Lots of IT pros set up personal Web sites for themselves, friends, or family. In this new column, Kevin Rayburn provides advice and information to help you host, design, and promote your personal Web sites.
“Congratulations! Your Web site has been chosen for the Top 5 Percent of the Web Award by Point Communications.”

When I opened that e-mail in early 1996, I was ecstatic. Someone at Point thought my W.C. Fields: The Great Man Web site was good enough to rank among the best.

That first award, unsolicited, had a snowball effect. Soon, some very prestigious organizations were sending honors my way. Search-engine dot coms such as Magellan and Excite gave my site four-star reviews.

But the biggest was to come.

In its hard-copy edition in April 1996, NetGuide magazine published a full column review (“Fields of Gold”) of my site, and closed with a line that still makes my head bigger than it really is: “Godfrey Daniel, this is the best celebrity site we have ever seen.”

The cyber high continued when Yahoo! gave my site a four-star review on its Comedy Movies site. Then, Michael Wiese Productions in Hollywood (they made a famous short parody of Star Wars in 1977 called Hardware Wars, a midnight-movie cult fave) included my site in their book, Film & Video on the Internet: The Top 500 Sites, published in 1996.

Ultimately, I bagged a nice collection of awards.

But things have changed a lot in four years. In today’s more competitive Web-design world, I doubt my site would elicit such high praise. Due to personal time constraints, my site is sort of a frozen fossil, stuck in Web design circa 1997.

And with the explosion of the Web in the meantime, I doubt too many personal Web pages are winning unsolicited major awards. Now that the Web has grown so huge, you’re going to have to work a little harder to toot your own horn.

Fortunately, this is not as difficult as you might think. There are thousands of awards on the Internet for personal Web pages. Some are easy to win; others are harder to snag.

Remember, having an award on your site can be an insult as well as a point of pride. Quality control among awards varies widely. Some awards are simply not worth pursuing or posting. If Joe Blow sends you an e-mail saying you’ve won his “Best of the Net Award,” politely thank him and ignore the dubious honor. Joe Blow is most likely just trying to increase traffic to his Web site, not really trying to honor your work.

The first questions you have to ask are: Which awards really indicate quality? Which ones have rigorous standards for selection? Which ones are given by major organizations (e.g., Yahoo!) that can bring large numbers of surfers to you?

There are several informative Web sites online to help you answer these questions as well as help you prepare your site for award attention:

  • The Beeline–Tips and Tricks: Submitting for Web Awards is a Web site that lists almost everything you’ll need to know about seeking Web awards. It lists available awards, defines the types of awards available and which ones are really worthwhile, and tells you what pitfalls and scams to avoid when submitting for awards.
  • How to Win Awards (sponsored by an organization called Website Awards ) is another excellent advice site. Its tips on proper text and design content are especially helpful and pithily presented.
  • Netguide tells webbies how to get a site reviewed and rated by that well-known organization.
  • X-Plosive Meta Award Archive provides listings of archives with thousands of Web awards available worldwide.
  • Award Sites! is an excellent free service that lists the Web sites of nearly 2,000 Web award-giving organizations. Instead of listing them alphabetically, the award-givers are listed by order of prestige. Sites categorized as 3.0 rank to 5.0 rank have the most stringent rules and are the hardest awards to win. These are the awards you can brag about.

Award-giving bodies categorized as 1.0 rank to 2.5 rank vary highly in quality, with the lowest being “honors” such as Tim’s Award of Excellence , which has no criteria to win whatsoever. Just submit your entry, grab an award icon (one of which is a toilet, appropriately enough) and you become an instant Web prize winner.