This is a guest post by Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com.
Search engines and customers are smarter and savvier than ever before at sniffing out low-quality and spammy marketing techniques. Yet many companies still use antiquated marketing methods that are ineffective at best and downright dangerous at worst.
Below are three of the worst marketing techniques for today's online environment – and what you should be doing instead.
1. Blog Commenting
This strategy involves leaving generic comments on blog posts that include a link to the site you're trying to market. It can be done manually but is more often generated by software that makes it possible to automatically spam the crap out sites and leave comments on thousands of blogs quickly.
Blog commenting is perhaps the most despicable, annoying and lowest form of online marketing in existence, as anyone with a WordPress site can attest. Worse, it's not even effective! Even IF a spammy comment is published, 99% of links posted in blog comments don't provide any kind of SEO benefit. Due to the special “no follow” tag added to links by most blogging platforms, Google and other search engines ignore them.
What to Do Instead:
Blog commeting isn't a good technique for building SEO authority but it can be a great way to generate highly targeted traffic to your website. Here's what to do:
- Find an article on a subject you know very well.
- Leave an in-depth, informative comment that adds to the conversation.
- Include a very applicable link at the END of the comment.
People reading your comment have absolutely no reason to want to visit your website, so you need to give them one. Writing a thoughtful, in-depth comment showcases your expertise and builds trust with someone scanning through the piece.
And if you include an on-topic link after your top-notch comment, a large number of people will click through to your site. The mistake most people make is putting their link at the top of their comment before they've established any credibility – and people skip right over it.
This technique works best on sites that are highly trafficked. The picture below illustrates a comment I left on a Hacker News thread that resulted in more than 500 people visiting my blog:
2. Article Marketing/Spinning
Traditional article marketing usually consists of creating dozens of slightly different versions of an article and then blasting them across the web using a paid distribution service. If most veteran online marketers are honest, they'll admit to having done it in some form in the past, myself included.
But it's a really poor choice for marketing today. Search engines like Google are getting really good at filtering out and discounting duplicate content online, and that's exactly what a thinly spun mass distributed article is. It's also really spammy, and Google has been cracking down heavily on low-quality techniques and backlink profiles with algorithm updates like Penguin. Even if this technique works for a short time to improve your rankings, there's a good chance you'll be penalized in the future.
What to Do Instead:
Instead of using a paid service to shoot out hundreds of copies of a generic article, approach individual sites one at a time and offer to write a unique piece specifically for their visitors. You can then include a few tasteful and applicable backlinks to your site in the piece.
This approach takes much more time but is a much better long-term approach. You'll be able to get your articles posted on higher-quality websites, which will pass more authority (i.e., SEO power) back to your own site. Because you're specifically targeting the sites, you'll also be more likely to receive highly qualified direct traffic to your business. And, of course, you won't have to worry about Google penalties in the future.
For more information on how to use this technique, check out these resources:
- The Stalker's Guide to Guest Posting
- The Ultimate Guide to Advanced Guest Blogging
- KISSMetrics Guide to Guest Blogging
- How to Increase Guest Posting Effectiveness by 100X
Blindly Outsourcing Your SEO and Marketing
Marketing an ecommerce store well takes a tremendous amount of work, so it's understandable that people often consider outsourcing the process. But unfortunately many people will simply hire the cheapest person on oDesk who claims to be a marketing or SEO “expert,” which is a recipe for disaster.
Low-quality marketing techniques like the ones we've discussed can leave a messy backlink and marketing profile that can permanently hurt your rankings, be extremely difficult to clean up and damage any legitimate marketing efforts you've already done.
What to Do Instead:
If you're new to online marketing and are bootstrapping your first ecommerce business, I highly recommend that you do as much of the marketing and SEO work yourself as possible. Why?
- Learning to market is – hands down – the most valuable skill you can develop in business.
- You'll need to know the ins and outs of marketing and SEO if you want to competently manage others doing it in the future.
- It will save you money that you can pour back into your business.
- You'll do a better job than 99% of low-end marketing freelancers.
- You'll know exactly what's going on and can avoid any dangerous or penalty-causing techniques.
If you do decide to hire someone else to market your business, you'll want to vet and manage them closely. I learned this lesson firsthand when I failed to properly manage an SEO firm I'd hired.
Because I'd worked with the company before, I assumed things were being run well and I failed to oversee their work. Only after my site was heavily penalized by Google's Penguin update did I realize that the process hadn't been managed well, and that they'd used some unsavory techniques. Ultimately, it was my fault because I abdicated responsibility and didn't check in on their work.
When outsourcing your SEO or marketing, make sure you vet candidates well. Check references, look at their past work and talk with them about how they'd structure a campaign. And once work starts, make sure you're checking in on a regular basis and monitoring progress. Because in the end, it's your business – not theirs – on the line.
For more information, see this video by SEO guru Rand Fishkin on how to choose a good SEO company.
You Pay Now … or Later.
Marketing your ecommerce business online can be a tremendous amount of work. You can either put in the investment to create a quality, value-adding marketing campaign now OR pay the price later when shady techniques permanently penalize your site's reputation or rankings.
Focus on quality marketing tactics despite the additional work and you won't regret it in the long run.
By Andrew Youderian, an eCommerce entrepreneur who's passionate about marketing, SEO and traffic generation. His blog, eCommerceFuel.com, is dedicated to helping individuals and small organizations build thriving online stores. For more information, check out his well-reviewed free guide to running an ecommerce business.