How To Use Contests To Drive Traffic & Make Money

Define The Goal

Holding a blog contest is a great way to drive some traffic to your blog. However, most bloggers don’t get a big a bang as they could from their contests because they don’t have a clearly defined goal on what the contest should accomplish. Before holding a blog contest, ask yourself what you want the contest to do because a contest to drive traffic won’t be the same as contest to increase links.

Tailor The Contest To The Prize

Let’s face it, if the only way to enter my PC game contest was to ask people to write about it and link to my blog using a desired anchor text, I wouldn’t get that many entries. However, change the prize to a 24″ LCD monitor and I’ll be flooded.

I’ve seen many blogs setting up a contest using the same rules I use for the monitor contest but their prize doesn’t warrant that kind of entrance requirement. If your prize is big enough, you can ask for more. However, if you’re going to give away a PC game or a book, make the entry requirements really simple. You’ll get more entries and create a bigger buzz.

The Best Prize To Give Away Cost You Nothing

Everything that I have given away in my contests have cost me zero dollars. All the prizes were given to me as gifts from sponsors. When looking for a contest prize, look at what you have laying around before spending money. If you can’t find anything, then consider offering something that has intrinsic value, but doesn’t cost you any out of pocket money. For example, if you’re a designer, have a contest to win a professional blog redesign.

Contest Should Be Part of Your Overall Marketing Strategy

A contest should not be a one shot deal. Instead, make contests a part of your overall blog marketing strategy. Doing it one time is the same as someone trying Google AdWords for a week or buying a text link for month and then stopping. Blog marketing is the same as blog posting – you have to be consistent. On again, off again blogging doesn’t work and neither does on again, off again marketing.

I run two types of contests on my blog. I have a big monthly contest where I give away something really big. This month, it’s a 24″ LG wide screen LCD monitor. I also give away smaller items though out the month in “reply to this post and you are in” contests. Each contests serves a different purpose. The first one generates a lot of buzz and links back to the blog. The second generates a lot of activities in the community (it also gets the RSS readers to visit the blog). In both cases, the contests tell people that this is a fun and happening place. However, they are also part of the blog’s overall marketing strategy.

Making Money With A Contest

So far, I haven’t done this but it is entirely possible. For the big monthly contest, the sponsor puts up the prize and pays for the shipping of the item to the winner. However, as my contests have gotten more popular, I am getting Emails from companies offering to put up a big prize and pay me to run the contest.

If you look at the results the contests have created for the sponsors, you will start to understand why companies are offering me big money to run a contest with them. Because they sponsored my monitor contest, is now ranked number one for “Hosting Canada” and “Web Hosting Canada” and number two for “Canada Web Hosting.” How much do you think that is worth in the super competitive web hosting industry? 😈

106 thoughts on “How To Use Contests To Drive Traffic & Make Money”

  1. thanks for the tips again.

    1. I think you should give away a new car or truck. I would imagine your blog would skyrocket to a PR8 if you were to do that!

      1. Oh, he’ll get there — I’m sure that some sponsor will be giving John a car soon enough. 😎

        1. Lewis Empire says:

          What about that Mercedes CLK63 Black Series? If you send me one of those I’ll buy you a Jug of Beer for sure.

      2. cooliojones says:

        You remind me of the Price Is Right. Maybe he could do a contest with now retired Bob Barker, oh! Imagine the hits that would generate!

    2. I know. JC is a not so evil with his sharing of tips. With all his tips it’s no wonder his fanbase is huge. Thanks JC.

    3. Hans says:

      yes those are surely great tips specially those for separating the kind of results we want. But is this good in the long term? I mean won’t Google clearly notice links getting to our blog and penalise us for it somehow?

  2. redsnuff says:

    John you truly are evil…. I want to grow up to be that evil. Hopefully I will be able to create a contest sometime soon.

    1. ritchie says:

      how is a contest evil? 😈

      1. Marc says:

        Agreed, this is just good sound advice, not much evilness here.

  3. MK says:

    Mm, I’ve thought about doing contests before – for fun – but I’m just too lazy XD And never know what to give out.

    But maybe one day I’ll actually do it – if I can find some kind of prize.

    1. I would want to hold a contest just for fun, too. That would be so much…fun! 😆

  4. That’s what I’ve been saying!

    Check Out: The Prize Blog.

    1. A blog purely about contests — very smart marketing indeed.

      1. ms danielle says:

        there were a lot of these that entered my contest. i didn’t know about them before.

