A Brief History of Digital Marketing (THAT’S EVERYTHING)


A Brief History of Digital Marketing (THAT’S EVERYTHING)


We might assume many of the words, phrases and acronyms we take for granted as digital marketers have always been “a thing”. But there was a time when the likes of online advertising, PPC and email didn’t even exist.

So where did all these digital disciplines that we work with everyday come from?

We asked our resident eCommerce expert, Dan Coleman, to delve deep into his memory, take us back to school and give us a quick history lesson on where all those terms that we know and love came from.

Pay attention class, there might be a test at the end…


Purists will say it’s a lot older but Search Engine Optimization as we think of it dates back to the late 90s.

It’s been falsely declared “dead” as a technique several times. But all that means is that it just got harder for you to get people to find your content when it’s irrelevant to them and their searches. So, if anything it’s got more accurate.

SEO as a discipline absolutely changed the game as it was the first time you could put your product or service in front of people at the exact moment, they were looking for it. Done right it’s still an incredibly powerful tool.


It means using all the available tools and data sets to optimize business growth. Those of us who have been around a bit longer tend to just call this “marketing”.


The first Facebook ads were launched in 2005 but it was a slow burn for Facebook as an advertising platform until 2013 when they introduced lookalike audiences and conversion pixels that could track actions on the advertiser’s website.

The rest of the social networks have followed suit by introducing paid ads, but Facebook is as essential to digital marketing as Google Ads nowadays.


PPC began in 2000 with Overture and Google Ad-words on a purely auction based model. It was overhauled in the mid-2000s to determine which ads should appear based on various data-driven optimization factors. These ensure that the ads which generated the most revenue for Google would appear most often even if their auction bid was not the highest.

This was a game changer as it gave you predictable, SEO-like activity for a fee. New ad formats and audience techniques have been introduced over time and you need to master all of them in addition to SEO if you want to get the best from Google.


Banner ads first appeared in 1994 on a flat fee basis. They live on through affiliate networks which have a cost-per-action model, and site takeovers which tend to have reverted to flat fee. Everything old becomes new again.

Although they’re seen as a pest now, these ads were hugely important because they helped keep the web free to use and allowed it to become a viable business platform.


Influencer marketing pre-dates the internet by a long way – think Michael Jackson advertising Pepsi in the 80s or the Lux Soaps Hoardings on the Main roads.

Its modern form evolved from paying celebrities to broadcast your campaign on their social media, often with questionable results.

Nowadays, it’s more about collaborations with people who have found fame exclusively online through YouTube, Instagram etc. Due diligence is needed though as you have limited editorial control. A recent high-profile example was one of Disney’s paid influencers using racist language in a live stream.


Most advertising is targeted, but not all of it well. More data and better tools mean audiences can be well defined, especially on Facebook.

Combine that with a lack of regulatory oversight when compared to the traditional ad mediums. Fortunately, most of us just use these techniques to sell mobile phones and dresses.


Email came of age as a marketing channel during the first dotcom boom through the use of rudimentary personalisation. It’s another medium that has been declared dead several times but in a well optimised marketing mix, it will still deliver some of the best ROI. Largely because it’s a way to communicate with people who have already engaged with you in some way.


There’s two parts to this:

The creepy passive stuff which Facebook has been denying since 2016 where you have a conversation in the real world about wanting to get fit and they suddenly start showing ads for bicycles and trainers on your mobile.

Then there’s active voice search like Alexa and Google Home which is currently getting a softly-softly approach to advertising. It’s going to be a powerful channel for the future but too much too soon will limit the uptake of these devices.


Radio ads have been around for decades, but they lack any real ability to target specific groups or types of people.

From Shopping discounts to Exhibitions announcements, everything related to market is being taken care of the audio stations. These also getting more popular by conducting certain quiz programs on Air.


In this Fast-headed world, to market something we need to have a medium to advertise their brand. Hence numerous agencies are blooming each day to show case their marketing talents. Having said, that it is vital to choose the best agency which is exclusive customized for your specific business needs.

Investing on the apt company is a half way success as the remaining will be done by the agencies. All you need to do is upgrade yourselves, modify your business thoughts as per latest trends, Maintain quality and standards. Thus, nothing can stop in seeing yourself as talk of the town and be on top of the Business chartbusters.

Thank You for taking time and looking forward for your suggestions and any additional topics.

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