A Comprehensive History of Digital Marketing That Won’t Put You to Sleep

history of digital marketing

In case you’ve missed any of our engaging blogs or have been living under a rock for a few years, digital marketing refers to any effort a company makes to promote a product, service, or organization online. Our industry has seen many transformations over the years. And if you know anything about the history of digital marketing, it’s not going anywhere any time soon.

Discover the humble beginnings of our industry over twenty years ago, and get a hint about where we’re headed.

When Did Digital Marketing Start?

The first personal computers and tracking consumer data

IBM launched the first personal computer in 1981. Since then, manufacturers have been improving these little gadgets to have more capabilities, including holding large amounts of data. Once PCs gained more memory in the 90s, offline marketing efforts started dying out. Marketers started to find ways to reach people via their personal computers and the Internet.

Act! is one of the first customer relationship management (CRM) softwares, formed in 1986 to store large amounts of customer contact information and demographics. After its launch, marketers started collecting and studying consumer data. This acted as the beginnings of marketing automation and managing various campaigns for different target audiences.

By the 1990s, Internet users grew to about 16 million worldwide. The first banner ads were displayed in 1993. After that, many businesses followed suit to start utilizing the available real estate online for advertising.

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Archie, the first search engine

You all may know the most popular search engines like Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, Bing, and Google. However, none of these were the first. The very first search engine, Archie—short for “archives”—launched in 1990. Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University at the time, created this early software to aid in a user’s search for certain files.

Archie launched before the World Wide Web existed, but instead archived smaller networks that stored public files. It kept an index of files on public FTP servers and allowed users to search for and download these files. It was a useful tool in a time when people could only find files like these through word of mouth.

Although Archie was primitive and not as advanced as our searches are today, it was still a great innovation for its time. It offered different features to customize your search, like choosing which database to look into and how to search with keywords (whether you want to include a string of nouns or variations of the terms you enter).

Towards the end of the 1990s, we were introduced to search engines, Yahoo! and Google, and digital marketing kept growing from there.

The surge of Internet users in the early 2000s

Here’s a brief history of digital marketing during the early 2000s where we saw an influx of advancements online:

  • 2001: Universal Music launched the first mobile marketing campaign.
  • 2002: The number of Internet users worldwide jumped to 558 million.
  • 2002: LinkedIn launched.
  • 2003: We were introduced to WordPress and Myspace.
  • 2004: Gmail launches, Google becomes public, and Facebook goes live.
  • 2005: We see the launch of YouTube.
  • 2006: Twitter launches, and marketers start split testing.
  • 2007: Tumblr launches, and we get the first iPhone.

As more Internet users became active, Google expanded a business’s opportunities to advertise online through AdWords and AdSense. And by 2004, Internet advertising brought in about $2.9 billion in the US.

The growth of the Internet shifted the dynamic between the seller and consumer. Customers inherited the reigns in the buying process and gained more control over their own buying decisions. Users were now able to perform their own research on products and make decisions on the go before even interacting with a salesperson or brand in-person. Introverts, rejoice!

This new dynamic and these advancements in technology, in turn, also gave marketers new special powers and moved us into the marketing age we’re in now.

The Evolution of Digital Marketing

Cookies were introduced in the late 1990s to track user data. Their purpose was to collect browsing behaviors online, which allowed marketers to tailor advertisements to a consumer’s interests and habits.

Now, marketing automation and CRMs help a lot of digital marketers track user data and use it to their advantage in a campaign. Businesses can study what a user searches for and where they are in the sales funnel—all so they can receive more streamlined marketing from us.

Marketers can launch multiple tiers of a marketing campaign to match the intent and needs of each individual consumer.

The history of digital marketing and its advancements has led us to more powerful and more personalized campaigns than ever before.

As technology and our capabilities continue to advance, we’ll continue to gain more insight on how the buyer behaves, and create more avenues for them to become connected to your brand. Depending on your audience and where they “live” online, you can market your business to them in various ways.

Post Launch Will Keep You Updated with the Trends

Internet marketing trends change all the time due to new technology and advancements in our industry. That’s why you should work with web presence marketing experts like us here at Post Launch. We stay knowledgeable about what’s going on in the digital world, so you don’t have to.

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