The Good, Bad and Ugly Guide to Blogger Giveaways

Warning! Dangers of Blogger Giveaways

Giving away products to high-profile bloggers can be an excellent way to let people know about your business and what you have to offer. However, if you go about things in the wrong way it can be a minefield full of potential disasters. This guide will show you the various ways you can run such promotions and the risks you might face along the way.

Let’s start with the worst possible scenario.

Ugly blogger giveaways

Earlier in 2013, flower delivery company Interflora was removed from Google searches completely. Although we can’t be entirely certain about why this happened, the overwhelming suspicion is that it was at least partly to do with the blogger giveaways it was running.

For a closer look at what the company was up to, you can read this piece – but generally the problem was this: It was sending products to bloggers and in exchange asking for an article with a link back to its website.

This in itself is a breach of Google’s webmaster guidelines and would have been enough for the company to penalise the Interflora site. However, things were compounded by the fact the bloggers were asked to use exact match anchor text and were often cramming three links into very short posts.

When the penalty hit, Interflora was put in the awkward position of having to contact bloggers to remove or no-follow the links they had put in their posts – something that can often lead to a negative reaction.

This kind of promotion is far more trouble than it’s worth.

The “bad” blogger give-away

Of course, it is possible to run a giveaway that breaches Google’s guidelines without getting caught. You just have to be more subtle about it than Interflora was. Not asking bloggers to use exact match anchor text is a good start, as would be specifying a minimum word length for each post.

However, even if you manage to slip under Google’s radar while doing your giveaway, you could fall foul of the government, depending on their rules on promotions. In the UK, all advertising has to be clearly disclosed and similar rules apply in the USA.

This means that your subtle link building campaign may land you in hot water with regulators, even if Google doesn’t catch you.

It’s also important to remember that bloggers themselves are covered by these regulations, so they may insert “sponsored post” at the top of the article whether you want them to or not. If they then include a followed link back to your site, your tracks become almost impossible to cover and you may end up in trouble with Google anyway.

The “good” blogger giveaway

So how can you run a giveaway that won’t incur the wrath of Google, advertising regulators, or both? The only real answer to this is not to use giveaways as a link building technique and instead focus on PR and traffic generation.

The only truly safe giveaway post is one that is clearly marked as sponsored and features no-follow links. That means your rankings won’t benefit, but if you target high-traffic blogs then you can expect people to click through to your site and they might even become customers.

Offering something for the blogger’s audience, such as a special discount, will help encourage this behaviour.

Of course, you can still run a giveaway as a link building campaign, but it’s important that you understand and accept the risks that go along with doing so. For many firms, playing it safe is increasingly attractive.

The best alternative

If you do want to build links through bloggers and have a budget to spend, then you should also consider running a meet-up. Invite along key bloggers from your niche, show them a good time and maybe make a product announcement. That way, the posts they write afterwards won’t be considered sponsored and neither will any links they might choose to include.

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Will Stevens of domain name registrar 123-reg writes on a range of online marketing topics including SEO, outreach and social media.

Latest posts by Will Stevens (see all)


  1. As usual, there are pros and cons to everything, no difference with blogging. It needs to be taken care to use blogging as a powerful marketing tool. Good example mentioned to elaborate the same. Worthy article to be known by business using blogging

  2. Giveaways are the wonderful lovely concept of the bloggers..Every blogger should want to put the giveaways contest or gifts..because they love their blog followers and this strategy also helps to regain the more unique visitors to them blog. But some of us bloggers are not follow this strategy in a good way..why this i don’t know yet..Now i got in-depth of information through this post..anyway good to share this wonderful awakening post.

  3. Hi Will, whatever you wrote in your post is indeed true. Giveaways are actually being used as a link to get rankings, but seems like people forget Google is omnipresent. It will not let anyone get the better of it by using a bit of wit. Thanks for the post, it was helpful.

  4. Agree with admin and i also suggest to beginners that, Quality content and quality Back link are two basic way to improve the Rankings. After hummingbird Google also focus on these two things

  5. Hi
    I never thought it would make a Giveaways for the blog. Now I know how to do. thanks for tips.

  6. Great tips especially for newbies like me. It’s good to be able to give away freebies to your target audience but I never really thought there are certain giveaways that can get my website into trouble. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I am new to this game and this article is useful for me and it gave me some very useful Google’s guidelines. Specially, it categorizes blogger giveaways into three categories like ugly, bad and Good blogger giveaways.
    We always study new guideline and updates for avoid penalization.

