The realities of the voting contest

It seems like every day there is yet another voting contest showing up. I have several reasons why I can’t stand these things, and since I haven’t posted a rant in a while. . . Well, here you go.

voting contest, thailand, bangkok, chinatown

Popularity vs. Quality

It’s rather obvious that in a voting contest, the most popular folks are the ones who will win. That isn’t always a good thing, though.

If you’ve ever watched American Idol and remember the likes of Sanjaya, you’ll have a vivid reminder as to why popular isn’t always better.

Justin Bieber, anyone? Yeah.


I’d rather see contests and awards go to people, sites, etc., who actually deserve it for the hard work they put into creating solid content. There are some really fabulous blogs out there, like Sally’s blog. Some perhaps just don’t have the following and/or don’t want to hassle their readers for constant voting.

Many bloggers put a lot of heart and soul into their writing. They work hard to make their posts interesting, readable, entertaining, and informative. Others just throw up whatever they can just because they want a lot of “freebies.”

Some people often write posts that are specifically designed to generate traffic to their site and to increase their rank in searches, rather than focusing on quality.

While these reasons aren’t inherently wrong, per se, these types of contests and competitions have no way of sifting through people who are actually writing for their audience versus using techniques to simply increase the number of hits to their sites and therefore increase the number of trips, marketing opportunities, and dollars they earn.

Are those really the “best”?

voting contest, thailand, ko samui, temple

The grief factor

Recently a blogger experienced a horrific tragedy in her life. There is currently one of these voting contests going on, and some rather well-meaning people felt others should vote for her blog as a means of “supporting her.” Obviously, a blogging award isn’t going to make up for the tragic event in their life. If I found myself in a similar situation, I would appreciate the thought, but I would personally feel awful if I knew I won a blogging award simply because I experienced tragedy in my life.

And, frankly, I may not want all that attention while I’m in the middle of my grieving process.

Again, I know their heart is probably in the right place. As a hospice chaplain and grief counselor, I understand that people often feel powerless. I’m sure they feel they can’t do anything and desperately want to feel like they’re doing something, anything, but is this really the best way to go about it?

Lack of trust

While I’m not overly impressed with most winning selections (including the big famous ones like the Academy Awards), at least ones that are selected by a panel of “experts” and similar people tend to shoot for selecting quality over just “flash.”

Many of the sponsors of these contests try to make things a bit more fair by limiting people to one vote a day, but there are multiple methods available to easily game the system. For example, the common way to attempt to make things a bit fair is to have recognition of IP addresses so you can only vote once a day.

That is easily bypassed, though. With a VPN, you can change the IP address. When you go to Starbucks and access their WiFi, it allows you another vote. Ditto for every subsequent location you go to that offers WiFi or a wired connection.

The best of. . .

According to whom? I can easily tell you which blogs I think are the absolute best, but does that truly make them the best blogs?

This the same reason I avoid doing “best of” type posts for everything: beaches, hotels, cities, etc. I know which places I loved, but I’m fully aware that there will be others who completely disagree with me. What’s great for me isn’t necessarily great for anyone else. Even accounting for my impeccable taste.

voting contest, ko samui, thailand, temple, graves

Who really benefits?

I think most of us enjoy winning awards and getting recognition, but who is really benefiting from these contests? If a company expects you to put a post on your site promoting them so you can be officially entered into their competition, who is really winning?

The company or site is getting a crapload of increased traffic and an increase to their Google ranking for essentially nothing.

And every voter is helping them.

I saw this a year or so ago with a contest run by a popular site. The contest made it seem like the winning blogs would be recognized; however, it turned out there was no end date to the contest, and really it was just a complete traffic grab for the site. None of their staff or representatives would respond to emails, Facebook messages, or tweets.

At least be honest about it, folks!

Win my contest to get a press trip, etc. . .

This is one of my big pet peeves when it comes to blogging. Companies take advantage of hopeful independent bloggers to increase their exposure and traffic.  The blogger enters and gives away free advertising for the company in the hope that they will be selected to go on a press trip or enjoy a cool experience with their company.

Naturally, if they do win, they’ll be expected to give the company even more coverage during and after your trip. Meanwhile, all the ones who didn’t win have eagerly donated to the sponsor for nothing.

How about companies check out the bloggers that apply or express an interest and decide which ones best fit their brand and/or goals? Why the gimmick BS?

And why in the hell do people participate in being taken advantage of?

If you put a lot of care into developing your blog and your community, you seriously deserve better.

And if you made it this far, thanks for reading my rant.

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  1. Contest Shmontest.

    Luckily, our readers vote for us every time they:

    – share our content with their friends
    – comment on our posts
    – spend their time on our site

    No one can tell me what the best blog is for me, nor can they tell you, Talon!
    We’re here talking with you because YOU are the best 🙂

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  2. The took the words right out of my digital mouth Sir – bravo! Round of applause! Encore!! I had this discussion with a rep from Canada Tourism recently and said that bloggers (and general readers) are getting annoyed with the same voices all the time and that if popularity breeds popularity, how will we ever discover new people, places or voices?
    I totally agree with this rant Talon – thank you for writing it!

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    • Boy, isn’t that the truth! It’s always the same exact people doing pretty much the same thing. I hope your message was received well by them.

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  3. Wow. I’m only seriously getting in to this blogging thing just now, so I’m pretty green when it comes to stuff like this! I agree with your ideas generally, though. Just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s “the best”. I actually try to apply this mindset to many things in life.

