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May 16, 2005
How To

How to Win a WebAward: Five Specific Dos & Don'ts

SUMMARY: Enter your site for a WebAward. There are 90 categories -- which means you may have an unusually high chance of winding up with a statuette in your hand. Now double your odds by reading our quick article featuring practical tips from WebAwards president Bill Rice.
What do WebAwards judges look for in an "effective" site, and how can you increase your chances of impressing them?

We talked with William Rice, President, Web Marketing Association, to discover what works best:

-> Tip #1. Enter a more narrow category

If you can't afford or are unwilling to enter a few different categories, consider entering in a category that covers a smaller niche. The Financial Services category tends to be very competitive, but Information Services may not be.

Technology is another broad category, so you might try, say, telecommunications. "In some categories, the field of entries is pretty narrow," Rice says.

-> Tip #2. Read the rules

People tend to overlook certain rules, says Rice. The worst and most common error?

"You can submit a site on CD ROM, but the rules state that we need three copies and an entry number right on every copy, and every year we'll get just one CD and no entry number," he explains.

-> Tip #3. Make it easy for the judges

If judges need to spend time before even beginning to judge a site wondering whether it's entered into the right category, they're going to get cranky. Make sure your entry fits. Other ways to make judges happy:

--Keep entries separate. Many agencies, when submitting several entries, put together a single landing page of all the entries. Don't.

"They make it pretty; they believe that they're influencing the judges in a positive way," says Rice. But in fact, the judges don't want the sites submitted that way. "They get a judges' page for each entry that has all the information they need," including URL, password, and user names if necessary, etc. Putting several submissions into a single landing page muddles the process.

--Test your entry "It's amazing how many bad URLs we get, how many expired passwords we get," says Rice.

Bear in mind that the judging period runs for three or four months, so a password that is valid for only a month or two could lead to trouble. "According to the rules, we can just eliminate sites for that. We try not to, but that's probably the easiest way to get yourself kicked out of the competition."

--Don't wait until the last minute. Yes, we're all busy professionals fighting fires, Rice acknowledges, but last-minute entries often encounter problems. Servers have been known to crash, credit card processors sometimes don't work smoothly with international entries, etc.

Rice will usually extend the deadline if something like this happens, and he says you won't be penalized in terms of points -- however, it does inconvenience them.

-> Tip #4. Avoid buzzwords in your audience analysis and mission statement

"You need to stay away from 'annual report-ese,'" says Rice. Facts are important, "but you have to remember that the judges may not understand all the terminology."

Instead, be clear in stating what you were trying to do with the site and who your audience was, particularly if there are facts about the industry the judges might not understand.

Three examples:

a. Every page of a financial services Web site is reviewed by "levels of lawyers you wouldn't believe," says Rice. "So if you're entering a financial services site, put in a note that financial services is highly regulated and the level of disclosures on each page is mandatory."

That way, if the judges are unfamiliar with the industry, they won't be wondering why half the pages of the site are made up of disclaimers.

b. If you're trying to reach "little old ladies who drive Studebakers, your site can be really focused on that content," says Rice. If judges don't know that's the audience you're looking for -- say they think you're marketing to anyone who drives a car -- they'll be judging you on a whole different set of criteria.

"The ease of use and interactivity needs, for example, will be very different," Rice says.

c. You won't get extra points just for translating your site into three languages. "But if you're trying for an international audience, they'll be looking at that," says Rice.

Not having an effective audience analysis or mission statement won't necessarily lower your score, he goes on. "But the judges will view the site based on what *they* think you're trying to do, which could be very different from what you're really trying to do."

-> Tip #5. Communicate with sibling agencies

A special award goes to the agency that wins the most WebAwards. "If you have offices around the world, make sure those other offices know to compete as well," says Rice. "If the offices have different names, find some unifier or send me an email that says 'this agency and this agency are part of our worldwide network.'"

Agencies sometimes shortchange themselves because they believe that, if the other offices entered the awards, they'd be competing.

It's an awfully nice award for an agency to take, so "have a company view rather than an individual view," suggests Rice.

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