Digital Marketing's Evolution: 5 Disruptors You Can Leverage

Digital Marketing's Evolution: 5 Disruptors You Can Leverage

By Brian AppletonAug 7 /2018

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Your company has an amazing product. Maybe it helps people work smarter by giving them access to powerful business intelligence. Or maybe it even saves lives.

You’ve already spent years developing this product, and that was difficult enough. You thought the hardest part was over, but now you have a new challenge: Telling hundreds of thousands of people about it and convincing even a small percentage of them to invest in it.

Consider for a moment just how difficult this is when the average person receives more than 235 emails each day and is exposed to as many as 5,000 ads in that same 24 hours. Add to that the fact that millions of blog posts are created each day — so many that someone even created a blog post counter that updates in real time.

All of this digital noise is competing for the same online audience as you, making it exponentially harder to attract your ideal audience than it was just a few years ago. But there’s still hope for forward-thinking marketers who are willing to adapt to the new, ever more crowded digital landscape.

Here’s a look at the evolution of digital marketing, the most recent disruptors and what marketers can do to capitalize on all these changes.

Digital Marketing’s Evolution

Digital marketing’s start can be traced back to 1981 when IBM launched the first personal computer. Two short years later the internet made its first official appearance and the rest was history.

With the rise of the internet came the demand for access to information online, which ushered in the early stages of search engine marketing. As more people began searching online, search engine optimization became the go-to way for websites to drive traffic by satisfying user search queries.

Digital is still a fairly new concept when discussed in the context of marketing in general. However, one of the most popular and successful forms of digital marketing—inbound marketing—has been in practice for more than a century in a non-digital capacity. While it’s true that inbound marketing as a term wasn’t coined until 2005 by Hubspot’s co-founder and CEO, Brian Halligan, the principles of inbound marketing have been in practice since the mid-1800s.

Inbound marketing is an especially unique and effective form of digital marketing because—in a broad sense—it focuses on earning audiences’ trust rather than purchasing it.

There are four main aspects of modern digital inbound marketing that set it apart from other forms of marketing:

  1. Marketers provide real, tangible value to their audience
  2. Communication is a two-way, interactive process
  3. Customers find you by way of search engines, referrals or social media
  4. Marketers either (1) educate, (2) entertain, (3) engage or (4) inspire their audience

Audience experience is a big part of successful digital inbound marketing, hence the focus on providing value and using engaging methods of communication to attract customers.

To effectively provide a stellar audience experience, marketers and businesses need to adapt to changes in digital marketing. In other words, identify disruptors in the industry and find ways to utilize them into your digital marketing strategy.


5 Major Disruptors in Digital Marketing’s Evolution

Without a doubt, digital marketing has significantly altered the online landscape and has been a major player in the online content boom. It has prompted a proliferation of eBooks, white papers, email campaigns, blogging and social media.

There are five main disruptors that have influenced digital marketing’s evolution and continue to affect new changes: 

1. Social Media Algorithm Changes

The initial premise of social media was simple; to connect people. As social media became more popular, goals shifted from simply communication to consumerism. Now, social media platforms are focused on monetization.

In an effort to keep users on their platforms, social giants like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter are favoring native content as opposed to linked content. Algorithm changes on social media are most apparent on Facebook, where organic reach and engagement have taken a serious hit.

What this really means is that marketers must pay to reach and grow their social media audiences.

2. Voice Search

As mobile use becomes more prolific, voice search will continue to expand. Experts estimate voice search will comprise 50 percent of all online searches by 2020. That means you need an SEO strategy that accounts for voice search. That, in turn, means optimizing for these elements:

  • Fast mobile site speed to enhance the user experience
  • Use of natural language that mimics the way vocal queries are made, not keyboard queries
  • Enhancing local SEO listings by setting up and optimizing your Google My Business account

3. Chatbots

By 2020, 85 percent of all customer service interactions will be powered by chatbots, according to Gartner. Chatbots are revolutionizing the way marketers and brands communicate with their audiences online.

Here are just a few ways chatbots are being used in digital marketing to provide value:

  • Building meaningful conversations with audiences by analyzing data in real-time and making recommendations
  • Providing 24/7 support and instant communication that enhances customer satisfaction
  • Increasing the time users spend on site and driving more targeted sales leads

4. Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics is a part of digital marketing experiencing a massive spike in interest this year due to its ability to help your brand do three things:

  1. Create more reliable revenue predictions thanks to identifying trends and patterns
  2. Use highly accurate target audience modeling that anticipates desired behaviors
  3. Develop a predictive marketing model that identifies the most valuable customer segments

5. Content Shock

Unfortunately, poor digital marketing practices have led to the proliferation of content saturation and the creation of low-quality content in high quantities. Content shock has been a problem for the last five years, and it continues to get worse.

Blogging, for example, is cited by 45 percent of marketers as the most important aspect of their content strategy. According to TrackMaven, the average number of blog posts published by brands each month between 2011 and 2016 increased a whopping 800 percent. However, the average person only reads an article for approximately 37 seconds before moving on.

