History & Evolution of Digital Marketing – What came first?

Updated on: Feb 3, 2023

Right from being a small part of marketing to becoming an almost standalone department in companies today, the evolution of digital marketing is one of the most revolutionary changes in the industry. 

Digital marketing today is brimming with promising career opportunities. With the onset of the pandemic, there has been an increase in the demand for digital marketing services. 

Over 170 million people are using social media as well which means that the consumption of social media has increased tremendously over the past few years. Working professionals in different industries are aware of digital marketing with which businesses have seen a lot of growth.

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Evolution of Digital Marketing: How Did It All Start? 

The term digital marketing was first used in the 1990s. This is when the digital age took off with the advent of the internet and the first digital platform, Web 1.0. 

Even though users could look for information, there weren’t able to share information. Since the internet was not so popular or even accessible, marketers did not take this as a serious channel for marketing or any other form of communication. 

The evolution of digital marketing from traditional marketing to the modern era took some time. Read on to know the evolution of digital marketing journals.


Key Transition Points From Traditional Marketing To Digital Marketing


  • Evolution of Digital Marketing- First Clickable Banner

first clickable banner- evolution of digital marketing

It was around 1993 when the first clickable banner in the world went live for advertising. This marked the most important transition point from traditional marketing to digital marketing. The next year, many companies entered the digital marketing space.


  • Introduction of Yahoo

yahoo- evolution of digital marketing

In 1994, Yahoo was launched and was very popular with about 1 million hits worldwide in its very first year. This was when companies shifted their focus to efficient SEO to increase rankings. In 1996, some more search engines emerged.


  • Launch of Google

google doodle- evolution of digital marketing

(Google’s first ever doodle)

It was in 1998, that the world’s biggest search engine, Google was launched. Then came MSN by Microsoft and a newer version of Yahoo.


  • Search Engine Competition

By 2000, the smaller search engines almost disappeared due to the cut-throat competition and only Google and Yahoo were left behind to compete as the bigger players in the market.


  • Web 2.0

In 2002, MSN launched Live Search to compete with Yahoo and Google. This year saw about 6.4 million users in the market which was a big step. Then came Web 2.0. This phase has seen tremendous growth and also active internet users as opposed to passive users in the Web 1.0 phase. With Web 2.0 users could interact with businesses and also other users.


  • Social Media Sites


Myspace Dashboard- Evolution of Digital Marketing

Myspace- Dashboard


Soon, social media sites started to appear. First, there was MySpace that launched in 2003 followed by Facebook in 2004. Many brands realized the immense opportunities to market their products and services through these websites. Many of them started advertising and having their presence felt on these sites.


  • Analytics 

Even though web cookies were launched in 1994, they started becoming more popular as marketers started realizing their importance in understanding user habits and preferences.


  • Emergence of WordPress

Even though WordPress had been around for a decade then, its 3.0 version (e-commerce plugins) become accessible and famous among businesses and marketers. WordPress made website building an easy task and did not necessarily need a programmer. 

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  • Influencer Marketing

It was in 2015 that influencer marketing entered the digital marketing world. Since then, influencer marketing has only seen growth and has brought quality leads to businesses. Today, 99% of digital marketers use social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter to market their products and services.


  • Reels and Short-form Content

Instagram introduced reels and truly it changed the way social media marketers strategize. Now, everyone wants to capitalize on the 60-second, short-form, video content for maximum engagement. 


Quick Timeline Journey of the Emergence of Digital Marketing

The evolution of digital marketing in India has seen many phases. Read on to know the evolution of digital marketing about 30 years in the past. 

Web 1.0

1993 – First clickable banner in the world was launched. An important milestone in the transition of traditional marketing to digital marketing

1994 – Yahoo was launched

1996 – Small scale search engines like HotBot and Alexa were launched

1998 – Google and MSN by Microsoft were launched

2000 – Google and Yahoo were the biggest and most established players in the market

2002 – Surge in internet users reached 6.4 million users


Web 2.0

2003 – Users and businesses could interact

2003– Social media sites like MySpace were launched

2004 – Facebook emerged 

2004 – Companies understood the importance of web cookies and started applying them to their marketing efforts. 

2010– Pinterest and Instagram were launched

2016 – Yahoo discontinued some of its services

2017– TikTok was launched

2019–  Google+ left the market

2021 – 99% of digital marketers use social media sites for marketing purposes

2023 – AI Chatbots like ChatGPT have taken over the internet.


What’s the Future Of Digital Marketing? 

The future is digital. It is undoubtedly a true fact that the scope of digital marketing is very vast. Some important advantages/benefits of digital marketing are –

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • High reach
  • Two-way communication Channel
  • Measurable results

Read More: Benefits of Digital Marketing For Businesses & Students

With all of these plus points, the future of digital marketing seems extremely bright. Looking at only India, it has the 2nd largest number of internet users in the entire world. 

By the year, 2025, the number of people using the internet will grow to about 900 million users in India. Hence, the internet makes a great place to be marketing your product or service. 

More and more consumers are spending time online researching products and making purchases. This means that if you have not invested in SEO, then you are missing out on valuable business.

By investing time and effort in SEO, you will be able to improve your chances of ranking and being discovered. Not only SEO but there are several other digital marketing trends that are going to shape the future of digital marketing. 

But what else will evolve in the digital marketing industry? Gain a better perspective on how digital marketing is evolving in the future with this video.


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When did digital marketing start?

The term Digital marketing first came into existence in the year 1990s. The 1st clickable online banner appeared in the year 1994 marking the start of marketing in the digital world. The online banner ad was made by At&T and appeared in Hotwired magazine.


Who is the father of digital marketing?

Philip Kotler is the father of digital marketing. Known for founding marketing as an academic discipline, he has written over 60 marketing books.



Digital marketing has seen many changes over the past 30 years. It is important for digital marketers to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and also integrate learnings from the past as learning from the past is the best way to move forward for any industry. 

This is why understanding the evolution of digital marketing is so important as it can help us identify the kinds of shifts the industry has seen and what kind of major shifts can be expected in the future. 

It is one of the best ways to overcome current challenges and identify opportunities for the next coming years. 

We highly recommend this digital marketing online course that’ll give you a good understanding of the industry if you’re new to it. 

If you’re a digital marketing professional looking to upskill, check out this intensive Digital Marketing MBA.

That’s all from us at IIDE about the evolution of digital marketing from the traditional to the modern era. Let us know if learning about the evolution of digital marketing has helped you understand the industry better in the comments below.

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Karan Shah

Founder and CEO at IIDE

He is a passionate public speaker and teacher for over 10 years. He has trained over 60,000+ students and 25+ corporates in Digital Marketing via online and offline channels. He is a Harvard alumnus specialising in E-commerce......[Read full bio]


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