The Evolution & Growth of Digital Marketing - Piranha Digital

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The Evolution & Growth of Digital Marketing

By piranha

7th October 2021

Digital marketing spend is expected to reach $146 (£107) billion by 2023, growing at a 9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to a Forrester report. This is a massive sum for a versatile and ever-changing industry…

In this article, I’m going to be looking at the evolution and growth of digital marketing and how modern businesses are utilising it.

What is Digital Marketing?

To start off, let’s talk about what digital marketing actually involves. Digital marketing, also known as online marketing, is the promotion of companies & brands to connect with potential customers using the internet or other forms of digital media – this includes email, social channels, web-based/search engine advertising and more.

A day in the life of a digital marketeer involves SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, Google/Bing PPC, PR, affiliate marketing and much more. Thorough research, testing and implementation is involved to make sure their client’s website gets the best result possible.

Digital marketing is the bedrock of modern businesses.

When Did Digital Marketing Start?

To look back at the history of digital marketing, we have to take a look at the invention of the internet. The World Wide Web was launched in 1991 and the first popular browser, Netscape, launched in 1994. Google came into play in 1998 alongside other search engines like Yahoo.

Search engines crawl web pages for keywords and then rank them on their results pages. Users loved browsing these search engines to find the information and products they were looking for within a few clicks of a button. As you can imagine, businesses wanted their brand to be the first option users clicked on.

This brought along SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimisation) – it was the beginning of digital marketing.

The Start of SEM & SMM

Google AdWords was launched in 2000, businesses could place their ads at the top of the results pages for the keywords their target customers were searching for – it was ideal. In 2005, paid advertising advanced when Google introduced the Google Advertising professional programme! Social media marketing (SMM) also started in 2005 when Facebook & LinkedIn followed Google’s lead. Twitter & Instagram didn’t offer PPC until 2010 & 2012.

SEO Being Used for the First Time

People soon picked up on how Google and other search engines ranked websites to appear on the SERPs (search engine results pages) – they could then improve their website using SEO to appear higher. SEO was extremely messy back then and black-hat techniques were commonplace. Black-hat SEO techniques involved white text on a white background used for keyword stuffing. Google soon picked up on these techniques and began punishing websites which used them by lowering their position in the SERPs. Black-hat techniques are now a lot less common and digital marketers follow best practice when completing SEO.

The emergence of Google Analytics in 2005 further developed the digital marketing industry with marketeers being able to track everyone that visited their client’s website. We could track which pages users browsed, how long they stayed on each page for and which products they eventually ended up buying.

The Advancement of E-commerce

Back in the day, people would have to walk to a shop to buy a product they wanted. Right now, you can get anything you want delivered straight to your door. Also, stores aren’t just offering next-day delivery (which is fast enough!), Argos even offers same-day delivery – ordering before 6pm means they’ll get your product to you before 10pm… So, within a matter of hours, you’ll be receiving your product! We’ve come a long way since the introduction of E-commerce…

Amazon launched in 1994 and Ebay launched in 1995, Amazon actually started off as an online bookstore – nowadays, you can find anything on Amazon. PayPal launched in 2000, making online transactions easier for users. More recently, Apple Pay launched in 2014 – making it so you only need your iPhone to pay for products both in store and online!

The Development of Social Media

It wasn’t long after the launch of the internet that social media platforms began popping up. MySpace was the first social media platform, it launched in 2003 followed closely by Facebook which was launched in 2004. LinkedIn launched in 2003, it was a place for professionals to connect with professionals and focussed more on B2B rather than B2C. These social networking websites took off, with thousands of people joining up, businesses saw this as a new avenue to explore and promote their products.

Twitter and Instagram launched a bit later down the line but still became extremely popular and another new way for businesses to advertise their brand. Twitter launched in 2007 and Instagram launched in 2010. Snapchat followed, launching in 2011 and more recently businesses have been including TikTok, which launched in 2016, into their marketing strategy.

Becoming Mobile-First

Mobile technology was becoming much more sought after, in 2003, Blackberry made its mark with their smartphone. Steve Jobs released the first iPhone in 2007. The internet was no longer constricted to just a desktop PC and users could search from their phone no matter where they were – as long as they were connected to the internet. Businesses’ websites had to be mobile friendly and load fast for them to be appealing to users.

Video Marketing

After the launch of YouTube in 2005, businesses soon realised that they couldn’t just rely on image-based or text-based ads, they could take advantage of YouTube and create engaging videos of their products and services. Video marketing has become more and more important within the past decade.

The Future of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing has experienced a lot of growth since it’s emergence in the 1990s, it’s now absolutely crucial for businesses to have a digital marketing strategy. The future of this industry looks bright, with AI technologies being built and voice search rising in popularity. Businesses will keep pushing the limits of online marketing, creating new and fresh ways to connect with their customers – having an online presence is truly make-or-break for a brand.


Here at Piranha, we can offer all of the services listed above from SEM & SEO services to social media marketing  and managing. If you’re interested in digital marketing services, get in contact with the team and we’ll be able to help you with your requirements.

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