What Makes an Award Winning Entry

What Makes an Award Winning Entry

5th November 2012

Last Thursday the UK Searchawards were given out in London. There were a lot of winners in as much different categories. You can see all the winners here. For every category there were even more nominees: the ones that didn’t win. After all, for each category, there can only be one winner.

So what makes a winner? It’s off course the actual job done which makes it special or very good. But there is much more to that. We will be asking some of the winners just that, but there is another important part to winning an award: you have to convince the judges.

The judges panel on the Searchawards had some highly respected names in the (UK) Search Industry in them. We asked six of them who are close to State of Search to give us their opinions on what makes an award winning entry. So if you want to win next year, keep on reading…

Neil Hardy, Head of e-commerce, Midcounties Co-operative

In terms of awards.. What I look for is a clear demonstration from the award entrant that they have fully achieved the clients objective within (or under) the allocated budget and demonstrated a good ROI. I also look for innovation and initiative from the award entry when they have pushed the campaign and seen excellent results

Nichola Stott, Managing director of the MediaFlow

A good “award-winning” campaign is one that exceeds initial objectives, demonstrating good practise, ingenuity or innovation in doing so . And here is the thing, badly written pitchy objectives make it extremely difficult to evaluate whatever came next. Think SMART to help you set clear objectives against which your campaign performance can be measured. In this context SMART is a simple mnemonic to help us remember that good clear objectives should be:


For example:

1.Our objective is to grow online sales from organic search visits by 50% as measured using Ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics from a benchmark starting point of 500 sales a month; within the six month campaign.

2.Our client wanted to grow brand awareness, which was to be measured by organic search visits containing a pre-agreed set of brand/product keywords. From a starting point of 2000- 3000 a month in 2011, we were challenged to grow this to over 10,000 such visits a month by the fourth quarter of 2012.

Statements such as “our objective was online sales growth” or “drive brand awareness” are meaningless and intangible; making it difficult to assess the efficacy of the campaign tactics, mechanics and results no matter how novel or innovative.

Kelvin Newman, Strategy Director, SiteVisibility

One thing that best entries had in common was a strong sense of clarity. I know real life projects and campaigns can be messy and have blurry edges but the best of the entrants were able to tell a story that was concise, coherent and ultimately convincing. They seemed to understand that a clear narrative helps us judges buy-in to there ideas and approach and makes it easier for someone to champion them in the judging process.

Bas van den Beld, founder State of Search

For me what makes a winning entry is that you are able to show that you made that little extra step. Something innovative, something which potentially can push the industry forward as a whole. Off course, “doing you job right” is the essence, a case which just isn’t a good case will never win. But doing something extra, something new or something special which shows you are able of thinking outside of the box and making that work for me is a big plus when it comes to deciding who is a winner.

If you are entering for an award, don’t ‘just’ enter, make sure you enter to win. And make sure you are not entering to pitch your product or agency, but to actually show how cool it is.

James Murray, Digital Insight Manager, Experian Marketing Services

For me I am looking for three things. An entry must be (1) well written, (2) innovative or unusual, (3) provide a great ROI. Let’s start with entries being well written. This sounds stupid but a lot of the entries we have to read are a slog to wade through. When you consider there are 17 categories with many entrants for each category that is a lot of submissions to read. Laying out your entry in simple bullet points makes the judge’s life easier and generally focuses your entry cutting out all the fluff which we don’t really want to read anyway. Take your time over the entry as well, as spelling mistakes comes across as lazy. I would approach awards like a job interview. You don’t have long to make a good impression, so these small things count.

Secondly I am looking for an entry which is worthy of an accolade. To that extent it must display something which is either innovative or unusual. We read lots of submissions about campaigns that were successful but actually all they achieved was to do the basics of SEO well. To my mind, that is what you are being paid for, and whilst it’s true there are lots of horror stories about bad SEO experiences, I don’t feel it is worthy of acclaiming a company just for doing what is expected of them. In these awards I am looking for something extra, something special which really made the campaign a success.

Lastly I am looking for an entry which demonstrates great ROI. Like it or lump it, ROI is what we are all being measured on and if you want to be honoured with an award for being the best of a certain category then you need to be able to prove that your ROI is strong. A lot of submissions show some great results, but in the back of my mind, I am always asking “How much did it cost you to achieve those results?” Some of the best submissions I have read have been from companies with tiny budgets that have nevertheless achieved great results. If you have a multi-million pound campaign for a huge brand, you need to demonstrate that you are giving them a significant multi-million pound return.

Jon Myers, Commercial Director EMEA, Marin Software

Having judged numerous awards events over the years, it is a process of getting the right pieces to stand out well and be very prominent in an entry. Remember judges have to read a lot of entries so it is important to make sure you get across some really big information hooks up front on the entry to draw the intrigue and to open the entry with impact. I am not saying that judges don’t take seriously all entries but the ones with big claims and intrigue up front set the scene well. ROI is always a nice metric to have and always goes down well, but big ROI alone does win awards as sometimes it has context such as brand driven, other media influencing search or off a low base from the previous year for example. Judges are looking for three key things in my eyes:

1. Innovation/something that has not been seen before.
2. Make sure you get a cross the key strategy that was laid down for success in a very clear manner and the benchmarks of success
3. Show integration and full use of search and how that tied to the clients ROI


Written By
Samantha Noble is the founder of Biddable Moments and a former editor and contributor to State of Digital.
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