Inc. magazine is currently in process of judging sites for its annual small business Web award winners. Since I was a judge last year, I thought I'd offer some observations on how and why to enter your Web site for prestigious awards like this.
First, there were less than 800 entrants in six categories. If we eliminate entrants that were clearly not ready for serious consideration (rampant misspellings, garish color schemes, unfunctional links, no business focus), you may have had a one in 50 chance of winning -- and much, much higher odds in certain categories.
Second, it's essential to read entry instructions carefully. Every question or item asked for in instructions is there for a reason, and you run risk of disqualification if you don't provide all requested information.
In case of Inc. awards, some excellent sites were removed from running because they did not answer questions asked in entry procedure. Even after being e-mailed for more information, they still did not address questions. I couldn't tell whether they did this because answers might not have placed them in a favorable light or because they had a cavalier attitude toward judging and thought they could set their own terms for competition.
Third, for a Web site award, make sure you don't schedule a site upgrade during judging period. This happened in more than one instance, believe it or not. A couple of companies that might have won were eliminated from running because their sites weren't available at all during week that judges were viewing finalists. Inc. bent over backwards to give sites a second chance when judges complained they couldn't access some finalists. Even so, this factor knocked a couple of promising candidates out of picture.