How the Internet has changed companies' marketing plans

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It wasn't that long ago when the marketing menu for businesses consisted of print, radio and television. But as the Internet took hold, and Americans began to spend larger and larger shares of their time online, businesses began to see the opportunities offered by Internet marketing.

Today, Internet marketing is huge business - you only need to look as far as the $36.5 billion businesses spent on Google ads in the last year. And it's not just that businesses are simply throwing money into online advertising. The reason they are spending their money online is Internet marketing allows businesses to reach audiences in completely new and more sophisticated ways.

Benj Arriola, an Internet marketing expert for Internet Marketing, Inc., details four ways that marketing on the Web has changed the way businesses advertise.

* Internet marketing offers the opportunity to reach a more interested and active audience. Traditional marketing through radio, TV and print offers exposure to large audiences, but there's no guarantee that those audiences are paying attention. By optimizing their sites for search engines, companies can target individuals who are already likely seeking out their products or services. Social media also offers the opportunity for businesses to reach an engaged and active audience.

* Online marketing makes it easy to track your success. Web analytics allow you to track how long visitors are spending on your website, and what's attracting the most attention. Other tools allow you to track how many people are reading your email newsletter and track click-through rates on online ads. If something isn't working for you, you can change course before you spend a lot of money.

* Many online marketing platforms represent a cost savings. You can put almost unlimited content on your website for a very marginal cost. Starting a company blog can help drive traffic to your website and build trust with potential customers. Maintaining a presence on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allows you to share information on special promotions or new products with a few strokes of the keyboard and the click of a mouse.

* Options like pay-per-click advertising help ensure that you are targeting the right audience, since you pay only when potential customers click on your ads. Through these types of models, you can also hone your sales pitch in a way that leads to more business by monitoring past successes and failures.

In short, Internet marketing has given companies a more direct link to consumers, and allowed them to deliver increasingly customized marketing content. Businesses that are Internet-savvy and spend their online marketing dollars wisely are likely to see a reward in the form of increased business.