Avoiding cheap hacks is essential for reaching your audience, generating leads, and boosting sales.
Some marketers try to work their way from hacks to the trade principles, gaming the system. Others start with fundamentals and discover how to apply these techniques in marketing.
I’ve tried most things from this list. Short-term results are there, but the damage to the bigger picture is sometimes irreparable. I could've used my time better, and that’s why I’m sharing this story.
Here is a list of cheap marketing time-wasters and what to do instead.
1. Read Half Now, Half on My Website
I tried using Quora as a traffic tool. My first attempt was a total fiasco. Moderators banned my account after generating a total of 11 views. I’ve invested hours in spamming a half-witted continent.
What did I do?
I followed popular advice. Copy the first paragraph of your story and add a link saying something along these lines, “if you want to find your answer, click here.”
Don’t do this. First, nobody wants a journey from a sleazy marketer. Second, cheap marketing tactics risk alienating readers and potential customers in the long run.
Medium, Vocal, and other platforms may have fewer restrictions regarding self-plagiarising work, but no platform likes to leak traffic to other sites. Word on the street is that all these platforms actively omit traffic-leaking content. It’s a rumor, but let’s regard it as truth for the sake of better marketing.
What to do instead
Quora is a fantastic traffic tool. Medium is possibly an even better traffic tool, and so are LinkedIn, Vocal, and other platforms.
Instead of trying to trick someone into visiting your website or other platforms, simply provide real benefit.
- Create platform-specific content. Write a unique answer on Quora. Post a LinkedIn article, and publish a Medium story. Alternatively, break your Medium piece into a Twitter thread or a long LinkedIn status.
- Mention your website, add links, and let people know there is more content on that specific topic. Individuals that want to pursue more from you can easily then continue on your website. Add these links to your profile description and other strategical places on the platform.
2. Don’t Follow Random People on Social Media
Have you ever maxed out the daily follow button on a social platform? I’ve tried it on Medium ages ago. I’ve done it on Instagram. I won’t do it ever again on any platform, this may be one of the most toxic tactics out there.
While following a max number of people a day has the potential to boost your follower count in terms of numbers, it usually reduces your reach in the long run. Most followers notice when something is not right on your profile, and it also triggers a massive red flag with service providers.
Social platforms are designed to bury content with a low-follower-to-engagement ratio.
Facebook is known for such practice. I assume most social media and writing platforms follow in the same footsteps. Think about it. Nobody wants boring content.
Follow-for-follow is no bueno.
What to do instead
Instead of following everyone under the sun, find other creators from your niche and comment on their posts. Read 10 articles or find 10 photos that would resonate with your audience. Leave a thoughtful comment under each one. Encourage creators and ask helpful questions.
Your comment is a backlink to your work.
3. Keyword Stuffing Can Harm SEO Efforts
Keyword stuffing is so 2008, so don’t be 2000 and late.
SEO wizards that stuff 2,000 keywords in a 700-word post like it’s a Thanksgiving turkey are not your friends. Seriously.
Google is changing and reinventing search algorithms every day, averaging between 500 and 600 updates each year. Not every update is a total game-changer, but significant changes happen frequently.
The Passage Ranking update from February 2021 targets parts of web articles that respond to a query, overhauling the previous ranking system. The following big update will introduce voice search, mobile-only indexing, and experience discovery.
If you’d like to stay up to date with the latest algorithmic updates, follow Danny Sullivan and Google SearchLiaison on Twitter. Danny Sullivan is Google’s search liaison. Both accounts are official SEO goldmines.
How to master SEO without an engineering degree
- Research keywords to discover topics people search for.
- Periodically check Google Search Console.
- Produce enjoyable and relevant content.
- Entertain your visitors so they stay longer.
- Keep your core web vitals in check.
4. Don’t Try To Game Every Social Media Platform
Too many options could make you feel like you’re missing out if you’re not present on every platform.
You’ve read a viral story from Twitter and effectively saw someone using TikTok and Instagram to create six-figure businesses.
After spreading my social media efforts wide and thin, I see most results from one or two platforms. Social media platforms are fantastic networking tools, but they don’t work synergetically with 10 channels, all run by a single person who has other stuff to do too.
The only upside is that Google still indexes social links, so sharing a link to your content is not a total waste of time if you have nothing better to do.
Every social platform is different, hosting different groups, each consuming different content.
