Ask a Blogger – All About Giveaways (Recipe: 10 Minute Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce)

I’m excited about the Ask a Blogger question this week because it is about a very hot topic… blog giveaways. I get this question all the time from newer bloggers and it is a great one. The most recent time this question was asked was earlier this week, by one of my own Adopt a Blogger adoptees – Stephanie from the beautiful blog, Desserts for Breakfast. Here is Stephanie’s question:

“I’ve been thinking for a while about having my first giveaway on the blog!  I have no sponsors, so it’s totally a me-loving-to-give-things-away-to-people thing.  Plus, giveaways always seem so awesomely fun on other blogs.  But, I don’t know the first thing about any logistics of running a blog giveaway and can’t seem to find anything on Google about it, so I was hoping that you’d be willing to give me a few tips?  Mainly, what rules and legal things do you think I should be aware of?  And, how do you think I could garner enough entries to make the giveaway be worthwhile?”

Such a great question and I can’t wait to read everyone’s answers in the comment section. I think giveaways can be a lot of fun too and it is a great way to show your readers how much you appreciate them. Everyone loves free stuff!
First, you need to figure out what you want to giveaway. That is important and will become the cornerstone for the way other parts of your giveaway are handled. As far as logistics, a few things you’ll want to consider:

  1. How do you want people to enter? I usually do the leave a comment on the giveaway post as an entry and let the Random Number Generator choose the winner, but some people do where you can get extra entries if you tweet it, subscribe to your feed, get email updates, become a Facebook fan, that kind of thing. I am not organized enough to keep track of all that, so that is why I just do “leave a comment” or answer a question, etc. as an entry. Make sure you stress that if they enter, they MUST leave a way for you to get a hold of them so you can notify them if they win. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who forget to include their email address! Just saying “Katherine” and “I’d love to win this” gives me no clue about who you are in the big old blogosphere.
  2. Do you want it to be open to everyone, or only readers in the US or your geographic area. This is basically to cover where are you willing to ship the prize to.  If it is a gift certificate or something, this doesn’t really matter, but if it is something heavy to ship, then it could be an issue. Also, customs could be an issue, so you really have to consider this carefully.
  3. Since it is a sponsor free giveaway, you will just want to put somewhere in the post a disclaimer like “I love <whatever you are giving away>… the company in no way sponsored or is representative of this post. I’m doing the giveaway out of the goodness of my heart to show you all how much I appreciate you”. Something more creative like that to indicate to your readers that no one is paying you or giving you any goodies to have the giveaway.
  4. And finally, you have to realize that although a great giveaway can be a nice traffic booster, without some nurturing, it isn’t often traffic that sticks around much longer after the giveaway. Your blog has to be producing great content… make people want to come back because of your writing and photography – not because you give away cool stuff.  (Stephanie has great content and photography, so this won’t be an issue for her… but just a tip for others out there wondering the same thing!)

So – experienced bloggers… I’d love to hear your opinion about blog giveaways. What tips, tricks and information do you have that might help other new bloggers out when deciding whether to do a giveaway on their blog. Leave your comment below so we can all learn from your experience!

Remember – if you are a new food blogger and have a question you’d like answered, please send me an email at kristen <at>

Because this is a food blog, I’m going to share the recipe for 10 Minute Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce from Recipezaar. This is such a quick and easy recipe for a nice, meat free, meal. Perfect for spring and summer when fresh veggies are in abundance!

10 Minute Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce (from Recipezaar)

20 min | 10 min prep


  1. Heat oil; brown garlic, onion, mushrooms and parsley.
  2. Add all other ingredients.
  3. Simmer 10 minutes.

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  1. says

    Thanks for your comment on my food blog! It’s nothing special–just family recipes, mostly–and I rarely update it. I love mushrooms, so this pasta of yours looks delicious!

