You’ve probably heard of the Gold Rush. It usually refers to the time in California in the mid-19th century when news spread of the discovery of gold deposits in the state. Almost overnight, hundreds of thousands of people trooped there hoping to strike it rich.
We’re seeing something similar to the Gold Rush today. But instead of hoping to discover gold, it’s about getting a chunk of the digital economy, which is valued at $1.2 trillion in the United States alone, or about 6.5 per cent of its 2016 Gross Domestic Product. And the actual winners in today’s gold rush are the companies that make the tools that help individuals and businesses make money from the web, companies like MOZ, SEMrush, and Hubspot. We’ll introduce you to some of them as we go further in this article.
The rise of digital marketing
In order to stand out in an increasingly competitive business landscape, companies have used digital marketing to promote their products and services and turn prospects into loyal paying customers. At the same time, digital marketing continues to make it significantly easier, more effective, and more affordable for businesses of all sizes to reach their target market.
To get a clearer picture of the evolution of digital marketing, let’s take a quick trip across its history.
The 1980s: The Beginning – In this decade, businesses began to collect and store data about their customers to reveal their buying habits. The processes involved were mostly manual, however, as a person was required to track interactions between the business and their customers.
The 1990s: Rise of CRMs – Digital marketing exploded a decade later with the advent of customer relationship management (CRM) software, which automated many of the tasks involved in customer tracking.
The 2000s: Automated marketing – As more and more customers used the internet to research products they wanted to buy, businesses turned to marketing automation platforms to deliver content that’s tailor-fit to each audience, segment audiences more accurately, and more.
The 2010s: Going social – Things changed in digital marketing again when smartphones and social media platforms came. Today, businesses have to deliver different kinds of content on diverse kinds of platforms on various types of devices.
Every decade presents a new challenge to businesses on how to more effectively promote and sell their products to their customers. As these customers become more sophisticated and as the technology matures, the challenges become more and more complex. This is where digital marketing tools come in.
Digital marketing tools to the rescue
For every problem that a marketer faces, there’s a tool that helps solve that. From collecting customer information to gaining insights on their buying habits to delivering customised content, there’s a tool that helps marketers make smarter decisions.
That’s why in today’s digital gold rush, the ones making the real money are those who create and sell the tools. You want to boost your paid and organic search marketing efforts? Do you want to know why your competitor is getting so much traffic? Do you want to know exactly what keywords will bring you the most traffic? There are tools to do those for you and more. So it’s a lot like the 19th century Gold Rush—it’s the companies that make the digital marketing tools that reap the most rewards in the digital gold rush.
But who are some of the biggest winners in the current race? We’ll take a look at some of them in the next section.
2019’s top digital marketing platforms
We chose the platforms in the list based on two factors: how long they’ve been around and their revenue. Both are good indicators of their longevity and profitability in a highly competitive sphere. Plus, we added a quick summary on why marketers love them:
- Year founded: 2008
- Revenue: 60-70 million (annual, estimate)
- Ideal for: SEO and SEM research
- Why they’re great: SEMrush is best known for their Competitive Research Toolkit, offering you exceptional insight on how your competitors perform by evaluating your competitor’s online performance, identifying their target keywords you might have missed, analysing their backlinks, and more.
- Year founded:2006
- Revenue: $375.6 million (2017)
- Ideal for: CRM
- Why they’re great: If you’ve been in marketing long enough, you’ve probably heard of HubSpot. They offer a range of fantastic software that includes the free HubSpot CRM and their platforms specifically designed for marketing, sales, and customer service. Each of these specialised tools can help you do more, like manage your content, track and schedule emails, and automate your sales processes.
- Year founded: 2004
- Revenue: $44.9 million (annual, estimate)
- Ideal for: SEO research
- Why they’re great: MOZ offer plenty of tools for tracking your website’s online performance through MOZ Pro. But it’s an even bigger powerhouse with MOZ Local, helping businesses ensure their business listings are verified on Google and Facebook, and that these listings are distributed across the web through search engines, so customers can find the business faster.
- Revenue: $40-50 million (annual, estimate)
- Ideal for: SEO research
- Why they’re great: Ahrefs boast exceptional marketing intelligence with its massive cache of website data, with an index of 12 trillion known links and 3 trillion known URLs, and they crawl 6 billion web pages every day. They can also generate millions of keyword ideas, help you discover new keywords, and estimate traffic for all pages ranking in the top 10.
- Revenue: $40–50 million (estimate)
- Ideal for: SEO research, social media marketing
- Why they’re great: BrightEdge offers a range of powerful tools for diverse digital marketing roles. Their tools include ContentIQ for auditing websites and boosting search engine performance; StoryBuild for telling more compelling stories using dashboards; and HyperLocal for getting more precise search insights based on specific target locations.
- Year founded: 2006
- Revenue: $321 million (2017, estimate)
- Ideal for: Marketing automation
- Why they’re great: Marketo call themselves the ‘best-in-class marketing automation system’ for a good reason. They offer a broad range of robust solutions to help marketers guide customers in their journey, measure results, optimise campaigns, and more. Plus, you can do things like determining accounts with the best potential, creating email campaigns quickly and make richer mobile experiences all under one roof
- Year founded: 2007
- Revenue: $47.3 million (2017)
- Ideal for: SEM management
- Why they’re great: Advertising online can expensive quickly without reliable intelligence. With Wordstream, you can manage ads on Google, Bing, and Facebook, and do more. They offer tools that help you analyse, optimise, and maximise your advertising efforts better than ever before. Their customers have seen an average of 30% increase in their conversions and an average of 44% jump in their click-through rate, proof of the power that Wordstream brings to marketers and businesses.
- Year founded: 2009
- Revenue: $3 million (2017 estimate)
- Ideal for: Landing page creation
- Why they’re great: Landing pages play a crucial role in converting paid traffic into loyal customers. Unbounce helps businesses do that more cheaply and effectively with their landing pages, popups, and sticky bars, helping these businesses lower their cost-per-lead by over 70%. Plus, they offer a vast range of resources and guides to help even the most inexperienced marketers get their landing pages up and running in little to no time.
The future of digital marketing
As customers become even more sophisticated and the more they rely on their smartphones and other digital devices to make buying decisions, digital marketing and the tools that marketers use will certainly evolve as well. Artificial intelligence and location data, for example, has already begun to show what it’s capable of in terms of providing even more customised content to customers. We can only expect the digital landscape of tomorrow to be even more complex and exciting as it adapts to the changing tastes and needs of customers.
- Ilan is the cofounder of One Egg and Head of SEO.