Close
Close

The Costs and Benefits of Running a Competition on Your Blog

Blog-Competition‘How do I run a successful competition on my blog?’

Competitions on blogs have become increasingly common in 2007 with an increased number of high profile blogs running them. As a result many smaller to medium sized blogs are considering them also.

The problem is that a competition can actually hurt your blog if you don’t do it right. There are some serious benefits and costs of running a competition on your blog and in this post I’ll take a look at the upsides and downsides.

With the benefits and costs of running a competition in mind tomorrow I’ll publish a post that gives some practical tips on how to run a successful competition on your blog (subscribe here to ensure you get that update).

The Benefits of Blog Competitions:

The benefits of running a competition on your blog will vary depending upon the type of competition that you choose to run. However there are a number of reasons that I see bloggers running them.

1. Finding New Readers – the most common reason that I hear from bloggers running a competition on their blog is that they want to find new readers. The hope is that the lure of prizes will draw readers in and that those new readers will like what they see and stick around. While this post isn’t the place to fully discuss it – this objective is actually harder than it might seem. Simply announcing a great prize to giveaway is not enough to draw in new readers – but more of that in tomorrow’s post in this series.

2. Rewarding Loyal Readers – most blogs have readers that have been a part of a blog from the early days. I know that here at ProBlogger there are a number of long term readers that have almost religiously read every post I’ve written (a fairly impressive task since there are now 4000 posts in the archives here). It’s easy to take these readers for granted – and a competition can be a way of giving a little something back and giving the readers you already have a little incentive to keep coming back for more.

3. Increase Reader Participation – with the rise of RSS feeds as a means of following a blog it’s not uncommon for a blog to be ‘read’ mainly by people who rarely actually visit the blog (ie people who read it in News Aggregators). While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (at least people are reading you) RSS subscribers can be a more passive audience than those who actually visit your blog as they are less likely to comment, participate in polls etc. A competition can be a good way of drawing readers into your blog to take some sort of action.

4. Increase Page Views – depending upon the type of competition that you run, it can be an avenue to increase the pages viewed by readers. Asking readers to comment to enter or sending readers on a treasure hunt through your archives to find a hidden ‘key’ are two examples of this.

5. Good ‘Buzz’ – in addition to the above benefits – there are a number of others that are difficult to put a name to – so I’ll call it ‘buzz’. I’ve found that on my most successful competitions that there’s been an increase in the general positive ‘vibe’ on a blog as readers become energized and momentum is created. This can potentially happen both on the blog (among your blog’s readership) but also off your blog (on other blogs). This buzz impacts your brand, community and can even impact your own energy levels and motivation levels.

The Costs of Blog Competitions:

While there are numerous potential benefits of running a competition on your blog – there are also a number of significant pitfalls and risks that a blogger wanting to run a competition must take into consideration:

1. ‘Costs’ outweighing the ‘Benefits’ – let me share a scenario that I have heard from a number of bloggers in the last few weeks. The blogger decides to run a competition. They put up a reasonably expensive prize out of their own pocket believing it will attract new readers to their blog, they announce the competition, just a handful of regular readers enter the competition, the blogger sees no new readers but has to shell out for an expensive prize. This scenario plays out time and time again on blogs. I’ve seen it force bloggers to ‘go out of business’ and have seen bloggers attempt to cheat their way out of the situation and give prizes to made up readers. Sometimes the investment a blogger puts into a competition can far outweigh the return on that investment. Competitions can be risky.

2. Time Management – another ‘cost’ that many bloggers fail to take into consideration before a competition is that it can be a very time consuming exercise. This is increasingly so the bigger your blog gets and the more participants you have – but even on a small blog a competition can suck up every spare second that you have. Administering sponsors, writing announcement posts, answering reader questions, moderating entries, picking winners…. all of this takes time.