  2. says

    I’ve been thinking a lot about giveaways lately. I love to do them as a fun way to engage readers. And while I certainly appreciate the opportunity to increase my subscriber/Twitter/Facebook/etc. base, it’s important to me that it not be at the expense of good content and valuable interactions on my blogs. The comment space, for me, is for community dialogue – whether the accompanying post is a new recipe or a giveaway. Rather than have it fill up with responses like “I follow you on Facebook”, I prefer to use giveaways to spark some interesting community-generated content. For example, I ran a giveaway last week where you could enter two ways: once on the blog, responding to “What was the best dish you cooked/baked in the past year – leave a link if you have one” and once on the Facebook fan page, leaving a comment about your best cooking/baking tip. This approach worked for me because 1) it encouraged interactions on both the blog and the Facebook fan page (picking up new *engaged* fans along the way) and 2) created valuable content that was fun and informational to read through.
    .-= Kathy – Panini Happy´s last blog ..How to Make Panini With a Cast-Iron Panini Press =-.

  3. says

    Great question and detailed answer! What are your thoughts on companies that email bloggers about offering a giveaway on the blog? Like, not a product review or anything like that, they just want the blogger to host the giveaway and they will send the prize to the winner. Is there a way to know if these companies are reputable and will follow through? Maybe I’m just being paranoid :)
    .-= Liz´s last blog ..CEiMB: Pasta Puttanesca =-.

  4. says

    I would recommend reaching out to etsy shops you like …….just send an email to the owner asking if they’d like to do a giveaway on your blog in exchange for publicity to their business!! I bet it wont take long to get a yes!!

    That way your not spending anything on a giveaway……and your helping out a small business “get the word out” about their product/shops.

    When I had my first giveaway, I asked friends I knew that had shops…they were happy to do it!!
    .-= TidyMom´s last blog ..I’m Lovin’ It! ~Easter Cut-Out Cookies =-.

  5. says

    I love what Kathy said about using contests as a way to engage readers. Like you mentioned above, it can be tricky to retain readers once the contest is over.

    I am on a personal mission to build a better community on my blog. It seems to be working a bit in that people are leaving more comments, asking more questions and responding well to issues…But I know I could be doing much better. Perhaps a contest would be a good way for new people to find their way over…and if the content is relevant to them, they will hopefully stick around and make the community better for everyone :-)
    .-= Michelle (What’s Cooking)´s last blog ..Cooking with Toddlers: Foods Starting with D =-.

  6. says

    Great question! But first off–the sauce. It has everything I want–it looks great, it’s quick–and it uses nice, fresh ingredients! Love it.

    I’ve hosted quite a few giveaways on my blog. Some are sponsored and some are out of pocket. I do love to give things away, so they’re a lot of fun for me. Once you do a couple, you realize it can be an easy process.

    First, be sure to specify where you can ship to. Generally, I find that brand name sponsors only ship to the US and sometimes CA–so you need to check with them.

    If a company contacts me to host a giveaway–first, I want it to be something I like. How can I chat up a product if I don’t like it? You can always respectfully decline if you don’t care for the item. Providing that I do like it, I try to take flattering photos of the product, whether it’s food or not. Food? Put it in a pretty dish, make a recipe with it, give readers ideas how to use it, etc. I’ve only had one company contact me about hosting one, and we agreed, but they never followed through. Did I sweat it? No, I’m not going to chase them. If they really want to, they’ll follow up and get it done.

    Let your readers know if the company provided you with a free sample to try out first.

    I also like to include a good amount of links to the company’s website, if they have one. I feel that if they’re willing to give me something to give away, I’ll try to be as good to them as I can, and try to drive some traffic to them.

    If it’s out of pocket, tell your readers why you love whatever it is so much. How do you use it? In recipes? Is it a gadget, or favorite book? I gave away a Saveur subscription on my birthday, because it’s my favorite magazine. That was fun! It can also be a book you love. One tip? Amazon is an awesome source for giveaways, because you can ship directly to the winner, and save the cost of shipping it yourself. Also, your giveaway can then be open to anyone that Amazon can ship to.

