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Blog Engage $650 USD Guest Blogging Qualifying Article

5 Winning Rules for Sweepstakes and Contest Success

Little Boy Cheering

It’s no secret that I won Weblogbetter’s “Surviving the Blog Contest,” or that I just won the first of the 2012 Guest Blogging Contests from Blog Engage. People have asked me, “What’s your secret?” so I thought – what better entry into the next Blog Engage Guest Blogging Contest than a tell-all post on how to win a blogging contest.

Except for one thing: there is no “secret.” I can share with you what’s worked for me, but I cannot share with you something I haven’t got. It’s like the Holy Grail of MMO – there really is NO good way to earn money effortlessly while you sleep. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and work at it. And when it comes to contests, you need to understand this one thing up front: The ROI can be pretty low. You will work your tail off, and there is NO guarantee you’ll win. At least in a minimum-wage job, you know you’re going to get paid the agreed-upon salary.

So here’s Rule #1: If you’re counting on the contest winnings to pay your bills, you’d do better to spend your time hunting for and working at a second or third job.

If the competition and adrenaline rush of contesting is in your blood, and it’s fun for you, here’s Rule #2: Gambling is an addiction. Have you ever heard of dopamine or Internet addiction? Read this, before you read another word: “It’s the Dopamine, You Dope!” over on my personal blog, It’s All a Matter of Perspective. You have to ask yourself if you’re doing it for the fun, or if you’re doing it because you need another hit of dopamine. Sometimes, I’m not sure of the answer to that, myself, when I sign up for a contest. I’m pretty sure dopamine and adrenaline and the enabling support of friends are all that kept me going during the contests I’ve entered online. But I am sure it’s not worth losing your health, your sleep, your job, your family, or your friends over. Before getting into a contest, calculate how much time you can reasonably spend on it before it’s a loss – even if you win the grand prize.

Rule #3: Read “How to Win the Lottery (or at Least Increase Your Odds) over at TheNextGoal.com, where I share with you my mom’s “secrets” to winning sweepstakes and contests. Guaranteed? Nope. But among the things my mother won, over the years, always following these simple “rules” of hers, were a 16-foot ski boat; a car (or, rather, a trip to the Daytona 500 and one of four keys to unlock the car – she also got the winning key); a trip for two to Spain; a job as an “extra” on HBO’s popular series, “Dream On” – and about a zillion cases of soft drinks, cash prizes of varying sizes, and other “fun” stuff. My dad also won a car. Then, one year, my dad had to ask her to stop for a bit so the taxes on her winnings wouldn’t take too big a bite out of their bank account. She did not win every time she entered, but would have chalked that up to “it wasn’t meant to be.” And sometimes, things aren’t meant to be – because if they happened, they would foreclose other opportunities that lay ahead.

And so, that leads to Rule #4: Never lose hope; never get discouraged; never indulge in negative self-talk. If you lose, you’re not “a loser.” If you lose, that’s no reason whatsoever to stay out of the next contest. If you lose, it doesn’t mean you’re not just as deserving of a win as anyone else – it just simply means you didn’t win this one, this time. The best cure for disappointment is success, and my best advice is to follow Rule #5: When you lose (and none of us win everything, every time) let it go and move on quickly to the next challenge, whatever that may be. Immersing yourself in something you love is the best way to forget the sting of disappointment, loss, or hardship. Even when you win, you may want to immerse yourself in some other recreational pursuit for a while, just to recharge your batteries and renew your sense of fun.

5 Winning Strategies for Blogging Contest Success

Most blogging contests involve some combination of the following, for points:

  • A blog post
  • Comments
  • Social promotion (sharing the blog post via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Pinterest, Bizsugar, etc.)
  • Backlinks (guest posting with links back to the contest entry post, comments using hyperlinks or CommentLuv)

Strategy #1: Plan and write your blog post.

