Linkbuilding Recommendations When Using Contests

I found an  interesting article on SEW,  Business Wire Wins Press Release SEO Patent .  For a long time I used Business Wire (BW) almost exclusively when launching client press releases, I’ll be curious to see how they use this patent grant in their marketing.

While I was poking around the BW site, I noticed this featured press release:


Ball State University Senior Wins Lunch With Warren Buffett in Business Wire’s
50th Anniversary College Video Contest


The luncheon is over but the release is pure gold as a learning tool.  We talk a lot about using contests in link building and since this is a great one to learn from, (and a national brand so no points lost for outing) I thought I’d highlight a number of things I found impressive and provide a couple of suggestions you can use with your next contest bait.  From the press release:


1. Business Wire today announced the winner of its 50th Anniversary “Future of Public Relations and Communications” College Video Contest, 21-year-old Jenna Marie James, a senior majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University. James will fly to New York City to meet Warren Buffett…As part of its 50th Anniversary celebration, Business Wire asked full-time college students to submit short videos answering the question “What is the Future of Public Relations and Communications?”


Bold mine.  Notice they use the 50th anniversary as a way to introduce the contest, doing so sets the contest apart and draws additional attention to their anniversary.  Smart hook, consider wrapping your contest around a significant date or event the next time you run one.


BW is owned by Berkshire Hathaway which is run by Warren Buffet so no surprise he’s involved but the point he is involved sweetens the contestant/participation pool.   Since most of us don’t have a Warren Buffett on our payrolls, consider doing a co-promotional contest instead.  Find someone in your niche who has a name and/or brand to use as your hook.  For example, if was going to run a contest for Alliance-Link, I could reach out to Aaron Wall, Jill Whalen or Danny Sullivan and ask one of them to be my Warren Buffett.  🙂  (Why yes, my nose tan just got a little deeper)  😉


If you don’t have a Warren or Aaron in your life or don’t know who’s a “name” in your niche, use an expert directory to locate a person and consider buying some expertise.  Go to them and buy an hour (or more) of their time and substitute a luncheon for an hour telephone call.


2.  The winner was selected by a judging committee which included Business Wire Chairman and CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz and company executives from around the globe, based on originality, creativity and appropriateness to theme.




Bold mine. This is really smart on a number of levels.  First, a panel of judges from around the world makes this a global event, which means it will attract attention from news sources around the world.  A release can be done announcing each of the judges and their participation and then again once the winner is selected.  That’s two releases for just the judges which gives each of the judges exposure as well as the event. If you have a panel of six judges, that can add up to a number of releases and additional attention.


Second, you can encourage your judges to blog about the event, add it to their Facebook pages, tweet it and/or announce it through newsletters or email lists they own.  Again, more exposure for the event, more links and more social media mentions.


3.  As part of its 50th Anniversary celebration, Business Wire asked full-time college students to submit short videos answering the question What is the Future of Public Relations and Communications?




Business Week pushed their video links and pimped the videos they got from contestants to FACEBOOK  not YouTube!  Business Wire has a YouTube presence (doh) but this particular event was sent to Facebook over YouTube.   That alone is extremely interesting to me on a lot of levels but I’ll save why for another time.


The initial video done to announce the contest (done by a Business Week female staffer) is simple, short and used graphics as well as voice overs.  That was loaded to both YouTube and Facebook.  I have no way to tell how many times it was viewed on FB but I bet more than YT for the simple fact all the press releases I found talking about the contest linked to the Facebook page hosting the vids.



4.  In July, the Business Wire College Video Contest entries were narrowed down to ten finalists, whose videos were posted to the Business Wire Facebook page. Viewers were encouraged to ‘like’ and comment on their favorite video, as well as show their support on Twitter using unique hashtags assigned to each finalist. The finalist videos drew more than 1,500 ‘likes’ and comments.



Bold mine.  Just to show you how releases can/are picked up:  The release sent announcing the ten finalists shows 22 unique results in Google, about a third being .edu sites.  USATOday also picked it up as well as Ameritrade blog.  Nice.  I don’t know if individual releases for each finalist were sent and I didn’t spend the time to look but I bet they were.  Which means more links.


In the release announcing the ten finalists it said they assigned hashtags to each contestant.  What’s interesting here is they didn’t comment on the success of those hashtags like they did the “likes” and comments.  Maybe they felt it was overkill to say something but when you can’t say anything good about an outcome, it’s best to say nothing.


The fact they mentioned the hastags was interesting and got me to wondering how they promoted this on Twitter so I went digging,  look at the #hashmarks they used for the promotion




They used #pr #millennials  has their hashtags.   Personally I would have used #contest instead of #pr  but hey, I don’t work for Berkshire Hathaway so there’s probably a long and researched reason behind why they used it.


If they HAD used the #contest hashmark/term, they would have been able to zero in on the people retweeting their contest content.  Why track a hashmark?  Easy way to find people retweeting topics they have an interest in.  Once the list is culled, you can follow each person and pay/offer them to retweet (RT) an upcoming promotion.  Having a targeted twitter squad is a good idea when you want to push future promotions quickly and effectively .
OK, last point as this is getting long:


At the bottom of the press release, right after the bio box, there are a handful of “helpful” links.  One of them is a link to their Photos/Multimedia Gallery where images are available for free.  Here’s where we know the folks at Berkshire aren’t SEO’s; none of the images are embedded with hyperlinks and the captions don’t link back to a page on their website.  Good idea to offer the image gallery in the press release, better idea to SEO the images 🙂


Great cause here, good promotion and good publicity to learn from.   Hope there’s something here you can use.