News and insights • Posted on 27 February 2020

What a difference 10 years makes: The biggest changes in digital marketing

In 2010, marketers had begun to realise the power of digital marketing. This was a time when social media was simply a quick way to check in with friends and family and smartphones had only just become the norm. Digital space has dramatically changed in the last 10 years and it’s revolutionised how we market and reach out to audiences.

In this reflective post, as The Bigger Boat celebrates 10 years since setting sail, we take a look at the landscape of digital marketing back then and consider how it’s changed the way we work in 2020.

SEO strategy needed to get smarter

Back then, SEO tactics were dirty or, at best, uneducated and guess work. People tried to game the system with excessive keyword stuffing, tweaking back-end code and buying links, which was usually enough to clinch you the top spot in Google’s SERPs. Nowadays, we’re dealing with a much more complicated machine – one that stamped out shady practices quickly and continually evolves its search algorithm to find the most user-friendly content and eliminate black hat SEO practitioners. SEO got a lot more serious with the 2011 Panda update, which rewarded high-quality websites and addressed problems including thin or duplicate content and high ad-to-content ratios. Throughout the last decade, Google algorithms have prioritised authority and trust, local searches and HTTPS websites. In 2020, search engine optimisation is about so much more than keywords.

Introducing responsive web design

A decade ago, mobile made up only a small percentage of traffic – now, we’re designing everything mobile first. The groundbreaking iPhone was first released in 2007, paving the way for smartphones in the mass market – and their rise to clinch the place of primary device for viewing online. All this has meant that businesses have had to act quickly to serve their target market on mobile devices, especially in the wake of Google’s 2018 move to mobile-first indexing. In 2020 digital marketing, user experience is crucial and responsive web design is a sure-fire way to improve engagement and secure leads.

Content is no longer a nice to have

The last 10 years have seen content empowered and a necessity if brands are to engage users and be respected – and rewarded – by Google. Content was something of a ‘nice to have’ back in 2010. Now, it’s an essential and integral part of any successful digital marketing strategy. But not just any content that’s adequate will do. Genuinely useful, trustworthy content that brings real value to the user is key – and brilliant if it scores a conversion. But digital marketers must think of the long game here. Well-researched content, keyword-optimised or otherwise, serves to inform, educate and inspire users and raise brand profile. Over the last 10 years, brands came to realise (and Google began to reward) what journalists have championed all along – achieving customer buy-in is about compelling storytelling and really getting to know the audience you’re writing for. Throughout the decade, Google’s numerous updates have prioritised quality, engaging content, relevance and context. And it’s meant that brands have had to perfect that imbalance between quality and quantity and really get to grips with a detailed content marketing strategy. In 2020, user-generated content is stealing the limelight for brands, mobile optimisation rumbles on and ‘write for the user, not search engines’ remains the mantra of all content professionals. The bottom line? Take every step to ensure your brand’s content is working as hard as it can.

The growth of social media platforms

In 2010, Facebook had 400 million monthly active users. Fast forward 10 years and in the final quarter of 2019, the social network was found to have almost 2.5 billion monthly active users. That’s Facebook alone. It’s no exaggeration to say that social media has taken the world by storm – and businesses still failing to capitalise on this are missing out on a wealth of opportunity. This additional marketing channel is now crucial for raising brand awareness, building relationships and generating revenue – it’s not something digital marketers can ignore. Social media has empowered brands to talk directly to customers where they hang out at a time that’s convenient to them and on a more relatable level than simply throwing advertising at them. This is meaningful communication that builds valuable relationships so defining a detailed social media strategy is critical for business success in 2020.

Buyer personas and customer journey are everything

Understanding customers in minute detail is now a staple that underpins everything digital marketers do. Anticipating their needs and being the brand that’s there to meet those needs is crucial. In the last 10 years, the ‘customer journey’ has grown from simply being a concept to the foundation of all marketing activity. Customer segmentation software, tools and analytics enable any forward-thinking digital marketer to create multi-touchpoint campaigns that seamlessly align with the movements of the customer. The result is an overall enhanced customer experience that puts a brand at the forefront of the competition in meeting their needs. Having a framework in place that optimises every touchpoint and personalises the experience they receive is vital for building customer trust and advocacy – and ultimately the business’ success is hinged on it.

Automation arrives to accelerate efficiency

Digital marketers would be lost without automation today. But 10 years ago, it was only just starting to creep into our working practices. Digital marketing relies on demonstrating measurable results and efficient working, while keeping within budget constraints – and automation plays a big role here. Automation aids customer segmentation and planning and delivering strategy, ultimately generating and nurturing leads before converting them into sales. Its overall goal is clear: increase efficiency. Automated processes can help with customer communications, content scheduling and social media management, for example, freeing marketers’ time up to put their expertise to better use elsewhere. What’s more, reporting enables every stage of in-house processes and services to learn and improve.

The evolution of digital marketing is happening at rapid pace. However, this can be a great thing for brands – as long as they put the effort in to keep up and be responsive. Not doing simply isn’t an option. It will be fascinating to see what the face of digital marketing looks like 10 years from now.

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Written by Carrie Webb

A life-long lover of the written word, Carrie is your go-to for compelling content that resonates with your audience.

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