One of most successful ways to get visitors to your site - and keep them coming back - is to run an online contest.
Not only does a contest give you a special kind of visibility, it gives you a method to 'capture' names and email addresses of folks who enter. (Don't worry, I'm not advocating that you spam them later - but there are legitimate ways you can use that list of contest entrants that you'll have).
If you decide you'd like to run a contest, you need to take following questions into consideration:
1. What do you want contest to accomplish for you?
I know, you're saying, "But we just answered this question - to get people to my site, and to capture their email addresses." Wrong answer! There's more - do you want to get feedback for a new product or service you're offering? Are you wanting to expand your market? Would you like to start a newsletter? Once you've determined your 'agenda' for contest, this will help to clarify ways to achieve your desired result.
2. What kind of prizes do you want to offer?
First of all, prizes you offer should be in some way related to your business. For example, if your goal is to increase your customer base, then you'll perhaps want to offer one of your products or services as prize. This helps to insure that you're attracting audience you want - your target market!
You may not have to offer prizes yourself, either - many merchants are happy to offer prizes in exchange for exposure to their product or service, or a link to their site. This may be a perfect opportunity for you to work with other non-competing merchants in ways that will be beneficial to both of you.
For example, I know of a sightseeing charter company who offered, as a contest prize, a 'day on beach.' They provided boat cruise, but they approached other merchants to include a barbecue, food enough for eight, a beach umbrella, and some snorkels and fins and other beach toys - in exchange for advertising exposure.