Running an online competition on your website or blog can be a great way to attract new visitors and subscribers. You can ask users to sign up to receive your newsletter when they enter the contest as a way of growing your user base and encouraging return visits.

The problem with contests is finding the best way to promote – telling people that the competition is open and encouraging them to enter. If you have a large advertising budget then you obviously have more options available to you than those who don't. Here are some less budget friendly promotion options:

Purchase Google Adwords

Google Adwords allows you to purchase advertising space in search results for certain key words. You can choose how much you wish to spend each time one of your links is clicked. If you select a popular search term such as "online competitions", you will need to pay a higher amount than if you choose something more obscure such as "online plush turtle competitions". A higher bid amount ensures that your ad is displayed more frequently – as you are essentially bidding against other websites for the advertising space.

Purchase advertising on Social Networks such as Facebook

Advertising on Facebook works in a very similar way to Google with one big advantage – you can choose which users you wish to show the ad to. For example, if you are running a competition for wedding dresses, you may choose to target your advertisement towards women that have their relationship status set to engaged.

Purchase banner advertising on other websites

Banner advertising can vary greatly on price. Some websites will provide a set rate card whereas others will charge by impressions (for how many times the ad is displayed). It pays to shop around different websites to compare rates as there is no standard cost. A good idea is to look at the type of competition you are running and think about other websites that your target audience may visit. For example, if you're running a competition for an Xbox game, you may wish to consider purchasing banner advertising on a gaming forum website.

Post a listing on free competition websites

Some websites will allow you to post details of your competition for free. This provides content to them which they will then distribute to their customer base – and free traffic for you. Make sure you check the requirements of the website, you want to make sure that your potential entrants aren't being forced to sign up to an external website just to get a link to yours.

Utilize your existing customer base

Do you have a database of people that have signed up to receive newsletters from you? Many websites include this field in their registration forms but never actually utilize it! If you do have an existing database, consider sending a quick promotional email to let people know about your competition.

Regardless of which promotional method you choose, ensure that you monitor the process of your campaign. Talk to your web developer about tracking entries so that you can see which promotions resulted in good numbers of competition entries and which did not.

This way you can be sure (for next time) that you're getting the best value for money you can.

Image CC by kevinzhengli