Winning a Web Site Award Is Only Half of the Battle

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Prestigious Web site awards have long been used to help marketing professionals promote an organization's Internet efforts. But what does it take to have an award-winning Web site?


According to the Web Marketing Association, it takes a site that brings many aspects together to meet the user's need. They should know. Since 1997, the association's WebAward Competition (www.2005webaward.info) has set the standard of excellence for Web site development all over the globe through the seven criteria they developed and use to judge the annual WebAward Competition.


Design. Most of us judge the book by its cover, and the same goes for Web sites. If a site looks old and unsophisticated, the site will lose much of its credibility. If the design is current and up to date, then the user will be more likely to continue on.


Content. "Content is king" has been the mantra of most award-winning Web sites. People go to Web sites for the content, and if the content is missing then they will leave disappointed.


Innovation. Sometimes called the "wow" factor, innovation is probably the most difficult to achieve. As soon as everyone realizes what is on your site and copies it, you have lost the innovative edge and have to come up with something new again.


Technology. Use of technology can affect a Web site's usefulness and ability to deliver its content. If a site uses too much technology, users may have to work harder to get what they are looking for. On the other hand, effective use of emerging technology can enhance the user experience by adding to the sense of innovation and "coolness."


Interactivity. Some Web sites are designed only to supply information. Other sites use calculators or tools to take the data a user supplies and extrapolate it into useful information or employ games to improve the online experience.


Copywriting. Thousands of dollars are spent designing and programming a site, and all too often the words used are confusing or inadequate to convey the proper meaning. However, the best sites are well written and proofread to eliminate typos.


Ease of use. In the early days, some of the coolest sites also were impossible to navigate. Today, Web sites are much better at letting the user know where they are in the site and how to find the information you are looking for. On the best sites, you can get to any other content on the site in three clicks or fewer.


After You've Won


Once you entered and won an award, it's time to kick into high gear and make that award earn back its entry fee. Here are some ideas to help you promote your award.


The cornerstone of many successful PR programs starts with a press release. In the past, a press release was an efficient way to get information about a newsworthy event to the media. Today, releases also play an important role in search engine optimization. First, a release will show up in the search engines, providing excellent content for users searching for those keywords.


Second, some of the major search engines rely on back links or sites that are linked to the main site that is being ranked. Make sure to include the winning site's URL in the release and send it through one of the major distribution services for the greatest effect.


If the site has an awards page, link the award back to the award Web site. Being linked to a site with lots of award-winning sites will certainly not hurt your page ranking with the search engines. If you don't have an awards page on your site, maybe now is the time to start one. The credibility of even a major brand's Web site can be helped by winning awards recognized by the online community.


Another important aspect of promoting an award is the award itself. Every reputable award program provides a plaque, certificate, trophy, bowl or similar physical award for the winner to display. Make sure these awards are shown where employees and clients alike can see them displayed proudly. It's also a smart idea to order awards for the winning clients so they, too, have a physical reminder of your work for them.


Employees can be a company's biggest fans, and making sure they know about the award will be the best form of viral marketing. Encourage employees to add the award in their signature file sent with e-mails. They need to know as much about the award as they can before they will feel comfortable talking with customers and prospects, so make sure they are in the loop early.


In this competitive job market, having a series of awards listed on your personal resume can only help you when it comes time for promotion or to explore new opportunities for personal growth. If and when you do move up the corporate ladder or move to a new company, make sure you update your e-mail address with the various award programs so you'll stay informed when future award opportunities are at hand.


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