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How to Hold a Contest to Improve SEO and Reader Engagement

Amanda DiSilvestro
How to Hold a Contest to Improve SEO and Reader Engagement

Hosting any type of contest is a great way to improve engagement and gain visibility for your brand. But it certainly doesn’t come without a lot of work.

When you’re giving away any type of prize, you have to make sure nothing can cause the contest to be unfair. This means you need to ask yourself a few initial questions to make sure things run smoothly:

  • What are my goals for the contest?
  • Is hosting a contest really going to benefit my specific company/niche?
  • Who is going to manage the contest?

Once you answer these questions and have determined that hosting a contest is in fact going to benefit your company (more on this in the next section), you have to start considering the different kinds of contests you could run. With this step comes a few more questions:

  • What type of contest will I run, for how long and what are the rules?
  • Is there a particular time a contest should run? Is alongside a product launch going to make a difference with my audience?
  • How am I going to fairly judge participants to find a winner?

Being able to answer all of these questions means understanding different contest options. You can certainly come up with a unique contest on your own and get creative, but this is one area where it really helps to think about the different platforms available to host your contest and learn from others.

The Benefits of Hosting a Contest on Your Website

When discussing holding a contest on your blog or a social media network, the term “reader engagement” can be quite broad. Not only that, but there are actually quite a few more ways your company could benefit depending on the type of contest you hold. Below are some of these benefits explained:

  • Increase social connections and email addresses if you have people “like” your page or give you an email when they sign up for the contest. This could deter some people, however, so it’s important you promise you won’t spam them with messages.
  • Generate user content by asking participants to submit something they’ve written. Not only will this help to give you some new, fresh content for your site, but it will help give your site some more variety. Users who submit content on your site will also be more apt to share that content.
  • Comments and conversations often get started because of contests. If your contest allows people to vote or comment, you’re sure to get more discussion going than usual.
  • Building links and visibility is of course the name of the game. The more people participating, the more chance you have they will share and therefore build links.

Of course, not all companies will benefit from hosting any type of contest. If you’re a B2B company in a very specific market, a contest might not be worth your time because it won’t earn you many more clients. If you work in an obscure niche, you also might not get enough participants to make your contest worthwhile. In the end it’s really all about who you can get involved, and you need to have a pretty solid audience as a place to start.

Tips and Tricks to Hosting a Contest to Improve Reader Engagement

How to Host a Successful Facebook Contest

The most popular contests you will see here are typically photo-based contests where participants can upload a relevant photo and caption and win your prize. Writing large amounts of content on Facebook isn’t natural, but people are usually very eager to upload photos (and Facebook’s new image size changes lead us to believe it’s becoming a more photo-drive site). A few more options include:

When to launch: Most companies will launch a Facebook contests alongside a new product launch or announcement. This can either be because a). you want your contest to be about that product, or b). you want a lot of people coming to your site during a time you’re launching a product.

Where you will host your contest: With Facebook you have essentially three options:

  • Build a webpage on your website and then promote it on Facebook. Building out a microsite gives you more flexibility when it comes to how you want your contest to work. In other words, it might not be totally necessary that you create a photo-based contest if the contest itself isn’t happening on Facebook.
  • Use Wildfire or a Contest App from Facebook so you can host your contest through a tab on your Facebook page. This is the method Facebook likes best.
  • Ask users to hashtag something specific when they upload their photos/entries, and then just hold the contest right there on Facebook. This also works great if you create a poll or quiz and ask users to answer a question.

Keep in mind that Facebook is strict when it comes to hosting a contest. If you don't follow their rules you can get in big trouble. For example, your contest cannot require people to tag themselves in pictures in order to win a prize. You can visit the official Facebook announcement for the new rules that were updated just this year.

How to Host a Successful Twitter Contest

Twitter seems to be the social network where contests all began. The possibilities for contests here are wide open, but almost all require users to use a specific hashtag and/or @mention. Using a hashtag will help the person hosting the contest keep all of the entries straight. It’s a great way to get something trending and get your company talked about on the network. There are several different options:

  • Ask people to link to a photo or piece of content they’ve written where you can then judge based on criteria you have set in place.
  • Have users describe something/answer one of your questions in 140 characters or less.
  • Ask users to simple Retweet to win. This doesn’t take much effort on the part of the reader, but it helps to get your company name circulating on Twitter.

You can definitely promote your Twitter contest on Twitter, but it’s a good idea to also promote it on your website. It’s easy for people to miss a tweet, so spend a few weeks before the contest promoting that contest anywhere you can.

Twitter’s rules for hosting contests are fairly straightforward: make sure fans know not to create multiple accounts so they can participate more than once, don’t ask fans to post the same tweet several times from their one account, and make sure the topic of your contest is relevant to your brand’s mission. You can visit this link for a statement from Twitter that explains all of the rules they have for hosting a contest.

How to Host a Successful Blogging Contest

One of the most popular ways to hold a contest is through your blog. Blogging contests are, by no surprise, centered on content. Oftentimes, full-length articles produced by readers. As discussed in the first section of this article, a blogging contest is an excellent way to generate new content for your website while also helping our your readers. What’s very enticing to readers is the idea that they still get visibility on your site even if you don’t choose them as the winner, which makes many more apt to get involved (after all, writing a piece of content is time consuming).

Other Contest Options

Quite a few large brands have used sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram to host contests. When it comes to visual sites like these, it’s all about asking participants to take creative photos or videos (not unsimilar to the ideas discussed above). Visit this article for a cool look at all of the Instagram contests that were held over this past year and see if you can draw any inspiration!

Google+ seems to be one of the harder social networks to host a contest on because of their guidelines, which you can find here. They clearly state:

“You may not run contests, sweepstakes, or other such promotions directly on Google+ or in a manner that requires use of Google+ features of functionality.”

However, the guidelines also go on to state you are allowed to display a link on Google+ to a site where your contest is being held. Because of this, it is possible to create a successful campaign and use Google+ for promotion (just not the main hosting spot). Social Media Examiner wrote all about Google+ contests in this article if you’re interested in utilizing that platform for promotion.

So Where Does SEO Come Into Play?

Hosting a contest is really all about visibility. The more visibility you get and the more people linking back to your contest, the better SEO benefits you’ll see. As discussed above, many contests ask that you share a page or “like” a page in order to participate (sometimes that’s all the participation needed). If you wanted to take things a step further, urge participants to link back to the contest or link back to their specific entry. This will help bring link juice and traffic to your blog or website.

Have you ever held a contest on your website? What kinds of results did you see and how did your content work? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: dmflat.com

Author bio:

Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a nationally recognized SEO agency that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.

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Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO firm HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.
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