Do you sometimes feel like you’re on the road to nowhere trying to decipher online advertising opportunities? Well, you’re not alone. With all of the social media marketing, banner ads, article sites, ad words, blogs, podcasts, gaming, etc. it can be quite a daunting task to sort through the maze of available online advertising opportunities. So, here is some information to help you get started in this fascinating online world.Definition of Online AdvertisingWhat exactly is online advertising? Examples of online advertising include contextual ads on search engine results pages, banner ads, rich media ads, social network ads, online classified advertising, advertising networks, and e-mail marketing, including e-newsletters.With all of these choices which ones should your company dive into? Well, if you’re a novice in the online world, perhaps you should start small and send e-announcements to your customer database. This is a good way to stay in touch with your existing customers. If you want to enlarge your circle of prospects, then it’s very easy to offer an e-newsletter with an opt-in subscription. If you don’t have the staff in-house to accomplish this there are several companies that can help you develop your e-mail template. They also will maintain your database of subscribers and provide you a report of new and opted-out subscribers. They even provide you the HTML code so that you can place a sign-up box on your website.Competitive Advantage of Online Advertising vs. Traditional Print AdvertisingUnlike print advertising where your prospects have to wait for the magazine or journal to hit the streets before they see your ad, online advertising is instantaneous. So, it is a good way to promote special seminars that your company may be sponsoring, highlight a new product launch, or even provide personnel announcements. It is also much easier to track who is clicking on your ad. However, be wary because you really want to count clickthroughs rather than just clicks. You also pay for CPM (Cost per Thousand) rather than a frequency rate for a particular sized ad like you do in print advertising.Interactive ad expenditures are forecast to increase dramatically in 2010. Whether you are comfortable or not with online advertising, you will definitely need to budget some of your marketing dollars for this type of media. Social media marketing is still in the development stage. No one is really quite sure how to make money using these tools. Right now it is a good way to get prospects to follow your company and to direct them to your website.Does Online Advertising Work?Some of you may be skeptics but online advertising does work. Statistics show that 77% of Internet users employ search engines more frequently than any other online advertising media. 84% of Internet users are online four or more hours per day. 55% of Internet users are more likely to purchase online after seeing a search listing. Only 9% are more likely to purchase after seeing banner ads. But that doesn’t mean that banner advertising is dead. Instead of using a static banner, try integrating rich media such as video or gaming to the mix. For an attention-grabber, some companies get viewers to interact with their banner ads. Promoting some sort of contest or game does the trick. In fact, in-game advertising is expected to see a 9% growth in 2009 and up to 28% growth in 2010. In-game advertising is a good way to engage the visitor.Another form of online advertising is known as contextual advertising. These are graphical or text-only ads that correspond to keywords of an Internet search. They can also correspond to the content of the page on which the ad is shown. For example, if you type in a search for “flowers” you might get an advertisement for a florist’s website. A newer technique involves embedding keyword hyperlinks throughout an article, which is sponsored by an advertiser. When the user follows the links, they are sent to the sponsor’s website.There are many ways to advertise online. So, take the plunge and get started with this new and exciting media.