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One Blogger’s Novel Strategy for Self-Funding Giveaway Prizes

Credit: {C}hristina

Credit: {C}hristina

I’ve been friends with Matt Jabs for years when he was only running Debt Free Adventure, a personal finance blog. His newer and more popular site, DIY Natural, is doing incredibly well (you could say it’s killing it – an overused phrase but one that’s absolutely accurate here) and I’m not in the least bit surprised.

So, when he told me that he funded his own giveaways from the giveaway itself, my ears perked up.

He’d read my guide for running sweepstakes and wanted to share a strategy he used for using affiliate commissions to help pay for a giveaway. He didn’t need to turn to sponsors to pay for giveaway items and he didn’t need to reach into his own pocket. He’d fund it on commissions.

How did he do it?

For October, Matt is giving away a 12-qt Le Creuset Stockpot. It’s an enabled steel beauty and anyone who has used any extremely heavy Le Creuset product can attest to it’s quality. It retails at around $130 and DIY Natural foots the entire bill. There’s no sponsor involved.

He pays for it by asking readers to click on an affiliate link for as the first step to entering the giveaway. The other steps are pretty standard (enter your email to sign up and then verify everything with a Rafflecopter widget) and the primary goal of these giveaways is to acquire more email subscribers.

OK, so at this point you might be thinking to yourself: “Is this legal?”

It’s gray-ish.

This may be a matter of interpretation but the terms & conditions state “14. You will not offer any person or entity any consideration or incentive (including any money, rebate, discount, points, donation to charity or other organization, or other benefit) for using Special Links (e.g., by implementing any β€œrewards” or loyalty program that incentivizes persons or entities to visit the Amazon Site via your Special Links).”

Is offering an entry considered a benefit? Maybe, it could be interpreted as an incentive. If you’re concerned, you should decouple the entry from the clicking of the link to view the product. To be 100% safe, that’s what I would do (and what Matt does too).

Does it work? Yes, very well in fact, but Matt adds a few things that help.

Make the click a prominent, but not required, step. There are three steps to entering the giveaway and clicking the product link is the first one. Entering your email is not the first one in the list, it’s the second one. Matt then makes the smart move of putting the email list as the required entry in the widget (which gives you access to all the others). Emphasize the product click in the post, emphasize the email list in the widget.

(if you’re worried about rule #14, just don’t make it a required step and don’t link it with an entry or any other kind of benefit – you can still say “click here for details on the prize!” especially if you go the route of making it a “mystery” prize)

You cannot confirm a click. That didn’t stop him from asking readers to do it. Sometimes you need to trust that your readers will do what they’re asked to do. If they click it, fantastic. If they lie, don’t worry about it and move on. Your hope is that the trustworthy outnumber the untrustworthy and the population is more trustworhty than not!

Don’t advertise to the sweepstakes crowd. In my guide, I mentioned a few places that the sweepstakes crowd hangs out. If you want to increase your stats, you want to increase entrants and the best way to do this is throw twenty bucks to one of these sites to list your giveaway. Matt didn’t want that. He wanted to keep his list relevant and the best way to do that is to avoid the sweepstakes crowd. (I suspect they’d be savvy enough to know that the click wasn’t trackable and might have even skipped it)

Tag the link to confirm the strategy. Matt could have used a regular old affiliate link, instead of a special one just for giveaways, and then he’d never know if this strategy was effective. He would’ve seen an increase in Amazon commissions but it would’ve been difficult to attribute it to the giveaway. Instead, he created a new tag, used it in the giveaway, and now has statistics that confirm this is a winning strategy.

I asked Matt about the progress of the giveaway and about a third of the way through, here were the results:

  • 5365 clicks by ~2100 unique entrants
  • 136 items ordered for ~$1800 in sales
  • 8% commission = ~$144

He was just a third of the way through the giveaway and had already profited on this strategy. (I can only imagine how much more effective this would’ve been back in the day when Amazon had 30-day cookies instead of one day cookies).

This is also not a fluke either. He’s done this several times in the past and in every single case he’s come out ahead.

What’s better than running a giveaway for free? Running a giveaway that puts some cash in your pocket, juices up your social media stats, adds a few more names to your email lists, and makes one lucky winner very very happy. (Plus Matt can even ship the prize for free via Amazon!)

We owe Matt a HUGE thank you for sharing this giveaway strategy!

If you know someone doing giveaways and paying for it out of their own pocket (or they get products for free but still feel beholden to the sponsor), would you send them this post?

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In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog ( that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

13 responses to “One Blogger’s Novel Strategy for Self-Funding Giveaway Prizes”

  1. Michael says:

    That’s a really great idea — thanks to Matt for sharing it.

    And yeah, if only Amazon still honored their cookies for a full 30 days…

  2. Bob says:

    Great strategy, I think this is worth trying on my next giveaway!

    • Jim says:

      So after you left your comment, we updated the post to reflect some new stuff we found in the rules. As long as you don’t make it a required step, you should be safe from the rules. The rules state that you can’t offer an incentive, like an entry, for someone to click on a link.

  3. Panah says:

    I don’t know Jim. It’s very iffy. Yes. Amazon has those guidelines. But as someone who had $65K written off by Amazon, I can tell you it’s a bit risky. πŸ™‚ I like the creativity but trust me, if you get flagged, it is going to take a miracle to get in Amazon’s good graces. The most painful part is when you realize a competitor has reported you.

    • Jim says:

      Panah – Good point, can I ask what you did to get in trouble? Or what a competitor reported you for?

      • Panah says:

        Sorry about the delay guys. It was a very similar idea we did for one of our sites. Remember when the very first Kindle was released and netbooks were hot? We used a similar strategy of giveaways and contests to generate links. We did not even ask people to click on the link. The link to the Kindle offer was on the review / giveaway page. Sure, we were giving away a bunch of things to generate traffic to that page. But the goal was to promote the review aggressively. We generated about $65k for the month of November I think. It was years ago. Amazon contacted me 2 months after and they had our account flagged for “unusual activity.”

        Also, did you know that you could get in trouble for that title ($130 Value). It’s on the site you linked to. We got flagged for that because Amazon said we were showing a price which Amazon prohibits unless it automatically updates itself. The problem is Amazon is not consistent. These are my experiences. I can’t say everyone has the same issues.

        All I can tell you is … this could work but know the risks. πŸ™‚

    • Michael says:

      I can’t imagine getting in trouble for simply linking to the prize and directing people to view the page if they want details about what they’re entering to win. But, especially given the new info above, I wouldn’t require (or make it look like I’m requiring) a click to take part in the promo.

      And yeah, I’d also be curious to learn more about how/why you got in trouble.

  4. This is a sweet idea. With the holidays coming up, I think I’ll try it with a simple book giveaway to see how it goes. Another awesome tip from Jim – Thanks!

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