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The Evolution of Marketing [Timeline Infographic]

Written by: Alice Corner

Jan 17, 2020

Marketing trends of the 2010s evolution of marketing

The evolution of marketing has taken us down many paths. From the early days of advertising all the way through to digital marketing.

Instagram, Domain Authority, and Content Marketing didn’t even exist in 2010 but we now consider them our norm. Alongside a more visual landscape, smarter use of data, and world wide shift to mobile first marketing, the list just goes on when you talk about the marketing evolution over the last decade.

That’s why we wanted to go further than any marketer has gone before, and look at the things that were, the things that are, and the things that have yet come to pass in the marketing world.

Now, we here at Venngage love a pop culture reference (you’ve probably seen our “Every Betrayal in Game of Thrones” infographic…). So naturally when a joke in the marketing office arose about Breaking BERT, we had no choice but to roll with it…..

So as this decade comes to a close and we enter the great Gatsby-esque heights of the 2020s, let’s take a look back at the digital marketing evolution of the last decade:

Marketing Evolution timeline infographics 

Skip ahead

So let’s dive right in and have a look at last decade’s marketing evolution.

Let’s just say, where we’re going we won’t need roads….

2010 marketing evolution header

The Marketing Trends of 2010

Our journey through the evolution of marketing starts in 2010.

2010 was a monumental year for digital marketing. With YouTube beginning to hit its stride, Instagram launching, and search history getting smarter. The world was becoming more reliant on the internet to communicate, entertain, and answer problems. No wonder 2010 saw an explosion of growth hackers keen to explore this new frontier of marketing.
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Lock, Stock, and 2 Billion Views

Video marketing began to take off at the start of the decade, marking the now infamous phrase “pivot to video”. It’s impossible to be on the internet today without seeing native and embedded videos on every platform, but 10 years ago this was still a novelty.

YouTube celebrated a huge milestone in 2010 by hitting 2 billion daily views. The growth, at the time, was unprecedented.

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What will video content look like in 2020?

“Over the next few years, we can expect an even higher density of video content on the web. It’s been proven that people react much better to visuals, which leaves less space for written text. In terms of SEO, websites will rank much better if they contain a certain percentage of videos. I predict these percentages will continue to rise in the future, putting the main focus on videos and images.”

Adriana Moskovska, Small Biz Genius

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The Silence of the ‘Grams

If you wanted to know what a celebrity was up to in 2009, you had to wait for the tabloids to tell you. In 2010, the celebrities started telling us themselves. Instagram was a ground breaking social media app where users could share heavily filtered snapshots of their life. For the first time your best friend’s picture of a sunset would sit alongside Justin Bieber’s picture of a sunset.

We now know Instagram as the platform that spawned the influencer culture that dominates headlines today… but in 2010 the platform seemed relatively harmless.

Marketing Evolution Silence of the Grams Venngage

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When Ad Words Met Search History

Today we’re used to our search history following us across the internet in the form of targeted ads. In 2010 this was groundbreaking.

The introduction of search history to ads is a seminal moment in digital marketing history for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it hinted at the overall power that Google would play in marketing. But it was also an early indication of how highly targeted marketing would begin to be an essential part of any digital campaign.

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Lord of the Links

When a user’s search history was introduced into Google Ads, SEO as we know it today was born. Suddenly there was a clear path to digital success. The term “growth hacking” skyrocketed in 2010 with marketers everywhere waking up to the possibilities of winning at Google.

From backlinks, to highly targeted paid marketing, to conversations about user intent, 2010 was a game changing year.

Lord of the Links Marketing Evolution Venngage

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The marketing trends of 2011 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2011

In 2011 the digital marketing status quo was upended with some major updates from Google. The credibility of your site now affected how well you ranked, and Moz developed a way to quantify credibility.

On the social media front digital marketing continued to evolve. Snapchat launched. Whilst Instagram’s launch in 2010 warmed us to a visual first social network, Snapchat paved the way for direct and disappearing visual communication. In hindsight, this launch was hugely significant. But at the time, it may have felt like just another app launch.

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50 Shades of Grey Hat SEO

In 2011 Google rolled out a new update to the algorithm named Panda. Panda changed everything. With the Panda update, Google began ranking sites based on quality as well as relevancy.

This was big news for companies who relied heavily on organic traffic as entry point into their site. This was great news for growth hackers everywhere – they had already been working on building their sites credibility through backlinking and content creating.

