The Evolution of Digital Marketing and Its Impact on the Business Landscape

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The Evolution of Digital Marketing and Its Impact on the Business Landscape

In September 2018, SharpNet, a leading SEO company, celebrated two decades in business. Over these years, a significant revolution was witnessed: the rise and development of digital marketing. This article reflects on the journey of the internet and digital advertising, where they are today and their trajectory for the future.

Reflecting back to 20 years ago, I was working as a process engineering specialist at Agilent Technology, an IPO spun-off of Hewlett Packard. Layoffs were rampant among my coworkers. As a married man with three children depending on me, I decided to take control of my destiny and established an SEO company. Six months later, layoff hit my former department at Agilent. Within one year, it was completely shut down. Establishing SharpNet turned out to be my best investment.

It wasn't termed SEO 20 years ago; there wasn't even an acronym for it at that time. My new venture did not even have an industry description when I was filing insurance paperwork. It was challenging finding experienced workers to hire given that broadband was not well-developed and it took a year before we could even "Google" anything. Social media platforms like Facebook were six years away from being launched and Mark Zuckerberg was just 13 years old then.

Digital Marketing Changed the WorldBack then, we had search engines like Yahoo, Alta Vista, Lycos and Excite. Others in the mix were HotBot, Ask Jeeves and DogPile (yes DogPile). Google had just been founded in 1998 as a company but was still in beta stage until 1999 when it started gaining attention. introduced Pay Per Click first, later changing its name to Overture before eventually being acquired by Yahoo. Google followed suit in 2000 by launching AdWords, and SharpNet offered PPC management services even before Google and Yahoo introduced PPC.

The digital industry had to overcome three major obstacles:

(1) Security Concerns: Initially, people were afraid to shop online due to security concerns. Eventually we all overcame this fear, a fact proven by the success of Amazon.

(2) High Speed Internet: Developing fast and affordable internet across most parts of the USA was a daunting task but it was critical for internet penetration. Without it, streaming movies or browsing e-commerce sites would have been impossible, not to mention smartphones or GPS.

(3) Dot Com Boom: The Dot Com Boom caused the internet to be seen as "sketchy" in its first decade. This perception persisted for a few more years after creators stopped innovating and investors backed out.

Despite initial attempts at making the internet work failing, it was simply impossible for the internet not to work in the long run. Whatever challenges faced were mere speed bumps. Today, the internet is fast gaining momentum as a technological revolution akin to evolution and war simultaneously. It brought about an onslaught against traditional marketing channels like television and print media with companies like Amazon rising while Sears and Toys R Us fell. With more people using Facebook than scrapbooking and phonebooks becoming obsolete, online presence became vital for survival as digital marketing provides avenues for monetizing this online presence.

While Amazon may not be considered as the greatest achievement of the internet age, it is certainly one of its most prominent monuments being the 7th largest retailer without having a single storefront. It also has the 7th largest market capitalization surpassing Walmart.

So what lies in future for digital marketing? The future of digital marketing is inherently tied to the future of the internet. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the newest revolution in the internet world with Google already incorporating it in their product RankBrain. However, this technology will soon permeate other sectors like finance, retail and automotive (autonomous vehicles). Websites will become smarter with AI, knowing what to show based on your preferences and which ads you'd likely click on.

With AI, even if you don't want to search for something, it will lure you into doing so. Amazon has become a new kind of digital retailer that will be incredibly convenient and smart. These smart websites will literally rearrange themselves for you offering a different experience for every user similar to Walmart rearranging their entire store for each customer who walks in. Sounds impossible? But that's what the future holds.