Giveaway Contests Are A Waste Of Money For Bloggers

by Mike Holman

Many bloggers will run giveaway contests to try to get more traffic or new readers.  Books and gift cards seem to be the most popular prizes.   It appears that in most cases, the blogger is paying for the prize which I think is a bad idea.

Who enters these contests?

Entrants are:

  • Professional contest trollers – They set Google alerts and hang out together on forums to find out where the contests are. These people don’t give a rat’s ass about your blog – all they want is a chance at winning something they can either use as cash (gift certificate) or resell (book, merchandise). You will never a new reader out of these people.
  • Existing readers – Your current readers will likely enter the contest, but what do you gain if they enter or win? Nothing.

You might get the occasional new reader from a contest, but your cost per acquisition will be enormous and not worth it.  Readers want to read your content – giving items away has nothing to do with your content.

Even if you can buy new readers – what is the point? If you are trying to make money – regular readers don’t pay the bills – search engine visitors do.

How to get more readers

If you really want to spend money on your business, spend it where it might have some effect. Pay for content – this content can go on your site or can be used for guest post material which will provide more links to your site.

If you really want more readers, start working on guest posts. Yes, they take time, but they will be far more effective at gaining new readers than any contest.

Note – This article is only referring to contests where the site owner is paying for the prize. If you can get someone else to sponsor it – then go for it!

See my follow up article:  Blog giveaway contests are not always a waste of time.  Some are very profitable.


{ 13 comments }

1 Sustainable PF

We plan to do some contests however we won’t be out of pocket at all. We like to give to charities and we will do giveaways for $100, likely 10 total, where the winner of the contest will pick the charity they want to support and we will donate using their name when asked if we want to donate on behalf of someone. We’ll get the tax break and the winner feels they’ve helped out a charity. Win win (and if we can pick up ANY more readers, as a new blog, we’ll be happy).
Going to do guest posts too!

2 Mike Holman

@SPF – I think that sounds like a fantastic idea. Good luck!

3 Sustainable PF

Thanks Mike! Since we plan to donate that money to charity anyhow, no harm no foul – we aren’t out of pocket any more than we planned to be.

4 Rachelle

My contest was not really a success.

I disagree though that search engine visitors pay the bills, although that may be the case for you, it is not the case for everyone. As someone who picked up roughly $10,000 in new business from my blog last month for my business I can tell you that your regular readers are gold. Furthermore most of these are actually converting to longer term clients for property management. I picked up 4 of these last month alone. Lets hope the trend keeps going!

Furthermore I have found that the clients I do get are “prescreened” in that I no longer get weird wacky landlords that I did get before my blog. My clients are much more a tuned to my “style”

Paying people for content would be a good idea, if I could find someone with my experience, relevance and writing skills, for the moment I’ll settle for giving up TV time for blogging :)

5 Mike Holman

@Rachelle – Congrats on the new business. I’m very happy for you.

I’ll accept that search engine visitors don’t pay off for everyone the same way – however…

Where did those new readers come from? I would suspect most if not all came from search engines, Million Dollar Journey or even my blog via your posts.

Back to the contest issue – people who find your site via a related post on another blog or a search engine, are looking for and are interested in real estate investing. Once they get to your blog they might even subscribe, give you a call etc.

People who enter contests might be interested in your blog topic, but it’s just not that likely – which is why there probably isn’t a payoff with contests.

6 Rachelle

Ya the contest didn’t work.

7 Echo

Hi Mike, I agree and I don’t plan on using a bribe to get new readers. Question though: Can you write off all or part of your prize as a business expense?

Also, if I were to do a new book review I would ask the publisher for two copies of the book and I would give one away to our readers. But that’s really more about rewarding your existing readers than about getting new subscribers.

PS: I had to type this twice because your CAPTCHA rejected me as a human. Therefore I decided that your next post should be titled: Bloggers, get rid of your CAPTCHA’s – they discourage people from commenting :)

8 Mike Holman

@Echo – Yes, you can definitely write off any expense associated with the business. Contest prizes and delivery costs should be expensed.

I hate CAPTCHA’s more than dead kittens. However, it’s a trade off between having the Captcha or spending quite a bit of time dealing with spam. I just installed the conditional captcha, so I’m hoping that most people don’t see it.

Maybe I’ll try disabling it again and see what happens.

9 Echo

Apparently I couldn’t tell the difference between a zero and an “o”. It says you can hit the back arrow and you’ll go back, which you do, but the comment was gone. Frustrating, but I understand the balance between ease of use and an endless amount of spam to delete.

10 Sustainable PF

Mike, if you can get a hold of it, try the GASP plugin. It is a check box instead of a messed up word. I saw it on a site the other day http://kikolani.com and the owner of the site told me what it was called. An awesome plugin!

11 Mike Holman

@Echo – I hear you.

@SPF – I’ll give it a try – thanks!

12 youngandthrifty

I don’t think giveaways are a bad idea.. but not too often.

I did a giveaway for my blogiversary and I think I was able to increase my subscribers by 100 (or 50%)… yeah, I’ll admit it, I bribed people to subscribe haha! :)

13 Tracy

I’ve known people to run contests in the hopes of getting backlinks to their blog by offering extra entries in exchange for a mention on the entrants blog. Not sure how that works out for them, as many people don’t want to put that kind of effort for the chance to win a small prize.

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