  5. blogcrowds says:

    Good tips, any kind of sponsorship is pretty sweet.

    John, the SEO results are phenomenal!

  6. A smart move on BlueFur’s part! 🙂

  7. Rosinha says:

    This is the smartest approach to get some buzz on the web, you are absolutely right!

    Thank you for putting it so simple.

    Beijinho (kiss)

    1. ritchie says:

      Yes. But one thing should be mentioned: to start a contest, you already gotta have *some* readers. You neet a little buzz in the beginning to create more buzz later on.

      1. Marc says:

        Not necessarily, it’s all a matter of how much you want to kick back and let your community create the buzz or go out and promote it yourself. Even with no reader base, you can get a lot of participants if you’re willing to put the work in.

        1. I agree with you, Marc. I’ve seen a few blogs with hardly any stable readership who’ve done pretty well after a few contests. The buzz kinda takes care of itself. Of course, it helps if you promote the contest a little.

  8. A lot of bloggers need to learn how to leverage their contests. When john started doing contests it started a bunch of copycats. I went around a little looking for contests that i thought wouldnt get many entries (better odds for me), i only actually entered 1 that i found though. Im sure if a person took a day and entered a bunch of smaller contests they could really clean up with the prizes.

    1. cooliojones says:

      You kinda have to expect the copycats because people by themselves – left to their own devices – will not think outside of the box, or even find a way to make something slightly different than it already is. People want what is the easiest, but they don’t realize that it’s self-sabotage.

  9. wow this is funny because I was thinking of hosting a contest on my site for more traffic and its was monitor – but I was thinking to myself maybe start something small or what I have laying around, and I have a wireless keyboard and mouse I use to use in college and its just sittin in its box – would you think others would promote for this kind of item since its not brand new?

    1. Marc says:

      Probably not… Feels a bit like a hobo prize…

      1. yea I was thinking the same thing….hmmm

    2. Yeah, the prize should be something that people want, but just haven’t bought yet. Just think about what you think its a cool product that you’d like, but isn’t insanely expensive.

  10. Monty says:

    So many great ideas coming out of one mans head. Do you work for NASA by any chance. Have have to agree with Redsnuff thou, truely evil John haha.

    I’ve just started out with my blog. I’d love you to take a look if you get some time and let me know what you think.

    Anyway keep up the good work

  11. webd360 says:

    thanks for the tips, I will definitely keep them in mind for when I am holding my next contest.

    Also, having people pay you to hold contests is awesome and a win-win situation for both sides 😀

  12. MrGPT says:

    Yes, that BlueFur site has to be getting SO much traffic, especially when/if they win that “Best Blog Hosting” website. I’m sure they have definitely, well, sure they will make back the money they spent for that LCD screen.

  13. MrGPT says:

    What? How do you get people to pay you to do contests webd360?

    1. He probably meant “sponsor,” not pay. I would love to meet someone who’ll pay me to do contests though, that’s for sure. 😆

      1. Lewis Empire says:

        If someone gives him an item for free, then he runs a contest for it and makes a bunch of money from the visits, I’d say that’s being paid to promote!

        1. Yeah, but the difference lies right there. I feel payment is more about monetary compensation while sponsorship could very well be in any other form (monetary, product promotion).

  14. Marc says:

    Great to hear about the sponsors John. I’m curious to see how unique the prizes will get 😯

  15. Tyler Ingram says:

    I like how is ranking higher now for those keywords.

    I know people who have chosen their web host by selecting the first thing that pops up. Especially for Canadian hosting.

    I’ve been pushing Bluefur to friends and clients too. If I didn’t get free hosting I would definitely use them!

  16. Thanks for the tip, especially:

    Blog marketing is the same as blog posting – you have to be consistent.

    I have to remember to keep at the marketing.

    Totally off topic question: Does anyone know when posts get closed for comments on this blog?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. John Chow says:

      Comments are closed after 20 days.

  17. I’ve ran several contests before from different sites/blogs always with good results.

    1. Even if a prize was lame, I feel that contests still promote a sense of community and solidarity — those are always good.

  18. Haha… it’s a good tips you gives to others.

    Eventhough I’ve using the same method on my other blogs, I think I should use it in Paypal2u blog.

  19. A great new place to promote your contest is at Blog Contests. 😉

  20. Gdog says:

    Wow, BlueFur is definitely benefiting from this contest. Good for them.

