blog contest" google search will provide a fountain of information.

6-  Have fun.  Enjoy the comments that come in.  Reply to them.  Follow the poster back to their blog and read about them. Leave a comment on their blog thanking them for coming by.  The great thing about blogging is connecting with other bloggers of similar interests.  I have found several new blogs that I have chosen to follow now thanks to my contest. 

7- Advertise your contest.  If this is your first contest it will be difficult, as it was for me.  Since I didn't already have a big following (like my idol Rural-Revolution), I asked the sponsors to mention the contest and emailed a few select bloggers.  The sponsors were by far the biggest source of traffic (thanks Patrice & Don!) and as the word spread from bloggers posting on their blogs, the traffic increased.  I put a banner in the top right corner of my blog advertising the contest.  This position allowed anyone who visited my blog to see that a contest was underway. I made sure the banner had the contest start and end date on it and the banner linked to my blog post page that described the details.

So, for the most part, that's what I've learned regarding blog contests.  Here's a link to my contest page if you want to see exactly how I wrote it out.  I also had the great fortune of having two guest posts that I wrote (here and here) go "live" right around the start of my contest.  Guest posts will typically have a link back to the author and will generate some traffic. It has been a great experience hosting my first contest and I look forward to many future contests. Thank you to my sponsors and the many great folks that participated. My family and I will be toasting you all, as we each eat ONE taco that will be provided by the income generated this month on this blog ;-)...I call the baby's leftovers!

~OJD

10 comments:

Lamb said...

I received the prize of the seeds today...I IMMEDIATELY sent an email to the company that reads:
I recently won a contest of the Orange Jeep Dad Blog and the prize I won was a huge pack of your seeds. They arrived today, beautifully and carefully packed and with a sweet note from Nan. Thank you so very much! I am in joyful anticipation of planting for my Fall garden and next Spring's garden. It is gratifying to receive a package packed with evident care and pride in these times. The personal touch of the note along with the extra Mylar bags and instructions for saving seeds are greatly appreciated.
Thank You again,
Gwenivere McCourry

Thanks to YOU for running the contest! You picked the prizes that your intended audience would be very interested in, your rules were simple and clear and most importantly, you didn't run the contest too long. (Seriously, nothing is annoying than entering a contest that doesn't end for 2 or so months...)
Thanks again!

The Orange Jeep Dad said...

@Gwen I'm glad you got the seeds too! These seeds made our first (and second) season of gardening so much easier. We tried some clearanced out seeds from questionable sources and could clearly see the difference. Good luck on your fall garden! I hope to see some pics of your veggies on your blog!

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