You: a new blogger who came across these two words for the first time: "blog awards". Suddenly you brain goes on overdrive. You think "why not me?". After a while negativity starts settling in. "My blog is not pretty enough". "I don't have a logo". "I've only been writing for a few months". Recognise yourself in these thoughts?
Me: a blogger who's been though all this and came out on the other side smiling. Not the first time, mind you. So let me tell you a story. There was once a girl with big ideas and a love to write.
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash with Typography by HOMELOV superimposed by yours truly
The girl was (and still is) a lawyer by trade who did not practice her trade in the traditional sense, inside courts, instead she chased baddies out of the financial system however way possible (I'm a - brace yourself for it - an Anti Money Laundering Compliance Officer, an Financial Crime reporting Officer and everything in between).
But this was not a very creative job (although you have to be creative in tricking baddies). At the time, the girl had moved homes and had set up a website to share the progress of said renovations with her mom. To make the makeovers more interesting, she wrote stories to go along with the photos.
Then one day, the girl was reading Houzz (obvs!) and from there she discovered AMARA and the Interior Blog Awards. The girl, who had built websites before, thought to herself "I can do that" and set about creating an interiors blog. She was utterly convinced that with a lot of work, she could actually win an award herself. I'm telling you, she totally believed it.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
The girl had to nominate herself in the first time round (yes, self-nomination is allowed and is nothing to feel bad about. After all, there are so many blogs out there, and so little time, don't expect your followers to do all the hard work!). And then had to work literally into the night to create fresh, original content for her blog.
But she persisted. And with every post she published she got more motivated to write the next one. And she became more creative. With graphics and photos, and even started talking SEO. The blog blossomed and the girl won an award. And it was so worth it.
So to all those inner fears and doubts that wanted me to stop before I even started, and to all the thoughts that tried to make me stop along the way, I have two words for you: Fuck you.
Do awards really matter?
This will be short and sweet: Yes. For many reasons that I will explain below. Participating actively in the awards process whichever blog category you are in - interiors, fashion, beauty - even if you do not end up winning, is extremely beneficial and here's what I have taken away from the AMARA Interior Blog Awards that hopefully should inspire you to participate in the same or similar awards!
Blog awards get you organised
It was only after I was nominated for the first time that I realised: I don't have near as much content as others! And that was because my blog had been up and running for less than 6 months at the time (2015).
No matter how inspired you are, you cannot write 5 years worth of posts in a period of a couple of months. Not possible. So the moment I got nominated I upped my game with extra posts, publishing consistently and having inspired imagery, mostly my own. It all starts with a dot, and if you get past that dot you can get past the first, second or100th post too.
Typography by HOMELOV
Consistency is key and it will help you build your following faster. I've come across a number of bloggers that have written a fantastic post with great photos only to realise that they write one great piece, per quarter. That's obviously too little!
As a reader (of certain blogs) I want to know that when I decide to come back to your site, you will always have fresh content for me. And I don't mean posts that are full of (damn good) photos and no words. You need to write, whether it is to explain what the photos show, how you feel about them or whatever. Without written content there is no blog award. Simple as that. So get shit done. Now. Unless of course you are Park & Cube in which case, just photos will do fine darling.
Typography by HOMELOV
Blog awards push you to learn new skills
Seriously, competition drives you to learn new things. I invested in this Olympus camera, posted regularly and looked around what other bloggers where doing. Yes, once your blog starts growing you won't have to anymore, but when you start, other blogs are your point of reference (and whoever says otherwise simply lies, boo-hiss).
I'll refer back to Park & Cube here. Although Shini Park's blog is all about fashion, her photography and styling skills are so good, it seems that everyone visits her blog just to marvel at the editorial quality photos she posts (she has since moved on to create the Cube Collective, an editorial shoot team with stylists and more!). I cannot tell you how much I have learnt studying her style.
So in an effort to get better (at photography, typography, SEO), you're likely to read a few (hundred) posts on the subject and boom, you're getting better already and it's all because of the motivation that the award nomination gave you.
Photo: Jenny Kakoudakis for Seasons in Colour
Getting shortlisted for Best Designed Blog in 2015 AMARA IBAs made me up my game in photography so much that I delivered a fantastic campaign for Camerich UK, where I prepared a beautiful post with a townhouse theme as well as numerous photos for Instagram, like the one above. I also wrote beautiful pieces like this one on the Best Flatlay Tips Ever, that is ranked #1 on Google for Flatlay tips!
Hey, your blog is awesome too!
