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Why Studying the Past of Digital Marketing is Important – Here’s Why #260

Here's Why Studying the Past of Digital Marketing is Important

Digital marketing has been part of marketing programs for decades. Perficient’s Eric Enge got started in the industry right at the beginning, roughly 30 years ago.

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge gives some retrospective on the history of digital marketing and SEO and shares lessons that can be applied to today’s digital marketing strategy.

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Hey, everybody, Eric Enge here, I’m the Principal of the Digital Marketing Solutions business unit here at Perficient. And today, I’m going to actually give a little bit of a retrospective on the history of digital marketing and SEO for that matter. And I want to talk a little bit about what we can learn from it, because I think it’s important.

Now, first of all, I got involved in digital marketing 30 years ago, like, literally 30 years ago. I helped with driving the early subscriber growth for America Online, through a distribution deal that they had with the company that I worked with at the time was called Phoenix Technologies. They actually owned the deal on the Phoenix side of the fence, and my group helped close some of the large PC manufacturer deals they used to get their early subscribers. That was back in the early ’90s. So, like, 30 years ago. Crazy, huh?

Since I was involved that early, I’ve watched search engines appear in the landscape and grow and become prominent. And there were search engines like Lycos and AltaVista and others. But unfortunately, very quickly, it turned into a spam fest due to the immaturity of the initial algorithms, where essentially just by repeating words over and over again you improved your rankings for those words or those phrases. So, it really got kind of messy there for a while. Google helped turn this around by introducing the link as a ranking factor. And this was a big step forward and helped change the quality of search. Of course, soon enough, Google was under assault and there was all kinds of back and forth between spammers and Google for quite some time as Google improved its algorithms for dealing with their ways of attacking the quality of search. But Google did eventually get that largely under control, and now you hear a lot less about that.

And, we have some things too that we see here in the near term in the real world, outside of our digital marketing world is kind of like this. Like, the GameStop buying frenzy that has happened here in January of 2021. And that’s an example of something, say what you want about it, but the activity at some level is sort of spammy and artificial. But what if in trying to look for these kinds of opportunities, we instead just looked at things that were inevitably going to happen and things that were inevitably going to grow just because we can see them here on the landscape. Like, in the real world staying there, it’s probably pretty predictable that solar energy and electric car technology or battery technology for that matter is going to grow like crazy. We don’t know exactly when it will start and when it will take off, of course, or artificial intelligence. It’s clear as the nose on my face. Hopefully, my nose on my face is clear at the moment. But, that’s an area that’s in the process of taking off. So, what if we focused our attention on those kinds of things instead of these tactical opportunities? And, in the SEO world, right, the GameStop options buying craze was pretty similar to buying links or cramming data in meta tags, or in white on white text way back in the SEO day. But what we can say about all these things is that no value is added, even though you can make a lot of money at them for a short while. But the problem is, is one moment it’s there, and then the next it’s gone.

So, really, to build a truly deep future, you should focus on where the big trends are, the big macro trends, and how you can leverage them to benefit your business. So, here are three to think about.

One, (these are specific, by the way, to digital marketing), Chrome retiring cookies. What’s going to happen is that we’re going to lose access to third-party data. The other browsers have already retired cookies. But this will change paid media and for one thing, it could drive more dollars into SEO. And investing in SEO right now might be really smart. It may also drive a lot more dollars to agencies that truly figure out how to rebalance your paid media budgets to adapt to this world in which you won’t have access to third- party data. So, that’s one big area.

How about increasing your focus on meeting user needs? This is what many, including Forrester Research, call “customer obsession.” If you just become something or some brand that is so good at doing what it does that users love it, and they seek you out. This is one of those things that’s as predictable as anything else too in this era, where we have so much better information available to us, and more opportunities to optimize websites and marketing programs, designing them more centrally around user needs is another huge opportunity.

And of course, I mentioned this before, artificial intelligence. Leveraging it to improve your site, maybe to better meet user intent, to optimize personalization better, collect better data, increase conversion, all while increasing user satisfaction at the same time. That’s the third of my really long-term trends. It’s just right there for us to take, it’s right there in front of our face. So, just drawing out the AI one a little bit further, you’ve got OpenAI’s GPT-2 and GPT-3 which is out there although not yet available to the general public. These are just examples of how natural language processing is improving at a very fast rate. And while I don’t believe it’s ready to write all your content yet, their capabilities are intriguing and increasing. And there are already ways to leverage these platforms. And the opportunities with them is only going to grow over time. So, ultimately, you can go with a tactical, or you can go strategic and take that long-term view. If you go strategic, you’re building a long-term asset. If you go tactical, you may get a few short-term bucks, but you have to keep funding one tactical opportunity after another just to get by. The choice is yours.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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