Are Blog Giveaways a Good Idea?

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I’m still deciding on whether giveaways are right for my blog about food writing.

On one hand, giveaways (mine are almost always books) drive traffic to my blog and bring page views to the site. Both those things are valuable. And I like to give a reader recognition and appreciation. It’s fun to get return emails from excited contest winners.

On the other hand, giveaways strike me as kind of cheesy. I don’t like putting the words “free” and “giveaway” in my tag list. I feel like I’m selling shampoo. Also, now that I have a BlogHer ad, the company restricts what I can give away to under $40, and says I can’t have a contest for anything given to me for that express purpose.

I wonder whether the people who come for the giveaway become regular readers, or whether I’m just drinking the Koolaid. Maybe it’s like when food bloggers get photos published on Tastespotting. Readership spikes that day but doesn’t stick around.

And I wonder who these people are who enter giveaway contests. Some are regular readers, but I wonder if many are people who cruise the web looking for free stuff. Sometimes they’re fans of the author. When David Lebovitz posted on Facebook that I was giving away a copy of Ready for Dessert, I got way more entries than usual.

What’s your take? Do you enter giveaways or host them on your blog? Why or why not?


  1. says

    We ‘give away’ information via our writing on blogs, correct? To me it’s just a physical element and doesn’t bother me any. But please don’t give away any shampoo… I’m bald.

    • diannejacob says

      You are hilarious. Don’t bald men have to wash their heads? Maybe soap suffices.

      Yes, we give away information, but not in contests.

  2. says

    I’m going to use it (as soon as I clean up the house) to get rid of (new) kitchen crap I never used: Xmas espresso maker, a cookbook I never should’ve purchased.

    How can re-gifting ever be bad? Then there are those famous bloggers who buy items for massive giveaways like SLRs and what not. That’s ridiculous.

    • diannejacob says

      Regifting, eh? That’s a nice way to think of it. Yeah, I don’t quite have the budget yet to purchase items like nice cameras.

  3. says

    I enjoy them occasionally, its fun to be able to share something nice with my readers. I try to keep them nice though – I’m not about to give away shampoo or something junky/cheap. or that I wouldn’t want for myself.

  4. says

    I actually found you through the Ready for Dessert giveaway and now I am a regular reader and have you on my blog list. I also write very long, run on sentences…so I am sure you are thrilled to have me here. I already had a copy of the book, but thought a friend of mine would love it as well. On the other hand I only visit Pioneer Woman for the giveaways. I rarely enter giveaways for “small” items like books unless it is a really good one or I happen to be a regular reader of the blog.
    I have often wondered if giveaways would help increase my regular readership. I know that I have received some regular visitors who originally found my site through Foodgawker or Tastespotting.

    • diannejacob says

      How marvelous, Nicole, that you are not a regular reader as a result of a giveaway. That is so satisfying to hear.

      Interesting that you only go to a particular site for the giveaways, and that you rarely enter for “small” prizes.

        • says

          I love Pioneer Woman’s giveaways! She hasn’t been given the items, she actually purchases mixers, cameras, etc. for her readers. I guess she has the money to do it! She does put a disclaimer that says she hasn’t been sponsored by the company on all her giveaways.

  5. says

    I have done giveaways in the past as a traffic generator. I used it to build up my RSS readership. But you still have to provide good content for the other days when you aren’t giving something away. Otherwise you’ll just lose those readers again.

  6. says

    I have had three giveaways so far in my year of blogging – a Le Creuset baking dish, a copy of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution cookbook and right now I am giving away some Calphalon utensils that were left over from the infamous “exclusive” House Party. All things I would like myself but am happy to share with my readers.

    I agree that generally it’s like a Tastespotting spike – the ppl don’t stick around. When I gave away Jamie’s book, he retweeted it on Twitter and I have SO many people visit and comment but MANY of them did not even bother to read the post (it was my blog birthday and a bit of a look back at my first year of blogging) and commented like it was Jamie’s blog. Since I know that giveaways are not the way I am going to attract regular readers, I was at least glad that those people actually care about Jamie’s Revolution which was the point.

