Time to share my thoughts on the outcomes and mechanics of the promotions I offered a few weeks ago. In that article, I offered two different promotions: one to vote on the best idea for the potential future of this column and the other to get people to link to the column.
Direct Response Promotion: Thumbs Way Up
I love direct response promotions in which I ask for people's input. The feedback is incredibly valuable. It feels like I'm making stronger connection with my readers, and the return I get in exchange for a small gift certificate is more than worth it.
Based on a $17 per submission value I arbitrarily assigned, I had a ROI of more than 1,800 percent.
Asking people to give feedback about your product or service is great on many levels. It builds relationships and provides incredibly valuable information. I encourage everyone to give this a try.
Link Promotion: Thumbs Leaning Down
I'm not as convinced about my link promotion. A couple areas concern me, even though two of the four links were outstanding. The first problem, as Paul Rivero pointed out, is that I didn't post the URL of the page I wanted people to link to. If people read my article via e-mail, they wouldn't know the URL address to link to.
I couldn't find the links from the other two people. I might have missed them, but the link wasn't easily seen when I went to their sites.
So, I missed my goal of 10 links and, because of my own mistake, I wasn't clear on where people should link to. This makes me think I likely won't run this particular type of promotion again.
Instead, I might try to get people to follow me on Twitter or subscribe to an RSS feed, for example. I'll likely run something like that in the future and let you know the outcome.
To nofollow or not to nofollow...
Paid links cause all sorts of problems for the Google algorithm, so they're cracking down heavily on paid links. I'm fine with that.
But the shades of gray in this matter are many. For example, because I asked you to link to this article in exchange for a chance to win a gift certificate, does that make this a paid link?
Rivero, in his blog post, asked what my intentions were on links that had a nofollow attribute to them. I knew this was a gray area, so I intentionally said nothing about nofollow.
Maybe Mr. Cutts can offer his advice on this case, if he's interested.
My question to Matt, and Google as a whole, would be: If I'm doing a contest like this, should I tell people that link to the article, in exchange for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate, they must put the nofollow attribute on the link? Or is the obligation on them to put the nofollow attribute? Or is this outside of the paid link category altogether?
Sorry, I just don't know the answer. So, if Matt Cutts doesn't answer, may the force be with you in what you choose.
Google Docs Rocks (Mostly)
Finally, I experimented using the Google Docs Form feature for both of these promotions. Google Docs Forms allow you to quickly and easily set up a form that your visitors can fill out. The data they enter is automatically inserted into a Google spreadsheet. Google has a write-up on how this feature works.
I was really happy with the results of using Google's Form feature. You should definitely consider it if you intend to do a promotion similar to the ones I'm doing here.
However, I had a bit of difficulty with permissions of the form. I set up the form in my company's Google Apps area. I use Google Apps for many things at SageRock.
If I were to do it again, I'll probably set up the form in my personal Gmail account. I think there were some hang-ups using the SageRock Google Apps feature (it didn't want people outside my domain filling out the form). But other than that, it worked great and I would highly recommend it.
Next time, we'll look at the fascinating results our survey produced.