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3 Tips to Make a Small-Business Website a Winner

CHICAGO ( TheStreet) - Oscar fever has long since faded, but that doesn't mean awards season is over. Nominations were recently announced for the annual Webby Awards, honors handed out by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences to recognize the best work being done online. (You can see a list of all the nominees here).

Befitting the democratic nature of the Internet, there are plenty of small companies and organizations in the running alongside heavy-hitters such as Google, proving that you don't need a massive budget or in-house creative team to make a big impression.

Making a small business website work takes a little bit of humor and some bonuses for customers.

Why do the Webbys matter? A well-designed website isn't just about impressing the digital creative pros. It is a small business's virtual front door, telling potential customers and partners what they need to know about the company's brand, mission and attitude. As the best of the best, Webby-nominated websites can serve as inspiration for others to follow.

With that in mind, here are three different strategies that brought small companies into the Internet's big leagues. Could one of them work for your website?

1. A Clearly-Defined, Appealing Identity

Weekend Sherpa produces an e-newsletter and Web publication that celebrates outdoor adventures, California-style. Each week, subscribers receive recommendations for active weekend outings, tried out personally by Weekend Sherpa's staff, and tailored to either Northern or Southern California.

The company's website reinforces its mission and brand, from the worn travel journal on the homepage to the photos that look like they've been pasted in a scrapbook. "When someone visits our website or opens one of our weekly emails, we want them to feel like they just got out of the car in the mountains and are taking that first breath," says founder and publisher Brad Day. "It feels good, right? We wanted to bring that to an online experience."

Another key to the website's success is its accessible yet authoritative tone: after all, travel recommendations only work if they come from a reliable source. "We put a big emphasis on providing trustworthy content written in a fun, entertaining way," Day says. "But it's not just about being a resource of information; we want to inspire and interest our readers so even if they don't go do an adventure, they still have fun reading about it."

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