From the January 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

Would you spend less than $200 on a one-time marketing effort that'll generate business for years? If your Web site shines, enter a Web award competition. You might win low-cost publicity that pays a big return.

"Winning an award demonstrates your Internet investment is paying off," says William Rice, president of the Web Marketing Association. "It's an opportunity to promote your accomplishment to the media, clients, prospects and employees."

Web award winners receive two marketing channels: their own and the contest host's. For instance, winners are usually given an icon to use on their Web site and printed materials. This icon is similar to a testimonial because a third party selects award recipients based on a predetermined set of criteria. Better yet, the contest host promotes winners on its Web site and in press releases and other media campaigns. Winners piggyback on the marketing dollars of competition providers. The contest stars win "business gold" by:

Establishing credibility: It's hard for new and growing businesses to compete with brand names online. Even with lower prices, better shipping options or other advantages, consumers need to trust e-tailers. A Web award lends credibility to entrepreneurs who haven't yet become household names.

Generating second-tier marketing opportunities: Publicity from an award site is good, but marketing opportunities that stem from a contest can be better. Big-name sponsors involved in Web contests may promote the contest in their media campaigns. Or a journalist may see a winner's name and then request an interview for a completely different article. Spinoff publicity is almost guaranteed.

Increasing Web site traffic: Without a doubt, the chief incentive for winning an award is attracting new clients. The more organizations that promote the contest, the better the winners' chances of marketing to prospects for free. Plus, a link to the champion's Web site achieves a secondary benefit: a high link popularity score that improves rankings in search engines.

Rice also points out another prize most people overlook. "Entering a competition can give you valuable independent feedback on your advertising or Internet efforts," he says. "Having an external judge review your company's efforts and provide feedback is worth the entry fee alone."

Several Web contests charge only $125 to $175 per Web site entry; nonprofit organizations often pay reduced rates. The Web Marketing Association hosts a competition for Web site development and one for Internet advertising (Internet advertising). There are also The Webby Awards and The International Web Page Awards. More than likely, there are competitions within your industry, too.

Some deadlines are early in the first quarter, so make your first New Year's resolution to enter a Web award competition. If you win, you can celebrate the publicity all year long.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an Internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising.