How not to win a SEO contest

So, now it is official, I didn’t win the Oes Tsetnoc Seo Contest, instead I ended up on place 21 (give or take a few, depending on your Google location). Before writing up my mistakes, failures and shortcomings, first of all my sincere congratulations to the three winners:

First Place: Handsome from

Second Place: Hellas from

Third Place: Phreakaholic from

And obviously also a special Thank You to decipher from PromoJunkie for running the contest. I benefited enormously from participating in it. Not only by getting more back links to my blog in general, but also by observing and learning more about SEO.

It all boiled down to content+back links in the end. Here some interesting stats:

My entry: Content, hence also indexed in Google: 1 meagre page, back links to that page 68 in Google and 5600 in Yahoo

Winners entry: 277 pages indexed in Google, 16100 back links in Yahoo, 154 in Google

The material I collected during the contest will provide me with endless ideas for blog posts. But now no more excuses, here the reasons why I failed in this Seo Contest:

Time &RTFM

Now is confession time. I heard actually about the contest some months earlier, had a short look if any good domain were still free, found none and left it under “perhaps later”. Later I did discover that I didn’t need a completely new domain to participate, just a new page / sub-domain would do also. And so I entered last minute. Doh, if I had done my bit of RTFM (Read The Freaking Manual), or in this case “Read the contest rules” earlier, I could have entered the contest earlier, giving me more time to build up content and back links.

So, first big mistake: I didn’t read the rules!

Lesson learned: Always RTFM!

Keywords and domain

Whilst I didn’t got that one completely wrong, in hindsight I should have put a new blog on the sub-domain up instead of just using a new page on my blog. That would have given me more possibilities to add related content and cashing in on domain age / domain authority at the same time. Alternatively I could have entered earlier and snatched up a real good .com domain (see first mistake). Having only one page also made decent deep-linking impossible or at least more difficult. I could still link from other pages of my blog to the contest entry, but could not interlink seo contest content.

Second big mistake: I didn’t have a plan!

Lesson learned: Take 5-10min and sketch out at least a rudimentary project plan!

Back Links building

I build back links the wrong way round. I concentrated first on the easy ones like blog comments and forum signatures and the like. Given the tight time frame I should have concentrated first on things like article submissions that take more time to get picked up by Google and then added the ones that are quickly spidered, such as forum signatures, blog comments or online profiles.

Third big mistake: I didn’t have a back link building strategy!

Lesson learned: Take 5-10min and sketch out at least a rudimentary back linking plan!


I simply didn’t add enough content. Blame the cold, blame my laziness, blame the mistake mentioned under Point 2. I didn’t give Google enough fodder to index!

Fourth big mistake: I didn’t had enough content = authority on the subject!

Lesson learned: Content is still king for Google and if it is only to provide a place where to link to! If I would have done, what I should have done, putting a seo contest blog on a sub-domain of I might have been more motivated to add content instead of simply adding to a single page.

Some wise woman said one day “I owe my success to my family and friends, but my failures are completely my own achievement ;-)” So, thank you again everybody, that supported me during these last three weeks and if anybody hears something about a new Seo Contest, drop me a note, I am game!

Now to this days “Pay it forward Seo” goodie: Recently I found a blog with the delightful name “Mature not senile” and the following blog post “I am not an expert on any niche” struck a chord with me. Perhaps because I also would drive crazy if I only would work on focused niche sites and blogs. I need to digress from time to time!

And here the “comments provoking” call to action of this days blog post:

Do you learn more / better, from your mistakes or from your successes?

If you like this blog post and found it helpful, why not share it with your preferred social network? Handy links and bookmarklets above ^^^ 😉

36 comments to How not to win a SEO contest

  • As long as you’ve learned from your mistakes it wasn’t a total failure, and it’s good that you’ve let others know of your failings so that they have a better chance at doing their SEO correctly.

    Seeing the results though, it’s not surprising that the first to places went to those who used the keyword in their domain name.
    .-= Sire´s last blog ..Update On Probloggers And Commenting =-.

    • hospitalera

      No, in my books it was actually quite a success, I discovered how many online friends I have (more then I imagined) and I gathered a lot of material for future blog posts! Regarding keywords in domain name, yes, getting your keywords as an exact or nearly exact .com domain is surely the Holy Grail of SEO, but don’t dismiss domain age and authority! I wish I would know what would have happened if I would have been thought of using for my entry! SY

  • I only said mistake because you used the term to highlight some of your points. I can see the positives in it, as it’s all a bif learning curve.
    .-= Sire´s last blog ..Why Marketing Your Ad Space Should Precede Marketing Your Blog =-.

  • hospitalera

    But I do did commit mistakes! And not few! In my books mistakes are sometimes something positive, something I can learn from, nothing to be ashamed of, just opportunities to make it better next time. SY

  • I’m not convinced on using the subdomain would have made much difference – the authority of the main site doesn’t flow to the sub domains. I better appraoch may have been to start a new set of posts all with the term in the title – there are plugins that allow you to do this and for the posts not to show up to normal readers and feeds. Or maybe a set of pages – all linked together. Either way on the main domain they would have started with the authority boost that would give them
    The results suggest that exact domain match is huge and that google doesn’t allways distinguish the plural – the really interesting one is 3rd place IMHO

    • hospitalera

      Thanks for your input, Lissie. The idea with the sub-domain came as this would have allowed me to build a second blog on the same domain. You write “there are plugins that allow you to do this and for the posts not to show up to normal readers and feeds” but wouldn’t that be against all Google Webmaster guidelines? Showing different things to search engines and readers? And yes, place three is a good case for domain authority, there was also a blogspot blog amongst the top 10 😉 The next contest starts in two days, lol, so I still have time to thing about the subdomain bit! SY

      • no I didn’t explain it well – the one I am playing with is here – for example you can stop a post showing in your feed or on the front page. I don’t think Google will care whether every post is in your feedburner or not – but it can stop you annoying regular readers. Many people use a theme with a static front page or with a certain sticky post – this plugin allows a post to not show on the front page but still be accessible via the permalink. You can even stop the post being indexed by the search engines – but I can see no point to that LOL. Check it out it may be useful for your purposes.
        .-= lissie@Online Income´s last blog ..Passive Income Goals 2010 =-.

