Admit it. You’re sceptical.
Is great content really the answer to all your blogging woes?
Maybe you’ve heard the mantra once too often, but you can’t help wondering…
Even if you do work your ass off on a post, will it get the recognition it truly deserves?
The blogosphere is so crowded and noisy, even the good stuff gets lost.
So is it even worth the effort to try?
Well, here’s the disappointing truth…
Until you reach a certain level of internet “fame”, the quality of your content doesn’t count for much. You’re like an artist hanging work in a gallery nobody visits.
Quite simply, your blog isn’t big enough – yet. You don’t have the right connections – yet.
And until you’ve spent longer on the blogging treadmill, and earned your blogger’s dues, the most likely result of creating great content is the feeling of disappointment when it’s completely ignored.
It’s not fair. But then nobody said it would be.
That’s why you need an unfair advantage. You need powerful friends…
Enter the Serious Bloggers Only “Best Posts of 2014” Contest
Here at Smart Blogger, we know just how hard it is to gain traction for your blog from a standing start. And we know just how frustrating it can be working out which advice to follow and which to ignore to build momentum for your blog.
That’s why we created Serious Bloggers Only (SBO) – our “gated community” for people who treat blogging as more than just a hobby. Our members are committed to blogging success and want to be smart about how they get there.
So our monthly mini-courses (which drill down into crazy detail on an important blogging topic) give members the information they need to get serious, and the community gives them the support they need to put it into practice.
We’re not embarrassed to say that Serious Bloggers Only gives members an unfair advantage over other bloggers – and we’re always looking for ways to increase that edge.
So we keep a close eye on our community forums, looking for opportunities to help our members get unstuck. And recently we noticed that some members were creating great content on their blogs (and elsewhere), but it wasn’t getting the recognition it deserved.
And we quickly realized that Smart Blogger is the perfect platform to remedy that situation by highlighting the best of those unsung (or at least under-sung) posts.
So we created the Serious Bloggers Only “Best Posts of 2014” Contest.
The brief to SBO members was simple: send us your best post from 2014, either published on your own blog or as a guest post, and tell us why it deserves recognition.
We received nearly 150 entries, and the selection below represents the cream of the crop. If you’re serious about blogging, you’d do well to study and emulate these posts for yourself.
The Contest Results
The judging process in any contest such as this is naturally subjective, but we’ve tried to reward those qualities that we champion ourselves – on this blog and in training courses such as our guest blogging program.
Inevitably, many excellent entries have not been included in this list – the standard was very high. But we read a lot of blog posts in an average week and we gave extra credit to those posts that did things a little differently and stood out from the norm.
We also asked entrants to indicate their experience level because we’re particularly keen to recognize strong work by members nearer the start of their blogging journey.
So here they are, the 23 winners of the Serious Bloggers Only “Best Posts of 2014” Contest.
Category: Best List Post
We’re huge fans of list posts here at Smart Blogger, and we’re not the only ones – a quick survey of the blogosphere shows that list posts still reign supreme.
Jon has long recommended the “monster” list post – featuring more points than most bloggers will be prepared to write – as a sure-fire way to get noticed, even as a beginner.
But the real challenge of the list post is coming up with points that readers haven’t seen a hundred times before.
If you can create more points than the reader would expect and make those points fresh and surprising, then you have all the ingredients for a winning post.
Winner – Sumitha Bhandarkar – A Fine Parent
Sumitha’s list post is supersized in more ways than one – it packs a big punch with a large number of distinctive points that also deliver genuine value for parents. Breaking the points out into logical categories makes it a breeze to navigate, but don’t underestimate the effort required to come up with this many points – or the value of doing so.
Runner-up – Cylon George – Pick The Brain (Guest Post)
This post shows how even a simple list can have a big impact. The headline makes a clear promise, and Cylon delivers on this with uncomplicated advice that feels both inspiring and practical. Unexpected points like “Strike a power pose” set it apart from the average “me too” self-improvement post.
Category: Best Storytelling
Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools available to any writer, but it presents a challenge for many bloggers.
The most accessible stories are those taken from our own lives, but relating a personal story that grips even a total stranger is tough – we can easily overestimate the capacity of our personal lives to fascinate others.
