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How to Run Contests and Competitions on WordPress Sites

updated on Jun 29, 2016
How to Run Contests and Competitions on WordPress Sites Getting more traffic is always an important topic among all types of websites. You probably have tried many common traffic-driving methods including practicing the White Hat SEO tactics. However, you might have neglected or underestimated some creative ways that grow your traffic dramatically, among which running contests and competitions is one of the most effective.

In this guide tailored for beginners who want to try contests, we will talk about the benefits of doing so, and then introduce the popular contest types and the WordPress plugins that can help you create and manage a contest.

Benefits of Running Contests and Competitions on Your Website

Contests and competitions add freshness to your website content thus bring some fun to your audience. With something free being given, those who are interested in the prize would certainly be motivated to participate in your contest and keep engaged with it until the winner is picked out. The large number of participants then in return benefit your business a lot, for example, getting your brand noticed.

If you want more reasons to convince yourself to have a try, below are what you can expect from successful contests and competitions.

Grow your audience

The largest benefit we can think about is that you are able to reach a larger audience both on your website and the social media where you share the contest to. With more people discussing, participating and sharing the contest, your website can cultivate new audience quickly, which means more business chances are generated. As people love free stuff, you might also see a boost of the followers on your social media profiles.

Grow your email list

It's natural to ask for their email addresses when people enter a contest. Most of the participants will be happy to be included in your email list if this means a chance to win something or in the case that they want to be notified of your future contests. As an important part of effective email marketing strategies, a big email list benefits visits, conversions and sales a lot.

Improve the user engagement

More traffic, to some extent, could mean more comments, more social likes and higher overall engagement. If you are smart enough to keep people engaged with more activities on your site, a quick small success is possible.

Build brand awareness

A good result that goes hand-in-hand with better user engagement and more social shares is the increase of the brand awareness. As the participants of your contest spread the words out, your products and services are exposed to more potential customers. Besides, you are likely to leave an impression of owning a generous brand.

Benefits of Running Contests and Competitions

Prepare for a New Contest or Competition

Before starting a contest or competition, you have to make a lot of preparations which are essential for achieving good results. Especially when you are going to host the first contest in your life, careful consideration is required. Below are three of the basic things to do.

Figure out your objectives

What you want to achieve from a contest would largely affect everything else that you need to consider, including the target audience, the prize, and the type of contest that's best to run. With some many goals you might achieve, for example, promoting a product, growing the email list and increasing website traffic, you'd better select one or two at one time, and then plan some more contests for other objectives.

Holding too many objectives might make your contest annoying or complicated, which leads to less satisfying results.

Choose a prize

Of course, you can offer whatever you want to the winners of your contest. However, to attract the target audience that is likely to be turned into happy subscribers, customers and clients, you have to be careful in the selection of the prize.

In fact, you don't need to offer something expensive, but the prize must resonate with the target audience and have the potential of social sharing. For example, if you are running a photography site, you can offer a camera as the prize, and if you are selling products or services, providing a discount, a free trial or a completely free package is great. Remember that a prize that is not relevant to your products or the industry doesn't bring value to your business.

Choose a Prize

Pick a contest type

Generally speaking, two broad contest types are available for you to choose, including:
  • Sweepstakes. This type of contest is like a giveaway in which people only need to sign up or complete another simple non-skill based action to win the prize. It is good for attracting as much traffic as possible, but a large portion of the participants might not be your target audience.
  • Skill-based contests. For this type, the participants need to show a skill before they are considered to be the winner, for example, uploading a video or taking a photo. While the number of participants will be smaller, most of them should be already interested in what you offer.
Inside these two categories, there are several choices open to you if you want to run a contest or competition in the real world, which is explained in below.

Select a Specific Contest Type and Start a Contest

Depending on the content of your website and the goals you want to achieve from a contest, you'd better select the proper contest type which serves your needs best. In below, we will introduce the most popular contest types, and suggest the WordPress plugins that can assist you in running a contest in each type.

Refer a friend contest

A refer-a-friend contest helps you run a referral campaign in which the participants can gain a chance to win a prize by referring their friends and families. You can pick the winner(s) by calculating the re-shares. By doing so, your business is promoted much from the sharing, and thus a new audience is built.

InviteBox is one of the best plugin choices for starting a referral campaign. It creates a unique referral link for each contest, and provides reports for the progress towards your goal. Also, the participants are able to see how many friends they have referred, and what position they are staying in the contest.

Referral Contest with InviteBox

Comment contest

If you'd like to create a contest which encourages comments or discussions in the community on your website, you can take advantage of the Pick Giveaway Winner plugin. This plugin is simple and easy-to-use, and it allows you to run contests based on the comments on a specific post.

After creating a contest post and installing the plugin, you can go to Tools > Pick Giveaway Winner to pick random winners for the contest. Simply select a post and enter the number of winners, and the plugin takes care of the rest jobs. Such a contest helps much in building an active community.

Besides using the plugin, you can also hand-pick winners by reviewing and moderating all comments.

Comment Contest with Pick Giveaway Winner

Social sharing contest

This type of contest mainly aims at increasing your shares, likes, followers and fans on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The participants are required to share specific content or like it to gain a chance of winning.

If you prefer to manage all things from WordPress dashboard directly, you can install a plugin named Wishpond Social Contests to run a sharing competition. In addition to offering the necessary tools for starting a contest, this plugin also provides detailed analytics, a split testing feature and a winner-pick tool.

If you need an online tool instead of a plugin, we'd recommend Rafflecopter which makes it easy to start and manage multiple types of contests. For a detailed instruction on using Rafflecopter, read this tutorial.

Social Sharing Contest with Rafflecopter

Photo contest

It is normal that people are engaged with images more than text. A photo contest, therefore, takes advantage of this fact to help increase the engagement. You can run such a competition to promote the pictures of your products, and then allow visitors to vote for the winner. Doing so contributes much to the building of the brand awareness.

The Photo Contest WordPress Plugin is a great tool for organizing a photo contest. The interface is straightforward so you can set the duration, prize, voting rules and social sharing capability easily.

Photo Contest

Video contest

Running a video competition is not that easy, but it is effective in promoting your website and brand as most people are interested in the videos online. By using the Video Contest WordPress Plugin, you are able to check each video before it is displayed in the contest, limit the number of video submissions for each user, control the video votes, etc.

However, as videos consume a lot of server resources, you must not run video contests in a shared hosting environment.

Video Contest


After getting so much information, you probably have had some ideas about online contests and competitions. There are definitely many more contest types that are ready for your exploration, but those introduced above provide good places to start. Make sure that you have thought carefully before starting a single contest.