    Entries? I love Panini Kathy’s idea to ask an interesting question of the readers. It makes for fun comments to read through. I switch it up and sometimes do that, or sometimes just ask them to leave a comment.

    I always offer the “Retweet this message and earn one extra entry” deal. Because let’s face it, it’s a good way to promote your giveaway. Make sure you clearly state for readers to leave an extra comment when they tweet. This can be one per day, or unlimited entries. You can also offer an extra entry for posting about it on Facebook.

    Also, if there’s food involved, I try to get a good shot to submit to the food photo sites. They bring traffic, which promotes your post!

    As far as the extra things for entries…I sometimes ask readers to visit the website of the sponsoring company, and for their entry comment, tell me something they learned on the site, about the item.

    I never ever ever enter the giveaways that make me comment, tweet, FB, follow them on FB, Fan them on FB, subscribe to their blog, jump over the moon, dance around a bonfire naked at midnight, and chant when the planets are aligned. It’s too much work, and I get exhausted just reading the rules. (Well, I did once, for a super cool giant backyard playset. But that was it!)

    Bottom line? Keep it simple! They can be so much fun! And as said earlier, if you have good content on your blog, you’ll get new readers that will come back to see more from you.
    .-= Elle´s last blog ..Moleskine Journal and Chef’n G’Rabbit Pepper Grinder Winner! =-.

  7. says

    Great blog post and comments – I’ve learned quite a bit just by reading it all.

    I do have a question: is it usual that when contact by a company to do a review, that you receive the item for yourself (to review)…in addition to the one that will be given away?

    Or, do bloggers do giveaways with items they have never personally used/received (but maybe they know it’s a good brand/product)?

    I’m just a bit confused about how it works when a company only wants to provide one item (for example, just the item you will give away). It’s not something I’ve used firsthand, so I can’t legitimately give a “review”. Does it make sense to hold a giveaway with something that you just think is great (that you would consider buying for yourself), just for the sake of giving something away?

    What is everyone’s thoughts on this?
    .-= Brandie´s last blog ..WFMW: How I Search For Recipes =-.

  8. says

    Great discussion, everyone! I’m going to try and answer a few of the questions that have shown up in the comments.

    Julia: As far as publicizing the giveaway – in addition to my blog post, I tweet about it a couple of times and also include info on my Facebook page.

    Liz – I haven’t had any problems working with companies who don’t send prizes out. I think most PR Firms and Corporations understand the power of the blogging community. It wouldn’t be very smart of them, publicity wise, to offer a giveaway item and then to never send it. I’ve never had that problem, but I am sure it exists. If you get a funny feeling from their email, then I would say pass. Otherwise, it is a great way to offer up a giveaway for your readers through a sponsored giveaway!

    Elle – LOL

    Brandie – I have a requirement with the companies that I work with that I have to try the product out first. I typically will only do a sponsored review or a giveaway if I can try out the product and have an extra one for one of my readers to enjoy. I wouldn’t feel right writing about something that I did not personally get to try. Let the company who contacted you know what your requirements are, and I bet you 99% of the time they will be willing to oblige. Your blog post about how great you think their product is will be more genuine if you have had first hand experience for it. It is a win-win and great PR for them, so that is why they usually are ok with doing one for you and one for a reader!

    Great discussion everyone!
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Ask a Blogger – All About Giveaways (Recipe: 10 Minute Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce) =-.

  9. says

    I needed this post a few days ago! I threw my first giveaway for my first blogiversary, and it was a fun learning experience. I just modeled how other food bloggers have done their giveaways, but I modified it to the theme and interests of my blog, which is international everything. I think I should have made the requirement to enter be a little easier though (I asked them to answer three questions) because not as many people participated as I expected. It was successful for a first giveaway nonetheless!

  10. says

    Thank you so much for the advice! I’m a relatively new blogger myself and looking to increase interest beyond just my friends and family. I enjoy your suggestions and approach overall, not to mention very enticing dining suggestions to keep an eternally single gal under her own roof for once!


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