After six weeks of great content, social sharing, conversation, network building and some seriously fierce battling from the contestants, the 2011 Conversion-Fest Blogging Contest has come to a close. In this post we’ll recognize the winners, the insights and some behind the scenes details from a seriously badass group of marketing bloggers.
- The contest winners
- The secret sauce of blog post promotion – some insight and thoughts from the participants
- What we learned at Unbounce
- The final leaderboard including analytics
- Our prize sponsors
The Results Are In!
Each contestant had 2 weeks to amass social scoring points, after which the judges had their chance to vote. I’m delighted to announce the top 5 Conversion-Fest winners and talk a little about what they brought to the contest.
Gold Medal Winner – Kristi Hines
Kristi’s post “Measuring Social Media ROI & Goal Conversions with Google Analytics 5” was an incredibly detailed and useful exploration of one of marketing’s hottest topics – Social Media ROI. Including actionable steps for how to achieve this with the latest Google Analytics features made it an instant classic – as shown by the overwhelming response and it’s rank in the top 5 in Google for the term “Social Media ROI”.
Congratulations Kristi, a well deserved victory.
- 64GB iPad 2 with Verizon WiFi
- The Unbounce Premium plan free for a year
- Choice of 2 free 6-month subscriptions from our prize sponsors
Silver Medal Winner – Angie Schottmuller
Consistently referred to as one of the best posts on QR codes “ever” #TrueStory – Angie’s entry on “10 Ways to Use QR Codes for Better Conversion Rates” makes strong business cases for the use of QR codes. If you were in any doubt of their usefulness or you are thinking of using them, there’s no better place to start than this here.
Angie’s post was the inspiration for Unbounce’s very first QR code – and the blistering pace that she set, by being first out of the gate and setting the bar so high, was a big factor in the success of the contest (despite scaring the crap out of many writers further down the list :)
Nicely done Angie.
- 32GB iPad 2 with WiFi
- The Unbounce Premium plan free for a year
- Choice of 2 free 6-month subscriptions from our prize sponsors
Bronze Medal Winner – Yomar Lopez
Not only did Yomar write 185 comments across all of the Conversion-Fest entries (which in itself is enough is probably enough to rival War and Peace) – but his genuine enthusiasm and passion for developing personal social connections showed how a smaller social network can still be leveraged to generate enough buzz to drive community interaction through the roof. His post on “The Adaptive SEO Approach (And How To Get More Conversions)” brought new ideas, built bridges between different disciplines and possessed a refreshingly honest approach to writing.
Has been an absolute pleasure having you be part of the contest Yomar. Congrats.
- 16GB iPad 2 with WiFi
- The Unbounce Pro plan free for a year
- Choice of 2 free 6-month subscriptions from our prize sponsors
4th Place: Jen Gordon
Jen’s post “8 Ways your Landing Page Design is Sabotaging your Click-Thru Rate” discussed the importance of design and conversion. This was definitely one of the best entries in terms of providing inspiring examples and some real takeaways and action items that you can use to improve your workflow, design and ultimately your conversion rate.
The post continues to be very popular – being shared often on the Twitter-sphere – and should be considered required reading for anyone involved with landing pages and conversion. Thanks for the great content Jen, I truly wish we could hand out a iPad to everyone.
For finishing in the top 5 Jen gets a choice of 2 free 6-month subscriptions from our prize sponsors.
5th Place: Mike King
“The Cat in the Hat Teaches SEO (and a lot more)” was a stand out post for many reasons – most of all the brilliant creativity that Mike brought to the competition. Mixing his talents as a rapper with an entertaining writing style and truly awesome cartoon design elements, Mike produced a post impossible to forget.
Aside from the post itself, Mike went all Old Spice on us by producing a personalized video response to the post comments (brilliant).
For finishing in the top 5 Mike also gets a choice of 2 free 6-month subscriptions from our prize sponsors.
The One That Got Away: Anna Sawyer
I’m going to give a shout out to Anna, because she came so close the the top 5, but mainly because her post on “More Conversions Than a Kool-Aid Cult: Using Mind Control to Boost Your Lead Gen Conversion Rate!” was just so damn funny. Especially the video, which gave her maximum X-Factor points.
Take a moment to re-enjoy a slice of awesome:
The Secret Sauce of Blog Post Promotion – Insights & Lessons Learned From the Participants
As I mentioned, one of the best parts of this contest was getting to learn how people with different network sizes and communication styles went about the process of spreading the word and generating buzz for their blog post entries. So I figured I’d go directly to the source and ask everyone for some insight and tips.
Here’s what the crew had to say…
“The biggest thing I learned is how much social media promotion changes. I wrote an eBook on this very topic back in April, and now I have a whole stack of updates for it with the things I did differently between this contest and the last one I participated in.