    1. And all for the price of a wide-screen LCD monitor — genius!

  21. Nice post, wow I hope one day people are paying me big bucks to hold contests 🙂 Keep it up john chow, your doing great.

    1. Kumiko says:

      Perhaps they are already….

  22. Leo says:

    Hmm, I’ve been wanting to start a nice contest on my site for some time, but I have been holding back for just the right time.
    Your post has convinced me to give the contest idea some more thought.

    1. I agree Leo, I’ve been waiting for the right time aswell. I’m thinking the next PR update when I have a PR I will do a contest haha.

    2. Lewis Empire says:

      I agree. Start with some nice free items (see John’s TD Canada Trust posting) and then move on from there. I’ve been waiting as well but it may be time to start something…

    3. cooliojones says:

      There is no time like the present!! The quicker you do it and start habitualizing (is this a word?) your efforts, the greater your return will be.

  23. This is a great marketing tip. In fact, instead of intending to spend huge money on advertising, that money is transferred to give it to the traffic… A great way of money shift with a great traffic coming in for it.

    Thanks John!

  24. rahul says:

    great tip John ,1 more evil idea 😎

    1. When I first got to know of John Chow, I see his site very informative… Then this word “evil” seem to be part of John always… Actually I think he’s a really nice guy, from the blogs surrounding him, especially when I see him taking care of the baby…. He’s so fatherly… maybe he’s really that 😈 inside? 😆

      1. Kumiko says:

        No. He’s evil. 😈

      2. Really that bad? The evil always gets it all! 😈

        1. MrGPT says:

          No, he really is EVIL!

      3. In John’s case, evil IS nice. 😈

  25. How’s this for strategy? I give Free ReviewMe’s for 5 comments.

  26. Dizzy Dee says:

    Ooooh – I want a monitor like that!!! I’m gonna put it on my Christmas wishlist 😀

  27. Rhys says:

    Question is how do we obtain prizes for the blog? I mean, I ran a competition a few weeks back but I think I got about 10 entries. I mean, I’m not 100% keen about forking out $100 just for a few meaningless links from johnny come latelies.

    1. Tough question… Chicken and Egg Answer… Is it chicken or egg first comes to this world?

      However, I believe you would want to do some tying up with the big players like John Chow himself to bring in the traffic before giving big prizes… Just like BlueFur did with John.

      Business sometimes comes with 70% luck and 30% hard smart work… Good luck!

      1. April says:

        You mean approach the John Chow of you particular niche? I had thought about that and then forgot about it. (Note to myself: write ideas down.)

        I have a pair of designer ladies sunglasses worth over $100 which I was thinking of giving away on my blog. Perhaps I should find another blog with good readership instead. It’s all about leverage.

        My own blog is quite small at the moment but is gradually getting more and more RSS readers. It might be a better option to find another blog owner.


        1. I just think that there’s nothing right or wrong. Creativity is only up to our own imagination.

          I just saw another comment which is good… Giving away a car or a truck! I think that’s a big leverage by yourself.. All you need to do is to let everybody out there to know.

          Another example: maybe a contest at john’s blog of your designer ladies sunglasses when they do something for you on your blog? Well, there’s nothing relevant to our own niche here… It’s all about making money… 😈 I feel like Mr Chow now… hehe

    2. That’s a risk we all take. Make the prize good enough so people who normally don’t enter will. Determine what your break even point is. If you’re willing to pay $5 a link, then 20 entries for a $100 prize is your break even.

      1. Lewis Empire says:

        Excellent comment. What are you willing to pay to get visits? Does spending $100 on Google ads get you the return that a solid 20 vistors with a contest?

  28. I have a contest($480 in prizes) yet no entries 🙁 The first contest, I gave $100 and had less than 10 entries.

    I made it so simple now that it could be on a new blog and it’s just a cut and paste!

    John is right, the prize should reflect the effort. That is what I did. The more words the review, the greater the main prize(I double it to $400 until June 30).

    Also the first 3 entries get $10 with 5 secondary prizes of $10…

    It’s on my new blog(I split the content recently) with a redirect to the new blog.

    Am I missing something???

    1. April says:

      I do remember reading on a UK competition site that one of the most popular prizes was a box of chocolates.

      Have you been promoting via actual competitions sites? There’s loads of them around.

      1. Thanks for the new link.

        I sent emails at the start of the week to and but it’s not posted. With that amount of money, I would expected to get a email back from them.

        I would email Blog Contests but it’s down.

