How has digital marketing evolved over the past decade?

Written by Phil Birss: Group CEO.
· 4 minute read

As we approach 2020, we thought it would be a good time to reflect upon the past 10 years of digital marketing. As an agency that’s been active for the majority of the decade, we’ve had to learn and adapt to the ever changing landscape – our end goal may have stayed the same, but the way we get there is a very different picture.


The past decade has seen the release of two very important Google algorithm updates that have changed the way people approach search marketing for the better.

Panda, introduced in 2011, was developed to combat low quality content. Sites full of ‘thin’ content would get penalised, whilst those seen to be providing value to the user would be rewarded with higher rankings.

Content farms were hugely prevalent 10 years ago, and people were savvy to the fact that content was a huge ranking factor – regardless of quality. But Panda meant that business owners and marketers alike had to ensure their output was both useful and natural to the visitor. So thankfully, gone are the days of article sites and keyword stuffing – high quality content is now a must.

Penguin followed closely behind in 2012. This time, Google was clamping down on spammy and irrelevant links that were seen to be manipulating search engines – another tactic that was widely used ‘back in the day’. Penguin is now part of Google’s core algorithm, which is being constantly updated to ensure sites with high authority, relevant backlinks are getting the credit. Quality over quantity is key here, and today more and more marketers are incorporating PR into their search strategies focus on attracting natural links back to the site.

On the whole, SEO has evolved to make sure we are providing visitors with a positive overall experience. From the site’s UX to the quality of its links and content, Google will reward those who consider the user.


Social media marketing has gone from virtually non existent, to a multi-billion pound industry over the past decade.

10 years ago, social media was just that – social. A chance for people to connect with friends, share pictures and generally build an online ‘network’. Businesses were just starting to dip their toes into it, but for many it was merely an afterthought.

Today, social media is an extremely powerful means of advertising. Targeting options are bordering creepy, and even the least ‘social’ of businesses are utilising these platforms to get in front of their target audience.

Facebook remains the social media giant. In 2009, Facebook revenue hit $777 million. Last year it hit $55,838 million, fuelled predominantly by advertising…


In-between the transition from Adwords to Google Ads, marketers have had to keep up with numerous new advertising features that have had a huge impact on client campaigns.

It’s strange to remember that 10 years ago, remarketing wasn’t even a thing. Google released remarketing back in 2010, allowing us to target those who we know had already visited a site. These days it’s a given, and an integral part of most client campaigns.

2012 saw the release of Google Shopping Ads – a game changer for ecommerce companies, and a feature that drastically changed the way users find products online. It meant lower CPCs for advertisers, and higher conversion rates when compared to the traditional text ads.

In 2009, Google ads revenue hit $22 billion. In 2018, it hit $116 billion, which tells us everything we need to know about how much this platform has grown over the past decade.

It’s difficult to sum up in one blog the plethora of changes we’ve witnessed over the past decade of digital marketing, but it’s safe to say that it’s more advanced and influential than ever. The way people search, shop, and the devices we use are very different, meaning our strategies have had to adapt quickly. And with new technologies such as AI and machine learning continuing to develop, digital as a marketing channel is only going to become stronger.