3. Sponsors Problems – almost every time that I’ve run a competition I’ve raised the prizes by asking sponsors to provide them. This is good in that it means I don’t need to outlay a prize myself – however it doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes you’re not able to give sponsors the attention that they want, other times their expectations don’t match yours, sometimes they just disappear and winners don’t get prizes, some need more hand holding than others…. While the majority of my sponsors have been great over the years – a handful have caused problems that took both time and money to fix.

4. Distractions from Your Core Business – when you run a competition on your blog it is good to keep in mind that the competition itself is not what your blog is about. A key element of a successful blog is that it produces regular quality content on it’s topic – this is your core business and a competition has the potential to take your attention away from it by taking your time away from writing content and by the competition being mentioned too regularly in posts over too long a period. Getting the balance right between running a successful competition and running a successful blog can be tricky.

5. Reader Disillusionment – one of the costs of being distracted by a competition is that a certain percentage of your readership can become disillusioned with your blog. There are ways to combat this – but even when you manage to do everything you can, there will be some readers who won’t like competitions. The other disillusionment with readers can be among those who don’t win anything. I don’t find that this is a major factor – but you will find that some readers can become quite obsessed and demanding around competitions – particularly if you have problems with administering it in some way.

6. Bad ‘Buzz’ – in my section on the benefits of competitions on blogs I mentioned that you can get ‘good buzz’ from a competition. Similarly you can end up with bad buzz – both on your blog (among readers) and off your blog (on other blogs). A poorly administered blog can end up giving your bad publicity, hurt your reputation and end up losing you regular readers.

So how does one run a competition on their blog that brings more benefits than it costs?

I’ve probably written enough today to give those considering running a competition on their blog something to think about. So tune in tomorrow for a post exploring “HOW” to run a competition on your blog.

In the mean time – feel free to share stories of successful and unsuccessful blog competitions that you’ve run and seen others run. You’re welcome to share a link to your examples so that we can all learn by seeing how you approached it.

Image by Kaptain Kobold

Build Your Blog With Forum Traffic

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You can subscribe to her feed or visit her blog, Skelliewag.org, for more posts like this one.

One of the most satisfying aspects of blogging is finding uncommon and underrated ways to build your blog’s traffic.

One traffic building strategy I’ve always found to be underrated is using a niche forum profile to draw visitors back to your blog through a signature link.

One thing you might not know is that I built my blog, Skelliewag, from 0 to 100 subscribers almost exclusively using a forum profile. My forum posts would bring in dozens of visitors every day. Though my blog has over 2,000 subscribers as I write this, I still get comments and emails from loyal readers I first met through the Authority Blogger Forums.

If you’re skeptical…

There is a general consensus on the wisdom of using comments to get incoming traffic to your blog. In my experience, forums have been even more effective than a comments-for-traffic strategy, yet the two strategies aren’t often compared. Posting once or twice on a busy forum often brought dozens of visitors back to my blog. You’d need a much higher volume of comments to achieve the same results.

While I don’t claim that everyone will have the same experience, I found forums to yield more traffic for less work than a commenting-for-traffic strategy.

Is forum traffic part of your blog’s growth strategy? Perhaps it should be. Here are my suggestions for growing your readership through a solid forum profile.

1. Find your target audience

What kinds of people do you think would be most interested in your blog? If there are blogs in your niche, there are probably forums in it too.

If you can find a forum dedicated to your target audience, every forum user is a potential reader.

2. Create a compelling signature

Your forum signature will appear beneath every post you write. Unlike comments, where the only way to link back to your blog is via your name (or by linking in the comment), you have a lot more control over your signature.

You can link to your blog and include a tag line. You can format it with color and bolding to get more attention. You could also link to a featured post using one of your best headlines.

Your signature is the point of conversion where forum visitors become blog visitors. Take the time to make sure it’s as effective as possible.

City buildings.
Photo by extranoise

3. Make an impression

The quality of your forum posts will influence incoming traffic more than their volume. You need to make an impression on other forum users — something which makes them think: “I want to know more about this person.”

You can do this simply by being a friendly and helpful user. Go out of your way to do favors for others and become well-respected in the community.