        1. April says:

          I had a look at your blog and 1) it took me a while to actually find the details of your contests and 2) you don’t half have a lot of rules! Remember to KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid).

          Sorry but the reading all the info on how to enter made me want to fall asleep. Maybe I’ll suggest the readers of my health blog to have a look at your contests if they’re having problems falling asleep 😈

        2. Thanks for the feedback.

          Are you sure that you did not look at the programmer’s competition. I had to be much clearer on that one. They would sleep a week on that one 😉

          At first, it was simple: 200 words review = a chance to win $200. It was like a ReviewMe type deal but the winner would had more than $5 for the effort :mrgreen:

          I had to changed it to make the entry much simpler with a simple cute and paste. I added more prizes so that people had 1/25 chances of wining something.

          I clean up the post and should be simple now.

          Spread the MIS specification word

        3. I made another contest($50 2 prizes) for my blog. Now, it should be easy and you won’t fall asleep. 😉

  29. Casey says:

    Very nice post John. I’m going to see if I can find anything to use as prizes for my first contest, once I reach some sort of nice milestone.

  30. Debo Hobo says:

    I joined the monitor contest I hope I win.
    I did my review it should be posted in Batch 90. Hey come on over to my blog and check out the Smart People Experiment or see who the World’s Smartest Man is!

  31. I’m running a contest now. I think it’s a very effective way to get traffic and links. The bang for the buck is incredible!

    1. BTW, what I’ve learned is that a prize is better than cash. And obviously a cool prize is better than a so-so prize. Even if the so-so prize costs more.

      1. Lewis Empire says:

        Thanks for the advice. You’re saying that an iPod Shuffle is better than a $200 sweater vest?

  32. CatherineL says:

    John – thank for the tips. On our Kwik Fix Plumbing blog right now we are giving away a power shower with free installation. The problem is, the prize is only available locally (well the installation is anyway)because we couldn’t travel 8000 miles to install a shower. Or could we? I suppose it would generate plenty of news wouldn’t it.

    1. MrGPT says:

      Ahh, there you go.
      I can see it now. New headline:
      Man travels 8000 miles to install a shower for a winner of one of a blog contest. His blog can be found at … 😀 .

  33. Lewis Empire says:

    Thanks John, you’ve motivated me (again)!

  34. Good info. Thanks for the post! =]

  35. the trasher says:

    thanks for all yaours tips. you are a good friend, i’m waiting your response to my email since a month ago. thanks, a few words from you, makes me feel better.

    best regards


  36. ms danielle says:

    hi john,

    i have to really thank you for the last contest for the zune. i can’t believe how mine just took off afterward. if i didn’t win it, i’d be way farther down in rankings than i am today. contests really are the newest way to catapult your blog quickly. good tip on not spending (too much) money, since there are so many ways to cross-promote, too.

    i think i’m going to buy you and your friends a round of beer 🙂



  37. simon says:

    I have no sponsor but I spend my pocket money to run a contest. It was kinda successful but not like what JohnChow does.

  38. shaun says:

    atta be bluefur they will see some solid gains from this.

  39. Andrija says:

    …great advice again John…

  40. I’m working on launching a contest right now also, hard part is getting a sponsor to pay for the item that I want to giveaway. I’d rather not have to spend any money out of my pocket but I might have to eventually

  41. Benny says:

    hi john i think i did saw some blogger start to have their own contest blog to attract people to blog or review about their blog..i think this idea is really good.

    I made small money from blogging..Hmmm i will check what do i have in my room to make it as a gift lols..

  42. Benny says:

    hi grandiose,

    have u started yet?

  43. Mybloggo says:

    Thanks John,You tips always is helpful. 😉

  44. Pingback: Info4BeingRich
  45. Cool advice, thank You, John!

  46. Jorge says:

    Good advice!

  47. Tim says:

    Good advice, though contests have the potential to add spam instead of content though. (not always)

  48. dotnetnuke says:

    I make online gaming contests to drive traffic to my blogs.

  49. Delphine says:

    hi there!

    I created two contest recently on my sites, they are for $50 in Barefoot Books. I was wondering the best way to get my contests noticed? I wish I could give a bigger prize, but I was hoping that the odds were still pretty good to win.

    I’m doing it with two of my sites:
    1. runs until july 31 here are more details:
    —–a slightly different contest at my other site:
    2. maine mamas
    which will only take 50 participants…

    I hope some of you will find the contest to fit into your own sites and if you know somewhere to post about this blog contest, I appreciate it!

    Best Wishes,

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