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How I Increased Page Views on My Forum by 66.7% in a Month

Last month at Digital Photography School I ran the biggest competition that I’ve ever run (on that blog). I put a $729 Nikon DSLR up for grabs for one lucky active member in my the forum attached to the blog.

The competition was successful in my mind but today while I was doing a little analysis on it I thought it might make an interesting case study for ProBlogger. I hope you find it useful as you consider the option of running competitions to promote your blogs. Note: I’ve previously written on How to run a successful competition on your blog – and much of my strategy for this one was based upon that.

The Goal - the aim of the exercise was simple. To sign up new members to my forum and increase page views. My hope was to have a bumper month but also get new members signed up to have an ongoing impact on overall activity going forward.

The Competition – The idea was simple. Every post made by a forum member put them in the running to win the DSLR. Every time they made a post it was another entry. I’d run these types of competitions before so I knew the principle worked.

My Concern and The Risk – What did worry me a little was that in putting up a prize to that value I could actually be spending more than I was going to make out of the increased traffic. I figured if I could increase ad sales by $24.30 per day over the month I’d break even (although any ongoing increase would mean profit).

I did try to find a sponsor for the camera so as not to have to shoulder the load alone but while DPS has good traffic (it currently does 1 millions visits a month) it’s still seen as a small fish by the camera manufacturers and retailers (if anyone knows anyone at Nikon or Canon etc – please shoot us an introductory email as I’d love to find someone in those companies who is interested in interacting with blogs).

Results: Traffic

The easiest way to measure the performance of the competition is to look at the Raw Traffic data. The following graph is for Pages Viewed on the forum for 2008 so far.

Picture 4.jpg

You can see that the forum was kicking along at a steady pace before 3 April when I announced the forum but that on the first day page views almost doubled. They then tapered off a bit during the month but stayed higher for the full month of the competition than they had been previously.

Here is the page views of the forum for the month of the competition) compared with the page views of the forum for the previous month (green). Over the full month traffic was increased 66.7%.

Picture 5.png

Interestingly the last 7 days since the competition finished we’ve seen a drop off in page views but it’s still 35% higher than for the 7 days before the competition so the longer term impact of the competition seems to have been to increase overall traffic beyond the competition itself.

Results: New Members

Recruiting new members to the forum was another goal of the competition. We’d had an influx in January of 1803 new sign ups as a result of a previous smaller competition but since had been around the 1200 per month. April however saw a boost in numbers by an extra 2823 members.

new members.png

Now not all of them will convert to ongoing active members but they are all signed up and most have opted in to receive updates from the forums which means there’s a higher chance of drawing them back next time we do a promotion.

Results: Activity

Another bonus related to increased traffic is the increases in user activity on the forum. Here’s the increase in new ‘threads’ to the forum (up from the 1500′s to just over 4000 for the month)

new-threads.png

And here is the increase in new posts (up from 1400 per month to over 43000 for the month).

new-posts.png

This increase in activity is good in my mind for a couple of reasons. Firstly it’s about reader engagement. Every time someone made a post they had DPS further enmeshed in their minds. When you post regularly to a forum for a month you’re more likely for that to become a habit, you’re more likely to remember the brand of DPS when they next need information on photography etc.

The other thing about new posts and threads is that it’s new pages of content on your site. Every time a new post and thread goes up on the forum you have another page of user generated content for the search engines to find, index and rank you for. Every new page is a potential new doorway into your site.

Results: Earnings

So did I make my money back? While seeing an increase in profits for the month wasn’t my main priority I did want to make at least enough back from the competition to pay for the camera that I was giving away.

While I’m not going to go into details of exact earnings of the site I can reveal that the increased activity on the forum did see it’s earnings go up by over the required $24.30 a day needed to pay for the camera. It wasn’t a great deal more but considering it is still up the impact of the competition will make it a profitable event into the future.

The Downside

So far it’s sounding fairly rosy isn’t it. Increases in traffic, members, activity and even earning are all good. However there was two downsides.

1. Moderation Workload – I have an amazing team of moderators to DPS but the month of April was the hardest that they’ve ever worked. I totally underestimated the extra load upon them in setting up this competition. It has made me reconsider how I run future competitions.

2. Impact upon Quality of Reader Interaction – over all the increased activity of the site brought in some wonderful new members who are interacting on the site with genuine interaction. However a small number of new members were just there for the competition – even though I made it clear that spammy entries wouldn’t win. This impacted moderators workloads but also the overall morale on the site a little. I think we managed to contain it but again – next time I run a competition it’ll not be based upon post numbers but rather some sort of quality level of interaction.

Overall I think the competition was well worthwhile. Yes, I made a few mistakes but I’ve learned a lot from it and am looking forward to the next one I will run.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Rob Brydon says:

    Darren,

    Great article. I like that you added your thoughts on sustained readership.

    I have never thought about how a forum automatically adds content to your site for crawlers. I guess that’s why I read your blog.

  2. Muscle Post says:

    This is a great case study! I have not yet done a contest on my blog but I’ve read your other post on the subject and am definitely thinking about it. Sounds like some tremendous benefits can come out of it.

  3. This is a superb idea, and I think I’m going to steal it (though perhaps with a rather cheaper prize!).

    “Every time they made a post it was another entry”
    “I made it clear that spammy entries wouldn’t win”

    I wonder if you could talk some more about this aspect of the competition, Darren. Did you have moderators checking every post to judge its spamminess? Or did you just look at the winner at the end and make sure they’d posted more content than spam?

