Google’s 25th birthday: Top 10 marketing milestones

By Leanne Bates, Marketing Manager at Reckless.

5 minute read

The biggest stuff Google did that changed marketing

Can you remember a time before Google? For many, it’s unimaginable. A-Z maps helped us drive from one place to another and Ask Jeeves was our trusted, impeccably well-dressed, virtual butler with all of the answers. Without Google today, we’d (quite literally) be lost.

For marketers, Google has changed the game entirely. It has been at the forefront since the start, shaping digital innovation and constantly upgrading to provide easy search experiences.

To celebrate Google’s 25th birthday, here are our top 10 most iconic Google developments that have shaped digital marketing today.

1998: Launch day

Big things were happening in 1998. MP3 players were invented, DVDs were first sold and ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ debuted on our TV screens.

But something even more significant happened on September 27th 1998 and it wasn’t just ‘Rollercoaster’ by B*Witched topping the UK charts. 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two PhD students at Stanford University, launched a small company called ‘Backrub’. Fortunately, they later changed the name to ‘Google’ and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fun fact: The name ‘Google’ is a play on ‘googol’ – the mathematical expression for the number 1, followed by 100 zeros.

2000: Google AdWords is born

When Google AdWords (now Google Ads) launched, brands could only promote text-based ads. No photos, no videos – they were solely keyword-based, hence ‘AdWords’. 

Back then, advertisers had to pay a flat fee for every click, which caused lots of irrelevant clicks and wasted spend. That’s why in 2002, Google overcame this problem by introducing the cost-per-click (CPC) bidding model.

Thankfully, AdWords has evolved since, and we can now use catchy images and videos to make campaigns more engaging. That’s why it rebranded to ‘Google Ads’ – it’s not only about words now, it’s about the ad creative too.

Fun fact: The first Google AdWords customer was a company called ‘LiveMessage’. They paid £25 to advertise their customer service tool – a far cry from the multimillion-pound campaigns we see today.

2001: J-LO invents Google Images

Well, not quite. But Google Images did launch because there was a high demand for photos of J-LO in a green Versace dress at the 2000 Grammys.

In the first year, Google Image Search indexed 250 million images. By 2005, it grew to 1 billion, and by 2010, it had over 10 billion images.

2002: Google Shopping begins

Google Shopping, previously called ‘Froogle’, was initially a standalone search engine for finding product details, prices, and places to purchase them. In 2012, it joined Google’s main search platform and became Google Shopping as we now know today.

Today, Google says that users shop across its platform over a billion times a day. Enough said on that one.

2005: GA debuts

The start of Google Analytics traces back to an American company called Urchin Software. Urchin had developed a pretty nifty web analytics tool which, Google being Google, saw the opportunity and snapped it up.

Google announced its acquisition and subsequently launched a paid analytics tool called ‘Urchin on Demand’. It wasn’t until seven months later that Google made it free and rebranded it as Google Analytics.

2005 was also the year that Google Maps launched. Game.Changer.

2007: Google snaps up DoubleClick

Google acquired DoubleClick, a leading company in the ad serving business, for $3.1 billion (around £2.5 million today).

The search engine used DoubleClick’s technologies to deliver an enhanced user experience (UX) for brands and consumers. Better metrics, targeting and analysis quickly followed, allowing Google to serve more relevant display ads to consumers. 

2015: Mobilegeddon

Google made a big change to its search algorithm, giving priority to mobile-friendly websites in mobile search results. This sent shockwaves through the digital community (hence ‘Mobilegeddon’). Websites that weren’t mobile friendly dropped in search rankings whereas those that were, climbed the ladder. 

Fast forward to 2018 and Google officially implemented mobile-first indexing and ranking across the board. The moral of the story is mobile-friendly websites, always. 

2019: Bert, Bert, Bert

In late 2019, Google introduced the (deep breath) Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) algorithm update. This helped Google improve its understanding of the natural language used in search terms so it can serve more relevant results.

Digital marketers quickly adopted their strategies to provide high-quality content that meets the user’s search intent. Keyword stuffing was more prominent back then, so this was Google’s way of saying ‘stop it’.

2021: Experience is everything

In June 2021, Google’s ‘Page Experience Update’ integrated Core Web Vitals (CWV) into its ranking algorithm. Google started assessing factors like load speeds, visual stability and crawlability, prioritising websites based on the quality of their UX.

Honestly, this is why technical SEO and high performance infrastructure are super important today. They’re often overlooked, yet improving them can lead to quick search engine wins.

2023: Last but certainly not least – Bard

One of the biggest, more recent developments is the new AI-powered chatbot, Bard

Where AI competitor ChatGBT has limited data up until 2021, Bard plans on pulling information straight from the web. It aims to be much more visual too, with the search giant planning on bringing Google Lens into the mix

Over 60% of marketers are already leveraging AI, so it’ll be interesting to see what Bard has in store for the marketing mix.  

So there you have it. 10 of Google’s most iconic marketing moments since inception back in the nineties. Without them, who knows where marketers would be today? Maybe we’d all still be relying on Jeeves.

A bit about Reckless
We’re an eCommerce digital marketing agency with offices in Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. We help brands grow through custom websites, bespoke software development, paid media, SEO and online marketplaces. If you need a hand taking your eCommerce brand to the next level, get in touch 👇

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