I came across a funny story the other day, about a programmer who got so suspicious of various sites that hand out so-called software awards on the web, he submitted a simple text file to a number of them only to have his bit of "software" win a significant number of awards. Needless to say, the text file didn't do anything. All it had in it was a line saying: "This program does nothing at all". Hardly deserving of anything, yet there it was, winning several awards a week.
As an SEO, I don't find this story as shocking as some of you might think. Various web awards pop up all the time. It's a known SEO "trick" borrowed from the PR world. It's been around for years and years.
How does it work? You make up an award competition relating to the industry you're in, dish out some awards to sites you want to get links from and create some kind of button the lucky winners can proudly display on their site to show they have won. Of course, each button comes with a handy link back to your site.
So far so good: the theory, like many other things in SEO world, is simple. But as the example above shows us, you can ruin even a good idea if you implement it in a shoddy way. In the above example, the webmasters got greedy. They wanted to get maximum links with minimum effort. They automated the process of giving out awards and obviously didn't ever bother checking who and what they were awarding. As a result, the whole thing backfired and their websites have now been publicly exposed as frauds. No respectable software company will want to display their award buttons now, because their awards are worthless. The only links they are likely to get are very low quality ones, from sites whose owners are either not smart enough to spot the fraud or dodgy enough not to care.
It's sad to see such a good idea go to waste like this. With the hunt for good-quality links becoming harder every day, the award scheme can actually be a great way to get sites to link to you who wouldn't normally do so and I have seen it implemented with great success by people who know what they're doing. The important thing to remember here is that high-ranking sites are generally reluctant to part with their hard-earned link-juice. You really need to make it worth their while. A well-established site with a high page rank could potentially win plenty of web awards - both real and fake - but is not likely to display just any old button on its homepage. For the better sites to care about an award the competition needs to be a real one and the selection process a discerning one. The more prestigious you make the award, the more likely you are to attract the big players and, as we all know, a single link from an authority site can be worth more than a whole load of low quality ones. Obviously, I'm not saying we should all run out and flood the net with award schemes. This is just an example of how the same simple idea can be implemented differently with massively different results. Any idea can be taken seriously or it can be implemented badly and half-heartedly. If you are serious about your business and your brand, you want to be serious about the way you do SEO as well. Cutting corners, as shown above, can back-fire quite spectacularly.