Online contests drive website conversions by building hype, but companies shouldn't overlook old-fashioned content marketing for ROI.

Marketers must be able to prove social and search marketing strategies are generating better ROI to justify further investments in these channels. Even if brands’ social followings are growing and content analytics are showing improvements, executives want to see data demonstrating continuous progress. Findings recently released by Incentivibe show that marketers convert more site traffic and generate leads by holding contests, and marketers must find ways to include these events in their broader online strategies. 

An Incentivibe infographic evaluated about 100 websites across industries that held giveaway contests in March and April 2013, attracting 3 million visitors. On average, sites hosting contests that offered $500 worth of prizes gained 700 percent more email subscribers.

B2Bs and B2Cs benefit from these promotions – fashion and clothing brands generated 11x more leads through these events, compared to other professional services companies that experienced 5x more leads. In addition to building bigger contact lists, brands that hosted contests saw Facebook interactions increase fivefold and Twitter engagement quadruple.

However, marketers don’t have to give away $500 prizes to earn loyalty from potential customers. Creating custom content with readers’ needs in mind can drive qualified traffic from search back to branded websites. While this may not provide dramatic upticks in traffic to home pages of Facebook Pages (unless you hit a viral nerve), it leads to better conversion rates over time. In fact, marketers who create cross-channel campaigns to nurture leads may find that approach more cost effective.

A recent B2B Magazine survey found companies use email marketing to achieve many goals, including customer retention, brand awareness, lead nurturing and customer acquisition. The fuel that drives 47 percent of businesses toward those objectives – custom content.

Contests can help businesses quickly expand their social followings or convert site visitors into leads, but content marketing provides brands with a resource powerhouse that generates leads in the long run.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.