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History and Evolution of Digital Marketing

By Carol

'Just Google it' has become the new-age adage for any suggestion you seek. However, this was not the case a few decades ago. Today, all the information is available at your fingertips. You can witness an eclipse or a soccer match happening in any corner of the world and be a part of it from the comfort of your home. If you just rewind a few years, you will easily recognize the huge difference in the way information is generated and disbursed. The power of digital medium and the overwhelming potential of technology have simply changed the world. This wasn't the case a few decades ago. However unbelievable it might sound, all this advancement has been in the span off just 25 years. In this modern era, promoting your product by tailoring online presence might be the thumb rule, but where did this all begun? Let's trace how digital marketing has made a silent entry in our daily lives and created a bigger impact on businesses.

First Occurrence of Digital Marketing

This term was coined in 1991 with the dawn of the first search engine, Archie. Prior to that, the internet was a static real where information could only be accessed and read, and hence, social sharing was said to be improbable. Whether this could be considered as the advent of digital marketing is a still a matter of debate. It is claimed that Guglielmo Marconi, who invented radio was the first digital marketer. Furthermore, it is believed that Ray Tomlinson mailed himself in 1971 and then the era of email was launched. These moments represent technological evolution, but as compared to digital marketing we think of now, it can be said that Archie's search engine was the breakthrough as it acted as an index for FTP sites.

Through the 90s

In 1993, the first web-ad banner was introduced to the world. A company named Hotwired purchased these banner ads for advertising on the web medium and soon online advertising arrived in the scene. Around the same time, in 1994, Yahoo was launched and the first e-commerce transaction was done over Netmarket, which became a major trend as many companies launched their websites. A few years later, in 1996, many search engines like Alexa, HotBot, LookSmart, InfoSeek, WebCrawler invaded and thus significant strides in search queries were made. The next major event was the launch of the world's first social media site, 'SixDegrees.com' in 1997, which ushered us into a new era and transformed the way we interacted with each other.

Golden Era – Birth of Google

The revolution in this field did not occur until Google came into picture. The cookie technology, which stores a piece of code for future reference in the user's browser was also introduced in 1990s. During the Dot-com bubble burst of 2000, many small search engines were shut down and the very first social media site was closed, resulting in the failure of several internet-based start-ups. However, this did not mean the end of the internet. It rather added a new bucket full of technologies.

Google Adwords (2000) and content targeting services (AdSense in 2003) ensured digital marketing took a quantum leap and ushered the world into a modern era. This gave the marketers an opportunity to advertise their products with the most popular search engine in the world and increase their base of customers. With so much revolution taking place, soon Web 2.0 followed permitting owners to have dynamic websites with user-generated content that finds the right target audience. This was the first brush up with social media and a site called MySpace which was an early adopter of Web 2.0 is said to be the pioneer of social media in digital marketing.

With Wordpress making its debut in 2003, countless entrepreneurs found content marketing simpler as compared to the traditional days. In 2004, internet advertising was the buzzword with Google permitting publishers to monetize their AdSense. Another epic event during this year was Google offering public services, launch of Gmail and Facebook going live. What followed in the next years was just beyond imagination as the world was thrown into a digital era at a lightening speed. YouTube (2005) offered diverse opportunities to promote a brand, Amazon hit a sales crossing $10 billion in e-commerce (2006), and Tumblr (2007) gave any individual a power to be a blogger.

Apple is not a fruit anymore!

While a web-streaming service, Hulu was launched in 2007, what changed the idea of a smartphone was Steve Job introducing the first iPhone to the world and Apple became synonymous to a leading brand that manufactures handsets with optimum features. The popularity of smartphones, tablets, phablets saw an increase in population that inched towards the purchase of more than 2 smart devices or wearables just for the sake of staying connected 24x7. Mobile technology was booming and in 2009, Google introduced real-time search engine results to get immediate answers to queries.

With technology rapidly getting revolutionized, the number of users relying on mobiles instead of personal computers increased. As a result, online marketing with videos soon became a big way to promote a brand. In addition to this, with the launch of various tools like LinkedIn (2002), YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006), Whatsapp (2010), Snapchat (2011) and Instagram (2013), real-time and location-specific marketing methods became faster.

Why digital marketing is helpful?

As compared to the traditional medium of marketing like print, TV, radio, mail or billboard, digital marketing offers a two way-conversation with the customers. As a result, the rate of losing frequent buyers and prospective customers is reduced to a small percentage since you already have an analytics team working on a personalized level to suit user's interest and thus generate appropriate recommendations. Since the audience is loosely defined in traditional marketing, a business owner who wants to promote a product according to the demographic and behavioral attributes of a region would fail to do so in the absence of digital marketing campaigns.

In the good old days, a company website would be found tucked into a corner of the product commercial that ran on television. A few years down the line, the key attributes of a product were stuffed into the web page to get top search engine ranks. With many search engine developers using similar tricks, Google introduced advanced ranking algorithms to give the users a personalized and rich browsing experience. This coerced the brand owners to design strategies in a whole new way to sell and communicate about their products. Today, the GoogleBot crawls through thousands of web pages before displaying the most relevant results in the first page of search engine result.

The Rise of SEO

Even if sophisticated algorithms were devised to get the best possible results, it did not take much time for the brand owners to realize that when the web page is stuffed with appropriate keywords, it opens up gates for a better online visibility. Optimizing websites to highlight a brand was available in mid 90s, but it did not acquire global importance untill 2004. In the old days, keyword stuffing, link spamming or article submission was not known and social media almost never existed except for a few individuals. With the advent of social media, the marketing became less aggressive as the need to focus on tactics to target a pool of customers was the need of the hour.

In 2011, when Google launched two algorithms namely, Google Panda and Google Penguin, it changed the way your website appeared in the ranking of the popular search engine. While Panda took the quality of content for ranking websites, Penguin focused on link qualities. As a result, websites that had thin content or low-quality links (blog spams, directories, infographics or link bandages) were negatively impacted and could no longer find their place in the top results.

Current Trends

While the old trends of marketing like SEO practices, Google Adwords, content marketing, website enhancements are all vital to stay in news, according to the latest trends, it has become even more necessary to create meaningful digital experiences. Although traffic generation and targeting new leads are essential, as the technology advances at a rapid rate, it is important to get accustomed to automation and social relationship marketing as augmented reality plays a major role in the virtual world. With medium like Facebook launching instant articles on their sites, phones getting launched on Amazon, teaser of Hollywood flicks being promoted on social media pages, technologies like Big data, IOT, AI and CRO are going to redefine the digital marketing strategies in the upcoming years.


In the past few years, purchasing have shown us a paradigm shift from traditional purchasers to tech-savvy buyers. For instance, to buy a smartphone, people first check its specifications and reviews online and then make a final decision. This seamless experience of analyzing a product online before purchase forced businesses to come up with innovative marketing strategies to keep the client base intact. People are increasingly using social media to tell the world about their last holiday destination or describe the food on the platter, and leaving behind a gamut of data.

With the help of digital marketing, it is now possible to access this information and classify it into homogeneous groups to identify the next set of target customers who have similar likes. The advertisements are no more generic, they are more people-oriented. Last but not the least, if you are not able to promote a product in a 15-second clip, you need to redesign marketing strategies as the attention span of the users is less. People around the world would focus on the initial words before moving to the next website, and if you want your publicity stunts to garner result, focus on your video content as visual storytelling skill, which will be the next big thing in designing effective marketing campaigns.

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