The three new promotional strategies that I tried out this time around included having a custom RSS feed for my off-site posts so they could get promoted in my social profiles that connected with an RSS feed, promoting posts a lot more with Facebook & LinkedIn groups, and adding it to my email signature so everyone that I emailed for two weeks got a friendly reminder that I needed their support. I would say the one strategy that worked best out of all of them was spending four hours in a lab waiting room devoted to direct messaging everyone I knew to ask for a tweet (if they liked the post, of course). That was something I saw immediate results with, and it also led to additional comments and Facebook shares.
Rocking social promotion really boils down to taking off with it on day one as soon as the post goes live (or earlier if you have the URL for it), and not stopping your promotion until the very last moment possible.”
— Kristi Hines
“Tips for blog post promotion:
– Apply on-page SEO to your post (title, image URLs, image alt attributes, headings, link text, etc.)
– Share the post with people that will link to and write about it; suggest link text for SEO. (Unbounce now ranks third for “qr code conversion”.)
– Have a multiple relevant, quality image thumbnails available on your post to provide diverse, attractive image options when sharing on social networks.
– Finish your post with a strong call-to-action. (i.e. “Which tactics would you implement? Please share in the comments!”)
– Include some type of engaging comment with social posts; don’t just share the title and link.
– Send a message to a few viral seed planters to let them know of the post. (RT something of theirs first to entice reciprocation.)
– Tweet the post with different titles (i.e. question format, different hashtags, highlighted steps/tips, etc.) I picked up decent traffic/tweets by tweeting the social media and local search steps in my post.
Lessons learned from this contest:
– Promote your post strong from day one. Don’t stop, even if the numbers look great.
– Someone always has a bigger social network.
– Don’t write off the potential of less active social networks/tools. (Sphinn, Reddit, Feedburner, etc.)
– Making LinkedIn “top news” or igniting StumbleUpon buzz is extremely difficult after day one.”
— Angie Schottmuller
“How you promote/market your content really depends on how you engage people. It’s a matter of audience, timing, and momentum too, of course.
I knew I had to be persistent but I also had to avoid exhausting my natural market. Here’s what I came up with!:
- 10x10x10 – Broadcasting works when you have massive numbers and can play the numbers. Prior to getting into the contest, my Twitter following was around 400/500 and it soared to 800 then 1000+ recently. That said, I wanted to “go deep” instead of going wide. My approach, 10x10x10 (or tell a friend) is simple: ask ten friends that really like you and are influential in their own ways to do X, Y, and Z. In this case, I had them like and tweet my article. Then I asked them to tell ten friends to do the same (and have them tell ten friends). The potential here can be amazing if everyone follows through and the key is to provide a simple call to action. In retrospect, I should have stuck to “likes” when promoting via Facebook and “tweets” when promoting via Twitter since people are already there and it is an easy opportunity.
- Sneaky SEO – Once I knew what the URL to my article would be, I included it on status updates, profiles, comments (as a clickable link in my name), and MORE. I also used some tools to find out what the top dogs in the contest were doing (and what NOT to do). This is how I learned about Twylah and Trunk.ly which essentially makes Twitter into a search professional’s wet dream, so to speak. While the traffic generated from these backlinks did not necessarily convert, it helped get my article on top Google SERPs during the first 24 hours. Pinging your web site and submitting to some active directories (not to be confused with Microsoft Active Directory) didn’t hurt either.
- StumbleUpon – According to Klout, I’m one of the top influencers when it comes to StumbleUpon. Truth be told, even after all these years, I’m still learning new “tricks”. The SEO magic with StumbleUpon is virtually endless. It has built-in search options that can be contextual, randomized, or a little bit of both. When people review you and/or your content, they can tag it so folks can stumble it via interests or keywords (to be entered via the new Explore Box). I used StumbleUpon links to seed my most active social networks. Combined with BufferApp, HootSuite, Google+, Squidoo, and countless other tools, I built links and seeded StumbleUpon with more traffic which, in turn, lead to more organic, exponential growth.”
— Yomar Lopez
“The biggest thing I learned about promoting a blog post via social media is how little I really knew about promoting a blog post via social media. Let’s just say, I realized I had so much to learn.
I think the best thing about taking part in the contest was a renewed passion for improving my blog, building some relationships along the way and reaping the benefit of the varied expertise all gathered in one place. On top of that, I gained a new bud and podcast co-host in Yomar.