You can also get more traffic back to your blog by writing interesting posts in high-visibility locations, for example:

  • Starting a popular thread.
  • Writing a FAQ or Guide which is stickied by a moderator, meaning it will stay on the front page of the forum permanently.
  • Becoming a moderator (people always pay attention to them!)
  • Becoming a forum power-user (people pay more attention to them, too).

4. Make connections

Aside from the traffic benefits, forums allow you to make connections with a diverse array of individuals with a variety of skills.

Making connections with people through forums is rewarding in its own right, but it can also present opportunities for mutual benefit. You might meet potential guest posters, other niche bloggers, experts or other people with skills you can use.

When I was trying to guest-post as much as possible, I made a forum thread offering to do a guest-post for anyone who asked. Quite a few bloggers accepted the offer. The resulting guest-posts helped take my blog to the next level.

The overall point I’m trying to make is that the rewards of an active forum profile go beyond traffic. Genuinely enjoying your participation in the forum (rather than viewing it only as a means to an end) will result in opportunities you would not have been able to orchestrate on your own.

Points to review

  • Find a forum (or more than one) popular with the people you want to reach.
  • Create a signature designed to convert forum users into blog readers.
  • Be a remarkable forum member.
  • Reach out and make connections with other forum users. They might have valuable lessons to teach you.

Why Advertise on Blogs?

My coworker at b5media Chad Randall (he’s the head of our ad sales team and one of the people to chat to if you want to Advertise on ProBlogger or one of our 300 other blogs) has put together a useful post – 7 Reasons You Should be Advertising On Blogs (although call me blind but I can only see 6).

I think it’s a good post for two reasons. Firstly – it’s something that more and more bloggers are doing to grow their own blogs (ie advertise on other blogs). Secondly, and more importantly, this post is a great one to have tucked away to refer to when you’re speaking to potential advertisers to your blog. Whether you send them to it or simply reel off Chad’s points to them I think it makes some convincing arguments.

What would you add to his list? Head over to the post and have your say.

Improve Your Blog with Networking

Improve-BlogIn Answer to My question – ‘What did You Do On Your Blog in 2007 that Improved it the most’ – David Peralty from xfep.com answered:

The answer to your question boils down to one word: networking.

With everything else I have done in my blogging, networking is really the only thing that has really given my blogs a huge push in 2007. Talking to people from different backgrounds, connecting with them and learning from them. It is really amazing what kind of effect it can have on your productivity, as well as traffic, resources, and even monetization, all from making a few friends.

Without developing my networking abilities, I probably wouldn’t be a full time blogger anymore, and I can’t stress enough the importance of connecting with your peers.

I have met all kinds of great people this year, especially in the second half, where my future in blogging was uncertain. Because of my efforts in reaching my hands out, everything else has quickly continued to fall into place. So once again, I highly recommend bloggers of all skill and expertise spend time refining their abilities in networking.

How to Maximize the Benefits of Guest Posting

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Publishing guest posts on popular blogs is a tried and tested way to get inbound links and traffic. There are certain things you can do to make this experience even more rewarding.

In this post, I want to share a number of methods you can use to maximize the rewards of any guest post you publish.

A note: This post will tell you how to get the most out of guest posting once you’ve got a blogger who’s willing to publish you. If you want more information on getting to that point, I’d suggest you read Darren’s tips on pitching to bloggers.

Do your research

A little bit of research is essential before you submit your guest post to be published. It will help make sure you’re properly rewarded for your work and that you produce something that will be well received by the blog’s audience.

Does the blogger give adequate credit to guest posters? If the blog you’re writing for doesn’t allow an in-post byline for its guest-authors, don’t bother. If you write a post including a byline for this kind of blog, the author will most likely remove the byline and publish your work without it. I’ve had this happen to me before — it’s not fun!

What kind of posts work well on the blog? Take a look at some of the blog’s most popular posts to get an idea of what worked well. Could you create something with similar elements?

