The following is a paid review and is completely of my own opinion and is not influenced by being paid. If you’re interested in having me review your site or product, you can purchase a review from me through PayPerPost by clicking on the PayPerPost Direct button located at the top left of my blog.
ContestBlogger.com is a blog with a simple goal: to share and report contests that other blogs are running.
While the owner, Phil Van Treuren, accepts paid spots for better exposure, payment is not required in order to have your blog contest written about. I’m glad to hear this, as far too many people overthink monetizing and forget about the larger picture: people will only repeatedly visit a site if it is a valuable resource, and thus a blog covering blog contests needs to cover as many contests as they can muster in order to establish better credibility by not just covering the ones who pay to be listed. As a result, there are quite a lot of contests listed.
The contests range in size from small to large, as do the prizes. Some of the various prizes from the contests include:
- Laptop Bag
- Nintendo Wii
- Free Graphic Design
- Battery-operated hula dancer
- XBox 360
…which provides something for everyone. The nice thing about contests is that it’s usually very easy to enter or participate. For example, many contests require only a small review or backlink in order to parctipate. I would estimate that the number of entries usually range from between 30-100. Let’s say 150 just to be safe. 1/150 odds is still a lot better than what you typically receive in most “real-life” contests.
For example, take the local newspaper contest. Often they will give away something like a dinner for two or DVD player, and I’d estimate that there are at least several hundred entries, if not thousands. When compared to blog contests where there are often as few as 5-20 entries, the odds stand out.
In short, I consider ContestBlogger.com a very useful site for anyone who loves contests… although the majority of contests usually on there often require the entrants to own a blog or website. I’d recommend that you subscribe to their RSS feed so you’ll always be aware of new contests.
My Constructive Criticism
Now that I’ve given my praise, it’s time for some of my good old fashioned criticism.
I believe ContestBlogger.com is a very good idea for a site, useful, and has so far has reported blog contests pretty well. However, there are a lot things that could be improved upon. These are all very simple things, but nonetheless things that could improve the site 10-fold, in my opinion.
#1 – Phil, the Rock Star
In my You’re Not a Rock Star blog post, I lecture about how I believe that one of the biggest mistake bloggers and site owners make is adding too many ads to a new site. I’d recommend for Phil to read that post and really consider removing some of the ads on the site.
Below is a screenshot of his front page:
As you can see, there are a lot of ads. The most notible is obviously the 336×280 AdSense ad. This is just way too obtrusive and needs to go. What makes it even worse is that the text does not wrap around it – it simply uses up the entire space, leaving valuable whitespace to either side of it.
The other ads/self-promotion also stand out too much. I don’t know.. I just really hate ads, especially when they aren’t integrated well. But even if they were integrated better on here, I still firmly believe what I wrote in my post. I’ll bet that Phil is not making much from AdSense.. with his RSS readership at 200 I’ll take a very rough guess that he’s making $50 a month. I’d personally much rather build up the site’s traffic and lose out on $50 a month to begin with, and then slowly add ads later once the site has grown. It’s the whole Tortoise and the Hare thing.
Phil indeed does have other monetization sources on the site – he sells textlinks, ad spots, paid reviews, and more notibly – Featured Contests. This is the better way to as far as I’m concerned, and he should focus more on selling Featured Contests instead of putting up CPC,CPM, or CPA ads. Less is more, in my opinion.
It’s hard for me to really analyze what might be best because I don’t know how much he’s making from AdSense, but unless he’s making a few hundred or more per month, which I highly doubt, then he should remove all of those ads.
#2 – Allow Commenting
I was very surprised to see that he had closed commenting. I can see a lot of people wanting to comment on new contests and their prizes, and allowing people to comment only build community. And with an RSS subscribership of 200, I’m sure that there’d be at least a couple people commenting on each post.
#3 – Simplify the Design
ContestBlogger.com is much too ‘busy’ in my opinion. He has a great logo, and usually sites should be built around the logo in my opinion. I’m pretty sure Phil had run a contest of his own (probably on Sitepoint) for the logo – which is great, but it doesn’t exactly match the site. He could better match the site to the colours of the logo, for example.
I also really dislike sites that have two thin columns side by site. My blog has two thin columns, but not side by side. When they’re side by side, it’s much too cluttered and we’re presented with a classical dose of information-overload.
BloggingTips.com is a blog I recently become aware of and I absolutely love the design. It’s simple as hell, but very clean and nice to look at. And it focuses on what it should: the content!
I would also remove items that aren’t needed such as the “Bookmark” button/widget in the top right. I mean, people already know how to bookmark and will do so when they feel it’s warranted. This is one of those things I think people add just because they can. But it just takes up space and clutters things, I feel.
Even the “Contest Blogger Kudos” area. Testimonials are great on sites that offer a service or sell a product, but this is just a blog, and so it seems rather useless or silly to have. A lot of this stuff could easily be prunned out and result with just one column instead of two.
If you love blog contests, then ContestBlogger.com is for you. Simple as that. Phil has come up with a simple but great idea for a site, and if he continues to work and improve the site, hopefully implementing some of my suggestions above, I can see ContestBlogger.com becoming the authoritive site for blog contests in the future.