Most people in the industry look at contests and incentives as branding and marketing tools. However if you are willing to get creative, you can turn a contest into a powerful link building tool that will, over time, help your organic rankings.
When most marketing and advertising teams look at a contest they are looking for mass exposure, so they choose a prize that is going to have wide appeal, like an an iPod or iPhone. However as an SEO you need to look at this as an opportunity to build the anchor text you want, especially the really hard to get commercial anchor text. Want to rank for “Las Vegas Hotels?” Tun a contest giving away a Las Vegas hotel room. Want to rank for “coach handbags?” Then give away a Coach handbag.
When going for links like this, the prize may actually cost more than a low level prize the marketing/advertising department had budgeted for. If that’s the case, it’s your job as an SEO to show how important and valuable getting those anchor text rich inbound links are worth. Unless you’re giving away an exotic sports car, the links you generate are almost always worth more than the prize due to the rankings they can produce and the significant amounts of traffic they generate.
The next step is to think about your landing page. I’m not talking about the design/layout of the page—I’m talking about the URL. Try to choose a URL that has the keyword in it and that you can use after the contest. For example this URL:
has much more staying power than either of these:
Another mistake a lot of people make is that after the contest ends they leave the page up with a notice the contest is over, or 301 the content to another page. A better solution is to leave the existing URL in place and just improve the page with different content. If you are concerned about usability, you can relocate the contest information to a new URL with a link at the bottom or even display a message based on incoming referral URL’s or referral keywords. If you’ve already got a commercial page about the particular item, this doesn’t present a problem. I bet you’d really like to have a second indented listing for your keywords, so leave the original page up—just make sure the two pages really are different.
Don’t miss the opportunity to generate views for any videos you may have. Including informational videos on contest pages is an easy way to increase the views on those videos, especially if they are short, to the point and helpful. The number of times a video has been viewed plays a role in YouTube popularity rankings and in getting videos to show up in Google universal search results.
A caveat: Contests, sweepstakes, incentives and giveaways, legally speaking, are much more complicated than—in my opinion—they need to be. Laws vary considerably from state to state, so before starting down the contest path make sure you do your due diligence and consult with an attorney and make sure you aren’t creating a legal headache for yourself.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.