Website Awards

How to Improve Your Conversion Ratio with a Methodical Campaign to Win Strategic Awards

You can listen to a recording of a clinic on this subject here:

Windows Media Audio (3 MB)

RealMedia (6.2 MB)

Consider this lateral marketing strategy: What if you could launch a two-part campaign that focused on (1) winning website awards and leveraging those awards to (2) improve your conversion ratio?

Jean Baudrillard is quoted as saying: ” Governing today means giving acceptable signs of credibility.” (*1) He might as well have been talking about web marketing.

In our hype-laden world, credibility is key.

In a recent experiment, MEC Researchers analyzed six hundred award websites and tested fifty to determine how to use awards to improve your marketing.

Background Facts

  1. We analyzed a list of six hundred award websites.
  2. We prepared Website A, an online RETAILER, and submitted it to fifty of these award sites.
  3. We prepared Website B, an online PUBLISHER, and submitted it to fifty-one of these award sites.

Here are our results after six months of testing:

Test Site Order Recovery Campaign
Campaign Details Website A Website B
Submissions 50 51
Labor (Time to Submit) 7.75 hours 8 hours
Awards Given 6 4
Success Rate 12.0% 7.8%
Response Time 6 weeks 6 weeks

What You Need To UNDERSTAND:: Over six months, Website A won twelve percent of the awards to which it was submitted. Website B won approximately eight percent of the awards to which it was submitted.

So what did we “really get” from winning these awards? Our research indicates that traffic from the award sites alone is minimal. But if one leverages the visibility of an award with a series of strategic press releases, the results can be altogether different.

In a future issue, we will discuss our experiments with this method, but there are really two primary benefits from winning website awards, and traffic is secondary.

  1. Increased credibility
  2. Increased traffic

KEY POINT: Third party credibility indicators can have a vital impact on your conversion ratio. They can underscore your value proposition, and they can help “ease” a prospect through a key decision point.

Most sites are long on claims and short on evidence. But it is a mistake to write unsubstantiated claims about your product.

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In our feature article on Transparent Marketing, we outlined several principles of communication. There are four that are relevant to this discussion.

  1. Tell (only) the (verifiable) truth.
  2. Purge all vague modifiers.
  3. Let someone else do your bragging.
  4. Substitute general descriptions with specific facts.

The right website awards can increase your credibility. If you place these awards at strategic decision points on your website (i.e. your order form), you can maximize their effectiveness.

And remember a 5-Star Rating from Yahoo Shopping or BizRate is actually an award and it should be treated as one.

These ratings can dramatically increase your (1) traffic. But they can also increase your (2) credibility, which in turn can increases your (3) sales.

KEY POINT: You should have the five-star graphic placed close to the locations on your website where you are asking a potential customer to risk trusting you.

Of course, all of this advice is to no avail if you cannot win awards. You can win 5-Star Ratings through superb customer service, but how do you win website awards?

12 KEYS TO WINNING AWARDS

These following tips take into consideration many of the criteria that award-givers use to judge your site.

  1. Before submitting, optimize your site design. See our reports on website design:

    Site Design Part I

    Site Design Part II

  2. Make sure your website has a definite purpose that is communicated clearly to your visitors.
  3. Use graphics effectively. Avoid stock clip-art and focus on original graphics that enhance the presentation of your site.
  4. Make sure your site is easy to navigate for your visitors.
  5. Check for broken links. The following websites will be helpful:
    http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html
    http://linkalarm.com/
    http://www.netmechanic.com/
  6. Validate your HTML code using one or more of these tools:
    http://www.htmlhelp.org/tools/validator/
    http://validator.w3.org/
  7. See our report on this subject, Site Compatibility

  8. Include a page on your site to display awards that you have won. Many award-givers require that you display their award graphic and link back to their site. This will also enhance your website’s credibility.

    Don’t forget you can display the awards in more than one location. And remember that many people do not enter your site through the home page.

  9. Submitting multiple websites for the same awards is usually not a good idea. It will only serve to disqualify all of the sites for many awards. Submit from different email addresses and under different names if you are going to submit multiple sites.
  10. Take the time to read all award guidelines. Many award givers hide a certain “password” in their guidelines that you must include in your application to prove you have read them. More importantly, your site will not qualify for all awards. Don’t waste your (or the reviewer’s) time submitting to them.
  11. By conforming to the criteria of various award programs, your site will actually improve. Some programs require a privacy statement, compliance with COPPA, correct use of meta tags, etc.
  12. You can download a step-by-step blueprint/tracking spreadsheet at this site:
    http://www.website-awards.net/worksheet.htm

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If you consider launching this initiative for the year 2004, please remember that website awards alone will not revolutionize your marketing results.

They can be an important part of your strategy. But we would be remiss if we fostered unrealistic expectations as to their total impact on your conversion ratio.

We think the minimal effort and minimal cost can promise a solid return on investment. But a marketing plan that is dependent on one single brilliant move is likely flawed.

  • This is the first in a series of briefs on how to improve your conversion ratio with website awards.
  • In the next report we will distribute a list of our top 25 awards sites, and a full literature review of the best links on the web regarding this subject.

(*1) Jean Baudrillard (b. 1929), French semiologist. “The End of U.S. Power?” America (1986, trans. 1988).

   Credits:

  1. Editor — Flint McGlaughlin
  2. HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer
  3. Contributor — Brian Alt

This Research Brief is a new format that MEC is testing.

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