Competitions are a great way to generate brand awareness and drive traffic to your website, but did you know it can also be a great way to build back links?

But what are the basics of running a competition?

and how can you use it as part of your SEO link building strategy?

Choosing the right prize

The first step to a successful competition is choosing the right prize. If your company has high-margin products, they can make great cost-effective prizes.

Most marketing teams look for mass exposure when choosing their prizes, prizes that are going to have a wide appeal like iPod or iPad. However, for the purpose of SEO, you should take into consideration what anchor text you wanted to link build for. If you are trying to rank for “Sydney Hotels”, why not give away a Sydney hotel room?

Having said that, the prize does not have to be a product your company sells. It can be as simple as an online gift card. An added bonus of this is that participants are not restricted by where you can send the prize, giving you a larger potential reach.

Choosing the right kind of competition

The next step is to decide how you want to run your competition. Some questions you should ask yourself include:

  • What do I want to get out of this competition? – Maybe it’s to grow your email list, create brand awareness or build back links.
  • Is the prize I am offering worthy of the effort needed to enter? – Nobody is going to write an essay for a $5 Gift Card.
  • Is my demographic comfortable with using the internet? – A funny video contest might be a little too technical if your audience is Grandma and Grandpa.

When thinking about what you want to get out of the competition, it is useful to consider this:

Perceived Value of Prize / Cost of Entry = Amount of Entrants

Where cost of entry is the level of effort required, as well as ‘potential costs’, such as the possibility of being spammed.


  • Writing a blog post or making a video takes a lot more effort.
  • Retweeting a message can be considered a low cost of entry, as it required little effort and no risk of being spammed.
  • Signing up for an email list is low effort, but there is a higher risk of being spammed.

To run a successful competition campaign, you could combine multiple strategies and have them complement each other. Let’s take the above examples.

  • The competition could be to write a funny blog post on an interesting topic. Potentially generating some link bait worthy content.
  • Offer extra incentives to encourage people to re-tweet the contest, increasing exposure and amount of entries.
  • People who entered the competition are kept up to date via an email list, informing them of winners, and showcasing some of the better entries. Possibly drawing attention to good link bait content and opening up a second round of back links!

Getting links

Avoid asking for links directly. Think of ways that will encourage people to link to you naturally through as part of the competition. Imagine you have a hotel comparison site as a client. Consider running a competition for the 10 most interesting travel blogs. The winners should be more than happy to link back and tell the world how they are recognized as a top blog by your company. Even better, give them a badge to stick on their site!


Good link bait is hard to come by, so why not get others to create it for you through your competition. But to get the results your looking for, you must ask for the right things. Consider the following competitions, which do you think will get you link bait worthy submissions?

“Write in 25 words, what Christmas means to you”

“Share your funniest Christmas party stories”

“Funniest, Craziest and Most Interesting Christmas Tree”


Great link bait will not get picked up on its on, you must put it out there for everyone to see. Contests with open voting are great in this regard, as everyone has incentive to get their piece out to as many people as possible. Just don’t forget to add a social media bar for easy sharing.


Internally vs Externally hosted competitions.

Another thing you must consider is whether you are planning to host the competition yourself, or simply supply the prize and let someone else, such as a well known blogger, run the competition on their site.

There are pros and cons for each.



  • Maximum brand awareness, as the site is hosted on your own domain.
  • Maximum benefit from any back links generated through the competition.
  • Full control over the competition.


  • You have to do all the work yourself, including getting the word out. Depending on your existing traffic, this could either be easy or a monumental task.

When running competitions on your own or clients site, try to use a URL that has the keyword in it and that you can use after the contest. For example. is much more valuable long term than

Once the competition is finished, you could leave the page there as it is or 301 redirect to another page.

However a much better alternative is to keep the page, while making a few changes to get the most SEO value from the page. You could have something like“Our Contest is finished, however you can still get great deals on “Sydney Hotels” right here”.

If your contest involved user submissions (such as videos, photos) you can showcase these on the contest page, and depending on the quality of the submissions, possibly to use them as link bait.



  • Depending on how popular the external site is, you can leverage their existing network and relationships.
  • Depending on the quality of their site, you could get a valuable link from the contest page. The link would increase in value if the competition takes off, and a lot of links start pointing to that page.
  • Ultimately, the competition is driving more traffic to their blog, so they have a big motivator to get the most out of the competition (ie. They will work hard!)


  • You do not have full control over the competition.
  • There is no guarantee that the competition page will stay online.
  • You will only get part of the value of any back links pointing to the competition page on another site.

To save time, it is a good idea to approach blogger who have done sponsored competitions in the past. You can find these sites in Google with some clever use of search strings. For example, if I were an online retailer trying to rank for the term ‘iPad’. I would do a search using the following string.

win iPad + competition + blog + “sponsored by”



Promoting your competition


Your competition will end up being a big flop unless it is seen by the right people. A great place to start is submitting your competition details to the ‘comping’ community. There are many such sites out there, some Australian ones you could consider include:

If your Prize is something like an iTunes gift card or Amazon voucher, there is no reason why you cannot open your competition to overseas entries. Some well known sites around the world include:

Once the competition has started, build momentum by encouraging people to share the contest. For example, you may consider setting up a secondary prize for people who retweet the contest details or send the link to their friends.

Facebook is another great way to maintain momentum, as each time someone interacts with your competition, there is a chance that it might show up on the homepage news feed, putting your competition in front of their entire friends list.


Final thoughts

Competitions have long been known to be a great branding and marketing tool. However with a bit of creativity, you can turn it into a powerful link building strategy which will generate valuable back-links and drive traffic to your site.