Now in their fifth year, the UK Search Awards are being presented at a ceremony in London, England, on November 26th, 2015.
This year, hundreds of individuals and businesses will compete for the opportunity to win one of the most prestigious awards in search and digital marketing.
What does it take to make an impact and stand out amongst such tough competition? I reached out to one of the judges to get his advice.
James Murray, the UK search advertising lead at Microsoft, is among the panel of judges for this year’s UK Search Awards. He explains in this interview what the judges look for in an entry, what the judging process is like, and what it means for an individual or business to win a UK Search Award.
As a judge, what’s one piece of advice you would give to applicants this year?
The one piece of advice I would give to all applicants is to think like a judge before you apply. Put yourselves in our shoes.
[pullquote]”For me the winner has to not only exceed the expectations of the client in terms of delivering results, but also has to do something different which we as search experts can all learn from.”[/pullquote]
As the Search Awards grows from strength to strength it wouldn’t be unusual for us as judges to read over 200 entries across various categories. To give you an insight, the Best PPC Campaign category last year had something like 70 entries — and that was just one category!
With that in mind your entry has to do three things:
- Be clear
- Answer the brief
- Stand out
You’d be amazed how many entries we receive that are poorly written, or simply aren’t relevant for the category they are entered into.
A good, well-structured and concise entry just makes the judges’ job easier and using bullet points and bold text to highlight your most salient points is always a good strategy.
Make sure you really think about each of the areas that is being asked about – what was the objective of the campaign? How did this link to the results? What was innovative that made your campaign different?
Finally for point three – the judges are looking for that one thing, that ‘wow’ factor that makes the applicant stand out from the rest. Make that clear in your entry. What is the one thing that makes your entry special and a standout candidate to win the award?
Are there any red flags you look for in an application that would be grounds for immediate disqualification?
Each judge approaches this differently. My only personal bug bear is when candidates nominate themselves for an accolade. While that is within the rules and doesn’t disqualify a candidate, I always look more favorably on candidates who have been nominated by their peers. Its more credible and invariably these entries are the strongest ones we receive.
[pullquote]”I think it’s really important to be transparent with your results, don’t try and dress things up as the judges can see right through that.”[/pullquote]
For the other entries I always give people the benefit of the doubt – if you say you increased traffic by 256% then I will take your word for it and judge the entry on the merit of what has been achieved.
Other judges put a lot of effort into checking facts and figures though, so if you claim you’ve achieved something, you had better have done it, or you are likely to be found out, and that of course reflects badly on you as an agency or individual.
On that subject, I think it’s really important to be transparent with your results, don’t try and dress things up as the judges can see right through that. We have seen many entries which claim 1000% increase in SEO traffic but if it’s for a small site from a low base, that’s not that impressive.
On the other hand, if you work with a mega brand that inevitably will do lots of multi channel marketing, be sure to only claim credit for the bit you worked on. If it’s a Christmas retail campaign, for example, there is going to be a big uplift in branded search because of TV campaigns which will run in parallel.
The judges are experts in the search industry, they know how things work and what “good” looks like. Don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes.
What are some challenges faced by SEOs and search marketers that are unique to UK?
What I would say is that the UK is one of the most mature and advanced online markets in the world, and as such, UK consumers are some of the most demanding.
That puts pressure on advertisers to come up with campaigns that are diverse, unusual, and innovative — and that creative drive is really exciting to see in the entries that we read.
In crowded and ultra-competitive markets, those companies that can bring a flash of inspiration to their campaigns often are the ones that resonate most with consumers, and therefore with the judges.
What do you predict will be the most competitive category this year? Why?
The most competitive categories each year are always Best SEO campaign and Best PPC Campaign – as these are held up to be the pinnacle of our industry.
[pullquote]”[The UK Search Awards] are a mark of excellence and a seal of approval that says this is the benchmark by which all others shall be measured.”[/pullquote]
It has to be something really special to win either of these categories, and these are the ones that are always the most fiercely debated between the judges. Each of us inevitably will champion the cause of a particular campaign that really resonates with us.
The standard of entries for these categories is always really high and often the deciding factor here is “what would I be willing to stake my reputation on?”, “what would I be most proud of if I was submitting these entries?”
For me, the winner has to not only exceed the expectations of the client in terms of delivering results, but also has to do something different which we as search experts can all learn from.
What does winning a UK Search Award mean for a business, agency, or individual?
These awards a huge deal for the winners – they are a mark of excellence and a seal of approval that says “this is the benchmark by which all others shall be measured.”
The judges take this responsibility very seriously, as each winner is being heralded as a standard bearer for Search, a paragon for our industry.
By recognizing the achievements of the chosen few, we hope to inspire the rest of the industry to improve their work – and by the increasing standard of the entries (which does go up every year) to that extent the awards are delivering on this promise.
Submit your entry form today to have your work considered for the 2015 UK Search Awards. Deadline for entries is September 18th.
SEJ is a media partner for the Search Awards and will receive a reserved table at the event.
Image Credit: Andrew Wake / Flickr