Once an award voting stage is on, obviously you want to know who you're competing against in your category. And guess what! You WILL come across a number of really awesome blogs that you were not aware of (whether in your category or other).
New friends to be made, hurray! If you start attending events (which you can do no matter if you have awards or not) you will start seeing the same faces over and over, so start talking to others and make blogging buddies! My blogging buddies include Ruth Matthews from Design Soda and Melanie Lissack of the eponymous blog. By the way, do you have blogging buddies? Why not?
You will also get to know more blogs, even from far away. One such blog is My Paradissi, which is run by architect Eleni in Greece. Eleni is super diligent when it comes to posting regularly and always manages to find awesome stuff on ETSY, so I'm a big fan of her blog and you should follow her too. She happens to be from Crete as well, and I always think how cool it would be to meet up with her in one of my trips there.
Another great website I now follow regularly for inspiration is STYLED CANVAS which also happened to win the Best International Interiors blog award in 2015 and whose relaxed colours and beautiful styling tips I truly admire.
What I am trying to say is, make blogging friends, engage with them during and after the awards and you will see more people in return engaging with your blog.
Have a look at this post, which explains the 'behind the scenes' during the AMARA IBAs judging day (from 2015). If you thought that AMARA's creative Director Sam Hood was going through nominations and deciding on her own, think again!
A whole panel of industry experts comes together to decide who goes to win one of the awards. Ann Grafton from GP & J Baker, Charlotte Cosby from Farrow & Ball, Jenny Gibbs from KLC Design School, David Harris from Andrew Martin, Deborah Barker Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens and 25 Beautiful Homes and top interior writer Barbara Chandler are all known to have joined Sam Hood in the past as IBA judges.
Photo: Jenny Kakoudakis for Seasons in Colour
Blog awards will get you in the habit of networking
Blog awards is a great way to start net-working, especially if you're a newbie blogger. Not only do you get to know brands you love better, you also get to know other bloggers too. I know a lot of friendships and collaborations have been forged this way, so even if you are not through to the 'awards night' you will still be invited to blogger events, and I would urge you to make the most of it. Don't pass on such opportunities.
On the awards night? Mingle! And yes, I get it, going up to someone and telling them you read their blog might not come naturally (and sometimes even sounds a bit like stalking) but I promise they will appreciate it. I asked content and social media marketer Kimberly Duran of Swoonworthy whether attending this type of blogger events helps. Here's what she had to say:
Photo: Jenny Kakoudakis for Seasons in Colour
Awards and nominations can help you financially
Even if you are not a full time blogger (maybe you're not even thinking about that - yet! - you know damn well that running a blog has some real costs - from hosting to adds on and everything in between - that sponsored posts could pay for.
But getting brands to work with you is tough - after all there are so many other bloggers out there, so why choose you specifically? - and not everyone wants to be paid in throws and cushions (talking about my industry specifically here but you get the point) because, seriously, how many bedroom posts can I prepare before my house starts resembling Designer's Guild during a sale event?
Awards and nomination can be displayed on your profile and your Media Kit and convince brands to take you seriously. After winning my IBA, I did have a steady stream of work - more than before - and managed to work with some of my favourite brands.
One of my favourite posts was a collaboration with John - freakin - Lewis (I mean, seriously!!? Me?!) and the best part of it was styling and taking photos. That post made me super creative and I told a story within it. Loved it. And I didn't get paid in cushions. Phew! I think that the little awards logo had something to do with it.
And if you are already earning through your blog, an award can be the good reason you need to finally increase your marketing fees!
Timing will be the key
Sometimes, however, timing really is the key to success. Maybe you have just found the perfect design and flow for your blog. Maybe you got that "niche" FINALLY pinned down.
"When I was nominated last year in the Amara Interior Blog Awards" says freelance interiors journalist Fiona Reid of Copperline I had recently launched my blog having worked on the design and the new site over a few months - although I'd been thinking about it for even longer! - with my designer Odysseas Constantine of 286Blue. The nomination came on the back of that whole process. Which was great timing - and made all the tweaking and refining and late night emails feel worth it!".
Fiona's blog by the way has won the "Best Designed Blog" award in 2015 and for good reason. Do visit her website, especially on the go, as her mobile version is super functional - you may get a few ideas from her work with 286Blue!
So overall, I think participating in blog awards has a really positive effect for a blog. So what are you thinking about, ready to try it out? If not now, WHEN?
Typography by Homelov
This post was originally written in September 2016 and updated in July 2017