Are there any gaps waiting to be filled? I wrote my first guest post for ProBlogger on drawing StumbleUpon visitors into your blog because I noticed it was something that hadn’t been covered much before. It went on to become one of this blog’s most popular posts. Ask yourself: how can I use what I know to bring something unique to the blog?

A stunning albino peacock.
The ideal guest post will show off your skills and impress. Photo by lightgazer.

Optimize your post for greater rewards

What you write and how you present it can influence how rewarding your guest posting experience will be. Here are a few tips to help you optimize your posts.

Link to yourself and others. If you’ve written something that relates to the guest post on your own blog, find a way to work in a link. You can link out to other sources as well if you’d like to take a more democratic approach. A note: if you haven’t written something vitally on topic, don’t link out just for the sake of it. This will look like you’re putting self-promotion above relevance.

Put in a real effort. It’s easier to have social media success with your post on a popular blog because there’s a bigger pool of readers to vote for what you write. More traffic to the post means more click-throughs to your site. In other words, it’s not actually worth it to write the minimum required just to get a link back to your blog. Writing a great guest post will drastically increase the rewards.

Participate in the comments section. One of the metrics whereby bloggers judge the success of a post (as you know) is the comment count. You can raise this and make a good impression on those who’ve commented by responding to questions and feedback on your guest post.

Call in favors. Use your connections to bump along the success of your guest post. You can contact social media users you know, link to the post from your own blog, or pitch the link to other bloggers.

Crafting your byline

The byline is where you’re credited for your writing. You can see an example at the bottom of this post. Most bloggers will give you the freedom to put whatever you like in your byline (within reason) — as long as it’s not too long. The byline is the place where people will decide whether or not to click-through to your own blog, so it’s important to get it right.

Create a byline to suit your goals. If you mainly want feed subscribers, include only a link to your feed. If you want feed subscribers and traffic, include a link to your feed and your site. If you only want traffic, drop the link to your feed. If you want to sell a product, mention it instead.

Appeal to your target audience. If you write for a certain type of people (for example: bloggers, dads, Zen Masters), include that information in your byline. It will capture the attention of the kind of people you want reading your blog.

Explain the benefits. If you want people to visit your site or subscribe to your feed, explain what they’ll get in return. Useful advice? Hints and tips? Free stuff? Give people a reason to do what you want.

Points to review

  • Take the time to research the blog you’d like to write for.
  • Write with the blog’s target audience in mind.
  • A quality post can help you just as much as it helps the blog’s owner.
  • Craft your byline to compliment what you want to get out of guest posting.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Subscribe to her feed for more useful blogging advice.

TwitterFeed – Promote Your Blog Posts to Twitter Followers

TwitterfeedQuick blog promotion tip – Twitterfeed.com is a service that will automatically twitter any post that you publish on your blog.

I’ve started doing it on my Twitter account and have seen quite a few visitors come across from it so far.

Thanks to cat-laine (blog) for the tip.

How do You ‘Sell’ Your Blog?

Sell-Your-BlogThis post has been submitted by Karen Andrews from www.miscmum.com

I am no stranger (nor are you, probably) to how the wider media sometimes depicts bloggers: as closeted wannabees who add to the rise of ‘faux journalism’. Books are currently being published on the subject.

This could understandably contribute to any beginner blogger’s self-consciousness; especially those who are staring at their ad revenue reports, wondering if any money is every going to start showing up.

I used to be bashful when I talked about my blog. Not anymore. Why should I be? I’m proud of it. I’m proud of what it catalogues; thoughts, my goals, even my ambitions.

No doubt you feel the same about yours, too. But any hint of shyness, or pause, when you talk of your blog is hardly going to attract readers. Or advertisers.

Recently, I migrated from Blogger to WordPress; a rather stressful time for me, for I was deathly afraid that over a year’s worth of work and effort would somehow evaporate into nothingness (luckily, it didn’t). I had several reasons for the change; the main ones being I was a little tired of the limits of Blogger, and I wanted a purer control of my own writing and ‘brand’, for lack of a better word.

When I discussed my plans with non-bloggers, they all asked me “Why?” Why change? Why bother? What’s the difference?