    I will admit that I was glad when picked a regular reader and commenter though – does that make me bad? I just like the idea of giving back to people who spend a little bit of time reading my posts and giving back to me through comments and support. A traffic spike is nice but if it comes along with a huge bounce rate, well that’s not exactly my goal…

    • diannejacob says

      That’s a great story about the Jamie Oliver post. Incredible that they thought it was his blog.

      I didn’t know about Seems like a nice way to choose a winner. That’s something I didn’t mention in this post — how do you choose a winner? Is it truly random, or do you make them leave a comment and then choose the comment you like?

  7. says

    I generally avoid giveaways and often feel they sully the impression I have of a blogger. Some bloggers ask way too much by requesting you follow on twitter, FB, as well as subscribe to their feed. I’m not going to subscribe to a blog because someone gave me a free soup spoon. I do it for content. Why are bloggers making me suffer as a reader? All I want is content I identify with or find useful, some pretty pictures, and excellent writing. Is that too much to ask?

    • diannejacob says

      A free soup spoon hardly seems worth the effort, I have to agree.

      As for sullying the reputation, I am working on this. As long as I think of myself as a publisher, and not just the writer, I am okay with doing things that build up my blog readership.

      • says

        I never saw your book giveaway. I must have been sleeping that week.
        I’m probably just jealous that you have such problems to work out. I hope to have such issues to grapple with someday. It’s all good.

    • says

      Ooh, I really dislike when people offer up extra entries for additional efforts like following them throughout the social media world. (Craft blogs are really bad for that.) Yeah, so your surface stats look good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much.

  8. says

    You write the most interesting posts. No giveaway needed to get me to read.

    I have had three giveaways and couldn’t stand disappointing my friends and readers who didn’t win–which was nearly all of them, of course. Not sure if I will do it again.

  9. says

    This is a very interesting question, and I have been conflicted by it with my own blog. I did one giveaway about 8 months ago and received a good bit of traffic from it. Most of my comments were my subscribers, and some of the others subscribed and some not. I do wonder if it seems “cheesy” as someone else mentioned, but some of my favorite blogs do it on a rare occasion. I have only done it once, and I haven’t done it again, yet.

  10. says

    No giveaways for me, thanks. I’m not chasing numbers; I’d rather have 5 readers who appreciate the content than 5,000 who want a shot at a free widget. Does everything have to be about *stuff* these days? Surely an audience (however small) exists for content rather than merchandise.

    • diannejacob says

      You are nobler than I. B I don’t see these ideas as mutually exclusive. Why not reward readers who appreciate my content with free stuff?

  11. says

    I think a giveaway’s success depends on how they are run and also the prize offered, and I feel like a lot of giveaways are glorified advertisements that actually help the sponsor more than the blogger. I see a lot of “Look, this company is letting me do a giveaway so let me talk about how great their product is in hopes that you’ll keep visiting my blog,” and it comes across as weak. I think that in general, bloggers need to more carefully consider the products they are giving away, and how those products fit into their overall blogging goal. Constantly running lackluster giveaways that look more like advertorials is not going to increase quality readership. But I think choosing select giveaways with meaning and relevance to the blog’s purpose will. So I guess my feelings are, “it depends”.

    In your case w/ David Lebovitz’s book, I see nothing wrong with that – it’s an awesome prize and cookbooks are def. your thing :)

    • diannejacob says

      Oh this is good stuff, Jenn. You know how much I hate advertorials, and certainly giveaways will lead bloggers to write them.

      Yes, I feel comfortable giving away books. It’s a good fit with the blog. I’m not about to give away appliances, though they seem right for cooking blogs.

  12. says

    I am so on the fence about giveaways. They are actually quite a bit of work – for me at least. I feel as though I owe the company to really get the word out – so there is time in creating the post, testing the product (I won’t giveaway anything I haven’t tried myself), and promoting the giveaway in other places.