PS – I’ve kept this short, because I know you can expect a long-form response from Yomar :)”
(Ha, yes, that certainly proved to be the case – Oli)
— James St. John
“Twitter was far and away my best tool for spreading the word and then doing the QR Code thing IRL at MozCon that worked pretty well. Getting tweets from other well-known SEOs was also a good look. Sphinn was cool too because Matt Mcgee ended up tweeting it. The freestyle video was cool for my personal brand (I’m doing a rap trailer for the SearchLove conference) but I think more people shared and tweeted the video than the actual post so it didn’t work too well.
I didn’t have my own blog for inbound marketing stuff before so I didn’t have a built-in user base that’s interested in this content. For example I have over 3000 facebook friends but they are my friends because of music and when I post SEO stuff they are like “uhhhh…this is cool but but where’s your new music at?” So I’ll definitely cultivate a whole lot more engaged users before I enter a contest like this again and probably coordinate with another guest post on a higher traffic site like moz at the same time to drive traffic to it.
My top tip is do things that cater to your strengths and set you apart. It makes things more fun, interesting and helps you standout.”
— Mike King
“I probably leaned on colleagues and people linked to me more than I’ve ever done previously.
If you were to run the contest again I’d prefer to do a more focused subject, I think email was a bad choice.”
— Garry Lee
“Biggest thing I learned from promoting a contest was my own network is not big enough. I though I could rely on my thousands of subscribers/fans alone but unless you can get some viral juice, it’s just not big enough to put up strong numbers.
Normally, in my circles I get some of the highest interaction numbers, especially with social stuff. But these other peeps were blowing by me like I was standing still.
Really helped me to see how much more growth I really need.”
— Justin Brooke
“The best part about taking part in the contest was actually learning to use social media to promote the contest and my entry [and when it comes to social promotion] I’m soooo behind the real pros…”
— John Ekman
“You really need to spend time to promote [your] content, and your network gets built whilst doing so. The contest not only provided me with a ton of helpful marketing lessons, but it has also connected me with a handful of great marketers that have been very supportive of my work.”
— Samir Soriano
What Unbounce Learned From the Contest (including some stats)
One of the common threads in discussions with the participants was a desire to understand what effect the contest had on Unbounce (as a blog and as a business etc.). With that in mind, I’ll share what I learned throughout the process and I’ll share some stats.
First: A personal note from me (Oli)
Running this contest was one of the most fun, demanding, stressful and rewarding things I’ve done here at Unbounce, so I just want to thank everyone who took part for their hard work, badass social media skills and excellent writing. I learned a lot more than just the information in the posts – watching and learning from how you promoted your content was inspiring and educational. Thank you all.
So what did we learn?
- Running a contest like this is really hard work: When I started theorizing about the idea, I figured that if I could get a months worth of great daily blog posts, I’d have more time to focus on other aspects of the business. WRONG. My work days went from long to being long + 50% during the month that the contest was running. But I loved every minute of it.
My daily routine was something like this:
- Publish post at midnight to get it out in the morning UK time
- Schedule a few tweets for morning on the east and west coast of North America (thanks Hootsuite)
- Do an initial round of social promotion on my social networks (the goal of my evening ritual was to provide some momentum for each post, ready for the morning – so that there was a social proof kickstart).
- Wake up at 6am and check my phone (which lies next to me in bed as my alarm) in excited expectation – hoping to see the post take off on Twitter.
- Continue to post updates to social networks throughout the day (this became more crazy as there were more posts to promote – although I tapered them off in a reverse staggered method, so that each got the same attention from me).
- Check Google Analytics all the time to see how traffic levels were being affected.
- Get home around 7pm. Take a few hours off.
- Update the leaderboard by counting social scores and wading through the comments (thanks Yomar ;) to figure out comment scoring.
- Move onto the next post.
Weekends were pretty much the only time I didn’t have the #ConversionFest hashtag in my brain 24/7. (That’s a lie – I thought about it all the time).
- Personal networks were created: Through email conversations, post comments and social chatter, I saw strong personal relationships being built, for me and many others. This was amazing to see. The first sign that we were on the verge of creating a new community of friends was seeing people selflessly comment on each others posts (knowing that this would contribute to the recipients social scoring). Lesson here? You get what you give.
- Scoring strategies for next time: I chose the 3 social scoring categories (Twitter, Facebook and post comments) based initially on visibility. I placed double weight on the comments for two reasons: A) to encourage more people to get a conversation going and B) because it’s a true sign of engagement. In hindsight, Facebook was the weakest of the three as the votes cast via this method are invisible (whereas tweets can be see and searched for). I guess as part of this answer I’m also saying that YES, there will be a 2012 Conversion-Fest (new and improved – and much bigger). I’ll probably add and remove some scoring mechanisms and already have some ideas for how to make it more exciting for everyone.
