Internet Marketing Awards and Contests Do Not Cover Entire Industry

Being recognized by one’s peers can be a happy moment. It’s far better than being ignored. But what happens when your name appears on a winner’s list and you don’t know why it got there?

What about awards lists that name people you know don’t deserve to be there or there are exceptional people who were left off the list?

I wrote about a contest in December that didn’t make sense to me. With today’s winners announcement for that contest came a viable rant by Rae Hoffman, CEO of Outspoken Media. As she wrote in Most Influential Online Marketers of 2009 FAIL for her company’s blog,

In addition to the obvious haste in publishing the final results (at the time of this writing there are numerous typos in the bios of multiple marketers), Invesp decided to taint both the nomination and selection process, left out some of the most obvious and influential marketers in the industry, while including some folks that you’d have a hard time even having heard of, much less name anything influential they did for the community at large in 2009.

A lot of the marketer bios sound as if they were scraped from conference bio pages and it was obvious no real research was done into deciding or explaining why some of the marketers on the list were considered influential enough to make the list.

With the SEMMYS coming out, as well as numerous other yearly nods, I wish someone would do them with some common sense, without bias by judges (because not everyone in the SEO/M industry likes or gets along with each other), and tell us what the winning criteria are.

This past year I feel I wrote some of my best articles ever on the topics of search engine optimization and usability. I wrote them for 4 other publications, however. Unless THEY are followed, I most likely will not get any notice for that work. It is something that contests don’t take into consideration.  There are no categories for cross-skilled people and no categories for experts who conduct training or live on the speaker circuit.  It’s as if those contributions to their field don’t matter in the least and I take issue with that.

A contest worth its salt to me would:

1. Obtain extensive user generated feedback. It should be mandatory to give a solid reason for making a nomination. Being a fan should not count.  Related:  Judges should be experts in the category they are judging.

2. Allow have user instructions that make it easy to understand how the process works.

3. Put up a form for feedback on that process and correct the issues that come in.

4. Explain the judging criteria. What makes someone a winner? Is it something they did?

5. Define your terms. What does Internet Marketer mean, exactly? Does it include all the branches of online marketing and if so, isn’t it logical to break out into categories?

6. Research nominees and candidates, please. Some people are very clever at hiding behind their computer monitor, making it look like they even have a business when in fact, they do not. Check employment history. Check to see if they left the industry. Just because someone was once well known doesn’t mean they are still active anymore.

7. Get references for any work related accomplishments. Make it known exactly what a winner’s specific achievement is.

8. Give examples of what you are looking for in a winner rather than accepting anything.

9. Do not cut and paste bios from conference materials or their site bios. If they won, allow winners the opportunity to tell you what they want published. Related: Avoid grammatical and spelling errors. It just makes your contest look sloppy.

10. Do not use the contest to market yourself. This is link bait, not a true competition.

Maybe it’s part of the gene pool of marketers to keep rewarding themselves. I crack up when I speak at conferences because I find that in the real world, nobody knows me. I’ve been in the SEO and Usability fields for going on 15 years and yet when I was hired to train new SEO’s for a company in November, none of the trainees had ever heard of me. So, if  “influencing the industry” is a criteria for winning, who the hell cares?

I like to be acknowledged, don’t get me wrong. I love a good pat on the head once in awhile. But I want to earn it. I want to know what I did that you liked. By the same token, it is sad when I know I’ve accomplished something that goes unnoticed. I think this is also what bothers other people. We’re each unique. I know of no one who combines SEO, software QA testing, usability testing and information architecture like I do. I know some people who may have two of these skills and that’s all that is required of them or all they are interested in doing.  I’m usually excluded from contests because I don’t fit into their square peg.

Finally, there are some people in the internet marketing field who fit in somewhere as part of a team, with their specialty, such as copy writing.  Categories most often missing in Internet marketing contests include mobile marketing, video marketing, online radio, social media, teaching and education (forums, schools), niche blogs and search usability (findability).

So my final request for those who would run awards and contests is to be sure you know and fully understand your own industry first.