    I have had the same thing happen that Mardi has, but the people actually comment like I am the company! (ie, I giveaway a gift package of cookies from company xyz and they comment like “I love your cookies and would love to win some!”). It is a bit insulting and not the intent of the giveaway at all. But I continue to get giveaway requests. That and product reviews are becoming a frustration for me.

    • diannejacob says

      I don’t believe you owe it to the company to get the word out. Simply mentioning their product accomplishes that job. If you promote the giveaway, I hope it is with the goal to increase your readership. See this post for more.

      That is so sad about people commenting as thought you were the manufacturer of the product. A sign of the times: short attention span.

  13. says

    I have to agree with you that some giveaways just don’t make too much sense to me. I cannot understand a food blog which announces a giveaway for lights or living room furniture! And then the blogger insists you follow them everywhere and tweet the giveaway and whatnot.
    I have entered some giveaways but its invariably on blogs I read regularly and its because I liked the book or something they were giving away.

    Having said that, I have hosted giveaways on my blog a few times, and they were all cookbooks, because I do like giving away gifts. A couple of times they have been sponsored by publishers of the book and sponsorship (and giveaway) has been unconditional, with the lucky winner chosen randomly from comments.

    Giveaways do provide visitor spikes, which is not a bad thing especially if you carry ads on your site. I think the thought of something being given away for free is very attractive to most readers. It will not bring in an increase in regular readers, though the occasional reader may discover one’s blog and come back because they like it.

    I think giveaways are ok provided they’re of good value (not necessarily monetarily) and in keeping with what your blog is about, and do not force your readers to do 10 different things before they can become eligible for it.

    • diannejacob says

      This is new to me that to enter a giveaway, some bloggers ask readers must sign up to follow them on Twitter or tweet about it. You are the second person to mention this. I guess readers will do it if the prize is big enough.

      • says

        Actually this is a recent trend I have been seeing a lot on many food blogs. Many bloggers hosting giveaways insist that their readers must subscribe to their feeds, follow them on Twitter, Facebook and other places, and then offer an “extra chance” at the giveaway if they re-tweet about the giveaway.
        And if someone is sponsoring the giveaway, you have to go to thier site and also leave a comment there. And the giveaway is supposed to be “free”. :)

          • says

            I agree with Aparna. More and more giveaways ask you to follow their blog, follow them on twitter and follow them on Facebook. I find that it cheapens the blog as if they are desperate for followers and begging just a bit. I also feel kind of dirty when I have to go through all of that.

            Otherwise, I do participate occasionally when it is a great prize; I mean, why not? (I never win anyway). I have thought of having a giveaway on my blog offering a package of local products but I simply haven’t gotten around to organizing it. I’d rather give the goods to a blogger charity auction.

  14. says

    There are definitely people who just cruise the web for free stuff. See here:

    I once googled one of my giveaway winners, just out of curiosity, and found that she’d won things all over the internet, including four or five things that week – from pet supplies to electronics. It kind of pissed me off, and set me to thinking about how to craft a rule to disqualify people like that (haven’t come up with a way, though…).

    • diannejacob says

      I guess there are people who specialize in entering contests and winning stuff, just as there are people who specialize in winning recipe contests (although that would seem to require more skill!) I’d be curious to see how you might word some kind of disqualification.

  15. says

    I don’t like them, but what to do with all the books aquired?
    What I’m really curious about is, does it stop ppl. from actually buying the book since they think they’re going to win it?
    I wonder what the pubs think about it…
    Or is the idea to generate buzz in any way about the book?

    • diannejacob says

      It IS a great way to get rid of too many books, assuming you have chosen giveaways that appeal to your readers’ tastes. I have a box of books headed to the library right now because I don’t think anyone would be exited about them. I wasn’t.