  • Pick a popular or controversial topic. Don’t play it safe by giving readers the same old recycled tips and tricks. This is especially important if comments count for points.
  • Make a mind map – using pencil and paper, spend ten or twenty minutes scribbling all the ideas you want to bring into your post. How do they relate? What minor points will help to clarify them? What examples can you include to illustrate your points to help cement them in readers’ minds?
  • Write.
  • Proofread carefully. If you have Word, use the built-in spelling and grammar checker, but don’t trust it 100%. There is no substitute for reading each sentence carefully. Check for subject-verb agreement; proper use of singular, plural, and possessive nouns and pronouns; and make sure your sentences make sense. If English is not your native language, brush up on common ESL mistakes for your region or country. For example, if you search Google for common mistakes in english by indians, you will find helpful resources to correct mistakes that are common to Indian speakers of English, such as this one: http://www.rediff.com/getahead/2007/jul/18eng.htm (there are many more, and you can substitute other country names in the same search for other regional linguistic “idiosyncracies”).

Strategy #2: Enter early, especially if social promotion is a factor in scoring. In some contests, you’ll have two weeks or so to promote, and your social scores will be locked. In others, you’ll have “first mover advantage” by entering early – which means you’ll have the entire contest period. In some cases, contest organizers will only publish one or two posts per day, to allow each an equivalent time in the spotlight – so even if you enter early, your post may not go live for a week or two. It usually doesn’t pay to wait, unless you want to see what the other entrants have to offer before writing your post – a risky, but possibly effective, strategy in itself. This one works best if all entrants are given exactly the same amount of time to promote their posts.

Strategy #3: Promote others first, then ask for help. It’s never good to owe more favors than you can ever hope to return. Share others posts, then ask them to share yours, too. This goes for your competitors, too – in most cases, the relationships you form as you network with other bloggers, even competitors, will last far longer than the contest and be more valuable to you in the long run. Don’t kill the competition – beat them fair and square if you can, but do it with good sportsmanship and kindness. Share their posts and comment on them. You’ll lose a few points, but gain priceless goodwill.

Strategy #4: Each time you leave a comment, invite others back to your contest entry post. Give them a link to it, if possible. Make it easy – people are busy, busy, busy, but they mean well. Don’t spam them, pester repeatedly, or nag them, but feel free to remind them once or twice. There’s a difference between, “Why haven’t you voted for my post yet?” and “I hope you’ve had a chance to read my post about cooking socks to remove foot odor – I’d really be interested in your thoughts on this, and it’d be great if you’d also share your favorite laundry tip in the comments!” Invite, don’t demand.

Cheering

Strategy #5: Comments should be conversational. Imagine you’re playing tennis. Your opponent lobs the ball over the net. Do you catch it in your hand and go home, or do you hit it back to his side of the court? Commenting is the same – toss one back: a question, a new point to discuss, a slightly controversial statement. If you just say, “Thank you,” you leave the other guy nothing to work with.

Strategy #6: When leaving backlinks, don’t be a spam beast. Every comment should hand written, unique, and show that you’ve read the post you’re commenting on. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be the kind of comment you’d want to read from your own readers. The kind that makes you feel, as a writer, that you’ve made a connection. You can add a little copy/paste boilerplate to the end, along with your backlink: “I’ve entered a contest over at [blog name] and I’d really appreciate your support – would you click that link below, read my post, and leave a comment? If you really like it, it’d be great if you’d share!”

Strategy #7: Find the CommentLuv-enabled blogs and use my little trick, “How to Get Two Backlinks for the Price of One with CommentLuv – one for your contest entry, one for your own blog. Make those backlinks count. Just keep in mind that if you do leave spammy comments, or less than thoughtful comments, this will backfire badly – your comments will never make it out of moderation, and the blog owner is likely to delete any links you leave. So pay attention and pay for those backlinks with good, meaningful comments.

Good luck!

Image Credits:

Boy: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Woman: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About Holly Jahangiri

On a good writing day, Holly Jahangiri claims (tongue-in-cheek) to be channeling the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, Erma Bombeck, and O. Henry. On a bad writing day, she claims to have poured every last ounce of her creative ability and energy into childbirth, and has two wonderful children to prove it. You can find her on Twitter @HollyJahangiri (http://twitter.com/hollyjahangiri), Facebook (http://facebook.com/hollyjahangiri), and It's All a Matter of Perspective (http://jahangiri.us/2013) - to name just a few of the places this social media butterfly flits.

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