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Using contests to kick start a site.



1:02 pm on Oct 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Has anyone successfully used contests (with cash prizes) to get a site off the ground and running?

I was thinking of doing something monthly along the lines of "best content in X category" as opposed to something numeric like "most forum posts", etc which would just encourage tons of poor quality content.


4:42 am on Oct 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Unless you have good anti-plagiarism software and have enough time to track content stolen from other sites, it might be a good idea ;).


1:06 pm on Oct 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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It is a good idea for sure, but you have to bear in mind that all the bloggers that use this method have an already established consistent traffic and lots of loyal subscribers. This means that it would be sort of difficult for a new blog to perform a good lift off by using contests.


1:58 pm on Oct 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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sounds like a good idea! Give it a try, you can always take it off if it turns out a bad decision.


1:35 pm on Oct 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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use some bookmarking tools and once you get some people coming do the contest thing, it will double you the traffic for sure!


5:57 pm on Oct 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I say it's a good idea...after you have some sort of audience. Start your site, build it up, and in six months try your hand at a contest.


8:23 pm on Oct 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It's always an option but you will have to track it's effectiveness, in general, even for cash, people don't like to sign up with unestablished sites or brands..

It is much better to have a prize which is desireable, with in the mix.. or to include a partner site, " 1 years free subscription too .. etc... )

It really depends on who you are targeting and what you are selling..


12:04 am on Nov 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Exactly, give the newspaper a call...

Apart from getting out of the only doing business online mindset, you may find that people respond much better to personal contact and voice conversations, requests like yours done by email can and will just be deliberately ignored..

[edited by: Lobo at 12:05 am (utc) on Nov. 1, 2007]


1:55 pm on Nov 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

If you have an established base of traffic, an on-site contest might work.

If you are hoping to generate new visitors with a contest, you'll have to promote it via press releases, blog and forum posts (as appropriate and allowed), and perhaps PPC. That will be more difficult and expensive, and will require a more valuable prize if you want people to both visit the site and post.

For your existing members, recognition may be as important as the prize. Consider reinforcing your branding by offering site-logo gear like mugs, hoodies, etc. There are plenty of sites that let you do this without any big commitment for quantity and without a setup fee.


1:17 pm on Nov 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Have you decided what to do Esllou?

I'm in the same boat as you - am starting a forum integrated with our site and seeing what I can do to give it an initial push and incentivise posting.

The way I see it is that we can do a number of different things:

a) Have a prize draw on a set date.

This is probably easiest to set up but from a user perspective, these kind of things are all over the internet, people don't think they're going to win (large element of chance involved!) and to many seems more like a gimmick.

b) Have a prize draw based on content / number of posts.

I agree that this is problematic. You don't want people just posting random stuff to get their number of posts up... With the "content" aspect, it's very subjective and hard to conceptualise by users - probably won't convert that well..

c) Same as b but let other users vote on usefullness of posts.

I thought this was a brilliant idea until it started getting a little complicated.. If you let a user vote and base a prize on that, you're inviting people to try and manipulate the system, vote for themselves, set up multiple profiles etc. BUT.. what about saying that you can only vote if you've made a post yourself?

So in the above scenario you have to post and then you can vote.. if you post something rubbish then your score will go down as others prob won't vote for you. Not bad in principle but will it work.. and is it too complicated?!

d) Giveaway for everyone

Free stash! Send EVERYONE who signs up something - preferably with your logo / brand all over it! This takes the chance and sceptic aspect out of the equation. Every user knows he will get something.
It depends how much value you put on visitors but this for us would not be feasible - way too expensive!
Not only that - your giveaway has to be really desirable... (try and get imagination working in overdrive..)

e) Giveaway for first x signups...

Forst 100 people to sign up will get a branded mug...
If you're getting something started this could work and keep costs down...

f) Giveaway if you signup and get 5 friends to signup

Brilliant in that it guarantees something for the user. There is no element of chance - if they get 5 friends to sign up then they will receive...

Not so good in that the whole "refer a friend" has been totally overdone in last few years, and it has a tendency to make people nervous and sceptical.. (according to user research I've done!)

g) Money off something / partnering with someone

There's loads of ways which you can do this. Potential things include offering a company free exposure in return for a prize, or paying a company x amount so that they can give each referral x amount off a product.