      Maybe these contests stop people temporarily from purchasing the book, but if they really want it they will get it eventually. Publishers love these giveaways because they generate buzz when the books first come out, and that is the optimum time.

  16. says

    I’m having having the first ever contest on my blog right now (to win my friend Lorna’s new cookbook) mainly to pimp her book. I’m not expecting to get regular readers out of the deal. I am guessing it’s mostly the “Tastespotting” method – people show up once, for a chance at the free stuff, and then move right along.

    I always enter people’s contests, though. The idea of potentially winning something is great. Why not?

    I don’t think the concept is cheesy, but I do think it’s overdone a bit. I suppose, if someone gave me free items more regularly, maybe I’d have MORE contests, but I’m really not (at this point) planning another one anytime soon.

    Great topic, as always! :-) Your posts are always thought-provoking and relevant. (HAH!)

  17. says

    I think they are fine as long as they are consistent with your tone, voice, brand. When it’s working to support your content it can help interest new readers interested in that topic who may not have found you before. For example, getting folks excited about real food I started the “#truefood” hashtag and Tuesday Tweetchats. I had a copy of Cider Beans ( from Andrews McMeel which works well with the opening of that discussion. I hosted a giveaway to both get publisher some buzz, bring eyes to the blog, and generate interest in the True Food chat/topic/convo. Everyone wins. Would not do the same with a book that didn’t fit topic or my brand.

  18. says

    I do them from time to time (a kitchen gadget or a cookbook) just for fun and restrict the drawing to email subscribers. I always gain a few along the way, and I think it’s a nice way to thank regular readers. I’m not ashamed to admit that I LOVE having regular readers!

    I definitely stick to relevant, small items. And I’ll have to check out Random. org. I’ve been taking the numbers Feedburner assigns to my subscribers and using a random-number generator to select the winner.

    • diannejacob says

      Wow, that’s an interesting idea. Do the subscribers have to actually enter to win or do you just chose one from your list?

  19. says

    I don’t think the presence of a give-away has ever been the sole incentive that drives me to visit a blog or the incentive that motivates me to actually read a post. It’s kind of like the Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes, especially with very popular blogs. I, so far, have never sponsored a give-away in large part because I couldn’t figure out how to present it to readers without sounding kind of ridiculous. Maybe I’ll change my mind at some point but until then . . .

  20. says

    A few years ago when I began the live streaming video journey in my kitchen I’d hold give aways. There would be a contest that was more than a random number giveaway. We’d play food trivia or name that exotic fruit or whatever, but it was time consuming and I worried that I’d screw up on figuring out who had the first entry, etc., so I moved to the random number thing. The problem with all of it was that the same few people were the winners and it didn’t bring more traffic or return visitors. I felt like sometimes people just came around for the contests and while most of the goodies were things I’d brought back from my lives abroad and the money was spent long ago, I was being brought down by shipping costs, so I haven’t done a giveaway in a very long time.

    I liked doing it to put a smile on a person’s face as well as to drive traffic, but $$ is not free flowing anymore and something had to give.

  21. says

    I’m doing my second give-away. The one I did a year ago only earned about 4 comments. I gave away one original cookbook. I got twice that the first day of this give-away. Perhaps because I am giving away three cookbooks, two of my on and one of another chef’s. Perhaps it’s because I have a much improved web presence. Either way, this one is working at driving home traffic.

  22. says

    I both hold and enter giveaways, and like both kinds. It’s so much fun to win stuff that you actually like or have wanted to try out, but just haven’t (and in my case, it’s sometimes stuff that we can’t get here in Canada). I really enjoy holding giveaways as well. Yes, lots of people drop by simply for the giveaway (though I suspect at least some of them stay as regular readers). But I love the idea of giving something to my readers–partly to show appreciation, partly to make their day, partly so they can have something they otherwise couldnt find or afford (or that they just want). :)

  23. Lauren says

    As a reader from outside the US I usually find giveaways depressing sure I would love to take part, to tweet links to your blogs etc – but what’s the point as I can’t win! I completely understand the reasons why you wont send stuff outside the US, it’s certainly not cheap to do so. But it does tend to put me off reading giveaway posts. It’s part of the reason I don’t do giveaways on my blog.

