The Anatomy of a Search Marketing Scholarship Contest

The last four weeks of Marketing Pilgrim’s Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest has been lots of fun. When I put together the idea for a scholarship, I wanted to find a way to give back to an industry that has been very good to me and help find the next top talent – you could call it “SEM Idol”. I was fortunate enough to find some great sponsors, who contributed over $6,000 in prizes and a panel of judges who are arguably the best in the industry.

I wanted to give everyone who entered a fair chance, so I crafted the contest to have two components:

  • Four weekly winners – this allowed me to give more than one person a chance to win. By using “unique views” as the method to win, it ensured those that were serious about the contest, would have to do more than just write a great article. The winner would have to understand that simply providing the deliverable is not the end story for any marketer, you actually need to get exposure and traffic.
  • One final winner – just in case one of the entrants managed to bombard their article with lots of unique visitors, I didn’t want to fully rely on this metric for selecting the final winner. On that basis, I reached out to some great friends and asked them if they would consider being a judge. The panel of judges would select the final winner based purely upon content and merit.

I expected to receive a steady flow of entries, but ended up being blown-away by the 48 entries received over the four weeks. The first week saw those, who realized the scholarship as a great opportunity, eagerly submit their entries.

Week 2 was the slowest week. We had just five entries, and the lowest unique views of all the weeks. Those that entered in week two found little competition.

In week 3, things picked-up again and we saw an increase in the intensity of entrants to drive traffic to their article. We saw more creative ways of driving traffic, with some even using PPC to bring traffic to their entry.

By the time we got to week 4, the heavy-hitters had arrived. No less than 6 of the 10 most viewed entries came from those submitted in week 4. The utilization of social networks became more apparent among week 4 entrants.

Everyone that entered the contest should be commended for their marvelous effort. I was extremely impressed with the overall quality and the topics were varied, as were the writing styles. The four finalists (w1, w2, w3, w4) did a superb job in beating out the competition and they now go before our expert judges, with our final scholarship winner being announced on Friday November 10th.

At lot of readers, and most entrants, have asked about how each entry faired in the contest. Instead of just sharing the unique views for each entry, I decided to get a little “mozzie” and share some interesting info about each entry.

In the table below, you’ll see not only the unique views, but total page views, percentage of direct-navigation traffic, and the top 3 referral sources for each entry. There are also links to the web page of choice for each entrant – linked by their name – so you can check out the person behind the article. If you’re looking to hire an SEO, you should certainly consider these guys.

So, here’s the data:


Article Author Week Visitors Page
Views
Direct
Traffic
Top
3 Referrers
The
Five Pillars of Social Media Marketing

Ben
Wills
4
1154
1368
22.10%
google(15.08%);
battellemedia.com(11.70%); search.mywebsearch.com(11.27%)
Free
beer inside!

Joost
de Valk

4
753
896
14.61%

dutchcowboys.nl(40.50%);

css3.info(13.15%);
cssdrive.com(9.03%)

The
Ultimate Internet Marketing Article

Ben
Fremer

4
664
1135
5.87%
bullseyekicks.com(55.43%);
autohits247.com(12.50%); fpwebsitedesign.com(9.79%)
SEO
is Pointless (But You Don’t Have to Tell Your Clients)

Jordan
McCollum

3
633
723
55.29%
67.29.139.199(8.06%);

google(3.16%);
yahoo(3.00%)
Most
SEOs are Virgins

Jeremy
Luebke

3
630
727
13.45%
dzone.com(34.97%);

reddit.com(10.76%); forums.digitalpoint.com(6.96%)
5
Steps to Streamlining your SEO Process

Michael
Jensen

3
526
625
5.32%
google
adwords(80.23%);
soloseo.com(5.70%);
digg.com(1.52%)
SEO
is Nothing but Karma

Steven
Bradley

4
437
576
23.09%
small-business-forum.com(14.42%);
webmaster-talk.com(12.81%); highrankings.com(12.13%)
The
SEO Article You Shouldn’t Read

Nick
Urbani

1 386
444
54.00%
stuntdubl.com(6.74%);
google (4.92%);
digg (4.4%)
Want
to rank top in Google? Wear Nike shoes.