But two approaches work time and time again. Either restrict your storytelling to events so inherently dramatic that no reader could remain unmoved. Or quickly establish a link between your story and the reader – and show what they can learn from your experiences.
Winner – Daisy Luther – The Organic Prepper
Consider how often Hollywood pitches its protagonist against a natural threat – it makes for compelling drama. In this post, Daisy tells the gripping story of a forest fire that threatened to engulf her family’s home. Notice how even though the action unfolds over several days, she skillfully maintains the pace and tension throughout.
Runner-up – Ellen Bard – Tiny Buddha (Guest Post)
Ellen’s post does a fantastic job of drawing valuable lessons from a dramatic event – literally being hit by a truck. While the real-life story has its own power, Ellen knows that the post will only have lasting impact if her points have independent value – the story is simply the warm-up act for the advice that follows.
Highly commended – Jon Bowes – Adventupreneur
Although Jon’s no-details-spared account of his experiments with Ayahuasca (a psychoactive plant) in the Peruvian jungle are highly personal, readers will be quickly drawn in by his raw honesty and his willingness to explore the ragged edges of human experience.
Category: Best “Big Idea”
Blogging is about sharing ideas. Sometimes the idea is simple – sharing tips for interview success, or foods to promote health. Other times an idea sets out to break new ground.
This category celebrates big ideas, posts looking at a topic from a fresh perspective, or making interesting connections between seemingly unrelated areas.
Big ideas are exciting. Not just because they’re risky – an untested idea may fail to connect with its audience – but because they have the capacity to set the reader’s imagination alight.
And big ideas are a powerful way for any blogger to make their mark in a crowded blogosphere.
Winner – Gregory Butler – Improve Photography (Guest Post)
This post rests on a single “big idea,” the notion that digital photographers can learn from the color masters of previous centuries – painters such as Van Gogh, Renoir and Monet. Gregory brings it all to life with concrete examples that show it’s not just a neat concept but an innovative perspective that has real practical value.
Runner-up – John Yeoman – Writers’ Village
In this post John draws a parallel between the descriptive terms used by coffee connoisseurs and the qualities that make a good story. This could easily have been an initially interesting idea that fell apart under scrutiny, yet John so meticulously explains the properties of a potent story that the two worlds feel like a perfect blend.
Highly commended – Jessica Glendinning – The Rebel Yogi
Comic-book superheroes have their origin stories and Jessica demonstrates that blogs can have them too. Using a familiar airline safety announcement as a metaphor for self-care in all aspects of life is a unexpected cross-pollination of ideas, but perfectly-suited to her point, and sets the scene for her entire blog.
Category: Most Valuable Post
The relative merit of a blog post can be measured in numerous different ways. Is it well-written? Is it entertaining? Does it have a clear structure?
But one of the most important measures of your content is its value – by how much is the reader’s life or situation improved by reading it?
This category is intended to reward posts that will have a measurable and lasting positive impact on the reader and those around them.
Winner – Gilly Cannon – Brainstorm
Gilly’s post has heaps of humanity and tackles a tough subject with specific and credible advice. By empowering the reader to offer the right kind of support to a bereaved or traumatized friend this post could make a real difference in a tough situation we may all face at some point.
Runner-up – Lisa C. Baker – A Fine Parent (Guest Post)
Powerful, practical advice enriched with personal examples make this post a potential lifesaver for parents with children who struggle with irrational fears. The “2-Minute” and “Ongoing” Action Plans help parents translate the theory into practice.
Highly commended – Jason Kong – The Book Designer (Guest Post)
Many writers dream of breaking into the fiction market and Jason’s “mistakes” post offers down-to-earth advice of real value to the beginning writer. You can easily imagine a budding novelist feeling calmer and more purposeful after reading this level-headed post.
Category: Most Personality
Some bloggers bring so much personality to their writing that you visit their blogs just to spend some time in their company.
And that’s the kind of magical connection that can build a truly popular blog. Because if you build a blog on good information alone, you’ll always be competing with other bloggers providing the same information.
But when readers stop by simply to hear from you, that’s something they can’t get anywhere else.