Right - those are my thoughts! Anyone else have any ideas on this?

Likewise - can anyone share on any incentive success / failure stories that we might be able to learn from?


11:33 pm on Nov 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Rogerd said:
>If you have an established base of traffic, an on-site contest might work.

What would be a feasible established traffic base?

I know it may be difficult/impossible to nail this down to specific numbers, but some approximate ideas?

100 visitors/day? 500? 1000?

Now, moving on to our specific scenario,

We have a fairly new (~ 2 months old) niche community site, now crossing 1000 uniques a day, with an average of about 10 page views per visitor. Visitor to post rate of about 10% i.e. about a 100 posts daily. About 25 to 30% of the posts are of reasonable quality, while the rest are 'Aarrrrrgh's, 'Ouch's, 'Ooooohhhhhh's etc.

What benefits (if any) would a 'best post' type contest with say, daily prizes provide a site like this?


2:09 am on Nov 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

1000 uniques a day isn't shabby for a two-month old forum. You could test a one-day (or three day) contest and see what happens.

The posting activity level seems good, too.

One potential issue: once you choose a "best" post, you may alienate a bunch of members who don't agree.

Here's a idea - flag as many posts as "high quality" as seems reasonable, and then do a random choice from those. It might not encourage any REALLY high quality posts like a "best" contest, but it might give more people a sense of participation. Just a thought...


8:41 pm on Nov 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

We have run a few contests and had limited results.

I think the trouble is that people are afraid to enter an online contest because they think its just a trick to harvest email addresses.

If you are a Fortune 500 company it might be a whole lot more successful. For a site that few have heard about it will be an uphill battle.

On the flip side, we did have a few positive things that came out of our contests.

- press releases generated links
- there are sites devoted to online contests, you get free links from them


8:49 am on Nov 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi Rugles - can I ask what the contests involved? Users on my site have to register, I'm already getting a lot of registrations daily.. but they don't seem to want to post in the forum. Obviously content and the initial "push" are the most important things - but was still thinking of incentivising forum posting with a prize draw of some sort... What do you think about this?


6:33 pm on Nov 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Well, if you are getting people to enter your contest, that is more than half the battle. So yes, I would continue if I were you.

Our problem was that our site is ecommerce, so I suspect people figured we were doing it to harvest email addresses. Which was not our goal, it was just to get people to visit our site and as link bait.

We ran a couple of contests for our B2C part of our site and another for the B2B part. The B2B prize was worth like $4000 and there were 3 of them. We still only had less than 2000 people enter. When we contacted the winners, one of them thought it was a scam because he forgot he entered. It took a lot of convincing for him to take the prize. Ironically, the guy now loves us and buys from our website a few times a year.

We never even spammed the entrants by the way. Not even sure where I put the database.


4:53 pm on Nov 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Can i ask - did your users have to do anything specific in the contest? I suppose this may be a big drop off point as well, with a prize draw it requires no further effort from the user..


7:44 pm on Dec 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Be a mindful of the legal considerations with contests, sweepstakes, etc. There are lots of big, nasty rules.

There's a good overview written by a Berkeley lawyer here:

Basically, if you make it a legitimate game of skill (the "best" content) then you have it relatively easy and your main requirement is to show rules that are really clear about your judging criteria and using qualified judges.

It may make sense to consult a lawyer, but at a minimum I'd recommend reading the article.


1:09 pm on Dec 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Depending on your site maybe you could offer something valuable to members but free/inexpensive to you such as an ebook or an upgraded forum membership.


3:48 pm on Dec 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

A community I belong to gives away tee shirts at certain times of the year. Their name involves the number 47, so on the 47th minute of every hour during the announced periods, a link pops up somewhere on the portal page. It's only up for the 47th minute. It drives lots of traffic.


4:08 pm on Dec 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

That's a really good idea.. A website I know used to have random pop ups with "bags of cash".. these were effectively points which could be converted into other things... the longer / more often you visit the site the more points you can accumulate and the more prizes you can then get.

The randonmess of it started to irritate me though.. you'd be doing something on the site and a pop-up would inevitably appear..

What I don't think it did was initially draw in visitors.. it might have helped in "user satisfaction" with the site, but just staying to get more bags is not practical..


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