Many small businesses outsource their online advertising to agencies to avoid the time and effort it would take to do it in house. Nevertheless, it is imperative for a small business owner to know exactly how their money is spent.

The purpose of this article is to provide a framework for the savvy business owner to ask the right questions to ensure accountability of how and where their advertising dollars are spent when trying to identify the best outsourcing agency for their company.

For example: you own a local small business and its monthly advertising budget is $1,000 and you are now in the process of finding an agency that will best suit your advertising needs. From a financial accountability perspective, here is the information you will need.

Find out if any campaign will use the search network, content network, or both. Using the content network is an easy way to deplete a budget with a lot of clicks but not enough leads to justify the spending. Internet yellow page advertising is geared towards search advertising, not the content network.

Ask if the advertising spend will be on both Microsoft AdCenter and on Google AdWords. Remember, Microsoft AdCenter is also running Yahoo. Any agency that just runs on one platform will reduce your reach and frequency, which will mean far fewer potential customers.

For the monthly spend, ask for the percentage markup per click. Business owners should always know the daily spend by ad network. This is critical. If you do not know the markup per click and distribution of spend by ad network, you will have no idea where your money is going. Beware that several of high profile agencies that specialize in small business advertising charge 100%-150% markup per click.

In doing due diligence, I called the top four agencies that specialize in small business advertising and there was only one that had full disclosure of how their customers’ monthly advertising spend was allocated. This company is AdHui (www.adhui.com).

Some sales reps were clearly caught off guard and didn’t know while others sounded like they had a canned script to evade and down play the importance of the questions. Furthermore, none of the stats was displayed on their dashboard. Again, AdHui was the only agency that displayed daily spend by network and was the only agency that gave complete disclosure of their markup per click.

This is they way it should be. Any fortune 500 company that advertises knows how their budget is spent. The same should go for small business.

These days it is easier than ever to setup your own website. Advances in design software and browser technology has brought us into the era where web pages can be created and published in a matter of minutes. Community web portals such as www.weebly.com and www.tripod.com allow users to create web pages using plug-ins that run in the browser itself.

When you create your web page, you are creating something that you want other people to see. Maybe you just want to share photos with your family, or maybe you’ve written some great fan fiction that you want to show off to every other Harry Potter fan. No matter the reason for creating your page, you are going to want people to look at it, and while they are looking at it you want to keep them happy so they come look at it again.

Designing a really good web page is hard, well beyond the scope of this article. So instead of telling you what you should do, we are going to tell you some things that you should not do. By following the advice in this article, we can’t guarantee you that you will have a great web page, but we can guarantee that it will drastically reduce the number of people who are horrified by it.

Big Blocks of Text
Ideally, your web page will look a lot like a page out of a magazine. Your text will be evenly spaced with breaks between paragraphs. Reading long passages on a web page is not as easy as reading one in a book, so give your reader’s eyes a break by giving them nice bits of white space. This will allow them time to take a breath, absorb what you just said, and move on to the next chunk.

Horizontal Scrolling
Unless you use some really specific coding on your web page, most web browsers will happily wrap the text at the end of the screen. This way your users just have to keep scrolling down to read what you are trying to say. Sometimes however, even the most well intentioned web page designer can accidentally “break” the browser window and cause it to think that it is bigger than it actually is. This is most often caused by having wide pictures on your page. If your picture is 1000 pixels wide, then any user who has their desktop set to 800 by 600 will suddenly find that they have to horizontally scroll across your page to not only see the entire picture, but anything that you have written.

Mouse Followers
Imagine going to a web page that you really want to read. You arrive at that web page and while you are navigating around, you notice something odd. There is stuff following your mouse around! Maybe it’s a cat, maybe it’s a hundred cats, or maybe it’s a bunch of different colored text that chases your mouse around, and when you stop moving the mouse, reassembles itself into a clock. No matter what it is, it’s distracting and annoying. They were kinda neat 5 years ago for 2 minutes, but not anymore. You want people to read your page, so stop distracting them!

Music
You are sitting in your office/den/bedroom, browsing the web looking for the latest figures/antiques/American Idol gossip when all of a sudden Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” starts coming out of your speakers. Only it’s not even the real version of the song, it’s a cheap MIDI of the song that sounds like someone is playing it on their Gameboy. When people are browsing the web, if they want to listen to music they will choose their own and put it in their CD player. They don’t want you forcing music on them, especially if you are doing it just for the heck of it. There might be a few, a very few, web pages out there that warrant having music embedded in them, but I have yet to run across one. If you insist on doing this, at least give your visitors fair warning.

Animations
The human eye is naturally drawn to movement. If you have a happy face on your web page doing the Macarena, then that is what your visitor’s eyes are going to keep being pulled toward. Do you want your readers reading your vacation story, or staring at the dancing happy face? If you need to draw attention to something, use different colored text or a different font. Never, ever, have more than one animation in one browser window unless you are intentionally trying to trigger epileptic fits.

Unnecessary Plug-ins
People are uncomfortable downloading unfamiliar software to their computer, and rightly so. Therefore you should avoid placing anything on your web page that forces your users to download a plug-in. People have gotten used to Java and Flash, and putting something on your page that requires one of those is generally okay. However people are not going to want to download “Joe’s Super Cool Weather Info Plugin” just so they can see the current temperature (plus great offers) whenever they visit your web page.

Conclusion
Your website is a gift to your friends, family, or the whole world. Try to make your web page as neat and clean as possible. Most likely you want your web site to be one that people come to again and again, so you want to make sure that when people are reading your page they are not distracted or annoyed by a bunch of cutesy bells and whistles. Respect your visitors and they will respect your website.

Internet marketing has had its advantages from day one. These advantages have continued to increase as the state of the internet has improved. Everybody enjoys the instant access that is afforded from online digital products and services. The popularity of ebooks is growing daily. There is no indication that this will ever change, and so the number of online customers, as well as the number of advantages, for online marketers will continue to grow.

One of the undisputed advantages of the internet is its convenience. If you have a computer and internet access, you can conduct business anytime and anywhere you please. Now that many people have laptop computers, this becomes even truer. Information and digital products are only a mouse click away.

online-marketingFor the product marketer, advertising costs are greatly reduced with the number of methods available. One of these methods would be email marketing campaigns. You can send costly postcards to thousands of people and may recognize some success a week or two later. With email, however, you can send out emails to the same thousand people and notice an increase in sales an hour from now-all for no cost.

Suppose your business runs with no online marketing, and you just found out one of your products will be discontinued. You want to run a sale to clear your stock, but it will take a few days to reach your customers with the news. Now, the guy down the street also has this product and has gotten the same news. Suppose your competitor does his marketing online. Your competitor can send one mass mailing out to customers and have them at his store that same evening. You will most likely end up being stuck with the product while your competitor has moved onto the new, improved model.

Yet another advantage of the internet is you have the world at your fingertips ready to become your next customer. Starting a business, you have the people who can physically travel to your store as customers. This number is limited to the people willing to make that trip. The internet reaches just about every nook and cranny of the world. If you open your store online, your customer base is anyone with internet access-a growth of millions. Each and every day, more people join the online community. As they are added to the internet, they are also added to your customer database. You can’t beat this advantage.

The advantages to marketing online are numerous. It is great to interact with people personally and have these people shop in your store, but you cannot beat the added customer base the internet allows you. Not to mention the instant availability of information, products and services. Online marketing is here to stay.