Here’s how to make social media work
You can be fantastic on one channel. You can be good at two or three. But juggling seven platforms produces fewer results, often generating spam.
Marketers that reach out to everybody end up reaching to no one. Instead of losing your time on all networks, focus on the profile that gets you the most traction and automate all other efforts.
- Tailor content for one or two platforms. Focus on a single platform If you don’t have a team of professionals who can churn out relevant content around the clock. If you’re on LinkedIn, write short status updates that resonate with young entrepreneurs, investors, and job seekers. If you’re on Twitter, engage in banter and troll a few celebrities.
- Automate your social media presence on secondary platforms. You don’t want to lose time on social media when it’s not delivering results. Automate your sharing process with RSS feeds. Most free services can do the trick. Google is your friend. Find software that automatically grabs published material from your website and distributes it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms. Social automation saves me over five hours each week.
5. Blindly Using Google AdWords Is Dangerous
Pay-per-click campaigns can tank your business if not run carefully.
Relevant keywords can reach up to $800 per click if you’re a lawyer or an insurance company. The damage for 10 misplaced clicks is $8,000 in this case. Most businesses can’t afford to leak $100, let alone thousands.
Google AdWords has simple math. When done right, every $1 generates $2, according to Google’s estimates. You can cement your brand awareness and reach top-quality customers. Here’s the shocker: the estimated cost of running a profitable yearly PPC campaign is north of $108,000.
How to start with AdWords
Don’t be reckless. Mistakes are potentially fatal.
Once you get a hold of the basics, pay for an Udemy course to learn about the latest standards. Grow your business without burning a devastating hole in your budget. Education is key. Learn.
6. Don’t Buy Facebook Likes, Instagram Followers, or Twitter Mentions
Buying fake followers is the worst way to kickstart a business. Think about it. You’re buying the worst kind of customers. They’re not active, don't recommend your content, and don’t buy anything you’re selling.
Most services offer passive bot followers that only limit your reach and marketing efforts in the long run. It’s similar to the second example with follow-for-follow tactics, but on steroids.
Facebooks and Instagram use the Machine Learning system to measure the engagement and distribute content. If you have too many followers who don’t engage, Facebook assumes you’re not relevant and limits how many people see your content in their feeds.
How to kickstart your social media audience
Instead of buying fake followers, you can purchase real attention from the platform itself.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and all big social media platforms offer a way to advertise your content and build your profile. Facebook ads can be dirt cheap. LinkedIn and Twitter are more expensive platforms but still more budget-friendly than standard promotions. Buy ads that generate followers.
7. Unsolicited Email Promotion Is Illegal
Email marketing is hot — but downloading a random email list and spamming your promotion to uninterested parties can get you in trouble.
You can find hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of emails that are free for grabs online. Avoid them like an innocent cough in a crowded elevator. CAN-SPAM outlaws any unsolicited email promotion.
Platforms like Mailchimp, Substack, and Convertkit have additional safety triggers that can detect unusual and illegal activity. Marketing Automation Tools (MAT) and Email Service Providers (ESP) allows communication only between email senders and receivers who have opted for the promotion.
You could legally borrow someone's list with full approval from the owner if you really want to go down this road, but it’s a questionable method at best.
What to do instead?
Build your list the old-fashioned way.
Email lists are lucrative assets that can carry the business for years and decades to come. Write. Send. Pop. Floodgates of traffic have opened. Your customers and fans can receive a notification on their phones every time you send an email.
Email lists are relationship ledgers. Here’s how to build one:
- Create a landing page for your email list.
- Produce content with backlinks to your email landing page.
- Add discounts or freebies in exchange for email information.
- Buy advertising space places with overlapping audiences.
- Deliver content your subscribers signed up for.
Don’t Waste Time on Hurtful Marketing Tactics
Let’s practice the opposite of Nike’s slogan when it comes to cheap marketing.
Don’t follow random people. Don’t publish half the article. Don’t send unsolicited emails to random lists. Here’s what to do instead:
- Publish only wholesome and full content.
- Create stories that attract readers and consumers.
- Create platform-specific content and automate secondary social media.
- Research SEO keywords and include them occasionally.
- Finish a free AdWords course and then enroll in a paid one.
- Pay to promote your page on social media.
- Build your email list the old-fashioned way.
If you’ve enjoyed this list, grab a free edition of Content Factory, a practical handbook on content marketing.