Looking Back at 25 Years of Digital Change

May 3, 2016

Sales & Marketing Technologies (SMT) is proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year and in celebration, wanted to look back at all that has changed in the digital world since we started SMT in 1991.

The Beginnings

December 20, 1990, Tim Berners-Lee launched the world’s first website, which is still live today. In the following years, many more websites emerged offering users information with bare-bones usability and optimization.

As the Internet began to grow with more and more websites, search engines filled a need for structure and accessibility. In 1993, Excite revolutionized how information was cataloged, sorting results based on keywords found within the content and backend optimization. It would soon be followed by Yahoo (1994) and Google (1998).

Do You Remember?

  • In the very beginning, domain names were free. But by the time we were in, Network Solutions (1993) had a monopoly on domain names until ICANN forced a change. Network Solutions charged $70 each per year.
  • Dial Up Internet Access (1992) is something we’ll never forget.
  • HTML websites (1993) were built from scratch.
  • Starting out, we had to sign people up for email accounts because people didn’t know what email was (1993).
  • AOL (1991) was the Internet on training wheels. It brought millions of people online with their disk mailers.
  • VeriSign Secure Certificates (1995) ushered in the e-commerce age. Before the certs made communication secure, you had to fax in orders with credit cards.
  • High Speed Internet Access (1990s) – Game changer when cable companies rolled out Road Runner High Speed Internet access. Telecom companies followed with DSL. It was high speed yet slower than cable and had a shorter range.

The Rise of New Marketing Tactics 

Things began to shift in the early 2000s, where in the wake of unethical optimization tactics, Google took charge of creating a more level playing field for brands. This period brought on many infamous Google algorithm updates that penalized bad links and keyword stuffing. Also in the year 2000, Google Adwords launched and gave marketers a new platform to advertise online.

Around this time, social networks were growing in popularity as Myspace (2003) dominated the landscape. But soon, Mark Zuckerberg, and his Harvard roommates, would release the social media giant of today, Facebook. This social media growth led to a new era in digital marketing. Social media eventually stopped being a way to just chat with friends and became a way to connect with brands, complain, spread news, shop and even influence other shoppers.

Do You Remember?

  • Paid Search – The big player was GoTo (1996). Later forced to change its name to Overture. At one time, you could buy advertising in 85% of the world’s search traffic from this one company. They paid Google for search results if they had no paid ads. This is what helped Google to get off the ground. Yahoo later bought it
  • Napster (1995) – Totally disrupted the music industry.
  • Content Management Systems (Late 1990s) - Business loved them because they could make some of their own changes. In many ways, this allowed website quality to go down, as people with no design skills got a chance to make pages.
  • Open Source (Late 1990s) – A game changer when programmers started giving their work away. WordPress, Drupal, and other open source products would not have been possible without people donating their time and effort to these projects. 
  • Flash websites (Early 2000s) when designers had enough with text based sites
  • YouTube (2005) rose up to come the video king and second largest search engine.

The Sophistication of Digital Marketing 

As the new millennium continued, marketing started to include more and more digital techniques. Consumers continually adopted new devices, such as smartphones, and services that companies could use as advertising mediums. Because of this, almost every web channel has been converted into an advertising platform.

But, the Internet allowed for more than simply advertising. It allowed marketing tactics to be open for interaction. Things like television commercials, billboards and magazine ads are effective, but they don’t allow a market to interact with a brand.

These types of two-way interaction lead to more than just advertising on the web, it created a way for businesses and brands to build loyalty as well as increase sales.

Do You Know?

  • Marketing automation and sales funnels give marketers the chance to provide better, more personalized offers to customers.
  • Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest all have advertising capabilities that integrate social selling into platforms where people already are.

Today, there are more than 600 million websites worldwide, 500 million tweets are sent every day, and an estimated 2.4 billion people go online. The truth is, without the web, there would be no websites to optimize, no social media channels to advertise on, and certainly no Sales & Marketing Technologies. There will always be new and exciting changes in the digital marketing realm and we look forward to growing right along with it. So to you we say thank you, and here’s to the next 25 years!


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