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So you want to run an awards program?

By Richard Lowe
Posted Wednesday, December 1, 2004

I know you've seen those awards graphics all over the web. Most web sites win one, two or a dozen awards and display them proudly on their home page until the page loads so slow that no one visits anymore. Finally, they realize this and create a separate awards page, and eventually, if they are anything like me, they have to create an entire awards section!

At some point many of these award winners realize that, hey, they could also give an award themselves! Sometimes they want to give awards out of a desire for more traffic (an awards program does generate more than a few hits), and sometimes they want to reward other sites for their achievements. More often, a webmaster cannot explain why he wants to give awards - he just wants to.

One note of caution: if your goal is traffic and traffic only, then awards are a fine way to get people to your site. However, by far most people who sign up for awards simply go straight to your award application form without looking at anything else. So while it is a way to get people to your site, it really isn't a great way to get qualified visitors who are actually interested in what you have to offer.

A good awards program is a lot of work. Spend the time and you will have some great and perhaps unexpected rewards of your own. Please don't just slap together a silly little awards program and expect to get very much from it. And don't go out and get a script to automate the whole process. That's not what awards are about.

All right, the first thing you should do (before you do anything else) is sit down in a comfortable chair with your comfy slippers and a glass of your favorite beverage. Make sure it is quiet and you have some time set aside. Now, think about what you are trying to accomplish.

What is your purpose in creating an awards program? Are you:

- Trying to get traffic
- Trying to get other people to link back to you and raise your search engine popularity
- Want to give something back to the internet community
- Like the idea of helping others improve their web sites
- Want to light up someone's life by giving them an award
- Like making cute little graphics

You answer(s) to this question will determine how you proceed. If you are just trying to get traffic or increase your search engine ranking, then you do not need to put in anywhere near as much time and care into your program. Just create your graphic, a simple explanation page and make your award known.

If, on the other hand, you've got loftier goals, then you need to continue your thought process. Now that you've decided on your purpose, think about some other things.

1) Do you want a general award (best site) or a specific award (best Star Trek The Next Generation fan site with pictures of James T. Kirk?)

2) Do you want to allow automatic submissions (which means many people will who apply for your award will never even see your site?)

3) How specific do you want to get with the criteria? Some programs just say "you'll get it if I like your site" and others have pages of complex equations stating exactly what is expected to get an award.

4) This is very important: how much time do you want to spend on your awards program? A couple of hours a week? More? Less?

5) Are there specific types of sites that you do not want to allow? For example, many programs exclude adult sites and our own program excludes psychiatric sites. It doesn't matter whether or not anyone agrees with your exclusions - it is your awards program and you need to be comfortable with it.

6) Do you want to allow children under age 13? If so, you had better review the legal requirements involved (specifically the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.)

In addition to all of this, it is also important to treat your awards program seriously, at least as seriously as your web site. As you hand out your award to more and more sites, you will find people judging you based upon whom you have judged. Give out your award lightly just to get some traffic, and you will find your own site judged lightly and visited infrequently.

About the Author
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. This website includes over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge. Web Site Address: (http://www.internet-tips.net) Weekly newsletter: (http://www.internet-tips.net/joinlist.htm) Daily Tips: mailto:internet-tips@GetResponse.com