Three Online Marketing Shortcuts that Take Too Long

image of broken bridge

Sometimes people hear online marketing and their common sense flies out the window. They start thinking there won’t be any work (there will), there won’t be any expenses (a lot lower than standard offline advertising, but not zero), and that customers and clients will be magically transported to your business by flying Internet monkeys (that would rock, but sadly, no).

“Don’t take shortcuts, they take too long.” That’s something I say at least once a week, whether it’s to a colleague or one of our brilliant Authority members.

I first said it in the context of smart search engine optimization, where the tricks, games, and tomfoolery of a certain style of SEO have been systematically whacked by Google — leaving site owners to start from scratch.

But that’s not the only aspect of your online marketing efforts you need to watch out for. Here are a few shortcuts that will only slow you down in the long run.

#1: Going with “quick” solutions instead of self-hosted WordPress

I did this. When I first started a blog way back when, I went with a certain platform that rhymes with Striped Dad.

Why? Because I looked at setting up self-hosted WordPress and there were steps I didn’t understand. It seemed tricky. It seemed like it was going to take longer than the 3 minutes it took me to create a Striped Dad account.

To make things worse, instead of using my own domain name, I set it up as SoniaSimoneIsMakingAMistake.StripedDad.com.

I saved an hour or two … and when I finally came to my senses and moved over to my own domain, I lost all of my links and comments from the earliest days of that blog.

Not fatal. But not optimal, either. There was a lot of extra work, content promotion, and networking I needed to do to fix that mistake.

It was a shortcut that took too long.

#2: Thinking that Facebook is a valid content marketing program

I’m not picking on Facebook (this time), it’s just the most visible place people are making this mistake today.

Using Facebook, or whatever social platform you like, is a perfectly excellent addition to your content marketing strategy.

The problem comes when you think that’s your entire content marketing strategy.

Never mind setting up and maintaining your own site … How easy to just put your business identity on Facebook! Or Google+! Or Pinterest or Medium or LinkedIn … you get the idea.

And it is easier. Until the platform changes the rules, yanks your account out from under you, and your content marketing program goes with it.

Which will happen. Because it always happens … whether the platform is Geocities or MySpace or Tumblr.

Platforms come and go. Your domain name — and the high-quality site you build on it — lives on.

(Assuming you remember to keep it renewed. Seriously, don’t forget to do that.)

#3: Buying all of your traffic from one source

Oh, the happy world of venture capital-backed tech startups. So much money! So many Aeron chairs! So much fun!

Until the single source of traffic you were using to show growth dries up, for one of a million possible reasons. And your viral overnight success becomes a sick and tired overnight failure.

VC-backed companies can be forgiven for doing silly things (that’s what they’re good at, right?). But plenty of more sensible businesses make this mistake too. It comes from thinking of traffic (and leads, and prospects) as a faucet you can turn on and off, instead of the result of credibility that you must earn.

Don’t let any one company be the source of all of your traffic, whether it’s a social platform like Facebook or an 800-pound pay-per-click gorilla like AdWords.

And yeah, the SEO thing

You shouldn’t rely on search for all of your traffic either. A smart organic SEO strategy (without silly shortcuts) will usually weather Google’s storms, but you don’t want to bet your business on it.

(Besides, Google always seems to love the sites best that don’t need them at all. Because Google is a mean high school girl.)

Do this instead:

Remember what your 4th grade teacher kept trying to tell you. If you don’t have time to do it right, you don’t have time to do it over.

About the author

Sonia Simone


Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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Comments

  1. LOL. I love that, “Google is a mean high school girl”. I’m actually guilty of the opposite of number 2. I don’t give Facebook enough time. Actually, and this may seem harsh, I hate Facebook. Really. I don’t really go on anymore, and I know my business suffers because of it. There has to be a middle for me somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it. I go there maybe once per week.

    Anyway, thanks for the well written blog post!

    Josh

  2. Hi Sonia,

    Well said! And timely too. I hear you on 1. Sure I had a self-hosted WP domain but I worried about changing themes for years because I broke my blog in the past and had zero interest or desire to change my theme.

    Of course this killed me, blogging wise. Just today – the timely part ;) – a talented young blogger totally overhauled my blog, for free. Well, we helped each other out for years, and are good friends, but still…..this would have taken me weeks or months and a pretty penny to do on my own. Instead it happened in 8 hours, and he is making changes as we speak.