The winners in this category allow their personalities to shine through in their writing, and it makes for highly engaging reading.
Winner – Michelle Combs – Rubber Shoes in Hell
Michelle’s short post has a lot of sass (and some strong language too). A seductive headline grabs our attention, and her clever “daisy chain” list style draws the reader from point to point. Short and bittersweet, but impossible to resist!
Runner-up – Brenda Spandrio – The Declutter Lady
Brenda takes a simple idea and infuses it with tons of personality. Brenda’s writing voice comes through so strongly that you can easily picture her in your home, talking you through the quick wins of decluttering your living space.
Highly commended – Maureen Hawes – The Midlife Diaries
This post has a lot of personality and attitude. Once again, the author’s voice can be heard clearly in the writing. It almost has a theatrical quality – you could imagine it as the opening monologue from a one-woman off-Broadway play.
Category: Best Use of Examples
Many blog posts remain too abstract and readers struggle to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
Choosing – or if necessary conjuring – the right examples is a powerful way to bring your ideas to life, but too few bloggers take the time to do it.
The reason – it’s hard work. But if you won’t spend the time, you can be sure your readers won’t either.
So this category celebrates the examples and detailed explanations that transform a post from interesting to genuinely useful.
Winner – Cynthia Crossley – ADDSpark (Guest Post)
Cynthia’s not afraid to coin new terms in the pursuit of a tantalizing headline. Her 14 examples of “descriptive praise” perfectly cement the principles described in her post and you can easily imagine the parent of an ADD child referring to them again and again.
Runner-up – Anthony Metivier – Magnetic Memory Method
Describing complex processes can be difficult – more so when they are mental processes. Anthony uses a realistic scenario and detailed examples to show how his “Memory Palace” technique works in practice, making accessible a process that could easily have remained abstract and distant.
Highly-commended – Leslie Kernisan – Geriatrics for Caregivers
Leslie’s post on proactive caregiving for geriatrics could easily have been a dry and clinical (pun intended) affair. But by structuring it as a mini-mystery and providing clear, relatable examples, the result is a post that’s easy to read but equips the reader with simple tools to diagnose problems that might otherwise be missed.
The following entries deserved to be featured in our final list but didn’t naturally fall into one of the popular categories above.
Best Round-up – Samar Owais – Freelance Flyer
Round-up posts are a great way to make a splash – and to network with influencers – but they require a lot of work. Here Samar, as her headline promises, successfully connects with some of the biggest names in her industry and the result is packed with practical advice.
Most Epic Scope – Sandra Vallaure – Spain Traveller
A highly effective way for a post to have long-term value (and potentially attract search traffic for months or even years to come) is to make it so comprehensive that it becomes the definitive resource on its subject. This English language guide to Spanish rail travel does exactly that.
Most Viral – June Silny – LifeHack (Guest Post)
With nearly 2 million shares this post hardly needs help from us to get exposure, but the real reason for its inclusion is recognize the author’s persistence. This was June’s twentieth post for LifeHack and while others were also successful, this one exploded. It serves as a reminder that sometimes all you need to do it keep writing.
Most Inspiring – Christine Livingston – Livingston Consulting
This simple, elegant post opens with a story of a friend lost to cancer and asks us to consider the legacy we want to leave behind. While personal tragedy often makes us think more deeply about the things that truly matter, Christine inspires us to start the thinking now, without waiting for life to give us a reason.
Best Topical Post – Barbara Miller – Yes Spaces
Sometimes it’s smart to join a conversation that’s already going on. So what better way to wrap up our list of winners than with a seasonal post? Barbara combines personality, personal story and strong photography to create an engaging and warm-spirited post that will enhance any family Christmas!
How Will You Make Powerful Friends in 2015?
Want more recognition and respect in 2015?
Then remember that these things don’t exist in isolation – they come from people.
And if you want recognition and respect from the right people, you need to put yourself in their line of sight.
But you must combine it with the best content you can possibly create.
Because blogging is a popularity contest, judged by your friends.
And the more powerful your friends, the bigger the prize.
So start making friends – and the content you’ll be proud to show them.