What can competitions do for your blog?

October 11, 2010 Off By Chris Hinton

Post image by European Parliament
When Geek-Speak turned two, I ran my first online competition. There were several prizes, and all people had to do was to answer a question correctly to be entered into a random draw. My main aim was to say thanks to the people who had read the blog over the last two years, but there was an unexpected side effect:
My e-mail list grew tenfold in a week.
I was stunned – I’d always believed it was hard to get people to hand over their e-mail address and here they were doing so without being specifically asked to.
The next time I ran a competition I decided to make membership of the mailing list one of the requirements for winning. After all, I figured it would be interesting to see whether there was an even bigger increase if you actually asked for people to sign up. Oddly, there wasn’t. The response was much smaller and I’m not sure whether that was because it was obvious I was after people’s e-mails this time, or because it was a smaller competition.
Still, the lesson is clear: running competitions brings short-term traffic increase and can encourage people to sign up to your mailing list if you have one. The benefits are obvious then and, assuming you can afford do it, there’s no reason for not running contests on your blog. Just be sure to have the “rules” clear in your mind so that there’s no opportunity for people to argue over the choice of winner.

Competition Hunting…

Here’s the part that I really want to tell you about, though: a large number of the people visiting your site, and signing up to your mailing list, are only interested in the competition. Some will decide to stay on your mailing list and see what pearls of wisdom you’re prepared to cast their way, but don’t be surprised if some unsubscribe straight after you announce the competition winner. After all, if they’re only there to win, why stick around afterwards? Don’t be surprised either if some unsubscribe over the next few weeks or months, or perhaps don’t open your e-mails at all.
There’s an upside and a downside to running competitions then, the traffic will die down again, some e-mail subscribers will leave, but competitions are still brilliant for getting some publicity, getting people to take a look at your site, and having that chance to grab people’s attention so that they sign up as subscribers and stay signed up.
I’ve had great fun running the few competitions I have, and I definitely plan to do more. I want to encourage you to think about whether you could run a blog contest. If you’re worried about prizes, don’t be: they don’t have to be massively expensive and you might just want to offer the latest bestseller from Amazon… but whatever you do, it’ll gain you experience and publicity. Neither of which is a bad thing, is it?
If you do decide to run a competition, leave a comment here and let us all know about it!