  8. Thanks for explaining about this wonderful post. I am new to blogging world and is planning to run a giveaway on my blog. After reading this post i am sure my giveaway will be successful. Cheers

  9. Thanks for explaining about this wonderful post.I am new to blogging world and is planning to host a giveaway on my blog.I am sure this post is going to help me now:)

  10. Great Share Will.. And thank you for sharing about the business dealings of Interflora, and what we all should gather from it. Giveaways should be to attract new readers or customers, and should be giving something of value as a contest

  11. Robert Colt Downs says:

    I Completely Agree with this article. Giveaways for the sake of link building is one of the most suicidal moves any person can do. After all, we are just playing by Google’s rules and if Google says that thing is not allowed, we’d best follow.
    If not, we can be certain of placing ourselves “at hot waters” as you speak.
    Finding a loophole around the system would not be as effective either. One algorithm update later and WHAM, you’re busted.
    Its best to play it safe when it comes to Google. I agree with your best Alternative for good giveaways. That way, even Google does not consider what the blogger says or what they links as sponsored by somebody else or as music fans call it, a sell out.
    It just does not bode well if people mess around with Google through bad giveaways. keeping mind of the rules and being generally careful online will save a lot of problems when Google comes a knocking.

  12. to know “”The Good, Bad and Ugly”” is very interesting for us as a new bloggers this can make us know more things and avoid so many mistakes that can make us feel so week as well as our post too…. i like so much this ideas that you are share with us here … really thanks so much for sharing it with us ..

  13. Hello,
    Great word i like shared all thing about blogger give a ways.

  14. This is something that we are aware about. Whether it is a good, bad or ugly giveaways for the sake of Google ranking, I would rather than move on to other major search engines. Google always do regular updates on their Panda, Penguin and the latest one; Hummingbird which I believe bring a disaster to bloggers as well as businesses. Why wasting your effort, time and money while you see the risk clearly. Move on guys!

  15. Chetan Gupta

    Hi will
    Thanks for explaining about this wonderful post. I never take part in giveaway because I didn’t know very well that how to win that giveaway but your post teach me some thing about these giveaway contests and I agree with you. 😉

  16. Hi Wills,
    Thank you so much for sharing with us about Bloggers giveaways,specially mentioning its pros and cons. We were unaware about the bad blogger giveaways and also about the safest giveaway post that is clearly marked as sponsored and features no-follow links.

    Good Job :) keep going :)

  17. Hi,
    Thank You Wills for sharing with us the pros and cons of Blogger giveaways .Many of the points that you said , was unaware to us, specially about how the “bad” blogger giveaways effect us in the business.And the very strong-safe way of building links by giveaway post ,that is clearly marked as sponsored and features no-follow links.

    Keep going Wills :) Good Job :)

  18. I was never aware that blog giveaways can go so wrong in so many ways. It does not shock me, though, the Interflora example, as I know tens of other examples that have escaped the Google punishment and are still running as such. Thanks for the article!

  19. hi thanks for this post this reminded me of those sort of formulas by which related to this article for bloggers

  20. Felipe Kurpiel

    That is a really interesting strategy. I never thought about doing a meet-up inviting other bloggers. But I can see how powerful this can be once you know the right people.
    thanks for sharing.

  21. Agree with will, most blogger make many criticle mistakes like this and this is the main reason why they can’t make money with blogging but apart from that if we follow the right tricks then blogger enjoy is profession

  22. Great info. I never really thought about the SEO impacts of running contests on blogs. I always see them and they usually are being used to build social media likes and shares. I will keep your suggestions in mind if I decide to run any contests on our blog.

  23. I hadn’t considered some of the downsides to this type of promotion – thank you for making me aware. I could see how numerous business owners can shoot themselves in the foot without realizing it. Your suggestions of safe giveaways are helpful.

  24. Hi Will,

    I’ve yet to do a blog giveaway….but I’ve seen several people do really well with theirs. When I do decide to do one, I know that your tips will definitely help me out. Thanks for sharing these tips, I hope you have a great day.

  25. Jack Smith says:

    Thanks for guiding and sharing the details. Really worth reading your article. The examples you shared will always remind me to stop my mistakes.

  26. Quite an informative article you’ve shared here, with which I have to agree. Having no back links for a sponsored post in blogger giveaways is quite important.

  27. OMG !! I was never aware of these things . Dangers of Giveaways ? But i think now a days lots and lots of bloggers are listing giveaways for people . You have made me to think about this . Thanks for sharing it with us , now i will keep these things in mind . Very helpful post .

  28. Thank you for this informative post. I agree that we should focus on traffic and lead generation. Besides that is our purpose of getting rankings. If we can get customers, why should we worry of the rankings. We should realize that there are webmasters’ rules, and we should obey it for the fairness of all.

  29. Hi Will,

    Giveaways used to be one of the most effective ways for link building before InterFlora got penalized. But, what is your opinion about product reviews post ? If blogger receives a product and writes a review about it , will it be a sponsored post because all big Tech blogs keep writing reviews of latest gadgets or travel bloggers reviewing new hotels.

    Is it also against google guidelines ?


    • Web Development Company says:

      Hi Deep,

      I think it would considered as sponsored post, and bloggers should use nofollow links while directing to product site instead of dofollow. This will ensure safety for both blogger and product site.

      There are lot of websites which are not following Google guidelines and are not affected by Google penalties but it doesn’t mean that Google won’t catch them. Instead they should be more careful and follow the mentioned guidelines.

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