*Please note: this post has been updated to include new and relevant information. First published in 2014.
After more than 10 years in the industry we’ve seen the growth of digital marketing first-hand and there’s really only one thing we can say for certain: if you don’t keep up you’ll get left behind.
Digital Evolution: A Quick Look Back
With the advent of Gutenberg’s printing press in Europe in 1450, the ability to mass-communicate and sell gained such epic momentum that it’s barely slowed down in over 500 years. Magazines first emerged in the 1730s, radio advertising in 1922 and then in 1941, the world’s first TV ad was broadcast on American screens in one of the most groundbreaking moments in marketing history.
In 1965, a computer in Massachusetts connected with another in California via dial-up and in 1973 the first hand-held mobile phone call was made. But it wasn’t until the early 1980s when the first commercially available desktop PCs started filtering into homes, that a tidal wave of new marketing possibilities crashed onto the scene with digital. That was around 34 years ago.
Blink and You’ve Missed It
You’ve got to be fast in this industry. Digital evolution happens so rapidly that the operating system used to write this article will probably be obsolete by the time the last sentence is written.
By The Time Our Agency Launched In 2004:
- Queen Elizabeth had already sent her first royal email
- PhotoShop 6.0 had been released
- Ridley Scott had long since directed and screened the first ever Apple Mac ad
- The first major spamming incidents by marketers had come and gone
- The World Wide Web was already 15-years old
- Everyone was talking about a thing called Facebook
- Businesses were already using AdWords to generate traffic
- SEO was a major buzzword
Digital Marketing Then & Now: Since 2004
Google Got Smarter
Early search engines like Yahoo!, InfoSeek, AltaVista, Lycos and WebCrawler made significant strides in the digital evolution of search but let’s be honest, the golden years didn’t start until Google launched in 1998. With the birth of today’s most popular search engine and its development of tools like AdWords in 2000 and content targeting services in 2003, everything changed online. In 2004, search engines started using advanced ranking algorithms and browsing online became more personal. The impact this had on business is immense. Being able to target browsers and develop strategies based on search patterns led to a whole new way of selling and communicating. These days a Googlebot crawls and indexes trillions of pages on the web and makes the most relevant ones instantly accessible via traditional or voice search. A brand can reach anyone, anywhere at any time, and that’s powerful.
SEO Grew Up
Optimising sites for search engines began to mainstream in the mid-90s and by 2004, SEO had become an essential marketing tool used on a global scale. In the early days, techniques like keyword stuffing, article submissions and link spamming were recommended by guys who mostly just didn’t know better. No one cared about the impact of social media and usability didn’t even come up in conversation – SEO was an island and keywords were embarrassing. But you learn. These days SEO is less of a loner and more of an essential cog in a greater machine powered by other strategies and channels.
Digital PR Became Incredibly Powerful
Back in the day there was no such thing as a traditional or a digital PR agency. There were only PR agencies. Today all that’s changed, and since the digital evolution PR has had to broaden its focus. A long time ago traditional PRs would use media tours to do press meetings and secure exposure for their clients in print, radio and on TV, often sending out reports and questionnaires afterwards to gather info from the contacts and to find out whether they’d even be featuring their clients. Today a digital PR specialist can find out everything they need to know about a contact before even making a pitch. By working with SEO reserach and trends, Digital PRs are able to back all of their decisions with data, leading to better targeting and more quantifiable results.
Social Media Kept Us Connected
In 2004 people still used MySpace. Little did anyone know at the time that Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard roommates would release a colossal giant to crush all that came before. It was the start of a new era for digital marketing. Social media stopped being a way to just chat with friends and started becoming a way to connect with brands, complain, spread news, shop and even influence other shoppers. Businesses took notice and online reputation management became more important than ever. Today, with channels like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, with billions of users, targeted advertising and a digital landscape that never sleeps, social media has become one of the most vital parts of any marketing strategy.
Marketing Became Less Aggressive
For the longest time marketers used tactics designed to interrupt potential clients, contacted us without permission and blindly targeted everyone in the hopes of reaching someone interested. In short, communicating with potential customers hasn’t always been as sophisticated as it is today. Fortunately, thanks to better research, statistics and higher quality content and targeting, a new way of digital marketing began to find its stride. HubSpot co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan was credited with creating the term, inbound marketing, and later author Seth Godin took it a step further by introducing the idea of permission marketing. Today’s content marketing is based on all these principles: understanding the consumer better so you can appeal to their interests and needs with tailor made content and information. These days, we know we have to earn attention with great content, conversations, transparency, opt-in email lists, word-of-mouth brand building and viral marketing. And that’s just one of the ways the internet changed marketing.
Don’t Get Left Behind!
Make sure your brand keeps up – speak to us about an integrated digital marketing plan and stay on top of your game.