Will
Critchlow

4
303
380
51.16%
forum.bigchill.net(18.15%);

reddit.com(13.86%);
google(5.28%)
10
Shortcuts for Successful SEO

Ahmed Bilal
4
302
415 20.86%
plrpro.com(20.86%);
seoelite.com(11.92%);
google.com(6.62%)
The
Golden Rule of SEO

James
Bowden

4
285
342
13.68%
forums.digitalpoint.com(19.65%);
wickedfire.com(15.09%);
sitepoint.com(14.39%)
Shhhh!….the
dirty little secret about sem seo certification

David
Temple

4
273
375 39.56%
semcertification.wordpress.com(10.26%);
globalenglishsalon.com(8.79%); bruceclay.com(6.23%)
The
Definition of SEO…
Josh
Garner

1
265
325
42.26%
seofactor.blogspot.com(15.85%);
stuntdubl.com(9.43%);
seomoz.org(4.91%)
Aaron
Says…

Aaron Smith
4 215
279 56.28%
comment.myspace.com(6.98%);
profile.myspace.com(6.98%); bulletin.myspace.com[(5.58%)
The
SEO Article You SHOULD Read – 5 Reasons Accountability Matters

Laura Lane
4
211
287
54.55%
bulletin.myspace.com(7.66%);
thinkseer.com(5.26%);
google(4.78%)
11
Steps to Becoming a Profitable, Self-Employed SEO

Jeff
Carey

3 209 269 66.03%
mapssystem.net(3.83%);

google(3.83%);
toprankblog.com(2.87%)
SEO
2.0: Marketing, Analytics and the Evolution of the Industry

Scott
Woodard

3 200
233
28.00%
google
adwords(16.00%);
fishing-nc.com(12.00%);
google(5.50%)
Excuse
my French: How to choose keywords for your regional market

Anne-Marie
Castonguay
3 178 213 55.62%
stumbleupon.com(15.73%);

google(10.50%);
divetheweb.com(2.81%)
ERROR
530: We’re Sorry. The Internet Is Fully Optimized. Please Find A New
Occupation.

Nuno
Andrade

3 161
191
50.93%
digg.com(7.45%);
google(7.45%);
toprankblog.com(3.11%)
Do
you still optimize your site for the search engines?

Yuri
Filimonov

4
148 161 24.32%
googlesyndication.com(15.54%);
programming.reddit.com(12.16%); google.com(6.76%)
My
Site ranks better than yours…

Julien Raby
3 125
147
57.60%
google(11.20%);

toprankblog.com(2.40%);
clickz.com(1.60%)
Is
Google Really Listening?

Al Scillitani
1 122 136 13.93%
stuntdubl.com(18.85%);
digg.com(16.39%);
google(6.65%)
Keeping
your SEO Clients – How to NOT get your Contract Cancelled

Taylor
Pratt

1 119
141
37.82%
stuntdubl.com(13.45%);

google(15.96%);
bloglines.com(5.04%)
What
Studio 60 Can Teach Us About Blogging

Tom Schmitz
1 112 128 11.61%
seomoz.org(22.32%);

stuntdubl.com(15.18%);
bloglines.com(8.93%)
Instant
PPC Success for the Hometown Hero

Ryan
Bell

2 108
130
40.74%
google(12.04%);

stuntdubl.com(9.26%);
bloglines.com(7.41%)
The
(Alleged) Miracle of Pay-Per-Click Marketing

Meredith
Smith

2 106 116 33.96%
roirevolution.com(14.15%);
google.com (8.94%);
bloglines.com(8.49%)
Glossary
of a new Paradigm

Aaron
Pratt

1 90
100
16.67%
seobuzzbox.com(27.78%);
stuntdubl.com(12.22%);
google.com(8.89%)
Estimating
the Value of Search Engine Optimization

Alex
Cleanthous

2 88 104 32.95%
google(28.05%);

bloglines.com(7.95%);
stuntdubl.com(4.55%)
The
Psychology of SEO

Rob
Stevens

1 87
99
20.69%
stuntdubl.com(21.84%);
seomoz.org(9.2%);
google(8.05%)
How
Much Are We Worth?

Jesse W.
1 85 96 15.29%
stuntdubl.com(24.71%);

bloglines.com(9.41%);
seomoz.org(9.41%)
Bob
and Weave Click Fraud Thieves

Neal A .
Rodriguez
1 72
81
27.78%
stuntdubl.com(13.89%);

bloglines.com(8.33%);
google.com(8.33%)
What
Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans and SEO have in common?