I replied, “I just felt like it was time. It didn’t feel comfortable anymore.”

Granted, this was rather a drastic change. It needn’t be. Standard templates only need to be tweaked slightly to give yourself the opportunity to individualise (and hence ‘validate’) your blogging status. This mightn’t be important to some people; for others it just might be the chance to assert their creative will, and this newly found confidence can lead them on to loftier plans.

And sometimes stamping your own blogging status begins with how you speak about blogging in the first place.

Here’s my challenge:

  • Put your blog’s URL as part of your signature in your email (if you haven’t already).
  • Mention it in conversations.
  • Enter blog carnivals.
  • Do what you can (short of spamming, naturally!) to spread the word of your blog.

What are you waiting for?

Help sell your blog to the world. Isn’t it worth it?

Self Branding – Moving Beyond the Niche to Generate Income as a Blogger

Branding

image by mleak

This guest post on blog branding is by Mark Hayward who blogs over at MyTropicalEscape and Culebra Blog. You can learn more about him in the footer of this post.

Are you currently blogging to generate income, or have you recently thought about monetizing your site?

As I prepare to leave my steady job with a guaranteed paycheck and (hopefully) move on to blogging or working online full time I have looked at and analyzed a tremendous amount of blogs and the top money earners all share one common characteristic.

Without a doubt, all of the major, financially successful sites out there, including ProBlogger, have one similar component and that is their mastery of branding, or more specifically, self-branding.

Branding can be described as the symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a particular product or company.

Effective branding serves to create assumptions, excitement, associations, and expectations that are ingrained in consumers and generated with the mere mention of a company and its goods or services (think GOOGLE, NIKE, Jet Blue).

What is self-branding?

Just like with any company such as, Microsoft, or a product like the IPOD, which attempt to emote certain feelings within the consumer in order to get them to purchase their goods, bloggers need to establish on their site who they are and what they embody. Essentially, every one of your blog readers, (whether it’s a first time visitor or a frequent active comment poster) are your consumers. Therefore “self branding” as it pertains to an individual’s blog should quickly allow readers to know what you stand for, what you are trying to portray, and most importantly, the message you are trying to convey.

How you choose to brand yourself will determine if you will capture loyal readers.

We must try to remember that blog readers are not on any given site because of the ads, or products that are placed there. First time visitors to your site are there to read your content and to hopefully learn something that they might not otherwise know.

I do not know the specific statistics but I believe people decide within the first minute if they are going to return to any given site that they have visited. Therefore, you have a limited amount of time to market yourself and you must keep in mind that you are your brand and the topic that you write about is your niche.

Blog visitors will return if you can create an emotional connection with them particularly if they feel that they have something in common with you.

Additionally, people will continue to visit a blog if they trust you and feel they stand to gain something through your well written site content. However, in order to get them to click on your ads, or purchase your products they have to believe in you and what you are trying to sell. Whatever you are selling, or promoting through your writing, there has to be some sort of fundamental emotional value in it for the end user.

Typically, blogs about making money from blogging recommend that you “need to find a niche” if you want to be successful and actually earning a living via personal publishing.

While I strongly agree that a solid niche is needed I feel that the concept actually goes well beyond just having a niche if you are going to have long-term, sustainable, financial success online. For a blog to be successful in this day and age sites need to have a well-planned three tiered approach, which includes:

  1. a well-defined niche
  2. well written quality content
  3. effective self-branding

Moreover, each of these varying aspects must seamlessly support and feed into the other. Are there exceptions to the tiered approach? Of course there are. However, people who blog can be successful within their niche and can produce good posts but they are missing out on sales, or ad click throughs if they are lacking successful self-branding.

Problogger-Logo-PFor example, let’s take a look at ProBlogger. Recently, Darren has been writing about and helping to promote the Teaching Sells “Step-by-Step Training Courses.” If I had noticed this endorsement on 99.99% of the other blog sites out there I would have given it absolutely no attention at all. However, because Darren has successfully self-branded himself as one who provides practical, useful, and readily applicable tips at ProBlogger, he has an inherent and well-earned trust with his visitors (myself included). So, the end result being that there is a very good chance I will pay for the Teaching Sells course.

