Let’s look at trends in digital marketing. What’s up or down in SEO, PPC, Social, and so on?

The following charts are made with Google Trends. Enter a search term and Google will show you the trend from 2004-2015 (today = March 2015).

First, let’s look at the search engines. Yahoo has declined sharply since 2012 and Google picked up the  traffic. Bing hardly matters.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) grew from 2004 (well, from 1999) to 2010, where it plateaued to 2012 and has declined slowly since then. SEO is still the major form of digital marketing.


Pay-Per-Click (PPC), which includes Google Adwords, is the placement of ads in search engines. It produces $50 billion per year for Google. PPC started in 2002 (I still manage accounts from 2002). It has been in a long slow decline. Few clients ask me about PPC anymore. (Many now call this SEM (search engine marketing) or paid placement. I use PPC because that’s that the hard core have been using since 2002). This isn’t good news for Google. Their main form on revenue is disappearing. Google does nothing to counter this.



Here’s the trend for Google Adwords. It peaked in 2010 and is slowly declining.





“Digital Marketing” is the entire field of online marketing. It grew in the last four years.


However, the concept of “web marketing” has been in long decline since 2004. Don’t call it “web marketing”.



“Content Marketing” barely existed until 2011. While other forms of digital marketing have dropped, content marketing has grown quickly since 2011.


Social Media has also grown rapidly since 2009.


We have been working in web analytics from the beginning in 2002. From 2002-2006, the leading experts, including myself and others, felt analytics would become the leading tool for digital marketing because it allowed full analysis of the data. But analytics peaked in 2009 and has declined since then. There are good reasons for this, which I may discuss later.





So what’s the conclusion?

  • Traditional digital marketing (SEO, PPC, analytics) grew from 2004 to 2010, peaked in 2010, and have been declining.
  • Analytics has also declined. There are various reasons for this: the move from desktop to mobile, people use multiple devices (so you can’t track on one device anymore), and the general realization by companies that analytics isn’t very useful.
  • Social media has grown rapidly since 2009. Social media happens in Facebook etc. and it happens on mobile devices. Both are a shift away from search engines.
  • Content marketing also has grown since early 2012. CM is a broader form of marketing, where companies use books, white papers, video, and articles to attract their audience. This also bypasses search engines.

We’re in a new landscape: Social and content on mobile are more important than keywords in SEO or PPC for desktop.