- Judges scoring: I really wanted to leave the majority of the voting up to the readership and the marketing efforts of the contestants – while allowing for some balance from a judging panel. At the end of the day, the judges scoring element didn’t have much real affect on the outcome – but that was impossible to predict. Again, a lesson learned that I’ll reconsider next time around. Nothing’s perfect first time around.
- The content lives on: The social sharing and comments continue to grow on a daily basis as posts get picked up by different people, this is one of the biggest takeaways for me – how we collectively created a bank of amazing content that helps and inspires people – and let’s be totally honest – drives traffic to Unbounce (which was obviously one of my goals). Segue into some stats…
- Stats: I’ve added some individual blog post stats in the leaderboard below for personal reference (lots of you asked for that, so I was happy to oblige. In a more general sense, I can say that because of the contest we had our biggest month ever in terms of traffic (close to double an average month). The primary goal for me was to extend our reach and get the Unbounce brand in front of as many people as possible. I wanted people talking about us and to have a crazy amount of persistent buzz. This worked beautifully! For the duration of the contest social networks were overflowing with Unbounce conversation and I’m confident we’ll reap long-term rewards as a result. To answer questions about whether this produced an upswing in new customers? Not immediately, but the brand exposure is one of those intangibles that just makes things better. As Rick put it – “there will never again be an internet marketing conference where Unbounce isn’t mentioned”. We’re on the map on a bigger scale and we achieved a lift in the synonymous relationship between landing pages & great content and the name Unbounce.
- Retargeting: What I should have done was ensure we had a retargeting plan for the contest. Blog traffic always has a relatively low number of # of pages viewed (people come to read the content then leave – perhaps after visiting the homepage to see who we are). With some good retargeting in place we could have drawn more of that traffic back to hopefully become customers – another lesson learned.
- The AdAge Power 150: Due to the massive increase in engagement, inbound links and social interactions, we jumped way up the ranks on this list – and are really close to poking into the top 50. Really awesome.
The Final Contest Leaderboard
The stats shown beneath each post are based only on the 2 week period of social scoring for that post. This is to allow for the staggered start method so we’re comparing apples to apples. I realize that some of the analytics might not be 100% useful – but hopefully it helps to answer some questions.
|Final Position||Photo||Author & Blog Post Title||Social Scoring||Judges Scoring||Total Score|
Measuring Social Media ROI & Goal Conversions with Google Analytics 5
10 Ways to Use QR Codes for Better Conversion Rates
The Adaptive SEO Approach (And How To Get More Conversions)
8 Ways your Landing Page Design is Sabotaging your Click-Thru Rate
The Cat in The Hat Teaches SEO
More Conversions Than a Kool-Aid Cult: Using Mind Control to Boost Your Lead Gen Conversion Rate!
Forget About The Conversions: Give Value to Get Value
7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates
Why über-Optimised SEO Titles Kill Click-Through & Conversion Rates
How to Have a Gorgeous Website Design AND Great Conversion Rates at the Same Time
How To Set Up and Track Keyword Origination from Multiple Sources in Salesforce
Using Behavioural Email to Re-Engage and Convert Your Customers
5 Ways to Get Your Client To Say “Yes” to Conversion Forms
|14||James St. John
Swinging for the Fences: Turning Singles Into Home Runs With Retention Marketing
The money has been spent, what now? 5 steps to iterate content development for results: Research, Community, Media and Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) … and interns
3 Invaluable CRO Resources You May Be Missing – No Fancy Tools Required
Bad Landing Pages? No Landing pages? Then Do Something About It!
5 Ways to Screw Up Your A/B Test
The Non-Designer’s Swiss Army Knife of Free Tools to Make Sweet Landing Pages
On the Origin of Customers – Evolution and Marketing Compared
“It’s not a popularity contest…oh, wait, it is!” – Measuring and Optimizing Social Engagement
Thanks to our Prize Sponsors!
I’d like to acknowledge our contest sponsors again, for generously supplying free accounts for the top 5 winners. Note: to collect these prizes – choose the 2 you want (that you’re not already a customer of) – email me at oli(at)unbounce.com and I’ll hook you up.
For check out these great conversion oriented products, go visit their websites below:
- SEOmoz: 6-months of the PRO account FREE – the world’s best SEO tools, for real (worth $594)
- KISSinsights: 6-months of the PREMIUM plan FREE – so you can get user feedback via surveys (worth $174)
- SlideDeck: A SlideDeck PRO account – so you can create slide decks like the one above (worth $99)
- UserTesting: 5 user tests to get real user insight into your website (worth $195)
- Olark: 2 months of the GOLD plan FREE – so you can run live chat sessions on your website (worth $88)
- Attention Wizard: 6-months of the BRONZE plan – get heatmaps to optimize your pages courtesy of Tim Ash (worth $162)
Thanks again to everyone who spent their time writing great content and promoting the crap out of it…