  4. Carl says:

    Great post Darren, I’m thinking of launching my own forum soon dedicated to blogging advice and giving away a prize is something that I’m going to use to market the blog.

    Best Wishes
    Carl – MonetizationMethods.com

  5. Farfield says:

    Wow that’s a great price to give away! It’s great you have a blog that offers the opportunity to do ‘experiments’ like that.

    I wonder if the forum will stay active also after the competition?

  6. I’ve added a forum to my second blog (which is new), and I am thinking of ways to spread the word about the forum.

    These tips will surely help, but another thing that I’ve found useful and will be using extensively is to guest blog good technical/complex posts on popular blogs, and mention in between that I run a forum where I’d provide support for free.

    Of course, ‘technical/complex posts’ can vary depending on the niche, but you get the general idea ;)

  7. We ran a huge posting contest over on RolePlayGateway with similar success – to combat the begative issues you mentioned, we actually scored posts based on their relevancy and value!

  8. Stu Andrews says:

    Cheers for blogging your experience and wisdom that came from it.

    Interesting to note your downsides. Good to see they haven’t dulled your enthusiasm for more competitions, or projects of that nature.

  9. Felex Tan says:

    This is the power of viral marketing.It can be temporary or long term but we can’t stop doing it in order to have a consistent traffics.

  10. Duhh says:

    How exactly did you see how many posts everyone got that month and how did you enter them all and randomly select one, I’d really appreciate it if you’d share that secret with us.

  11. I’ve always wondered if a forum was profitable. That is a lot of posts and hits.
    I never really thought about the need for moderators. Do you pay them?

  12. Great info about forum competition, thanks!
    I am thinking to start one forum and to offer prize’s every month, maybe i can grab extra signups that way.

  13. Luis Gross says:

    Great post Darren, you really got into detail on this one, and it’s highly appreciated. I never thought of this before, and it seems running a competition has great outcome’s according to your data. I’m looking forward to using this sort of marketing tactic myself. Thanks Darren.

  14. David says:

    This is a very interesting post. I watch the DPS blog (RSS feed) even though I am not a member of the site. I saw the competition and it did make me consider joining the forum but I did not.

    I’m still trying to get some of my blogs to average over 100 consistant visitors per day, so over a million in one month is great numbers to me. At the rate of my sites perhaps I can give away a free pack of gum!

  15. Sandy Naidu says:

    I wonder if the companies understand the importance and marketability of good blogs..Very soon when they do, imagine all the giveaways the blogs will showcase…Nice thought…

  16. Awesome, congrats on your success. By the way, thanks for your help some time back for helping me determine the camera I should consider. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Debo Hobo says:

    Good article and excellent idea for a promotion. So what was the source of the increased revenue was it camera sales, ad sales what was it?

  18. Very insightful article. I agree that in the future it’s best to award quality over quantity with projects like this. This is how we all learn though!

    CR – StateofAffairs.info

  19. Matt Wardman says:

    One thought Darren – since DPS is about learning photography, could you use this to aim to contact the “lower” end of camera companies targetting cameras at new photographers.

    Since cameras come with software and drivers could you persuade them to put a free promotional E-Book in the package? You’d need a relationship first, but it would be a no cost win-win.

    Just a thought.

  20. Mike says:

    How did you select the winner of the competition? Did you use software to select a post at random?

  21. Ryan McLean says:

    Great idea
    Fantastic to see that you made your money back plus extra. I will definately think about running something like this on my blog (possibly every comment can be an entry)…
    I run a finances blog but it is still in its beginning stages (less than 1000 views per month) but I have great content and as it grows I will definately implement this strategy…

  22. Great post about managing forums instead of blogs.

    You have written so much good material about blogging that sometimes it becomes very repetitive, but forums are a totally different thing and would love to see more posts about them here (articles about managing, promoting, and administering forums).

    Posts like those will be very valuable since internet it’s plenty of blogging tips, but not of forum(ing?) tips (or they are not so visible as blogging tips are).

  23. Beth Norman says:

    Great article. I’m new to your blog, and love all your tips.

  24. Niklas says:

    This was a really good post. I enjoyed it very much.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  25. moserw says:

    Good idea. Dont run a forum myself, just a personal blog, but running a competition is something to consider. How many visitors do I need to average daily to even consider putting up a competition?

  26. Darren – Thanks for a great little case study. Personally, I have always been against forum competitions that reward people for post quantity. I am surprised you only found a problem with low quality posts from a small number of members – traditionally such competitions attract a lot of new ‘members’ who will post any old rubbish in order to boost their entries and chance of winning.

    Retaining them for the long term is often the best way to determine whether your competition was successful. Perhaps in a month’s time you could report back letting us know how many of the new members that joined during the competition period are still active?

    In any case, it seems as though you met your own goals and for that reason alone, this competition was a success for you.

    - Martin Reed

  27. I’ve tried a contest once, but I was not all that lucky. I only managed to get three people write in to me! Is it better to do a draw?

    C

  28. Robby G says:

    I’ve started a new forum but I don’t know where to start marketing. I put a banner up on my blog but it’s just not enough. I don’t want to run a contest just yet because I don’t have initial traffic to have a successful one, but it’s definetely a good idea for the future. Any advice would be helpful.

    shiteilike.com

  29. Martin Reed says:

    Robby – Your forum has no content. Visitors will not register at a forum that has no members and no content. You need to go out and actively seek out your first members. Cut back on the categories – at the moment, you have too many.

    Don’t worry about external marketing just yet – concentrate on getting some content in your forum. Any promotion you do right now will be wasted; people simply will not register at your forum right now.

    - Martin