50 Shades of Grey Hat SEO Marketing Evolution

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A year after Instagram convinced everybody to start sharing photos of their lives, Snapchat came along and said “that, but more”. Instead of your photos living forever on your feed, your quick snaps disappeared after 24 hours.

While Instagram aimed to replicate a social network, Snapchat took the function of a messaging tool. With Snapchat, instantaneous visual communication was born – something that would come to be very important for digital marketing later on in the decade.

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Domain Authority: A star is born

With the rise of growth hacking in 2010, as well as the Panda update, marketers were looking for quantifiable ways to understand what would and wouldn’t rank. Marketing analytics company Moz were the first people to develop a measure called “Domain Authority”.

The idea was simple: The more important your website, the higher it would rank on Google. So let’s give each website a number between 1 and 100, with 100 being the most important.

On behalf of digital marketers everywhere: thank you Moz.

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The marketing trends of 2012 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2012

The London Olympic Ceremony, the supposed end of the world, and the start of content marketing. 2012 had it all.

If the game changed in 2010 and 2011, it evolved in 2012. Brands started to realize the full potential of social media outside of direct promotion and marketers also realized the value of content outside of direct promotion.

It makes sense – as the digital world became increasingly intertwined with the real world, marketing became broader and less direct. 2012 is where we first began to see the rise of brands as concepts rather than just organizations. By that I mean company websites were our friends, our educators, our media producers and not just the place we visited to buy products anymore.

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Tweet-light: New Doom

Brand Twitter has evolved from “the only young person in the company assigned to run the socials” to a huge industry, with social strategy being seen as one of the key things a company must have. But in the early days of brand Twitter it all felt a bit…rogue.

In 2012 a now infamous “fight” between Old Spice and Taco Bell took place, and showed us how brands would leverage social media to personify themselves, and be more personable.

Tweetlight New Doom Marketing Evolution

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Dude, where’s my content?

“Content marketing” as a concept took off in 2012, with use of the term increasing by 50% over the course of the year. Content had always been created to compliment marketing strategies, but was rarely thought of as a marketing tool in its own right.

What will content marketing look like in 2020?

One type of content that exploded onto the scene in 2012 was infographics. Infographics are an easy way to visualize data or information, and can help make complex ideas easier to understand. For this article, we created a timeline infographic to help chart the marketing trends of the 2010s, and we’re even laid this page out like a timeline too.

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Venngage are something of an expert on infographics, so it’s no wonder that we’re so passionate about them. If you want to learn more about infographics then we’ve got a few resources to help get you started:

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The marketing trends of 2013 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2013

In many ways 2013 felt like a turning point between the “old” internet and the “new” internet. Whereas the “old” internet was built around chat forums and online communities, the “new” internet was focused on monetization by any means.

Nothing demonstrates this turning point more than the selling of Tumblr, and the introduction of advertising to Instagram. In different ways, they both helped pave the way for influencer marketing and the monetization of content that we’re accustomed to today.

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Tumblr Peaks

When Tumblr was sold to Yahoo in 2013 it evoked two reactions. Half the people thought, “Who cares?” and the other half cared a lot. Tumblr was a microblogging site that allowed its mostly younger users to share their own graphics, words, and videos alongside sharing favourite posts from others directly onto their own timeline.

Many people were concerned that the Yahoo acquisition would mean a move towards monetization and away from authenticity. In many ways, Twitter today is what Tumblr used to be but with advertising, artificial inflation of content through bots, and countless people chasing clout by plagiarizing other people’s content.

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Should all digital marketing have an end goal of revenue?

“All digital marketing should have an end goal… in general. An era where we were just doing things for the sake of it, is gone. Without having a clear goal – let it be revenue – our efforts are in vain, and even the most creative campaigns need to have that revenue factor attached to them.”

Kinga Odziemek, Brainy Bees

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Buy Hard

Buy Hard Marketing Evolution

In 2013 Instagram had already attracted the attention of brands, celebrities, and regular Joes. Having been around since 2010, this marked Instagrams first foray into direct advertising.

It was this decision to allow “sponsored posts” from brands to appear in users feeds that began to pave the way for influencers to monetize their content in later years. Sponsored posts also allowed marketers access to vast and curated audiences who would be receptive to hyper targeted adverts.

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The marketing trends of 2014 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2014

The complexities of digital marketing continued to expand in 2014, with companies having to face a swath of new realities. From mobile usage to social media clapback, it felt as if the “fun” part of a decade of digital development was over and companies had to become responsible.