Aaron Phillips
2 69 79 28.99%
google(25.94%);

bloglines.com(7.25%);
stuntdubl.com(5.80%)
How
to Weather Search Engine Algorithm Shifts well

Steve Petersen
1 68 79 20.59%
stuntdubl.com(17.65%);

seomoz.org(8.82%);
reddit.com(8.82%)
Are
You Making These Costly Mistakes with Your Search Marketing?

Y.M.
Ousley

4 67
75
37.31%
google(14.93%);

seomoz.org(10.45%); 7daychallenge.blogspot.com(4.48%)
Search
Engine Optimization Overview

Aman kumar
4 66 91 31.82%
google(31.18%);

bloglines.com(4.55%);
yahoo(4.55%)
My
Tips…

Paul Nagel
2 64 67
23.44%
google(21.88%);

bloglines.com(10.94%);
stuntdubl.com(6.25%)
10
Ideas to Smooth Out Even Rough SEO/SEM Projects

Scott
Clark

3 59
64 27.12%
bloglines.com(13.56%);
google(10.17%);
toprankblog.com(6.78%)
SEM
Seeks Compatible Organization For Long Term Relationship

Todd Mintz
3 55 68
25.45%
google(12.73%);
digg.com(7.24%);
toprankblog.com(5.45%)
Wednesday
Morning Bowl-a-rama: How to teach internet marketing to your grandparents

Eric
Hebert

3 50
69 24.00%
evolvor.com(10.00%);
bulletin.myspace.com(10.00%); us.f513.mail.yahoo.com(4.00%)
Wishing
upon a star: How the Internet is increasing the ability to make our dreams
come true

Eric
Hebert
1 46 49
19.57%
google.com(13.08%);
seomoz.org(8.70%);
stuntdubl.com(8.70%)
DaveN
Goes White Hat

Ryan C.
Madden
3 38
40 15.79%
seomoz.org(13.16%);

stuntdubl.com(13.16%); toprankblog.com(10.53%)
The
Power of SEO

Risa Borsykowsky
4 38
45
5.26%
netvibes.com(15.79%);
google(13.16%);
bloglines.com(10.53%)
The
6 Most Important OnPage Optimization Factors

Martin
Muehl

4 37
41 18.92%
google(16.22%);

bloglines.com(16.22%);
bruceclay.com(8.11%)
Damn
you Andy! How to win Marketing Pilgrim’s Search Marketing Contest

Eric Hebert
4 36 40
8.33%
google(22.22%);
search(5.56%);
stuntdubl.com(5.56%)
What
Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Matt
O’Brien

4 19
21 5.26%
google(52.63%);
toprankblog.com(5.26%); highrankings.com(5.26%)
Two
Years Before the Mast: Tales of In-House SEO

Ian Parker
4 19
22 5.26%
google(41.50%);
semcertification.wordpress.com(10.53%); bruceclay.com(10.53%)
How
non Techies Can Win In SEO

Harmit
S. Kamboe

4 18 18 11.11%
google(38.89%);
seomoz.org(5.56%);
toprankblog.com(5.56%)
Strategize
your Pay per Click Campaign for Maximum Profits in 7 Easy Steps

Saravanan
S
4 17 19 11.76%
google(17.65%);

marketingpilgrim.com(11.76%); semcertification.wordpress.com(11.76%)

As you can see, I’ve ordered the entries based upon “unique views”, so you can see how strong each article was compared to the rest. The four weekly winners have been highlighted in yellow.

Summary and observations.

  • The finalists from weeks 1, 2 and 3, did well not to wait until the final week. Indeed, week 2 winner, Ryan Bell, had the 25th overall most popular article, but entered on a week when competition was lower.
  • Week 4 entrants had the benefit of seeing how the contest had played out, and what articles had faired best. They were much more creative in their traffic driving efforts, using sites such as battellemedia.com, dutchcowboys.nl, myspace.com and their own business and personal web sites.
  • Great titles certainly help. While practical, keyword-filled titles were the most common, intriguing, interesting titles were one effective way to attract visitors. We won’t quickly forget, “Free Beer Inside”, “Most SEOs are Virgins” and “The SEO Article You Shouldn’t Read”.
  • Google Analytics did a good job in weeding out efforts to inflate visitor count. Only a couple of entries had a high ratio of Page Views compared to Unique Views.
  • Those articles that didn’t fair well, were the ones that ended-up having Google has the highest traffic referrer. This suggests that maybe entrants hoped their title and content would rank well. With just a week to drive traffic, those who tried to get traffic from more varied sources, tended to fair better.
  • Despite the contest rules stipulating one entry per person – and despite my best efforts to monitor – one entrant managed to submit 3 different entries across the 4 weeks. Give them credit for trying.
  • MarketingPilgrim.com was also briefly banned by Digg, due to one or more entrants trying to “Digg” their entry using multiple accounts. Unfortunately, they used the same IP each time!!

