Encouraging Visitor Interaction – #1 Contests

trophy.gifThis post is the first in a series about how you can encourage your visitors to interact more with each other and the site. User interaction will give you more loyal and repeat visitors as well as new content. User written content is great, as it’s very relevant to your visitors (they wrote it after all) and it’s free πŸ™‚

The first sort visitor interaction I’m going to cover is contests, people love a fun contest especially when there are prizes at stake.

Contest Ideas

Caption Contest
Post a funny image that is relevant to your site and then ask your readers to leave an appropriate funny caption. Then let your readers vote to choose the winner (thus getting them to interact twice). This can work with just about any subject, even accountants have a sense of humor.

Navigate from A to B

Ask your visitors to navigate from your site to a totally unrelated one purely by following on page links (no directories or search engines allowed), get them to post how many jumps it took them and ask the winner to send in the list of connecting URLs (this is based on the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game). This will be encouraging them to come back to your site after leaving it, hopefully via a new bookmark.

Photo Promotion
Get readers to send in photos of them promoting your site, interaction and promotion at the same time πŸ™‚ (I got all sorts of strange entries with this one).

If you have a product based site ask your readers to send in their own reviews, this is great for fresh content and will also be useful for other readers.

Guess the?
Post a picture of something strange and ask your readers to guess what it is, if you can’t find anything unique you could always do a close-up of an everyday object. Don’t make the same mistake I did with having public comments.

Hide something on your site
I thought of this the other day and haven’t tried it yet. Hide a picture somewhere on your site and ask your readers to find it (a bit like a treasure hunt). I reckon this will work really well on large sites and encourage your readers to have a good old browse around.

Name suggestions
Got a new pet, child, toy, etc. Ask your readers to suggest names.

I am always on the lookout for cool contest ideas so if you have any suggestions please leave us a comment.

Finding Prizes

Once you’ve got an idea for a contest the next thing you need to do is offer the odd prize or two. Here’s a few tips on finding prizes on the cheap:

  • Gift vouchers, either buy them yourself or contact the retailer and scrounge, there’s publicity in it for them after all. A big advantage of gift vouchers is that they can be sent out via email.
  • Ask relevant companies to donate prizes, again it’s cheap publicity for them. In the past I’ve wangled about $5K worth of gadgets to give away, but be warned if you’ve got to pay the postage it can really add up if you have a global audience
  • If you’re given products to review give them away afterwards
  • Recognition can work really well as a prize, I’ve had some great logos designed and all it cost me was a few green block reputation points on a forum

As always comments, suggestions and other ideas are more than welcome and much appreciated.

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. I hadn’t thought about contests as a way to encourage visitor interaction. I’m at that point where I have enough visitors that I need to look at converting the lurkers to participants. I’ll have to see if I can brainstorm a suitable contest.


    • Once you’ve got the audience a great place to brain storm is on your site, ask your readers and let the interaction begin.

  2. What would you recommend for a fairly small site averaging 600 – 800 visitors per day? Should I wait till it’s 1000 or should I use a contest to help kick start the site a little more?

    I like the ideas you mentioned above and will need to start thinking a little more here πŸ™‚

    • I’d use a contest to help kick start the site. Holding a contest is a good excuse for a press release which if done right can bring in more visitors. If it’s for your gadget site make the contest interesting so that other related sites will link to it.

      • Thanks Al! I best get gathering some prizes together πŸ™‚ I picked up 3 sticks of 512MB DDR2 533 RAM today when I purchased 3 PCs that dont need the extra. One of them could be a good start to the collection.

    • I’ve been holding off contests on my site until I build the readership up a little ( I am currently no where near the 600-800 level) But from what it sounds like I may be putting the chart before the horse. Perhaps I should invest a little more money into my site to save a lot of time

  3. I have considered allowing people to choose their favorite painting from my site for naming one of the more unusual ones. Great posting, no changes are required to the site to make it work! That helps too.

  4. I have a negative opinion on many contests – particularly on forums. I think they only encourage spammy comments and are very short-term focussed.

    My article is entitled ‘Forum competitions are a bad idea.

  5. I agree with you doing contests, it works for me too.

  6. Sorry for the comment on an older post, but it was part of the inspiration for me to hold a review my blog contest. Anyone interested in entering can take a look at my blog for the rules. The grand prize is $100.

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