2014 was the first time we really begin to see social media users letting brands know they’d missed the mark on a large scale. Alongside the increase of mobile usage and the challenges adapting websites for a mobile experience, it was really the year audiences asked for more from their brands.

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Mobile Mia!

2014 was the year that mobile usage exceeded desktop usage for the first time. This increase prompted new challenges for marketers. How could you ensure your website was providing an effective mobile experience? Were your newsletters and landing pages accessible to mobile users?

Layouts, fonts, CTAs, load times, and pop ups all had to be considered within the context of desktop and mobile experiences now.

M.R.E.A.M (Mobile Rules Everything Around Me), and that isn’t likely to change in 2020. Here are some resources from Venngage and our friends to help you stay on top of the game:

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Game of Tweets

Brand Twitter had continued to grow through to 2014, with more niche and smaller brands investing marketing resources into creating relatable social media presences. One such way brands achieved this was by joining in with trending hashtags. Usually a brand would share a funny tweet that advertised the product and it was all harmless fun, until it wasn’t.

In 2014 DiGiorno’s Pizza massively misread the room and tried to provide a light hearted, promotional response to a domestic abuse awareness hashtag. Twitter users were angry. DiGiorno’s Pizza apologized quickly, but the blunder brought to light something many marketers had forgotten to acknowledge: social media is not a one way conversation.

If you share something from a brand account on the internet people can and will have opinions on it, and they will let you know about them. As the world was becoming more connected it was becoming easier for the public to share their dissatisfaction at insensitive and offensive ideas.

game of tweets marketing evolution

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marketing trends of 2015 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2015

At the midpoint of the 2010s, a lot had already changed in the marketing world. Mobile had taken over, monetization and advertising was being woven in to the fabric of new digital channels. Marketers had spent the last five years learning and adapting to huge changes, but there were still more to come.

Before 2015 sites with bad mobile experiences meant a bad user experience. But then Google announced that bad mobile experience meant lower search rankings. User journeys and funnels had to be fundamentally rebuilt in order for companies to stay ahead in 2015.

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Dial M for Mobile

Mobile usage continued to increase in 2015, with more emails than ever being read on mobile devices. Whilst this changed things such as newsletter layouts, it also meant that the user journey had to be taken into account in a much more acute way.

Users who are quickly checking their email on their phone were unable to quickly download PDFs or complete difficult processes. The entry point for mobile users needed to be rethought in order to continue converting.

dial m for mobile marketing evolution

“To deliver emails that had the same level of opens and click-throughs, email marketing needed to increase its campaign responsiveness and deliver messages that would incentivize subscribers to interact with them.

In fact, mobile-friendly design is the most crucial component for successful email marketing, meaning that if a user finds the email hard to interact with or doesn’t look good on their mobile device they are going to delete it.

Also, along with responsiveness came the need to decrease the amount of content displayed but at the same time increase the amount of information conveyed.”

Nick, Moosend

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Buy Hard 2: A Good Day to Buy Harder

Pinterest launched buyable pins in 2015 and effectively created an entire new conversion channel for businesses.

E-commerce spent the 2010s learning how to make products more available to customers, exploring new and exciting channels. Pinterest launching buyable pins in 2015 was a great example of companies thinking about and providing a fully integrated shopping journey – from spotting the product to buying it.

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How is social media changing the customer buying journey?

“Social media can remarkably shorten the buying journey. While running campaigns on Instagram or Facebook, marketers can tag products and link directly to advertised items. That way, customers can purchase desired products once shopping impulses influence them. Another significant aspect of social commerce is remarketing. Brands can reach more accurate target group with their campaigns by targeting ads to users who have already visited their shops. Consumers interested in given products can get information about the discount and make the shopping decision.

Thanks to social media, brands can build a long lasting relationship with consumers, deliver valuable content and engage with them in order to increase customers lifetime value.”

Kontentino – kontentino.com

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Once Upon a Time in the Algorithm

Google took notice of the increasing move to mobile-first and in 2015 they announced they would rank pages that are inaccessible to mobile users lower in the search results. If they weren’t already, this was the signal to companies that they need to think about their user experience in a much broader sense than before.

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The marketing trends of 2016 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2016

The ongoing evolution of marketing forced marketing to “Get Smart” in 2016.

Automation was hotly tipped to be the marketing trend of the year, with marketers becoming more aware of the possibilities that data presented. Brands also started to think about marketing in a less traditional sense, and began to see potential in the everyday celebrities social media had created.

