Link Building – Contest Edition
Building links is widely considered the most painful component of search engine optimization (SEO). Yet with backlinks being estimated as 60% of the ranking part in Google’s algorithm, it’s ignored at your own peril.
No one claims link building is easy. But hopefully, by creating strong conversations and having an open discussion across the SEO world we can all learn better, more successful strategies.
Today I’m going to talk about a particular link building strategy we’ve found to be especially underutilized, and often unacknowledged. I am, as you should be able to tell by the title, referring to holding online contests.
Why Online Contests For Link Building?
Online contests are an old shoe when it comes to online marketing. Everyone knows that a well-planned, strongly executed contest can create an influx of traffic (including unique), better survey potential target audiences, improve conversion rates, and increase your brand marketing.
Basically, contests are an established investment technique into the world of online marketing. However, it’s often underestimated for its ability to build links—not surprising, as SEO is often the most underestimated category of online marketing.
Contests are also an amazingly versatile marketing—or link building, in our case—tool, which can be fitted to any client’s needs. They can work in nearly any niche, and with any target audience size. They can be as big as giving away a car, or as small as giving away a $50 coupon code. Furthermore, contests are extremely versatile in their ability to accomplish goals—which is part of what makes them such a strong link building tactic. Want to drive traffic? Check. Want to build links? Check. Want to showcase a new product? Check. Increase sales during an opportune time? Check.
Of course, just like anything else, contests can be done poorly or incorrectly.
Contests Gone Wrong
Contests were hugely popular for a time. So popular in fact, that many blogs, websites, and ecommerce businesses started their own contests, only to have middling success, due to a lack of professional help. But holding a contest should be easy right? I mean, you offer to give something away, and open the gates to the masses? Well, not exactly. Here’s why such tactics don’t work:
- Lack of effective advertising
Sure, giving away free stuff is sexy. People love it. But the internet is abuzz with countless advertisers trying to grab the attention of anyone passing by. This white noise can make it hard to stand out and grab the attention of your target audience. It requires the trained knowledge of a skilled marketer.
- Lack of credibility/authority
Advertising often isn’t enough. Establishing credibility, as well as marking yourself as an authority within your industry, is absolutely vital. There are ads smeared across the web offering free products, gift cards, prizes, (as Jerry Seinfeld says) yadda yadda yadda. And we all know not to click on those ads, because they’re completely bogus. So, successful contests need tasteful, credibility establishing marketing.
- Poor audience targeting
Sometimes contests can fail even if there is a large investment in advertising. I can’t over emphasize the importance of targeting the correct audience when hosting a contest. Otherwise the whole thing can be a waste of time and money.
- Under-optimized contests
Contests can turn underwhelming alarmingly fast if they’re not optimized correctly. This could take the form of a contest that demands too much from its participants, or one that simply doesn’t offer enough incentive. Or maybe the contest isn’t engaging enough. Either way, if the contest hasn’t been sufficiently planned and optimized for its target audience, it can lead nowhere.
So, how do you ensure the investment you put into a contest doesn’t fall flat? How can you guarantee your return on investment (ROI) is secure? You can’t. There are no guarantees. But what you can do is be as sure that you’ve prepared as much as possible.
So, to the end, let’s take a look at the common types of online contests.
Types of Contests
Contests can take a vast array of shapes and sizes. There are:
Give-aways tend to be straight prize give-aways usually requiring minimal interaction. Often they’re as simple as registering. They tend to draw large and diverse traffic, but create minimal interaction.
- Product promotions
These are more niche specific give-aways, often based around new products. These help spread the word and attract a boost of followers.
- Coupon codes
Coupon codes are wonderful for targeted, small audience giveaways. Have a specific blogger, customer, or employee you’d like to reward? Coupon codes work wonders for providing easy access, easy use benefits.
- Free services
Another great way to specifically market yourself, providing free services for a competition is a great way to showcase what makes your company stand out—it’s a real branding opportunity.
- Seasonal or holiday
Having a seasonal or holiday contest is an outstanding way to drive holiday sales. Not to mention get in the spirit of the season.
Essentially the type of contest that will work best is determined directly from the client’s site. And the best way to determine these limitations is by asking questions before any type of planning for the contest starts.
