Marketing Pilgrim SEM Scholarship Contest

You may have noticed lately that SEO contests seem to be everywhere. One of the latest is the SEM Scholarship contest and while I usually don’t participate in contests I did submit SEO is Nothing but Karma as an entry to this one. I wanted to talk a little about this particular contest and why I entered it.

Most SEO contests have involved a previously un-indexed search phrase and seeing who could rank #1 for the phrase within a specific amount of time. The site running the contest typically gets links, buzz, and media coverage, while those who participate get to compete for some prizes and learn a little more about SEO and what it takes to rank a site. I generally don’t participate in part because I’d prefer to spend my time marketing my own site or the sites of my clients and in part because ranking for an uncompetitive phrase will only teach so much. The contests though, especially those that were done well, have proved to be an excellent source of link bait for the sites running them.

The Difference In The Marketing Pilgrim Contest

The Marketing Pilgrim contest is a little different. Sure it’s serving as link bait for the site and there are the usual prizes, but it’s different in that it seems to provide genuine benefit to the overall winner and the weekly winners. I think this contest can truly be considered a scholarship of some sorts in that the prizes are mostly educational in nature. There are plenty of good books and seo tools, a pass to the Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago, free seo training, and some one on one consulting with Andy Beal the owner of Marketing Pilgrims.

The conference, a pass for training at an SEO Workshop, and the one on one consulting are the kinds of things that can take someone relatively new in the SEO world such as myself to the next level. To give you an idea of what the consulting with Andy Beal might be worth, he was recently called in to consult by Rand Fishkin to help improve SEOmoz. If SEOmoz can benefit with Andy’s consulting the winner of this contest is sure to benefit. Both Andy and Rand will be among the judges for the contest.

To win you had to submit an article related to SEO, PPC, or SMO. The first phase of the contest is to see which of each weeks entries can get the most unique views on their article. It’s an interesting concept. I would imagine the main reason is so the judges don’t have to read every entry which would take a considerable amount of time, but rather only read the entries of the four weekly winners. When I thought about it more I could see another reason for running the contest this way. The very first sentence on the contest page reads:

Are you the next generation of search engine marketing experts?

This contest seems to be all about helping someone in the industry make their way further into the industry and help advance their career. And since a large part of the goal of SEM is to drive traffic it makes sense that the first round of the contest involves driving traffic to your article. Of course it also means the contestants will be building links to their articles and thus the Marketing Pilgrim site. It should bring new traffic to the site that remains beyond the contest. new traffic and more links are goals in any link baiting campaign.

I think it’s is a nice touch and it makes sense to have it be part of the competition. The judges for the contest are a pretty impressive list from the industry and if you’re going to prove to them that you deserve to become a larger presence in the industry it’s only right to show that you’ve already learned a fair amount about how to drive traffic somewhere quickly. It is part of the job after all. This contest aims to to take one lucky winner to the next plateau, but they should have at least reached the previous plateau without the contest’s help.

Why Enter?

Naturally having entered I’d like to win the whole contest, but my main goal in entering is simply to get noticed. I’ve talked a lot recently about building social networks and participating in the community. Part of being able to join certain communities and be able to add them to your network is to get them to take notice of you. As I said the judges make an impressive list of SEOs and marketers and getting their attention is certainly worth entering a contest. As much as I’d like to win it all, my main interest is in winning the weekly round just to get my article and me in front of the list of judges.

Where ranking a web page for a previously unknown phrase can be competitive and even teach some about how search engine optimization works there is little benefit outside the prizes and the bragging rights that go along with winning. Those unknown phrases aren’t going to be bringing your site targeted traffic of any kind and it’s not as though they will be searched by anyone other than those following the contest. Any benefit ends with the end of the contest.

The Marketing Pilgrim contest, by comparison, can offer benefit long after the contest is over. The education the winner receives will be something they can apply directly to their career and will prove to be more advanced knowledge than how to rank a page for an uncompetitive phrase. More though, is gaining the attention of the judges. It’s not unthinkable that those who read the articles will genuinely like those articles and in them see something in the authors worthy of more. It is not inconceivable to see them continue on to read the blogs of the authors and perhaps begin to link to some of their posts. Even just a few links from the authority sites they would come from will be more worthy than a few grand in prizes.

The ultimate prize would perhaps be the opening of a door or window into the network of some A-listers within the industry. That kind of prize will continue to be worth something long after this contest is just a memory. And that kind of prize doesn’t have to fall solely on the contest winner. It could be bestowed on anyone in the contest who’s written an article that attracts the attention of any of the judges. It may not happen for anyone, but it’s a prize worth entry into a contest.

SEO contests have been the latest in link bait. I’m sure we’ll see more in the near future and we’ll continue to see them as long as they generate links and buzz for the sites who run them. While the motivation may have been similar for Marketing Pilgrim, it’s nice to see a contest that offers something back to those who participate beyond the competition of the contest. It will no doubt pay off for them too as the contest has drawn a different level of SEO talent that has provided content to the Marketing Pilgrim site, a better class of more permanent links, and perhaps even a few SEOs of the future who will owe a great deal of success to Andy Beal and the Marketing Pilgrim site.

I’ll talk more on Monday about some of the things I’ve done this week and some of what I’ve learned in promoting the article. It’s been an interesting experience so far and I think it’s helped me solidify some ideas and theories I hold about search engine marketing and optimization. I’ll naturally post about the results of the week and hopefully be able to tell you my article garnered the most unique views for week. You can always help in that by clicking on:

SEO is Nothing but Karma

Thanks to everyone who’s showed support this week. It’s been greatly appreciated and won’t be forgotten. Hopefully I’ll learn some new things I can share with you all. And thanks Andy for running a great contest. It’s been rewarding to participate.

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