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A Fistful of Data

Marketing automation was a hot topic issue throughout the mid 2010s, and was once again tipped as the hot trend to look out for in 2016. With technology and marketing coming together to create more personalized, efficient marketing campaigns.

Data on how and when users entered the funnel could be combined with broader information about the audience interests and reveal patterns and similarities, as well as provide information on areas of opportunity.

a fist full of data marketing evolution

What are the next big advances in data?

 “We will see a dramatic shift towards better integration of data and platforms. At the moment data is getting richer, but it’s still too segmented and there is a lot of money being left on the table. What this means in real terms is an insight from one channel has to be manually identified and the findings transferred to other channels. Once digital marketers find a universal way to easily aggregate data, let systems talk to each other and build AI software to make informed decisions ROIs will increase dramatically.“

Pete McAllister, Outreach Pete

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Like Wars: Attack of the Influencers

Influencers were undeniably one of the biggest changes to the digital marketing landscape in the 2010s. The rise of social media meant that anybody could become a celebrity and build a following – and with it creating false closeness. For the first time celebrities were our friends, not just cover stars.

In 2016 the use of the word “Influencer” almost doubled according to Google Trends, and brands began to utilize popular social media users to help promote their products.

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What will Influencers look like in 2020?

 “As someone who has worked in the digital marketing industry for more than a decade, I believe we will see an increase in social influencer and blogger marketing. In the past, influencers were only celebrities, reality stars, or those with millions of followers, but those influencers have so expensive to hire. Most companies can’t afford to hire them, so many are now looking to work with micro-influencers. Oftentimes, micro-influencers are more affordable than macro or celebrity influencers, paying for large advertisements, have targeted loyal followings, and more authentic voices.”

Kristin Marquet, Fem Founder

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Thinking of getting into the social media game? We’ve got some resources to make sure you’re making the most of your designs:

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The marketing trends of 2017 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2017

In 2017 marketing entered a bold new frontier: Virtual Reality. In a move to go where no brand had gone before, Ikea made waves with their V.R. shopping experiences. Their aim was to combine the potentials of technology with the confines of limited space in stores.

Back in the offline world, social justice dissected with advertising in a truly terrible way, with the escapism of idealist marketing making light of real world struggles of marginalized peoples. Yep. Brands weren’t woke in 2017.

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That Kardashian Show

One of the biggest marketing events of 2017 was undoubtedly the disastrous Kendall Jenner for Pepsi commercial that launched to mass critical disdain. The internet had been offering instantaneous feedback on brand content for a while. You just have to look at the DiGiorno’s blunder mentioned in 2014. But this Pepsi commercial invoked a new level of outrage.

It felt as if the Black Lives Matter movement, which spread and grew through social media, was being co-opted by a brand and used to sell products. And, in the process, make light of racism.

For many companies this was a wake up call to be more conscious of their presentation and co-option of social issues. It was an early indicator of the rise of importance that ethics and social good would play for the younger generations in everything from buying choices, to employment.

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Virtual Reality Bites

We’ve been promised a lot by Virtual Reality. While we’re yet to go full Black Mirror in our daily lives, advertisers has been experimenting with introducing V.R. aspects into their campaigns.

2017 was notable for the ground breaking V.R. shopping experience produced by Ikea. Using a headset, shoppers could experience various furniture combinations at the click of a button. And whilst this V.R. approach has yet to become the norm, it certainly caused a stir at the time.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apps

rise of the planet of the apps marketing evolution

In 2017 Facebook and Google became the world’s largest media owners, bringing in 1/5th of all global advertising revenue between them.

This says as much for the popularity of the platforms as it does for the way marketers had spent the previous 7 years adapting. The increase in digital connectivity meant more access to more competitors for target audiences. SEO was still important, but paid advertising on social media was increasingly becoming a core strategy, rather than a supplementary idea, necessitating effective chat UI implementation within the app to engage with audiences.

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The marketing trends of 2018 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2018

By 2018 digital marketing trends became more nuanced, with the big moments of the year feeling like extensions of the landscape, rather than something entirely new. From the increased concern with data privacy, to existing platforms shifting towards longer form content.

The earlier marketing trends of the decade had not been forgotten, with many of 2018s developments building upon their foundations. Long form content increases a users session duration, which helps to improve a sites SEO. Social media usage grew inline with mobile usage, and the concern of privacy mirrored the increased use of data in targeted marketing.

