How Digital Marketing Impacted the World
SharpNet celebrated its 20th anniversary in September 2018, we invited them to offer some words of wisdom... After two decades of operation as an SEO company we witnessed something amazing: The rise and development of digital marketing. Here are my reflections on where the internet and digital advertising are today and where they are going.
Twenty years ago, I was a process engineering specialist at Agilent Technology. This IPO was spun-off of Hewlett Packard. All around me, my coworkers were being laid off. Married with three children, I decided to take control of my destiny and launch an SEO company. Six months later, layoffs struck my old Agilent department. Within one year, it was all closed down. SharpNet was my best investment.
It wasn't SEO 20 years ago. We didn't even have an acronym back then. My company didn't have an industry description when I filed insurance paperwork. It was difficult to find experienced workers to hire. Broadband was terrible and it took a year before we could "Google" it. Facebook was still six years away, Zuckerberg was just 13 years old. It was again the wild west, but this time from a virtual perspective. The internet was still young, untapped, and very misunderstood. I was one of the pioneers who braved this new age, ignored the critics and helped to forge a new frontier in "digital."
At the beginning, it was Yahoo, Alta Vista, Lycos and Excite. HotBot, Ask Jeeves, and DogPile (yes DogPile) were also in the mix. Google was founded in 1998 as a company, but it remained beta. Google gained more attention in 1998 and 1999. My brother in law asked me if I had ever seen Google. At first, I wasn’t impressed. Goto.com was the first to offer Pay Per Click. They later became Overture and were eventually acquired by Yahoo. Google responded in 2000 by launching AdWords. SharpNet offered PPC management services long before Google and Yahoo had PPC. It's funny to me that clients still ask if we offer "paperclick" services. This has happened twice since 2018.
The digital industry had to overcome three obstacles:
(1) Security Concerns: People were scared to shop online when they finally could. Everyone was a little nervous when they made their first purchase online. We all got over it eventually, just take a look at Amazon.
(2) High Speed Internet: It took a tremendous effort to obtain fast and affordable internet in most of the USA. The Internet wouldn't have been possible without it. It was impossible to stream movies. Amazon would load very slowly. And forget about smartphones or GPS.
(3) Dot Com Boom. The internet was "sketchy" for the first decade. The Dot Com Boom only added insult to injury. Innovators stopped creating new products and investors quit. This "sketchy" feeling persisted for a few more years.
Although many people have tried and failed to make the internet work, it was impossible not to. The internet's greatest challenges were minor speed bumps. It is still gaining momentum. The internet and digital marketing, its sidekick, were a technological revolution. It was revolutionary like evolution and revolution like war. Digital marketing was an attack on traditional marketing channels such as TV and Print. Amazon rose while Sears and Toys R Us fell. We saw newspapers and magazines die while YouTube and Google rose. People "Facebook" more often than they scrapbook. When was the last time that you used a phonebook? Because people love the Internet, adapt or die. Digital marketing is how we monetize that Internet. Don't underestimate the importance of social and search marketing for your business. It is important to pay attention to it, as well as your "online appeal". A professional website is as important as a clean and tidy grocery store. Your website will be found by people before your store is discovered, before they meet you and before they buy from you.
Although Amazon may not be the greatest internet achievement, it is perhaps the most prominent monument. It is the 7th largest retailer without a single storefront. It has the 7th largest market capitalization, surpassing Walmart, and is only warming up.
Where will digital marketing take us from here? The Internet will be the future of digital marketing. Digital marketing will follow the internet wherever it goes. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest revolution in the internet. Google already uses it in their project/product RankBrain. But the technology will soon spread to the financial world, retail, automotive, and other sectors (driverless cars). Websites will be smarter with AI. They will know what you like to watch, read, and play... and which ads to click.
You can search for anything you need. AI will even lure you in if you don't want to search. Amazon is the new digital retailer. It will be extremely convenient and smart. A smart website will be able to show you the products that interest you the most and which are most likely to sell to you. These websites literally rearrange themselves for you. A different person, a different experience. This is Walmart's equivalent to arranging their entire store in a new way for every customer who walks through the doors. It's impossible. It's impossible.