Before you Begin a Contest
The first step in any link building campaign is planning. Starting a link building contest is no different. The first step should be to decide which type of contest will best serve your client’s needs. Here’s the typical run-down we do:
- Who is our client’s target audience
- Which niche of that audience has the greatest online presence, with the most relevance
- What type of contest will interest this niche – and their online followers – the most
- What prizes/gifts will attract the most attention
- What type of involvement will include the most interaction, while still garnering backlinks
Next it’s time to take an honest look at the potential benefits of running the contest. Here’s what we have to think about:
- How much time will we have to spend marketing the contest to be successful
- Will it need money for ads? If so, how much
- What is the realistic expenditure on the prize
- Is the ideal target audience large enough to justify spending
- How many links can we realistically expect to obtain from the contest
By running through this list of questions we are able to lay strong groundwork for a link building contest.
The most important function of these questions is to provide a realistic expectation going into a contest. But don’t be afraid to think creatively. Contests are so versatile that there’s great potential for experimentation. But don’t forget your priorities. If the #1 goal is to build links, other things such as traffic and conversions can be less important (although they should still be considered).
There are many ways to build links from an online contest. Truly, the only limit is your imagination. Great ideas happen every day, and the greatest link building tool in any SEO’s tool kit is their own brain.
How Contests Can Earn Links
Contests can earn links in a variety of ways. Let’s be honest; people love swag. Anytime a company offers to give stuff away for free, at least a few people will take notice. And, especially on the internet, telling people about cool stuff makes you cool. So, there should be websites within your industry or field telling their readers about your free giveaway. And how do they do that? With a link, of course.And then marketing comes in, amplifying that effect.
Search Out VIPS-Find your client’s industry leaders, thinkers, movers and shakers. Introduce yourself – and your client – through social media, an email, or even in person, if possible. Build a relationship, before bothering them with requests. This is the core of networking. Try and get them to push out the contest to their followers – ask nicely, and offer something in return, if possible.
Let Them Be Heard-Run a survey before the contest. This is a great way to get the industry movers and shakers involved. Host it on your client’s site. Ask important and timely questions relevant to your industry, as well as the contest you’re planning. This will get links as well, not to mention help you plan prizes, engagement strategies, and possible link building tactics.
Here are some more ways you can try and make sure you garner the most links possible with an online contest.
- Announce the contest well before hand. Give anyone bringing in referrals (hint – linking to the contest) an extra chance to win.
- Find partners to host the contest with – especially non-profits. Depending upon your budget, contribute to their organization as part of the contest – the more that enter, the more you give. This will typically result in a link from their site announcing the event, as well as listing your company as a partner. Not to mention give extra engagement incentive.
- Have runners up. Reward the winners and the runners up with a badge, and code the badge to link back to your site.
- Email anyone who links to you thanking them, as well as letting them know that the contest page will redirect to the main page until the next contest, so the link will continue to be relevant. This decreases the odds of anyone pulling links after the contest, not to mention giving you a relationship building opportunity.
- Don’t forget to do a 301 redirect from the contest page back to your home page after the contest is over. This will keep any links gained relevant, as well as help your page equity and keep your ranking order intact.
Focusing on goals and strategic thinking is key for turning an ordinary online event into a link building possibility. This goes double for contests. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new ideas.
Truly any piece of quality content has the potential to build links. All it takes is a dash of creativity, a helping of marketing, and little old-fashioned elbow grease.
Cory Says: Contests have their fair share of opportunity, especially when you take the time to plan and prepare properly. Hopefully this guide helps you with future contests, or even general link building endeavors. If you have any questions or comments let me know. I can be reached at email@example.com. Look forward to hearing from you.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://pageonepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cory-collins-for-web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Cory Collins is a fun-loving Taurus working as head writer and web content developer at Boise’s Page One Power. A graduate from the University of Idaho, with a degree in Journalism, he respects the power of the written word. He loves Idaho’s beautiful outdoors, Boise’s city life and reading fiction. Cory is passionate about SEO, link building, and other white hat practices, and writes about it for Page One Power and other publications. [/author_info] [/author]