  24. says

    I only enter giveaways for things I actually want/need (as opposed to because I can sell it or regift it). I usually only enter blogs that I regularly read (i.e. I don’t enter every giveaway Pioneer Woman has as I don’t read her blog on a regular basis).I also tend not to enter giveaways that are extremely popular (like 432 folks have already entered).

    I have had some giveaways but not to generate followers, just cuz it was my blogiversary and I thought it would be cool to give things away. Didn’t do it this year but may offer one later in the year.

    I usually use to pick which I think is fair (though I have no problem with those folks who ask for the “best story” and then choose themselves. You can figure out pretty quickly if folks are picking family and friends). There was the one time I used my new kitten to choose which was fun for me (and the kitten!) and just a fun way to make the decision.

    • diannejacob says

      Wow Mrs. L, you didn’t say how you used your kitten to decide. That’s creative, certainly.

      I hope people don’t enter giveaways so they can sell or regift what they win, but I guess it’s a possibility.

  25. says

    Late to the table on this one and so have found the comments as well as the post an intriguing read. Like you, Dianne, I only do book giveaways. I think of it as sharing the bounty, building traffic, rewarding readers, a bit of fun — all of that.

    I find the contests that demand folks sign up for some kind of social networking a bit pushy for my tastes (not to mention off putting). Mostly I use to pick a winner but I like to mix it up a bit and appreciate when folks think a little about their responses. Once, the book author chose a winner, which was cool.

    I try to do one a month, and tie a giveaway to a review, q&a, profile or some such, so that it fits with my content. I only giveaway books I’ve enjoyed myself or think others will. There’s the annual library sale for the rest. Oh, and just this month I learned the hard way to keep contests for North American contestants only. Just sent a hardback cookbook to Italy this week — ouch! — on the postage end. I could have chosen someone else (who would have known?) but thought that would be bad karma.

    Stephanie’s tip about the serial contest taker is sobering, but mostly I’ve found people from parts of the country I don’t normally reach delighted to have a book on its way. I believe winners when they tell me the prize made their day. Everyone gets to feel good.

    • diannejacob says

      Yeah, coulda warned you about the postage, but I’ve received some cross mail from injured readers who also want to take part, so I have mixed feelings about it.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I get the same warm fuzzies too.

  26. says

    I don’t feel the need to be thanked with a giveaway for reading someone’s blog. I actually feel like it’s I who should be thanking the blogger for what they’re sharing with me…their experience…their recipes…their photos…and their time. Those are their gifts to me that I so much appreciate. I don’t want or need you to giveaway a prize because I’m already getting the prize. :)

    • diannejacob says

      Awww, Sheila. That is a lovely sentiment. I guess I sometimes do giveaways simply because people are willing to give me good books for that purpose.

  27. Arie Rich says

    Wow this is all very interesting. I am blogger and this year I’ve conducted several giveaways on my blog. I realize that you get more comments left when you have a giveaway. A few months back when Google Wave came out I did a giveaway on invites and that brought a lot of traffic and comments. I thought it was funny.
    Anyways, I agree that giveaways should be simple to enter. I recently started a giveaway promotion called #10WeeksB4Xmas where I post a giveaway each Friday until 12/24. I enjoy having these giveaways. Everyone looks fwd to Fridays. I keep simple to enter: leave a comment answering a question. Winner selected by No need to beg for subscriptions or FB or twitter followers. That’s desperate and pathetic I think. Makes your blog seems as all you care about is people subscribing to your blog for your numbers to go up.

    • diannejacob says

      Yeah, I made people tweet about it when my book came out, and I’m not sure if I liked that idea. It certainly drove traffic to the giveaway, though. Sounds like you have a good approach, Arie.