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Do you enter competitions online?

Competitions are often used by blogs to build up their audience, and savvy bloggers know that competitions can build traffic and also increase followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Brands too know that the right competition can attract traffic to a particular website, or perhaps drive awareness of a brand among potential customers.

But in recent months, competitions on blogs have begun to change. And Laura from LittleStuff argues it’s not necessarily for the better. 

Laura writes: 

I’ve noticed in recent months that some clever, blog-savvy companies have been contacting blogs, offering a prize in return for hosting a competition. The prize is a good one, and the blog hosting the competition will likely see an increase in traffic and links from Twitter etc from people entering the comp.

But a condition of entry is that the entrants need to write a blog post for their entry and their entry MUST include a link to the company promoting the competition.

Simple, perhaps, but it does throw rather a new light on the whole competition principle.

Most bloggers are familiar with the idea of sponsored posts and paid links. Companies need you, and not just for word-of-mouth marketing. They want valuable anchor text – when you make the word “pink slippers” into a link to a particular website, you’re telling Mr Google that the site you’re linking to has something important to say about pink slippers.

So, when you post that link on your blog, the company pays you for the space – typically somewhere between £50 and £100.

As bloggers, we’re comfortable with this concept. But the link-to-enter a competition model works rather differently. One blog runs the competition and perhaps earns a fee in exchange for posting and hosting the comp.

But everyone else effectively offers up their links for free and the company effectively gains a whole raft of completely FREE sponsored posts, each including a lovely anchor link to their site. As one blogger recently commented to me – why would a company pay £1,000 to buy 10 sponsored posts, when for £100 plus a £100 voucher, they can get 50 posts?

You can’t blame the company – but I would suggest bloggers think carefully before accepting a fee for this kind of competition, or entering one. Think about the value of what the company is getting for the competition, and ask yourself: is this worth my while?

As a competition host, you might consider charging more for this kind of post – remember, you’re limiting entry to ONLY other bloggers, so you won’t get the same sort of traffic/comments you’d get for an open competition. A higher fee might be compensation for this. You could maybe offer a tiered fee – an up front fee, and a bonus if you gain more than 30 entrants, for instance.

As for competition entrants, consider how much time and effort entry will take, and whether the prize being offered is worth a link on your blog. The Tots100 recently ran a competition asking entrants to blog for a chance to win a family holiday overseas with up to £500 in travel expenses – but some competitions of this nature are offering prizes worth between £50 and £100.

If enough bloggers begin to understand their own worth, stand up and say ‘we are worth MORE” then PR agencies have to start paying attention. Obviously, not all blogs are equal and there is a limit to what individual blogs can charge. But if we all start to think about the value of what we’re doing to the brands involved, things might change for the better.

What do you think? Do you enter competitions that require a blog post entry? Does it make a difference if a competition entry also asks for a link?


About 

Sally Whittle is founder of the Tots100, Foodies100, BlogSummit and the MAD Blog Awards. When she’s not working, she can be found blogging at Who’s the Mummy, or having fun with her 8 year old daughter, Flea.

26 Comments

  1. Posted 5 March 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t come across this yet, but it is pretty appalling.

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Tots100 did it last month with the holiday review competition

      • Posted 6 March 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        We did indeed, and it was something we thought pretty carefully about.

        My feeling with this sort of competition is it works fine IF the prize is something pretty amazing (and this was a family holiday worth around £1,500), and if there’s a benefit for all the entrants (in this case, everyone won a prize, and we ran a carnival of entries, so the bloggers got links back to their blogs, as well as linking to the sponsor).

        I think it’s perhaps a different question if the prize is a £50 kettle and there is no other value in it for the bloggers.

        Having said that, like everything in blogging, it’s about what you feel is worthwhile and if a chance to win a family holiday wasn’t worth the link on your blog, then you wouldn’t enter, and I totally understand that.

        • Posted 6 March 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t mean to be pointing fingers btw. Just thought Jacqueline hadn’t read that bit :)

          • Posted 6 March 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            I should probably also add that I’ve actually done this sort of review before although there wasn’t a competition that time and we didn’t get travel costs. It was a great experience though which is why I was more than happy to enter the competition. :)

          • Posted 6 March 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

            Of course not! It’s a valid point – we’re here to provide things our members think are cool, so feedback is encouraged. I guess my personal feeling is if it’s a GREAT prize and a topic people will want to write about anyway, then I don’t mind. But it’s the only time we’ve considered the offer was worth making you blog with a link to enter.

  2. Posted 5 March 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    I have done this twice but once because I was asked by a blogger friend who hadn’t had many entries. The second time I used an existing post. I’m afraid it was hard work both times and I have been reluctant to do it since. If it were something truly awesome up for grabs I would but it;s hard including all the extra links into a post that I would either a) be writing anyway or b) would never have written in a way that seems to flow with the post..

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      I think using an old post and adding one link is probably a bit easier than doing a new post with lots of links – that sounds like hard work!

  3. Posted 6 March 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    If the prizes are in addition to something else, I’ve got no problems with it- MS did an xbox live campaign where bloggers got a free live sub, and free access to skygo, lovefilms etc for a month. Each weeks themed post had a prize for the best post on top of that.

    Of course that’s the exception rather than the rule, and asking 10-100 bloggers to provide content for free with the incentive of an iPad or something for one of them, works out pretty cheap for the campaign.

    Personally, for the majority of those requests, I reply with a polite no thank you.

