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The Costs and Benefits of Running a Competition on Your Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of January 2008 Blog Promotion, Featured Posts 0 Comments

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

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 and LinkedIn.
  1. You are correct. It is beneficial to do some competitions in our blog, even if we should do some extra effort and contribution. Thank you.

  2. I ran a competition on my blog to raise traffic and create buzz. The prize that I sponsored was 5 years domain registration and hosting. It attracted much needed traffic. I came out the winner. :)


    The second time I had a contest, it was only for $25 Starbucks gift card. It created less traffic than that of hosting prize.

  3. Thats a great idea. What are the tax implications?

  4. I am in the midst of running our very first sponsored contest right now. Thanks to our sponsor, we have been able to give away 10 free copies of a Nintendo DS game to our readers. I put together a creative little contest where they have to complete a drawing to enter, since it is a drawing-themed video game.


    I was worried that asking readers to do too much would limit the amount of entries, but actually we have seen an overwhelming response to the contest. I guess that it is important to balance the amount of work readers are expected to do with the quality of the prize, but in this case I was surprised by how much work readers were willing to put into their entries.

  5. Wow, you hit on all the ups and downs of a competition. I have started one at the beginning of this month, and am putting up significant money ($800) from my pocket. Since it will run to June 2nd, there is the opportunity to make that investment a worthwhile one. Still, getting participation is proving hard – my competition is one that directly promotes the goals of my Web site i.e. helping the planet’s environment. (see http://Super-Cars.PlanetThoughts.org) but it requires a little effort by the participant – more than just typing or clicking at their computer! I think it is a fun action, and I am working hard to get large sponsors, and maybe large media coverage. I look forward to the rest of your articles on this topic.

  6. I guess it depends. If you are running the contest for the sheer fun and buzz, and everyone enjoys themselves, then it is a success, money aside. I guess in blogging, anything you do purely out of a money concern is destined to fail right from the outset.

  7. I really love muzik & have been die-hard fan of American Idols so last year, my Blog friends & I decided to host Blogville Pop Idols competition [http://www.blogvillepopidols.blogspot.com/]

    We used the SnapVine voice recording application to showcase each contestant’s singing talent. [Snapvine.com gave us a direct phone line for the contestant to call then record the song the wanted to sing]

    I have to say that we got the desired attraction we needed although it could have been better if we had read your post. My main problem was balancing the management of my main blog & the competition blog…at the end of the competition my blog became desert land…

  8. Dear Pettube.com.au were you guys thinking of doing a competition or were you just adding to the commentary of competitions. I think your on a winner if you do a competition for pets, my streets full of people with dogs and cats and I’m pretty sure some of them including myself would submit a picture or two of my cat Ronnie cheers all the best Tony

  9. Hi Tony,

    Both actually. We’ve been planning a competition for best pet video and pictures and saw Darren’s site so I contributed to the commentary but we’ve got some great ideas from the peoples so I’ll keep them all in mind to maximise the value of the competition.

    Not sure when but most likely in the next 4 to 8 weeks and we’ll post some info on our site in preparation. Thanks everyone for the great ideas and content on this post.

    Regards Joe

  10. Hi Joe,
    Have you got any idea what type of competition you will have for Pettube.com.au for example are looking at doing funniest home video’s type or just picking who has the cutest animals – i could probably have a shot at both as one cat likes drinking from the toilet bowl and my other cat jerry loves jumping up to the tv when he sees another cat on it…i look forward to any release of details of any competition you may do on your website

  11. If you are running a competition on your blog, be sure to submit it to:


  12. Im currently running a iPod nano FREE prize draw on my website – http://www.thecardandgiftcompany.co.uk – have been running it for some while now and its brought lots more traffic and more importantly more orders. I think the trick is picking a desirable prize and making it easy for everyone to enter.

  13. It’s been a while since this article was released and over that time it seems like every other “Make Money Online” blog paints by numbers with these cookie cutter “hacks” such as running contests, top 10 lists, awarding top posters with dofollow links, etc… In my opinion, it’s made a mockery out of blogging and the blogosphere.

    Whatever happened to writing a blog because you know and care about the subject matter?

    All I know is that introducing contests and rewards (especially money) brings out the absolute worst in people. I used to run regular contests on my forums but so many cheaters spoiled it for the honest members. Additionally, running contests on a blog causes the Shoemoney or John Chow effect where people visiting your blog/site eventually grow to expect to be rewarded for visiting.

    Think about it, send the most unpopular kid to school with a stack of $20 bills to hand out to other kids and you’ll have still have the most unpopular kid except now that kid will have a following of phone fair weather friends.

    My opinion, stick to solid content and forget the gimmicks.

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