        • hospitalera

          Now I get, thanks for the link! You are right, the only thing Google says that they want, is that “every page on your site is accessible via at least one static link”. I will check out the plugin, thanks again! SY

  • I LOVE this quote:
    “I owe my success to my family and friends, but my failures are completely my own achievement”

    A lesson is learned for me too. Pages indexed, I never really thought about it but when I checked the winners blog he had lots of short posts about the contest. Each post is a page that potentially gets indexed and adds authority.

    Thanks for the wrap up, it’s given me good ideas.
    .-= Ned Carey´s last blog ..Help Me Pick a Charity? =-.

    • hospitalera

      Yep, content is still king for Google, plus back links that link to that content obviously! SY

  • It is a waste if we do not learn from our failure. And you do not only learn but also share the learning result with your readers. Great!

    Btw, article submission seems new idea for me to win seo contest. I will try it in next seo contest.
    .-= Dana @ Online Knowledge´s last blog ..Web Hosting Type =-.

  • I should do something similar as a close up for my oes site as well. I gave up really early in the game do to a Google slap – once I lost the motivation to fight for it, I went on to other projects, and by the time I made it back to the first page, I went ahead and assumed defeat. That and the fact that the .com site looked like the given winner from the start. But thanks for sharing what you learned on not to do… the knowledge will likely come in handy for the next contest.

    ~ Kristi
    .-= Kikolani´s last blog ..Ultimate Freelance Resources – 100+ Links to Freelance Jobs, Blogs, Podcasts, Guides & More =-.

    • hospitalera

      Hi Kristi,

      Thanks for your visit 😉 Perhaps we should do a joint venture next time? Two women against the rest of the seo world? 😉 SY

  • A seo content, what an awesome idea…

    I first read this and my instinct was that I should try to enter one and then win but then I figured why not try actually running one, it would be interesting and would (I would imagine) benifit me in the process!

    • hospitalera

      You would certainly benefit from the backlinks such a contest creates! One tip: Offer a variety of anchor texts to choose from, if Google sees suddenly an avalanche of new backlinks to your site all with the same text that may raise the warning flag! SY
      PS If you decide to run such a contest, give me a shout, I might be game 😉

  • You have pointed out right and factual reasons of loosing SEO contest. I agree with you on these points.

  • This is very interesting.I do agree that content is definitely KING for Google. No matter how you bookmark and how you comment, Google will look at quality content. Thanks 🙂

    • hospitalera

      Correct, Google will, and does, separate the spammers from the good web sites by analyzing their content, SY

  • I learn better from my mistakes than from success, but it doesn’t mean I don’t learn anything from the latter. It’s just that mistakes keeps me reminded and I’d want to avoid it at all costs.
    .-= James@Billigt Webbhotell´s last blog ..Webbhotell för Företag – Välj rätt =-.

  • SY, better late than never, I still want to congratulate you on your success, I think #20 in such a short time and with a bit of a late start is not too bad at all. And considering what you have learned and how many friends you have met along the contest I believe this is quite a positive outcome! Oh, and to reply to your “call to comment action” – I think I learn more from my mistakes, unfortunately, because they hurt more 😉
    .-= Petra@Affiliate Marketing Tips´s last blog ..Bloggers Help Each Other Out…. =-.

    • hospitalera

      Thanks again, Petra, one other thing this contest provided me with is actually a wealth of blog post ideas. SY

  • […] has written about the contest results on her blog, and I can only urge you to have a read about what she has learned from the competition regarding […]

  • do you mean the write articles (contents) is the most important and then build backlinks to the site?
    .-= harry@kerja keras adalah energi kita´s last blog ..kerja keras dan energi kita, Hard work Quotes =-.

    • hospitalera

      You got it, without content you have nothing to link to and without links nobody will find your content 😉 SY

  • That a lovely post. You have provided us with a load of information. SEO techniques are not so easy, for they keep changing with the search engine criteria for indexing pages. Your post has helped me a lot.

    • hospitalera

      Yep, and next year will be even more interesting in that respect with Google rolling out Caffeine worldwide and taking in account page load speed. We might be up for a bumpy right! SY

  • Very interesting post. I found your site through a post on

    That your are completely right with what you say on link building. It may sound a bit weird, if I say it (I might look biased), but it is very true. You need a link building strategy for your site, always.

    .-= HP@Link Building´s last blog ..Free SEO Tool Called TouchGraph That is Really Helpful for Link Building =-.

    • hospitalera

      And most importantly you need a natural looking strategy, if not you end up faster in the sandbox with your site then you can say SEO 😉 SY

  • great lesson! as i now coming to last week of another seo contest. pls if you dont mind, to link my blog stated in id even just for a week. iwould very much thanks for your favor. thks/fauzi
    .-= kerja keras adalah energi kita´s last blog ..Kerja keras adalah energi kita – Pertamina =-.

  • It’s good that you learned from this contest. There shouldn’t be any guess work because SEO is not a guessing game. I made plenty of mistakes in the past about SEO so you are not alone.
    .-= Kai@SEO services´s last blog ..Keywords That Sell =-.