In other words, the average reader spends just enough time to discover that an article doesn’t deliver the message they thought it would. This means a lot of content is failing to resonate with the target audience because the value doesn’t exist.

Download How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy

How to Leverage Digital Marketing’s Disruptors

Here are some ways you can respond to digital marketing’s disruptors that will position your digital marketing strategy for success:

1. Practice Permission Marketing

In 2008, Seth Godin wrote a blog post on permission marketing where he said:

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” - @ThisIsSethsBlog  [Click to Tweet]

Seth’s insight was as true 10 years ago as it is today. When people choose to give you their attention, they are giving you one of their most valuable assets: time. Permission marketing will become more effective as more content continues to flood the internet because it offers people what they want, not what the marketer wants them to see.

One thing that has a big impact on permission marketing is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in May 2018. GDPR is an EU Regulation that seeks to protect the personal data of EU citizens and alters the methods marketers can use for data collection.

If you market to people in the EU or monitor data from people in the EU, then GDPR applies to you and you’ll need to follow the new regulations if don’t want to get fined. Check out all of the new rules for yourself to make sure your permission marketing is in compliance.

2. Do Content Marketing Right

How can you overcome the problem of content saturation? By creating high-quality content that offers solutions and accounts for Google’s search algorithm. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Focus on building a content structure that’s easy to read and improves the user experience
  • Write for latent semantic indexing (LSI) to improve context
  • Do extensive keyword research and choose the most relevant, valuable terms that match search queries and follow SEO best practices

Getting keyword research correct is extremely important. A solid keyword strategy will help your content stand out among the millions of competitor options delivered by search engines.

The problem with content saturation is clear: audiences don’t just want content. They want great content that answers their questions, provides solutions, and engages their interest.

3. Use Paid Search as Part of Your Marketing Strategy

The level of competition you face today for organic search results is mind-boggling. Paid search is not just a lucrative option; it has become a required element of successful digital marketing.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you build your paid search strategy:

  • Use remarketing lists for search ads (RSLA) to boost conversion rates, lower cost per click, and boost click through rates
  • Use keywords that have relatively low ad competition and high search volume
  • Write dynamic ad copy that distinguishes the value your brand brings to the table
  • Target local markets with tailored campaigns—even if your brand is international—to deliver relevant ads that drive higher conversions

If you’re not already running Google Ads campaigns, now is the time to start.

4. Account for Social Media’s Shifting Algorithms

For years, digital marketers have successfully used social media marketing to drive qualified leads into the sales funnel. Just like every other aspect of marketing, organic will only get you so far.

Here are a few ways to capitalize on the latest algorithm changes:

  • Instead of posting only links, upload native content that’s hosted on each social platform
  • Run paid social media ad campaigns

There’s really no way around it. It’s time to become a paid social media advertising expert.

5. Have the User Experience (UX) Take Precedence

A good user experience can be an invaluable part of digital marketing—an amazing experience can turn satisfied customers into brand advocates that produce compelling social proof.

The real question is, how do you create a top-notch UX? By personalizing every aspect of your digital marketing.

Design for easy navigation, simple but targeted messaging, and focus on being helpful.

Check out how Duolingo creates a seamless website UX for mobile and desktop:


Both designs are clean and focused on learning a language, and the mobile site even gives users an easy way to download the Duolingo App.

According to HubSpot, personalized content performs 42 percent better than non-personalized. Your audience should feel like they know exactly where to go to find the information they’re looking for when they land on your website, visit your social pages or view your ads.

6. Your Content MUST Take a Step Forward

Your digital marketing strategies can’t evolve and improve if your content doesn’t do the same. Video, user-generated content and whatever form of content comes next should all play a role in your marketing strategy when it makes sense for your buyer personas.

That doesn’t mean you should stop using email marketing or blogging if it’s delivering your most valuable ROI. Rather, it means you need to constantly be looking for ways to deliver better, more interactive content.

Interactive content doesn’t have to be expensive content. Here are some effective content ideas that will encourage higher engagement:

  • Quizzes
  • Webinars
  • Courses
  • Calculators
  • Wireframes
  • Checklists
  • Templates

What’s the bottom line? If you can’t do different content, at least do it better. There’s always a way to improve.

Adapt to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Always aim for marketing goals that challenge your agency, department, clients, and yourself to grow to achieve them. The more you challenge yourself the more you’ll learn and the better equipped you’ll be to react to digital marketing’s ever-evolving landscape.

Adapting to changes isn’t always easy, but it is always a necessary aspect of marketing. Rand Fishkin said it best:

“Nothing worth having comes easy. Relationships (of all kinds) take work. Customers take work. Building a team takes work. If it’s easy, it’s often not worth having and almost never a competitive advantage.” - @randfish of @moz ] [Click to Tweet]

The Author

Brian Appleton

Brian is a Copywriter & Content Specialist in Austin, Texas who leverages the perfect combination of SEO best practices, marketing expertise, and audience interest to write compelling content and blog articles.