    Stunning, the dividends that caring about people can pay in the near and long term.

    So I am done with the freebie, unprofessional theme bit. For good. No more shortcuts.

    Thanks Sonia!

    Ryan

  3. #4. Relying on Twitter for Networking

    Networking is essential to digital marketing. It’s how you get great partnerships and referrals and advice.

    But I see many people relying on social networks like Twitter for networking. I made that mistake for years. What broke the spell was when I tried to contact a fellow blogger who I have shared tweets with and couldn’t get a call back.

    I confused my follower list with my real network. Now I judge my network based on who I can get on the phone. Twitter doesn’t count.

  4. Thanks for the great reminder, Sonia!

    I remember when you gave us this advice in Teaching Sells. It has saved me from a lot of stupid “shortcuts”.

    Take building an email list as an example.

    I was unsure about “email marketing” and setting up an autoresponder. It sounded so difficult and cumbersome. Besides, how could I choose between Aweber and Mailchimp? Oh, the choices!

    In hindsight, I see how silly I was. The email list is one of your most important business (read: audience) assets. Don’t waste your time choosing an email service like I did. Instead move forward with one that you feel comfortable with. Trust me, making progress beats standing still!

    Allow me to quote a Teaching Sells student: “If you can move it an inch, you can move it a mile”. This is so true!

    Yes, it can be difficult to set up an autoresponder, but once you have it in place… well, that’s when the fun begins :)

    Cheers,
    Olle

    • Absolutely — and usually once you start doing it, the “hard and complicated” thing isn’t nearly as tough as you thought it was going to be. :)

    • Chris Sanchez :

      Hey Olle,

      Great feedback there.

      Your comment, “Don’t waste your time choosing an email service.” is very much in line with one of the marketing tips I send out to real estate agents.

      This is what I tell people regarding setting up a database or email service provider:

      The most effective system is the one you actually use.

      Cheers! :)

  5. This is a great article, full of sound advice, which is made a thousand times better by the use of the word “tomfoolery”.
    I’m still in the process of setting up my own blog but, thanks to advice from Copyblogger, I’ve set up my own self-hosted WP site with a premium theme and I’m aware of the pitfalls of putting all my content marketing eggs in one basket.

  6. Sonia, I can just picture a type of prospective customer enquiry you must get from time to time:
    “Hi. I noticed you were #1 in Google. I just wondered if I could have a couple of hours of your consultancy, so you could do the same for me.”

  7. “Platforms come and go. Your domain name — and the high-quality site you build on it — lives on. ”

    Yes, yes, yes! I tell clients all the time that you are just renting space on Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever. At the end of the day you don’t own that platform and you have no control over what happens from one day to the next. Don’t risk your entire online brand on rented ground!

  8. That bullet point list at the end is a gold mine of “how to do stuff right.” Using the word “keep” is huge, too. Even if you’re doing the right stuff, you have to do it consistently, and stick to it.

    Companies are so often fixated on quick results, that even those who are doing great things tend to lose the will to persevere.

    Keep up the great work!

  9. Great thinking. I’m becoming a big fan of CopyBlogger. You guys get it and I agree with just about everything you say.

    So what right?

    It’s just that I read tons of “experts” and most don’t make the kind of sense you guys do.

    I guess I’m just trying to say THANKS! ;-)

  10. Another great post, Ms Simone. Very nice.

    I am legendary for taking short cuts on my motorcycle. The very best of them have taken weeks to return from. Great idea there, not so much in business.

    Yes, I have tried the shortcuts listed. With the results listed as well…It’s amazing how often the easy way is also the right way.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Oh. Yeah. I recently discovered the simplest autoresponder on earth. It is my third and last, I hope.

  11. Great advice, Sonia. Points 1 and 2 especially resonate — I’m currently helping a young photographer who’s refusing to invest in a self-hosted WP site (I’ve been successful getting others on board with Synthesis, but not this one!). I think it’s a huge mistake for the very reasons you cited. Since I’m helping her gratis, I’ll get her free WP site up and running, but going forward I won’t waste time on clients intent on this cheap shortcut. It’s antithetical to my goal of teaching people the proper way to market themselves online. Thanks for setting my head straight!

