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Inbound Marketing Blog

    A Millennial’s Crash-Course in the History of the Inbound Marketing

    Posted by Jasmine Henry

    Internet Marketing: 2003 vs. 2013

    Remember when “internet marketing” meant you had a website with a few hundred words of content? Or more recently, when SEO best practices read like a list of bizarre party tricks? It’s easy to forget how quickly things have changed, or how terrible computer-generated graphics used to look.

    For the sake of our millennial readers, allow me to clarify that back before Dharmesh Shah met Brian Halligan and they created HubSpot marketing automation software, that Gangnam Inbound Style music video and the term “inbound marketing,” internet marketing was still a thing. It was just, well, a lot less glamorous and slick of a thing. Join us as we jump back a decade and review the state of an inbound marketing strategy a decade ago:

    1. DIY Web Design

    It’s almost too strange to believe, but a long time ago, just having a website was fantastic branding. It indicated that your company was tech-savvy enough to invest in the future. Unless you were targeting web design clients, there was little reason to ensure your website was clean or optimized for user experience. The result often looked something like this:

    history of inbound marketing












    image credit: roxbourne

    Ugh. Web users today are savvy enough to laugh at companies who present a public face that’s stuck in the early 2000’s. If your website looks like it was built on the Geocities platform, they may judge your professionalism, legitimacy, and entire brand. Just being online isn’t enough anymore; you’ve got to do it right.

    2. Ridiculous Graphics

    Web development used to be more about adopting new techniques and technologies and less about intuitive design and a clean interface. The abundance of buttons, pictures, flashy things, sparkly things, and animated things meant you’d be sitting and waiting for the page to load for a really long time. The best web developers today stay up on trends and techniques, but they’re also user experience experts who understand a page’s load time plays a significant role in whether your website’s bounce rate soars.

    3. Elevator Music

    Was having music playing on your website ever cool or impressive? Unfortunately, it was. The vast majority of companies have gotten the hint that tinkly jazz or spa music in the background of a business page is really irritating, but we all still ocassionally stumble across a website that’s stuck in 2003. And to paraphrase Gary Vaynerchuk, it makes us want to punch the screen with our neck.


    4. Advertising Banners

    The concept of paid internet advertising used to begin and end with web directories, which were often a little sketchy, and banners across the top of websites. According to the FindLaw blog, “Today, you've got dozens of choices: buttons, banners, email, newsletters, text links, sponsorships, listings, pop-ups, pop-unders, rich media - the list goes on and on.” If your company opts for paid advertising, your options are much more dynamic and targeted than they were a decade ago.

    5. SEO for the Sake of SEO

    Way back when, SEO was really easy, because few people were doing it. Then, everyone started doing it and Matt Cutts, head of Google’s WebSpam team, laid down the law. You can’t move up in the rankings with nothing more than the right metadata anymore, and you can’t really trick any search engine into anything. Quality content marketing is in and an SEO-only strategy is definitely out.

    6. No Social Media

    It’s almost unimaginable how difficult it used to be to have dialogue with brands. If you wanted to talk online, you’d have to search their slow-loading website on dial-up until you found an email address, type it into your AOL account and hit send. Thank goodness for social media, where giving brands feedback is as easy as typing their name into graph search and sharing your thoughts. When Facebook opened their doors to non-student users and Twitter burst onto the scene, internet marketing as we know it changed forever.

    7. Controlling Your Brand Messaging Online

    User-generated content affects purchase decisions, but it used to be virtually non-existent. There was an era in the internet where publishing required someone to be a webmaster, which meant that product advice, ratings and social media comments were non-existent. While it was easier for brands to sway opinions, the fact that everyone with a Facebook log-in can publish has made the internet a much friendlier place for consumers.

    What are some other ways that inbound marketing has changed over the years?


    6 Secrets of Effective Websites 

    image credit: simon howden/freedigitalphotos.net

    Topics: Inbound Marketing