Internet marketing has become an ever-expanding industry that can be relevant to any company, from major corporations such as Coca-Cola buying pre-roll advertisements before television shows on Hulu, to local restaurants promoting local deals online as a way to generate more foot traffic. In fact, according to a new survey, internet marketing is becoming an essential tactic for restaurants.

According to NPD – a consumer and retail research firm – 6 percent of restaurant visits were influenced by targeted internet marketing. Although the percentage may seem small, it amounts to nearly 926 million visits in three months, which can be a sizeable amount of traffic, especially for any small or local restaurant seeking an expanded customer base.

In addition, the group also found that of all the restaurant visitors who were influenced by internet marketing campaigns, 26 percent said it was their first time visiting a restaurant. This statistic is more than twice the normal rate of restaurant visitors who may be at an establishment for the first time.

"The influence of online marketing on restaurant demand is expected to continue to increase," says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. "It's no longer a question of if online marketing should be a part of a restaurant operator's overall marketing plan; it's a must have."

The study also found that most online marketing campaigns were delivered over a website or smartphone application and are mostly used to take advantage of deals or special offers. Other advertisements contain information on menu details, reviews and the restaurant's location, playing heavily toward demand for local products and business.

Restaurants seeking to generate more foot traffic or increase their first-time visitors, may want to consult an internet advertising agency to conduct a small business internet marketing campaign that will help them capitalize on these current consumer trends.