Net Smart Moms: Finding Contests and Sweepstakes on the Internet

If you like me, you love a good contest or sweepstakes. But with so many online, how can you tell them all apart? I find it easiest to break them down into three categories: national brand contests, website contests, and affiliate program contests. While not every online contest fits into one of these categories, most fit nicely.

National Brand Giveaways

National brand giveaways are my favorites. They tend to have the largest payouts with the least chance of your information being sold. Prizes often include vacations, automobiles, and large cash prizes. In addition, there are usually multiple smaller prizes in addition to the grand prizes.

Various contest websites collect these national brand contests and sweepstakes and earn no income off of your participation. The national brands sponsor these contests primarily in an effort to achieve brand recognition and publicity. Some will begin sending you coupons or promotions, but only if you check a box that you allow it. Aside from the contest directories, you can find these contests yourself by visiting your favorite national brands online.

The national brand giveaways may also be in the form of recipe contests or essay contests. Often they are tied to big events such as holidays, sporting events, movie premiers, or rewards shows. Examples of sponsors of national brand giveaways include Procter & Gamble, Oprah, Kraft, and Disney.

Website Freebies

Smaller companies will often feature low budget contests on their websites as a means of getting website traffic. The website freebies are also a way of getting you to sign up for a newsletter or company distribution list. That is not to say that the contests are not worth entering. In fact, your chances of winning are likely to be much better than with the national brand contests.

Contest websites directories that feature national brand giveaways will often include many of the smaller freebie contests as well. A good example of the smaller website freebie is Usborne books. You can find these contests by visiting contest directories or purely by searching for your favorite types of products in a search engine with the word "contest." Chances are good that you will stumble across these on your own.

Survey Signup Contests

Survey contests are a different animal altogether. Although these will sometimes feature a national brand as the prize, they are not affiliated in any way with that national brand. You have to read the fine print on the website carefully.

As far as I can tell, the motive behind the survey signup contest is to gather your data for use (usually) by third parties. The down side of these is that you can get added to lists where you will receive a lot of spam (email junk mail). The up side is that you will often receive the opportunity for free samples or discounts from vendors. The motivation on the part of the website directory where you find the link is generally that the website gets paid per number of entries.

You will predominately find these listed in contest directories or as part of advertisements. You can also search for the word "survey" and your particular area of ​​interest and you will find hundreds of them quickly.

Contests in General

The bottom line with all of these contests is to know what you are getting into. Read the print of every checkbox on the screen before you decide whether it is worth it to enter a contest. All of the types of giveaways listed above can be legitimate when done properly. One tip that I give everyone is to set up a separate email account for your contest entries. In the event that you get placed on a spam list, you will protect your personal or work account for too much traffic or even viruses.