Links are the foundation of Google’s ranking algorithm, and so, link building is a crucial part of SEO. To be really successful at link building you need creativity, because without a great buzzworthy idea, your “link bait” will fall flat. One way to bait for links is a blog contest. If you do it right, even the most un-sexy of products (like stationery) can become sexy.
Consider for example the overnight printer of stationery and business cards OvernightPrints.com. Creating a buzz which drives a torrent of traffic to that type of website could be challenge. We at Netconcepts rose to the challenge, dreaming up a brilliant (if I do say so myself!) and inexpensive contest that involved the Internet celebrity and Technorati Top 100 blogger Jeremy Schoemaker. The contest was: Win business cards for life by designing Jeremy’s new business card. Here’s the winner, which is one sweet business card IMO:
Let’s take a closer look at what makes a blog contest such as this a successful link building strategy…
- Come up with an impressive prize (or at least one that sounds impressive). In the above, the prize was a lifetime supply of business cards. A “lifetime supply” of anything sounds impressive. You can use the fine print to put some limits on it — like OvernightPrints.com did by capping it at 1000 business cards per year for a maximum of 20 years. That adds up to, well, peanuts.
- Get a partner with some name recognition who’s willing to promote your contest. If you’re a blogger, try to land a partner organization that you can piggyback off of their brand recognition. If you’re a brand, get a well-known blogger to partner with you. Jeremy Schoemaker was great; he has a massive following. Ride on the coattails of that partner’s brand by enlisting their help in spreading the word about the contest. They need to be willing to hawk your contest on their blog and in social media. Jeremy posted multiple blog posts (with good keyword-rich links) and a YouTube video and some tweets on Twitter, for example. (Thanks Shoe!)
- Promote the heck out of the contest yourself too. Don’t just rely on your partners to do it for you. With the above contest, we reached out to a bunch of design sites. And they took the bait. They loved the contest and promoted it to their community and linked to our contest page. What a great thing to add to your resume if you’re a designer, that you came up with the winning design of the business card for a famous blogger — out of over 400 entries no less!
- Make sure the contest entry pages lives on your site. Not on your partner’s. You want the link juice flowing directly to the site you are looking to promote in the search engines. As you might guess, the contest entry page was on OvernightPrints.com, not on Shoemoney.com or anywhere else.
- Keep it simple. There are numerous ways to run(ruin) a blog contest. If you want it to be a success, create a contest that is easy for users to participate in. People online are lazy and impatient — even if they aren’t like that in the real world (Something about being in front of the computer triggers it!). So, the more effort a contest requires, the lower the participation level. OvernightPrints.com kept it simple: “Design ShoeMoney’s business card”.. and win a lifetime supply of business cards.
- Make it relevant to your business and to your targeted search term. It wouldn’t have made any sense for OvernightPrints.com to run a contest where you write a letter to the President and win a trip to Washington DC. For Overnight Prints, their money term is “business cards”. Being on page 1 in Google for that term is worth big bucks to Overnight Prints. This contest moved them onto page 1, and in fact, onto the top half of page 1.
- Involve the community. Jeremy narrowed it down to 7 finalists and then asked his readers to help him decide. The participation factor is huge. It makes the blog’s readers much more invested in the outcome.
A good contest has synergy — it’s a win-win for all parties (blogger, brand, contestants, readers) and having the right partners means that overall the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (i.e. everyone does much better than if they had embarked on it individually). Yes this contest was a huge success for everybody involved. Of course OvernightPrints was the biggest winner of them all: they got relevant exposure, buzz, links, rankings and traffic. Use the above 7 step formula and hopefully you will have similar success yourself.