How to use Contests for Linkbuilding


Contest are one of the most powerful and effective ways to attract people. That’s a simple fact. Who wouldn’t want a free iPad or iPhone? Knowing that, just how do you efficiently use it to attract links to your site?

This entry is part of the SEO Hacker School series: Linkbuilding Techniques

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Doesn’t those few words ignite some sort of raw excitement in you? Those few words (which we call a ‘copy’) are meant to grab your attention – to what?

To participate.

‘Giveaways’ are never free. They are given in exchange for your participation. They first tell you what’s at stake, and then they’ll tell you what they want you to do. It’s a trade-off. The question is, how successful are you in getting a high participation rate?

There are three factors:

  • How enticing is the prize?
  • How difficult is it to join?
  • When is the contest’s deadline?

Being mindful of these three factors is the determinant between a good contest and a great one. A good contest usually has a few participants and don’t go beyond the first circle of people who joins. A great contest goes beyond that and takes on a viral channel – creating buzz.

The beauty behind a contest campaign linkbuilding technique is that there is a better chance of attaining some sort of virality from your participants. If you can sell the contest to the participants, chances are, they would try to sell it to some degree to their circle of influence.

Take-outs from Contest campaign linkbuilding

There’s more than just one reason to do contest campaigning than just building links. Along the process you also:

  • Create brand awareness
  • Create brand loyalty to the contestants
  • Gather a database of people who might be interested to participate in your future contests

How do you gather links from a contest?

There are a lot of ways where you can get links from a contest. You can’t really make it THE way for a participant to win. That’s too obvious. So here’s what you do:

  • Give them an incentive to link to you – you can give them extra raffle entries if your contest is a raffle promo or you can give them extra points or votes if it is a voting contest.
  • Make your contest designs cool
  • Make your contest linkable, retweetable, shareable and +1-able :)
  • Make your contest a write-up contest where people SHOULD publish their entries to your contest in a blog they own and ask them to put a link to you notifying that the entry is for your contest
  •  Give them a winning badge for a prize with an embed code – linking to your webpage/site

These are just some ideas for you to begin with. You can check out a real blogging contest by Jane Sheeba too if you like.

The Downside

  • Getting links from contest, of course is also more expensive because you’d have to cash out for your prize if you want your contest to be enticing
  • Marketing your contest takes up a good amount of effort, time and/or money if you want it to exponentially increase its success
  • Usually people will want to exploit loopholes in your contest to win



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  • n3v3rv0id

    Looks like a cool idea!

  • Don

    I did this 6-7 months ago, giving away Ferrari premium items worth around $200. The turnout was poor, only a dozen entries, and what’s worse, the participants only had to “like”, subscribe, tweet. No need to link to their blogs. Lesson: you have to be popular in a way and have some subscribers already. I just relied on my facebook account that’s why while the blog was new. But I do believe in the power of contests once properly utilized…

    • Wow that sucks Don. Sorry to hear. Hopefully your next contest, people will be engaged to join.

  • Anon

    you have to be popular in a way and have some subscribers already. I just relied on my facebook account that’s why while the blog was new.

    • Sure. But I did a contest for some of my clients who were not really popular then. We utilized FB ads to do the trick – and targeted only people whom we want to join the contest to optimize ppc.

  • Jake Rainbow

    I don’t think competitions have made a big enough transition from traditional PR to linkbait/linkbuilding. I always try and push a good competition.

    One (almost) free way of getting links into a competition page is to get bloggers to blog about it in their own little competition. To do this you need to do the following:

    1. Offer bloggers a separate prize.
    2. To win they have to write a blog post encourgaging people to enter the competition. The one with the most entrants wins.
    3. To do this you create something like a “how did you hear about this competiton” entry box. The entrant will then put in the bloggers URL (indicated in the bloggers post).