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      You’re quite right, I think the value of the prize needs to reflect the value to the company.

  4. Posted 6 March 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I don’t do this, purely for the reasons you’ve mentioned. I’ve entered competitions on Tots that require a blog post but it happened that I had one post already written and one I was going to write, which I entered into the same competition.

    Not sure I would host one either. I have tended to ignore PR emails offering this but I think in future, I may reply and set out why I will not do it.

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      It’s an interesting issue, I’d not really thought about in detail until Laura’s post. Glad we got you thinking!

  5. Posted 6 March 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your post. I have just signed up to do something like this. However, I thought about it for quite some time as it will involve a lot of my time as well as asking for other bloggers’ time.
    The payment to me is good and the prize to others who post a blog in a link to this is also good (in fact better than I will get) so it seems to be quite a good deal.
    I am reasonably new to blogging and so am probably using this as a ‘test the waters’ case. I hope it goes well but obviously if it does not then I will think even harder about doing it again.

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      I agree – I think if it seems worthwhile to you then GO FOR IT! And there’s the argument that if the prize isn’t worth it to the bloggers they won’t enter – but if it’s a good prize, they will!

  6. Posted 6 March 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Interesting post, I only recently discovered that this was going on. I was trying to work out why suddenly lots of bloggers were promoting particular products without any disclosed reward, then I realised that they were linking them up to a competition.

    Personally it’s not something that I’d do, unless possibly it was something that I was going to blog about anyway. It’s just offering free advertising. I’ve only seen a few around so far, but so far the prizes offered and the chance of winning have not been worth it to me.

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I think ‘unless I was going to blog about it anyway’ is a good point – perhaps brands should be looking to tie competitions in with things they thing bloggers will be writing about anyway?

  7. Posted 6 March 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I’ll do it but in most cases the link will only be there until the competition is judged.

    Even then nofollow is a wonderful thing if you know how to use it correctly :)

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Ah, yes, we have a great section on using nofollow in the Tots100 Guide to Making Money ebook.

  8. Posted 6 March 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I’ve recently had experience with this through the Next Blogger Network. Back in December, they asked members to write a post about the new Davina range of workout clothing with the result that 10 bloggers would be given free clothes from the range. I entered just to see what would happen, and I ended up winning. The result is that I had to write a post every week updating my progress with getting fit with the range. I also was expected to tweet about it. I was glad to have won the clothes, but with 10 bloggers chosen, Next and the range got a LOT of publicity.

    Then, in February, I did ANOTHER post about fashion and wound up winning a ticket to the Elle Style Awards. And while it was amazing and I got to meet celebs and dress up and such, I think there’s no way I’d do it again. The post in question had NOTHING to do with my blog content and was purely selling out for a prize. I felt icky. I’m actually currently giving away on my blog the items from the goody bag I got on the night. It’s my way of easing my conscience! ;)

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      I think you make a great point about posting what feels natural to you on your blog – sometimes that might well include branded content, but if it doesn’t you do run the risk of feeling icky.

  9. Posted 6 March 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t care if you’re offering a £50 kettle or a £500 holiday. If a condition of entry is that I have to put particular links into my blog post, I’m not entering. Period. I turn down sponsored links where I’m offered a guaranteed payment for putting links in my blog posts, I am not going to suddenly start doing them for the *chance* of a prize.

    I did enter one Tots competition early on, but what was before the PR companies got smart and started trying to turn them into cheap sponsored links. Back then the only requirement was to link to the competition post I think, which is what I did.

    I’ve discovered that I blog best when I’m given complete creative control of my content, and the few times I’ve tried to write a sponsored post or a competition entry post it hasn’t worked well because it’s felt “forced”.

    That’s a very personal opinion though, and I can see why this approach is popular with the PR companies, and I have no issue with other bloggers choosing to do things differently to me :)

    • Posted 6 March 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Thats sort of what I liked about the Tots100 competition. Although the link was there it really was just a case of writing about your holiday. It didn’t have to be about anything specific so you had that control over what you posted.

      I know what your saying though. If something looks and reads like a sponsored blog post it usually leaves a bitter taste.

      • Posted 6 March 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Bob, yes we did try and think of a topic that people would be able to interpret in their own way.

        Ordinarily in this kind of competition we don’t specify a link (this is the only time it’s been a requirement) but we allowed it because of high prize value.

        I think we’re aware of how many families won’t get holidays this year because times are so tough, and the opportunity to give a family holiday away, with expenses, seemed like a good offer for our members.

  10. Posted 8 March 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the Tots 100 holiday competition. I write about travel anyway on my blog but it was good for me to have the discipline of ‘writing to order’ for a change. I didn’t win but the challenge was enjoyable. It didn’t bother me at the time that I had to put links in the post but, to be fair, I hadn’t considered the implications. My usual readers didn’t seem to mind it was a competition entry: they commented on the story as they would any other post.
    I have recently been asked to enter another travel writing competition with similar rules. I plan to do so despite the company benefiting from the links as I feel I may benefit from the experience too.

  11. Posted 9 March 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I have only linked to one before and that was the early Tots100 one for mothercare I think, no link required. For a good prize I may add the links in but certainly not for a £50 or £100 prize. it would really have to move me to write and be a good and relevant topic.

    I hate the concept of bloggers having a chance of winning a pitch to work with a company.

    Mich x

  12. Posted 10 March 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    I have done it for comps, but am quite new and probably naive, but I like hosting competitions so don’t mind really, but that might change when I am long in the tooth! :) x