Criteria and Rules
When I was "trained" for this job, I was told to read the Rating Level Criteria and Rules and to visit sites that were recently rated in their respective levels to learn what the differences were in the various levels. Then when the ratings came out, I should check the list to see what levels the programs achieved. That way I would learn even more by direct observation.
It would be logical at this point to go over the Criteria and Rules one item at a time and point out specifically what the members of the Rating Panel look for under each item. This would give you further insight into the rating process and how you can use this information to better your chances at getting a higher rating.
However, due to the volume of information and insight that will have to be provided, my review of the Criteria and Rules will be published in another article later this summer. Watch for it here at this site! At that time, any questions sent to Don about this article will be forwarded to me and can be addressed in the next one.
Basically, we don't know anything that you don't know. We use the same exact guidelines to rate your programs that you have at your disposal. Do us all a favor and read that last sentence again. You can view recently rated programs to see the differences between the various rating levels.
I Met the Criteria, But ...
If you really think you met every bit of the 5.0 criteria, then all I can say is the majority of the Rating Panel isn't convinced you have earned this level — yet.
You don't have to get a unanimous vote to get a 5.0 rating. You do have to get a majority vote of the Panel. There is an odd number of members on the Panel and they all have 5.0 or 4.5 rated programs. They have either achieved what you seek or will one day achieve it, assuming they can convince people they don't know that they have earned the right to be listed with the "Best of the Best."
Award Sites! didn't pick the members of the Rating Panel out of a hat. It wasn't some random drawing or who they knew that got them a position on the Panel. They earned their invitations to be members. They contributed to the awards community in more ways than just giving out awards.
What Should I Do?
Read the Criteria and Rules again. Look at the programs that have been rated recently at the level you want to achieve. That's the advice from this Panel member, and it's the same advice you'll get from any higher rated program. Study what they did.
But don't pick one program and model yourself after it. Plagiarism is a major "No-No." Ignore the compulsion to conform and do your own thinking. Learn what you can from the ones that have achieved what you seek. They don't say their awards are hard to get. They don't have to. These programs stand on their own two feet.
Read the articles here. All of them. They were written by the very people who have achieved what you seek or are well on their way. Contribute something to this growing archive of information on awards. Write to Don suggesting your topic, give a short synopsis of the content, and he'll respond with guidelines (length, etc.) and suggestions that might improve your article. Don't be afraid to contribute something more to the Internet community.
Can You Give Me Advice?
There is an old saying: "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." If you're happy with your award program and feel it deserves a 5.0 rating, that may very well be true. So stop fussing at it. Making your program even more complex won't help. Giving it a super duper new award graphic won't help either, unless, of course, your old one was huge or had some other flaw.
There is obviously still something "missing" if you didn't get an upgrade to the 5.0 level. Look at your site. Have you been neglecting it because you're too busy with your award program? Has it been upgraded to meet your criteria? Can it earn your top award? Can it earn other awards? Stop staring at your criteria or your awards for a moment and do something to help yourself. Work on your website. Apply for some awards — it might humble you a bit.
Try standing on the other side of the fence. Pretend you're a member of the Rating Panel. Would you rate your program at the 5.0 level? You now know everything the members know. Use it to your best advantage.
Who Runs Award Sites!?
David Bancroft, Award Sites! founder, spends untold hours maintaining and updating Award Sites! The work required to keep the site current for nearly 2,000 different awards is staggering! He encourages all of us to strive for excellence, not only for ourselves in creating better award programs, but also for those who seek out our awards. He has given his time and his talent to help the awards community.
That's a big gift. He deserves our gratitude and patience, not our complaints. Thank you, David, for encouraging me, for challenging me, and for making me earn my recognition. Thank you for trusting me to write this article on behalf of the Rating Panel.