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The I.Tv Crowd

There was a thirst for long form content like no other when Instagram launched Instagram TV in 2018. Regular feed videos were capped at 60 seconds in length, but on ITv users could upload minutes at a time.

Original scripted and comedy content, full product demos, DIY tutorials… the potentials were limitless.

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GDPR: A Privacy Odyssey

Privacy had become a hot concern for digital users after years of high profile data breaches, information leaks, and the selling of data between companies. In order to tackle this, the EU introduced the General Data Protection Regulation. GDPR aimed to a) make companies responsible for protecting users data and b) to allow users easy ways to control what data companies stored.

In the few weeks before GDPR took effect, every single company you’d ever heard of gave their entire mailing lists to opportunity to “opt out”. In the few weeks after GDPR Europeans were treated to brilliantly spam free email inboxes.

gdpr a privacy oddessy marketing evolution

“In the 2020s, marketing will be about the struggle to collect personal data. With GDPR in place, I have a suspicion that there will be many more legislations that will make it difficult to collect personal data so that we can market to our customers. While many marketers imagine the future where interactions with customers will be more personalized, I think the opposite is true. We’ll have to fight for each email we can get, let alone bits of data such as phone numbers, buying preferences and more.”

Adam Hempenstall, Better Proposals

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The Social Networks

In 2018 an incredible 83% of all internet users were reported to have been engaged with some form of social media. An incredible statistic. Even more incredible once you take into account there were less than 1 billion users of social media worldwide in 2010, and over 2.8 billion social media users in 2018.

“Digital marketing as we know it is becoming synonymous with omnichannel marketing. Our customers themselves are omnichannel, often bouncing between several channels before purchasing. Using just one channel to reach them just isn’t enough anymore, and it shows Interaction with potential customers starts with channels like Google AdWords, Facebook ads, and organic SEO. Once you bring that person in through those channels, you can use more direct communication through channels like email marketing, push notifications, Facebook Messenger, etc. It takes on average 6-7 touch points over a multitude of channels for a customer to feel comfortable enough to purchase from you. “

Evaldas Mockus, Omnisend

the social networks marketing evolution

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The marketing trends of 2019 marketing evolution

The Marketing Trends of 2019

2019 was a really interesting year for digital marketing with two major developments: a new social platform and a new search algorithm. Both of which usher along new potentials in marketing.

As TikTok and BERT arrived on the scene in the later half of 2019, a lot of this time has been spending learning and discovering how marketers can fully utilize both of these things, but it does mean that we as a community as entering a new frontier in the next decade which is incredibly exciting.

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School of TikTok

Many had tried, many had failed. A moment for the fallen social networks like Google+, Yik Yak, Vine, and Formspring please…

Right, now that’s over let’s talk about TikTok.

Seemingly exploding out of nowhere in 2019, the Chinese owned video sharing site popular amongst teens is taking over the world. Clever in-app video editing functions allow users to easily create content and share it on a global scale. Users can share videos with friends, as well as discover videos from other users, react instantly, and create riffs and rebuttals.

TikTok doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

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Breaking BERT

Google updates its search algorithm on a regular basis, but the newest update (named BERT) is likely to be one of the most significant in years. Simply put: BERT understands the context of a search term, and not just the words inside of it.

This is going to be a huge change for how marketers approach SEO, with a much bigger focus on user intent. There’s also the possibility of rethinking how keywords are utilized. It’s a lot. But we’re excited.

breaking bert marketing evolution

What does BERT mean for marketers?

 “Natural language will become increasingly important. Writing how customers speak, ensuring their questions are answered, and keeping things short and snappy are some of the ways they can do this. This will help with search rankings as Google’s algorithms continue to get smarter and prioritize search intent and user experience. Picking a keyword and adding it to a blog post or landing page isn’t enough – copy will have to work harder than ever to keep users and search engines engaged.”

Kristina Proffitt, Cronofy

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Marketing trends of 2020….

So what’s next in the ongoing evolution of marketing? What will digital marketing look like in the next year? How will digital marketing evolve in the next ten years?

We asked some of the best marketers in the biz how they thought marketing will evolve, and what their predictions for the marketing trends in 2020 will be.

Check out our post of Marketing Trend Predictions post to see what they said!

About Alice Corner

Alice is a Content Marketer at Venngage, the online report, presentation, and infographic maker. She writes about nonprofit marketing and good design.