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Contests and Prizes

Live contests are arguably the most exciting feature of high-capacity Web sites (although I have seen this on very few sites because bandwidth usage for these events is extremely high, making them very expensive to run).

You must plan these quizzes well ahead of time and, if hosting them live, be sure to hold them when a large percentage of your regular visitors is awake and online. Live quizzes also take a lot of planning because software must be written or purchased, and you must have staff monitoring and updating the candidates. If you expect too many people to participate in live contests, you might want to first have a knock-off round (not live) in which you can choose a certain number of eligible candidates for the final round.

Although these kinds of contests are sure to bring you lots of extra traffic, you have to be sure that your site can handle such events. This option is encouraged only for high-capacity Web sites. If you have less time, fewer staff, and less bandwidth, you could simply set up a quiz that stores the answers in a database from which you can later pick the winner(s). Randomly picking winners from your member database might also give you some more returning "customers." Hint: Make only the more senior members eligible for these drawings, and keep holding them on a regular basis.< what does this sign mean?

I have found that people are very willing to participate in contests online (whether live or not), even if there is little or nothing to win. Unless you get lots of hits and advertising or sales income via your site, the only prizes you should give away at contests should be fully sponsored. For example, Microsoft may give away a few copies of its new flight-simulation program if you have a flight-simulation Web site, just for the exposure. If you have the hits, finding sponsors should not be very hard: Companies are often looking for cheap ways to advertise their products online. Giving away a few copies of a computer game will probably involve much less cost than other forms of advertising.

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