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Four Web sites chosen as industry’s best

Judges say the winners exemplify the importance of the Internet in today's tough economy

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Four industry Web sites were recognized for innovation, content and effectiveness in this year's North American Marine Industry Web Awards. The awards were sponsored by Boats.com, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Soundings Trade Only.

The winners were:

  • Best OEM/manufacturer site: www.seadoo.com.
  • Best marine equipment site: www.transhield-usa.com.
  • Best dealer/broker site: www.MarineMax.com.
  • Best marine site - editorial content: www.windcheckmagazine.com.

No winner was chosen in the newly created "Best marine site - Discover Boating" category because the judges felt no entries met the benchmarks for entry.

The competition drew a total of 104 entries.

Judges included Jorian Clarke, founder and CEO of SpectraCom; Adam Heneghan, president of Elevation; Larry Rains, marketing manager for Boats.com and YachtWorld.com; and Armida Markarova, director of interactive media for the NMMA and Grow Boating.

Rains says Sea-Doo stood out from the crowd because of its "absolute professionalism and consistency." Markarova says the Web site's "engaging content, easy navigation [and] balanced use of video and images make for a great Web site that helps introduce new people to the water sports activity." She liked the fact that the site has content geared specifically to new users, as well as to current owners.

Judges said MarineMax's site stood out for its organization, ease of use and depth of information. The site "has all the information needed for consumers, who are either researching their first boat or [are] ready to buy one," says Markarova.

Clarke says it will be interesting to watch the MarineMax site as it moves to the next level, with the addition of video, sound and user-generated content.

WindCheck magazine, says Rains, "did a great job of getting out of the way and letting the content speak for itself. Their blend of regional and youth-specific content does a great job promoting boating in the Northeast and reaching out to young people."

Transhield, Rains says, "did a standout job of providing plenty of content and presenting their products in a clear and straightforward matter."

"This site (www.transhield-usa.com) was most noteworthy for its depth of content that caused it to be a useful tool for understanding the product," says Clarke. "The use of interactive tools with a Spanish-language translation was a good start in trying to reach out and create a more compelling user experience with content delivery."

Organizers say the awards recognize the importance of the Internet to the boating business.

"This is a genuine attempt to get the industry to buck up, take notice, recognize the effectiveness of the Internet because these are tough, challenging times," says James Nolan, president of James Nolan Industries, and consultant and former general manager of Boats.com and YachtWorld.com.

Clarke says many of the entries were still in the early "digital brochure stage," or used excessive amounts of video as a substitute for good design and easy navigation.

"A good rule of thumb for internally judging a site is if it is not stimulating downloads or information printables, increasing sales calls, driving people to store locations or showing metrics that indicate it is accomplishing any other stated marketing goals, then you have a problem with your e-marketing, sales or publisher Web site," Clarke says.

A solid Web site, he says, may be a marine company's best tool, especially in this economy.

"There are still 17 million boats out there, most of them are going to be used this year, new ones will be bought, some of them will be sold and most of them will require some form of product and service, so it's in our best interest to be as professional and proactive as possible," he says. "Web sites ... are an essential aspect of this."

This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue.

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