This is exactly where self-branding and how your blog readers view you is SO important. Die hard skeptics, myself included, will click through ads, support your promotional items, or even make a direct purchase from you if they believe in you (your brand).

Selfbranding DoshdoshAnother blogger that has mastered self-branding is Maki over at DoshDosh. Personally, I am not a huge fan of anime and before I discovered his blog the Japanese cartoons used to represent (in my mind) typical Saturday morning television for children. However, because Maki makes it a point to include a cartoon with all of his posts the way that I associate and perceive anime, and the feelings it emotes, has completely changed. These days, if I find myself flipping through a magazine, or catch a snippet of anime on television I begin to think of the blog DoshDosh, the niche it represents, and the tagline, “helping you make money online.” The reason for the change is Maki’s successful self-branding.

Of course, you can place all the ads you would like on your site but if people don’t trust you then they will not click to your sponsors or purchase your products and you will lose money. If you are interested in earning money from blogging, or would like to generate more revenue, here are five simple tips that you can use to help you begin your self-branding:

  • Before setting up your income generating blog create a plan and write down how you would like to be perceived by your readers (e.g. practical, humorous, sarcastic, authoritarian, combative, etc).
  • Review the sites that you go back to again and again. Have you purchased anything from them, or clicked on their ads? Analyze specifically what it is about those blogs and the emotions they evoke that have you coming back.
  • Create an effective tagline. Sounds simple but it will set your site’s tone immediately.
  • Know your readers (your consumers).
  • If you expect site visitors to spend money or click on ads then be approachable. If you reply to a readers query about an ad on your site not only will you establish a personal connection with them, additionally, for the skeptics out there it can help to create trust in you.

If you are blogging for money always try to keep in mind that self-branding and how you choose to present yourself and your content will determine if you will capture loyal readers, which in turn can lead to into increased ad revenues.

This is a guest post by Mark Hayward who blogs over at MyTropicalEscape and Culebra Blog. He and his wife recently purchased the Palmetto Guesthouse on the island of Culebra located in the Caribbean. Mark’s fulltime job ends next week so he is looking to blog or work online fulltime. If you would like to discuss business opportunities, or hire him to write for you he can be contacted directly at mark_w_hayward[at]yahoo.com.

The Power of Commenting on Blogs

I just came across a nice post by Caroline Middlebrook who did some analysis of her blog’s stats for the month of October.

Her blog increased it’s traffic from 3,000 readers in September to 11,000 in October – that’s pretty good growth. That’s partly due to some great StumbleUpon traffic (which accounted for 8000+ visitors) – but Caroline also worked a number of other sources over the month.

What struck me about her analysis was a section on traffic from other blogs (including ProBlogger). ProBlogger sent Caroline 94 visitors. When I checked to see when I linked to her I wasn’t able to find a link. The traffic came completely from comments that Caroline left on my posts.

In fact Caroline had just under 700 visitors to her blog this month from leaving comments on other people’s blogs.

The key to her success with this is that Caroline doesn’t spam blogs with meaningless comments – but she contributes to the conversations already happening, stays on topic and adds value to the blogs that she visits (or at least she has here at ProBlogger. Caroline doesn’t leave links in her comments – the traffic comes from people clicking her name to find out who is behind the insightful comments that she leaves.

Of course some will argue that 700 visitors isn’t a lot of traffic per month from the activity of commenting on blogs – however I think it’s actually fairly decent for a blog that is only a few months old – particularly when you consider that she’s managing to convert readers into subscribers. Add 4 or 5 new loyal readers to your blog every day (like Caroline has done by the looks of her RSS feed stats) and you end up with thousands of readers a day over a year.

So while it is perhaps the most overused ‘blog tip’ on finding readers for a blog – I guess commenting on other people’s blogs continues to be an activity that pays off.

found via my Vanity Folder