Thanks again to all who entered, all who sponsored prizes, our judges and our readers. Stay tuned for the announcement of the final winner!

I’m definitely open to doing another scholarship contest in 2007. I’d certainly love to hear ideas about how to structure the next contest and what prizes would get you to enter.

  • http://semcertification.wordpress.com David Temple

    Great breakdown Andy. I think we have all learned some valuable lessons from this contest especially the power of social media. Congratulations to the 4 weekly winners and all of those that submitted an article. I suspect your next contest will be even more successful. Thanks again!

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  • http://www.joostdevalk.nl/blog/ Joost de Valk

    I must say Andy, I would rather have been colored yellow than being second in this list, but thx for the experience anyway :)

  • http://www.rosshill.com.au Ross Hill

    So where is my free beer?

  • http://www.seo-factor.com Josh Garner

    We really appreciate the opportunity. This was really fun and interesting. Aaron Smith (who wrote Aaron Says…) is a co-worker. We picked the title in attempt at A. maybe they would be listed alphabetically, thus increasing hits, and B. some would mistake the article as a reference / written by / anything at all to do with Aaron Wall and peak interest. But my personal favorite was “Most SEOs are Virgins.” I could almost hear my fellow nerds across the country in unison “Nuh UH!! There was this one girl. In Canada. You wouldn’t know her!!”

    I am a little more interested in seeing the effects merely holding the contest had on the traffic or buzz on your site. Well played sir.

    Thanks again, Andy.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Thanks for sharing your strategy Josh. Traffic and buzz for the site is up – which was part of the reason for hosting all the entries – now we just need to see if those new visitors stick around, now that you guys are not providing great articles. ;-)

  • http://www.joostdevalk.nl/blog/ Joost de Valk

    Andy, I think you could get some of us to agree to post some guest articles from time to time, I myself would certainly like to do that :)

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  • http://www.steverenner.com Steve Renner

    Thanks Andy, what a great idea. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.internetmillionairecode.com Rasheed

    Yes, this is definitely a winner in my book.

    GREAT information here and nice tactic.

    Regardless, I think both the successes and “seeming” failures if you even want to call it that, taught really valuable lessons on traffic generation.

    Awesome!

    Rasheed Ali

  • http://JustinBroadnax.com Justin G Broadnax

    Thanks for the valuable lessons and congrats! to all that participated and especially those who placed top 10!

    Justin G Broadnax

    All In one Buisness Solutions!

    [non-relevant link removed]

  • http://www.bluebizit.com Ravi

    the contest brings out the best in search engine marketing. need more regular contests like these.

  • http://content.articlecash.net/ CJ Boston

    Social Marketing, SEO and a thankful audience. Wish I had foumd this site earlier to compete. Welcome to Web 2.0.
    Thanks,
    CJ Boston
    http://www.Articlecash.net

  • http://www.steverenner.com Steve Renner

    Hi Andy,
    I must be on your list. I got your email so I came back to check it out. I am glad to see that the site is picking up steam. Any students that would like to learn about Internet Marketing are welcome to get FREE Training and Resources at my site The Affiliate Community.

    To Your Success!
    Steve Renner
    Marketing Director
    The Affiliate Community
    http://www.affiliatecommunity.net

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  • http://www.multinetting.com Eddie Wolfe

    Some good stuff here. I am into SEO bigtime, so everything and anything helps. I don’t think there is anything more important in internet marketing.

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  • http://searchenginemarketingpro.biz/seo/konrads-search-engine-marketing-corner/ SEO Elite – Review

    wow cool. Thanks for sharing that data. I admit even I learned a few things. Thanks again!

    Konrad

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  • http://www.webwings.com.au/ Keith Burgess

    What a great idea! I hope you decide to run competitions like this again. It is a great way to learn from others.

    Keith

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