Internet users in 2012 are savvier than ever. Where once traditional paid banner ads were enough to entice a fair number of clicks, today’s internet marketers have to get creative in how they spend their money in order to attract users’ attention. Here’s a look at some of the places that companies are counting on to deliver conversions this year:

Social Media

While social media marketing isn’t anything new (Facebook netted nearly $500 million in advertising revenue in the first half of 2011 alone), recent research suggests that many of the current methods that marketers are using to engage customers are flawed. Companies that want to stand out on social media platforms this year will have to look beyond the “tried and true” methods if they’re hoping to see an increase in conversions.

As an example, take Facebook’s “Like” button. Research suggests that this button means vastly different things to different people, and the number of Likes a company has on its Facebook Page is not directly equal to the number of “loyal” customers a brand has.

Recognizing this as a problem, Facebook has expanded the tools available to companies via the Page Insights dashboard. In addition to Likes and shares, marketers can see a metric called “People Talking About This” that measures the number of people who have created stories about the page in the last seven days. This new metric and other tools represent an increased focus on customer engagement in social media rather than a simple measurement of click-through-rates.

Mobile

2011 was a huge year for smart devices. Both phones and tablets became much more affordable last year, allowing more average users than ever access to the mobile internet. What this all means for marketing budgets is that companies can no longer afford to be without a mobile marketing strategy.

There have already been a plethora of creative and successful mobile marketing campaigns, but this year we expect to see more as companies target users on their smart devices. Some examples of good use of the technology include Domino’s Pizza Hero app that’s both a game and a fun way to get pizza delivered, and Macy’s Backstage Pass that introduced fashion shoppers to the concept of QR codes.

On-site Content

One way that marketers are changing the game in 2012 is by putting more of a focus on valuable on-site content and building a community of returning visitors. In the vast information ocean that is the internet, companies that can make their sites and blogs stand out with fresh, useful content like how-to videos, funny pictures, and helpful tutorials.

An example of a site that does this well is BabyCenter.com. Owned by Johnson & Johnson, this site provides such useful parenting information that it has become the first and only stop for many new moms and dads searching for highly-engaging and authoritative baby resource.

Companies that want to do more to attract and keep customers this year are following the BabyCenter.com model and spending more of their marketing dollars in beefing up their blogs and other on-site content. As many consult their financial management advisors they look into upcoming years with a revised focus on where marketing money is distributed finally recognizing an increasing importance of their own web property quality.

This year, Google is rolling out changes that will likely have a major effect on the way people find information online and web marketing. Since Google is likely to remain at the top of the search game for the foreseeable future, companies searching for ways to increase the number of visitors from these search engines will need to adapt.

Google plans to introduce more data directly onto search results pages, making it unnecessary, in some instances, for users to click through to a website. Queries that are direct questions, for example, will return an answer directly on the results pages, meaning that marketers that rely on visitors clicking through to deep pages to find information will likely be affected. What this means is that most companies will need to revisit and adapt their strategy for search engine optimization to remain relevant.

Companies are relying more and more on web marketing strategies to increase their brand awareness and customer base. The businesses that will receive maximum ROI from their marketing dollars this year are the ones that are flexible enough to follow where the users are going in 2012.