Oes tsetnoc means Seo Contest spelled backwards ;-)

Imagine somebody invents a nonsense and previously non-existing string of keywords and offers a price to the webmaster that creates a website that ranks at the end of the contest on place one, i.e. top of all, of the Google search results page. That is a seo contest in a nutshell. Prices, rules, and obviously the keywords, change, but the idea stays the same.
Seo contests can be held by just a few webmasters "en famille" or can be open for all and attract hundreds or even thousands of participants and often involve high cash, or other high value, prices. Seo contests can be great fun and an excellent occasion for webmasters to prove their skills and even add to their CV and portfolio. Or they can be an absolute nuisance, flooding the internet with spammy content and spammy links. As such seo contests have advantages and disadvantages for the internet community, some of them outlined further below.

History and development of Seo Contests

The first contest recorded, or better said, the first that attracted attention by the wider www community evolved around the term "Schnitzelmitkartoffelsalat" (German for "Schnitzelwithpotatosalad") and was more a public case study amongst German webmasters, then a proper seo contest. Dating as far back as 2005, it provided valuable information about how search engines work and how they rank their results. Now it is only of historic interest, as the search algorithm of Google and the like have evolved and the resulst are not longer applicable.

Advantages for sponsors
Sponsors are the ones that put the price money, or the non-cash prices, into a seo contest. In return seo contests often require a backlink to a specific site, meaning that every participant not only has to provide such a backlink, but also has a great interest in promoting his or her backlink. Sponsored and organized well, with rules against spamming and black hat seo techniques in place, running a seo contest can be incredibly useful for sponsors to promote their own products, services or website via this method of viral internet marketing.

Advantages for participants
A seo contest enables the participants to test and improve their skills and even to exchange tips, tricks and findings in the informal settings of a forum or similar. Nobody will post their "tricks of the trade" during the contest, but they might well do so after it on their own sites and blogs. Another advantage is the ability for the winner to add his or her achievement to their CV or online portfolio. A webmaster or provider of seo services that has won such a contest, can show it off to potential customers and gain more business. This might be more valuable in the long term then the actual price.

Frequent problems
The higher the prices are, the more reckless are the spammers. Affected by this are especially dofollow sites such as some blogs and forums, as these provide a free and valuable source of backlinks. Unfortunately there is another problem, that of the sponsor not paying out the price. After an average of 3 months of contest and putting in a lot of time and effort into the endeavor, this is the ultimate insult to the winning webmaster, leaving a bad taste in his or her mouth and giving seo contests in general a bad name. The most famous case is the one of the seo contest around the term "Seraphim proudleduck". After the contest had finished, the person running said contest declared that the investor responsible for the prices had backed out of the deal and no prices would be paid. An outcry of rage in the seo community was the consequence, but to no avail.

Strategies on how to win a seo contest
There are several approaches on how to improve your chances to win a seo contest. In general, it is beneficial to concentrate on building content and backlinks and not to engage into black hat seo techniques.

  • Check and obey by the rules
That should be a no-brainer, knowing the rules and obeying by them will make sure that your contest entry will get approved in the first place. And, lets be frank, if your entry is not approved, you have no chance at all to win.

  • Domain age
That one is a secret insider trick ;-) If you have the chance, and are allowed to, use an established domain to place your entry on, do it by any means. Google considers domain rank as a main factor when determining their search results. Don't think that a new domain, even with all the keywords in the url, would be better. Never underestimate domain age!

  • Keywords in url
Another no-brainer, make sure that the keywords, i.e. the ones you hope to rank for, are part of the url. Basic seo, really ;-)

  • On page seo
Getting your keywords and descriptions right, makes sure that Google gets enough hints of what your site is all about. How you do this, depends on which platform you use.

  • Content is king
Google is putting more and more weight on relevant content. Giving it what it want, fresh, regularly updated and relevant content will be crucial to win any seo contest.

  • Don't risk black hat
Bearing in mind that the seo contest entry is often placed on a existing website to take advantage of important factors such as domain age, using seo black hat techniques will not only endanger your entry, but also your whole site said entry is placed on.

  • Change / Vary anchor text
A common seo mistake a lot of people make is, to use always the same anchor text. Try to think from the point of view of a search engine, wouldn't you get suspicious if all links would cary exactly the same anchor text?

  • Add nofollow links to the mix
That may sound crazy at first, but the reasoning is the same as with the point above, to appear normal to a search engine, your entry must have varying anchor texts, from different sources AND a mixture of dofollow and nofollow links.

My personal involvement
I am participating myself at the moment in a seo contest called "Oes Tsetnoc" (which is Seo contest spelled backwards, just to explain the title of this article ;-))
By concentrating on content creation and link building I hope to win one of the three cash prizes that range from $100-$1000. Simultaneously I am preparing myself to participate in an upcoming seo contest that promises a first price in the $$,$$$-range. Participating in, and winning of, seo contests is surely not a way of earning a passive income like my friend Lissie prefers, but it is incredible great fun!