For the past 25 years or so, the World Wide Web has occupied a very important part of our daily lives, informing our lifestyle and choices. From shopping to ordering food, booking a cab or pretty much any commodity that one wants, can be seeked and purchased online. For this reason businesses all over the world have adopted and embraced online marketing to promote their products and services. Let’s take a look at the fascinating timeline of the history of online marketing that irrevocably altered the business landscape.
1970-90s – E-mail
In the 1970s, internet messaging was only available to the military and universities. Then in 1983, Compuserve launched for the first time a commercial product by the means of Internet Email. Email services had yet to become mainstream, yet individuals could have their own internet email address and send messages to other individuals and consumers.
1994 – Banner Ads
Banner Advertisements are one of the earliest forms of online marketing where a website charged an upfront cost for a space on the page to put up a banner ad for a specific period of time. ‘Wired’ website offered such a space for the first time in history to AT&T. The ad read ‘Have you ever clicked your mouse right here? You will’. It was the first online Click-bait ever and enjoyed a 44% click through rate (today it’s only 0.06%) that is enough to blow the minds of todays’ marketers.
1995-1998 – Audience Targeting
Banner Ads became increasingly popular and advertisers started targeting particular consumer demographics which led to target ad-placements. Websites were happy hosting ads that were relevant to their visitors. An agency specialising in online ads called WebConnect emerged to help clients approach websites that their target audiences liked.
Further, another service called D.A.R.T. (Dynamic Advertising, Reporting and Targeting) emerged which made it possible for websites to track how many times an ad was viewed and clicked across different websites. Advertisers could track how their ads were performing and could make changes during a live campaign instead of waiting till the end of it.
Pop-up ads also took birth around this time but were quickly shot down with pop-up blocking features that were produced at the turn of the century.
1998-2006 – Search Engines
Google and Microsoft introduced online Search Engines in 1998.
In 1999, GoTo.com sprung up as the first search engine company that introduced a pay-for-placement service. Advertisers bid for the top search engine results for particular keywords. Pay-for-placement was shortly replaced by pay-per-click, which meant that advertisers had to pay the search engine based on the number of clicks their ad got, instead of just placement. The only problem here was that the highest bidder was given priority despite the relevance of content, thus user experience suffered greatly.
Google introduced AdWords in 2000 that worked on a Quality Score model. It took into consideration as ad’s click-through-rate(CTR) while determining its position on the Search Engine Results Page(SERP).
In 2005, Google Analytics was launched which allowed advertisers to track website traffic and collect and analyse other statistical data.
2006 – Social Media Marketing
Social Media became increasingly popular in the 2000s and advertisers wanted to reach out to young audiences that spent most of their online time on these websites. Facebook gave-in in 2006, and allowed advertisements to increase their profitability. From small display ads and sponsored links, they moved on to highly targeted ads based on their users’ interests. Other social media platforms like Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and G+ started participating in targeting consumers with relevant ads to make the advertising experience the least invasive and impersonal.
Last 10 years (2007-present day)
Media companies have emerged that give a medium to advertisers to connect with their target audiences through native advertising. These companies produce sponsored content like videos, articles, podcasts, comedy sketches etc that is promotional but feels like a regular piece of content that a user might take interest in online. The most common examples of such companies are BuzzFeed and ScoopWhoop.
Content Marketing has taken a giant leap in the digital age. Instead of mindless ad bombardment, advertisers now focus on buyer-centric marketing practices that attract customers with information that is educational or entertaining, but most importantly relevant to them. Online marketing has given a new face and spirit to businesses everywhere and has contributed a great deal in enhancing user experience.
Author: Vigil Viswanathan
Vigil has been assisting startups on marketing and inside sales for more than 4 years. Currently, he is working with NowFloats to drive the digital marketing strategy for India and International markets.