How To Run A Successful Competition On Your Website

Joel Lee 19-06-2014

Need a new way to attract visitors to your website? Consider running a contest or competition. The promise of a prize is strong enough to draw a lot of attention your way and the competitive aspect means users will be actively engaged, which will leave them with a lasting impression.


The trick, however, is that a lot of planning and coordination is required to pull them off well. Fortunately, with a bit of effort and preparation, anyone can learn how to run a successful competition. Are you ready to add this useful new tool to your marketing campaigns?

Should You Run A Competition?


Despite the marketing efficacy of a good competition, you have to remember that it’s a specific tool that accomplishes a specific purpose. In other words, competitions will attract certain kinds of people and encourage them to perform certain kinds of actions. A competition MAY NOT always be the right marketing choice.

So before we begin, you ought to ask yourself: Is running a competition right for me?

Competitions are high risk, high reward. The right rules, the right prizes, and the right theme can result in a viral wave that brings a ton of traffic to your website and a lot of exposure to your brand. But in order to get there, you need to invest a lot of time, energy, and even money.


Perhaps the most important consideration is the prize. How much are you willing to invest there? A competition is only as good as the incentive it offers to potential contestants. Will you give away cash, merchandise, or vacation tickets? Will you have one or multiple prizes? What else do you have that will entice people to care?

Worst case scenario: you end up wasting all of that time, energy, and money because your competition never takes off. If you can’t accept that as a potential outcome, you might be better off with a different social media marketing tactic Your Guide To Social Media Marketing Right now, there is an onslaught of both people and companies turning to social media outlets. The competition is fierce, and no company can waste time or money doing it wrong. Read More .

Designing the Competition


If you’re set on going with a competition, your first step must be choosing a competition type. Here are a few ideas to start you off:

  • Raffle: Users enter according to any number of methods, whether by commenting, emailing, filling out an online form, subscribing to a mailing list, sharing on social media, etc. At the end, a random winner is chosen (or multiple winners) from all entrants. An example would be our regular hardware giveaway contests.
  • Submission: Users must submit content as part of the competition. Content ideas include captions, photos, videos, reviews, etc. At the end, a single judge (or a panel of judges) goes through all entrees to decide on a winner (or winners). An example would be our weekly caption contests.
  • Trivia: Users must complete a quiz or test as part of the competition. Winners could be anyone who scored over a certain threshold OR the person who scored the highest. In case of a tiebreaker, subsequent tests can be used. Scavenger Hunts are similar to trivia contests. An example would be the L.A. Angels Twitter trivia contest.

When deciding on a competition type, always keep in mind the number one rule: the easier your competition, the more people will enter. Raffles and trivia require the least effort from users so you’ll end up with a lot of entrants, while submissions and scavenger hunts require more effort so the competition pool will be smaller.

Do also keep in mind that required effort is correlated with engagement. Raffles might reach far and wide, but the people who enter may forget about the contest soon after they enter. On the other hand, scavenger hunts may not reach as many people, but the people who do participate may be more engaged with your brand.

And don’t forget that different competition types require more or less time to set up. Raffles and submissions can be set up relatively quickly, but trivia and scavenger hunts require someone to come up with questions and items.

Launching the Competition



When you have the competition all planned out and ready for public consumption, there are a few more critical details that you need to consider before you can execute. Passing these over can result in a botched contest that can damage your brand’s image.

Web logistics. If your competition does go viral, will your website be able to handle those spikes in traffic? It’s hard to estimate just how much extra juice you’ll need, but you need to prepare for it as best as you can. Be sure to have a backup plan in case your website does buckle to traffic issues.

Track user participation. With a tool like Google Analytics Your Guide To Google Analytics Do you have any idea where your visitors are coming from, what browsers most of them use, what search engines they use, or which of your pages is the most popular? Read More , you can get a breakdown of the amount and type of traffic that’s coming to your competition. There are also tools for social analytic reports 3 Ways to Get Your Hands on Free Social Analytics Reports Accessing quality social media reports can often become a costly endeavor. Here are some free ways to get them. Read More and social sharing stats How To Track How Many Times Links Are Shared On Social Media With minimal digging, you can uncover all sorts of interesting social media statistics about any link on the Web. Read More . All of this is useful for knowing what you did right (so you can keep doing it in the future) and what you did wrong (so you can fix it for next time).

Rule enforcement. Whether you’ve set up your competition to only allow 1 entry per person, per household, or whatever else, you’re going to need the proper setup to enforce those limits. The same goes for all limitations, including those based on region, age, etc.


Cheating. The problem with web-based contests is the potential for cheating. No matter how smart you are, there’s a tech-savvy user out there who is smarter than you and will find ways to circumnavigate your rule enforcement. If necessary, speak with a web security expert for advice on how to mitigate such attacks.

Promoting the Competition


After you’ve launched your competition, it’s time to get the word out there Get It Right: 5 Creative Ways To Promote Your Home Business Online Just because your business is not an Internet business doesn't mean you can ignore the Web. Here are some simple ways that anybody can utilize the Internet for some affordable business exposure. Read More . However, remember that promotion isn’t just about reaching as many ears as you can. You want to retain as many users as possible. To do that, you have to make them care about the competition and your brand.

Social media. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are the fastest ways to build an audience as long as you know how to write tweets that people will retweet How to Write Tweets That Your Followers Will Want To Retweet If you do it right, you could go viral on Twitter. Twitter is one of the fastest ways you could go viral today. The key? Write compelling tweets that others will want to share. Read More . On top of that, consider making a video that people will want to share How To Make Videos Your Friends Will Want To Share What if you created the next viral video? Let’s say you want to create videos that spread like wildfire and are seen by millions. Where do you start? I'm going to list several elements that... Read More . Virality is the number one tool for exposure. Just remember to follow the rules of whichever platform you use. For example:

Build a story. Humans have an innate desire to belong. If you want them to care about your competition, you have to establish an emotional connection. One way to do that is to frame your competition with a story. What good is the competition? How does it overlap with the day-to-day lives of your users? What will resonate with them?

Thank You pages. Thanking a user for participating can be a good way to leave them with a good impression of your brand. It’s also a good opportunity to present them with other services, products, or offers that they might be interested in.

Final Thoughts

If this is your first competition, start small. There are a lot of details that you need to nail for success and it becomes exponentially harder when your first campaign is overwhelmingly huge to begin with. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of competitions either.

But most importantly, remember that a competition is just one tool out of many. Use it if you think it can fulfill your needs. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to seek out a different solution.

Have you ever run an online competition before? What tips and tricks worked for you? Did you run into any setbacks or obstacles? How did you overcome them? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Magnifying Glass Via Shutterstock, Enter to Win Via Shutterstock, Model Piece Race Via Shutterstock, Megaphone Man Via Shutterstock

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