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    • So very true! And just because we think something is “the best,” doesn’t mean it’s going to be that for everyone else.

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  4. Hear hear! Rant away, I could have said exactly the same thing myself 🙂

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  5. That was meant to be 😉

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  6. That’s the last time I vote for you! 🙂

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  7. “Win my contest to get a press trip, etc. . .”

    You’re giving away a free press tip, Talon? OMG, where do I sign up??? 😉

    Just kidding, I emphatically agree. The digital age has single-handedly elevated such contests to the pinnacle of absurd. Indeed, most are a joke.

    Case in point: The silly “Best City to Visit” contest that’s presently in full swing (about to be narrowed down to the “Sweet Sixteen” – oh I’m verily BREATHLESS to find out who wins – NOT!) I mean, like you can compare Chicago to Cairo. Uh, huh – I was going to visit Chicago on my next holiday, but now I think I’ll instead go to Cairo ‘cuz it’s the “Best City to Visit”.

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  8. Hmmm….you missed the part that contests are FUN! They create community and a chance to have a laugh with your community (especially if the contest is really lame!). As a blogger you might not like them but your readers might love the chance to vote for you in something. And why would you not write about your favourite things in a blog post? Your blog is about you – anyone who identifies with you might very well enjoy the places you like best too. Why wouldn’t you share that info with them? Who cares if everyone doesn’t agree? I think sometimes we take the blogging thing too seriously – we need to have more FUN!!! And I totally voted for you Sally….I’ll be waiting for my pony!!!!

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    • Of course you should write about your favorite things. That can be interesting and fun. I share stuff I enjoy all the time. I just don’t feel good about labeling my favorite things as “the best” or “the top” of something. They may be for me, but I’m also aware that someone else may have a completely different experience with that place. I share them, I just don’t call them the best or the top [insert appropriate noun].

      Who wouldn’t vote for Sally? I mean, she’s giving away PONIES!

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  9. I love a good Talon rant!!
    These contests are just a piss-taker. I look away every time I see one.

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    • I love that expression. LOL

      Yes, I do, too. I was especially frustrated after I had been talking about what seemed like a very cool opportunity with someone, and once it went live discovered it was just another voting contest. Grrr

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  10. Ranting is good. I see a lot of these contests on FB… please vote for my friend’s adorable baby so she can win xyz. It’s called stacking the deck and there is really no fairness in doing so. And for me, someone who is putting her heart and soul into her blog, it can be disheartening to see all of the contests going on. Then I go to the winning site and think, “really?” It’s like being on the playground and being the last one picked for dodge ball all over again.

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    • I love your analogy!

      Oh yes! I’ve that experience before as well. Finding the winner and seeing that they were among the worst and saddest sites. . . Ugh!

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  11. While I agree with you, this is a bit difficult for me right now. I recently entered one of these ‘popularity contests’, and I knew it was that from the outset. I did it because I thought it would give me some experience, I did not think I had a hope in hell of winning (some of the other entrants had 4 times the Facebook followers I did – the results were decided by Facebook likes). And I thought I would get a bit of exposure.

    Well, I was one of four who got their trip! And I was not that ruthless in garnering votes – after all as I said the others had four times the followers I had.

    I genuinely believe, having put my heart and soul into my brief, I won because my ideas came across as better. The briefs of the others were … naff! And it showed – their voters just did not show up!

    That said – I will never do it again! But for different reasons mentioned above. I learned a lot by the experience, and I believe it was all about the sponsors trying to get more Facebook likes.

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  12. I agree and hate these type of contests too. There’s also the photo comps where entering gives them carte blanche to use your photos in brochures etc, regardless if you win or not – more BS. If they are asking for content then judging it properly and paying to use the best examples is only fair. Or do they think they are so special we should be queueing up to work for them for free?

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  13. Talon,
    Thanks so much for mentioning my blog! And now I feel kind of bad about hassling all my readers to go vote for me for a Bloggie (okay, not THAT bad — EVERYONE GO VOTE FOR ME!).
    I do totally agree with you on a lot of these contests — especially the more spammy/company-run ones and the ones where you can vote every day. Uggh. It’s usually just a marketing ploy to get more traffic to the company’s website and makes the blogger look like some desperate crazy person groveling for votes. (Of course, I am not talking about MYSELF and the Bloggies — NOW EVERYONE GO VOTE FOR ME! PLEASE! PRETTY PLEASE! I’LL BUY YOU ALL PONIES!)

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    • I feel a little better about the Bloggies since they aren’t a company just trying to get free traffic from bloggers. And at least you give your readers great gifts like unicorns and ponies.

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  14. Ugh, see also: Liz Carlson’s rant on how we both entered a contest that was completely spammy and the three winners had zero comments and something like 2,000 likes. The post I wrote is one of my most popular to date, but it almost disgusts me to read it. Rant on, dude!

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  15. Great rant Talon! I have never been a fan of popularity contests, and I agree with you that many of these contests are noting more than that, with little sponsor benefititng at the expense of all the bloggers involved…

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  16. Thank you for writing this post. I think such competitions really suck. The same goes for submitting a photo to win something. I’d rather be selected to go on a blog trip if people like my content, really.

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    • Most definitely! And I think these types of things encourage people to care less about doing quality, informative, entertaining posts as well.

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