In the last six months there has been talk of the death of digital marketing. Forrester recently mooted that digital marketing is dead and that we are now in an era of “post-digital” marketing. 

In his keynote address at Dmexco in Cologne last September, P&G’s global brand building officer Marc Pritchard also talked about the end of digital marketing as something separate or distinct.

Indeed this is a view that Econsultancy and Marketing Week espoused in our Modern Marketing Manifesto which we published almost a year ago.

We cut ‘digital’ as one of the key elements of marketing from the initial draft and focus instead on integration, customer experience, brand, data and other elements irrespective of medium or channel.

However, while we might agree that this is conceptually and strategically the right end point, the reality on the ground is quite different.

Very few organisations are at a point where they are sufficiently capable or mature in their digital marketing or ecommerce activities that they have become ‘business as usual’.

What we see is that digital is the catalyst and driver for marketing and business transformation; where organisations talk about innovation it is almost entirely digital.

The operational reality for most businesses is that digital is very much alive and a huge area of focus. In our research around organisational structures it is clear that most organisations can only move quickly enough in digital by creating dedicated digital teams with digital specialists.

Q: What best describes the structure of your digital marketing capability, and how resource is allocated? 

In time the digital expertise becomes more decentralised and digital knowledge more widely disseminated. The destination is indeed digital ‘evaporation’ as something distinct; but the journey of digital transformation is only just underway for most.

There are apparently also ‘deaths’ at the level of digital marketing disciplines. Email marketing is dead thanks to newer forms of messaging, so say some.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is also dead. So say others. Certainly both have evolved over the years and will continue to do so but to paraphrase the Mark Twain misquotation, rumours of their deaths have been greatly exaggerated.

Let us take SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Despite the rise of social media it is still the case that most sites get most of their traffic, particularly new users, from search engines.

In Econsultancy’s case, despite our impressive 170,000 Twitter followers, more than 60% of new visitors to our site come from natural search. That is around 20,000 potential new customers a day.

Back in 2009 we migrated the Econsultancy site from one domain to another and dropped out of Google for several months. This was a salutary reminder of how vital technical SEO (still) is.

Econsultancy Google Referrals

We recently changed our entire URL structure and moved the whole site to SSL (https). We thought long and hard about this and paid for specialist SEO advice.

The Guardian recently wrote an article about its own domain migration experiences. If this all sounds ‘too techy’ for you then consider the implications of having all your search traffic switched off. You must care about these things. They are specialist and they are digital and they are not dying.

In association with Responsys we have published the Marketing Budgets Report 2014 based on a survey of more than 600 marketers. We asked them about how they would be spending their budgets in 2014.

For digital marketing the discipline experiencing the greatest percentage year on year increase is content marketing: 74% plan to increase spend on this.

But in second place, alongside mobile, is search engine optimisation with 63% planning to increase spend and 33% keeping spend the same. No imminent signs of death there.

In fact, if anything, we see a trend in 2014 away from ‘shiny new things’ in digital and a much greater focus on ‘doing the digital basics really well’. That is where most of the money and resources are going and rightly so.

So we can envisage a time of digital demise as a broad term because it will become part of everything. But we are a fair way off that yet and, even then, there will still be digital specialists required and digital-only marketing disciplines.

Digital is dying. Long live digital.