  12. If I only had a dollar for every time I spoke with a potential client who told me, “I already have a website. On Facebook.”

    Fortunately, there were others who did not say that. :-)

  13. Awesome kickass advice Sonia!

    I think we can all commiserate with the “Striped Dad” mistake – I think probably EVERY newbie goes through this very critical issue.

    The truth is, it simply makes far more sense to host your OWN website, than to use someone else’s domain name or platform.

    Funny enough, I have a website post that’s on the first page of Google search results – and I can’t even remember SEO’ing the damned thing!

  14. Awesome article. All 3 points are very valid, but #3 especially resonated with me. Any traffic source, no matter how fruitful currently, will eventually dry up. So if you focus on just one source of traffic, you’re in trouble in the long run. That’s why it’s important to find multiple sources and always be on the lookout for new opportunities. And focus on getting your traffic onto your EMAIL LIST so that when a traffic source tanks, you still have a tangible asset that continues to pay dividends.

  15. I love your writing style it really made smile.I have to admit I spent a while trying to figure out what rythmed with StripedDad.Like an idiot.I think your right that its a bad idea to put all your eggs in one basket for traffic and everything is a bad idea cause you never when they are going to flip the switch .The only problem I have is that I do that when I am not sure where else to go

  16. Sonia does it again!

    Excellent post in the mindset of building a business upon a strong foundation.

    My dad would often tell me in Spanish what would translate into, “The lazy man works twice as hard.”

    Enjoy your weekend!

  17. Amazing tips! Even though it wasn’t one of the initial three, I loved your bit about SEO.

    It’s astonishing how many people are always looking for SEO shortcuts. Many of my friends in the internet marketing world recently went crazy over a new SEO product…that essentially creates crappy blogs for you that link to your site.

    I told them I’d rather spend that money on hiring a new editor or more writers. Thanks for proving me write.

  18. I love it. Really, i love it. everything you say it is just so reasonable and makes perfectly common sense. But we keep forgetting about common sense, so thanks for the reminder. And i really like your writing style. Thanks, I love starting Saturday morning like this! Have a nice weekend!

  19. Good points. I went straight to self hosted. A friend convinced me to and helped me set it up. I’m so glad he did.

  20. Hi Sonia,

    My partner recently set up a new blog discussing the books she likes to read as well as reviewing them. It’s going extremely well – BUT, it’s on a .wordpress.com domain. I’m currently drawing up plans to take it over to self-hosted WordPress because it’s simply more reputable for a blogger to have their very own domain name in my opinion.

    I am therefore currently looking in to solutions regarding comment transfer. Do you perhaps have any recommendations for me?

    Thanks,

    J

  21. One of the most important “rules of marketing” I learned from Copyblogger was to have my own hosted site… And, it worked out extremely well. Thanks Sonia for the great information!!! once again!

  22. Very refreshing internet marketing advice – Sonia. Driving traffic to a business website is a balancing game. SEO, VSEO, Content Marketing, Paid Search, Social Networks, etc. You need to incorporate all these traffic generation tools into your marketing strategy. Never put all your eggs in one basket…

  23. All Great Points….. never rest anything just on search engines alone, you need a good following with good content if you are going to stand up to the tests of time.

  24. Hi Sonia, thanks for.an excellent post. I wonder why these basic things people still dont know about!

  25. Hi Sonia, Well written article.. “Don’t take shortcuts, they take too long.” agreed.. People tend to forget hard work always pays off.

  26. Great post. People put far too much effort into their off site link building campaigns and don’t spend enough time on the site itself. More peoples hould start putting their site first and worrying about backlinks and marketing secondary.

  27. That first point is so important. When I first started blogging I went through the same thing moving over to my own domain.

  28. Yes, couldn’t agree more. You can’t beat being able to control ALL the content that visitors to your “virtual shop window” see…. Relying exclusive on social networks can be dangerous… or at least not good forward thinking.

    Having said that, you do want to embrace social networks and not be a late comer to the party… Otherwise you could miss out on huge amounts of traffic and potential customers.

  29. This is a great article. Although each of the three have their own merits, I think #1 is one of the biggest. People waste more time trying to avoid learning the best option than it would take to actually learn. I’ve had experience here as well.

    Thank you! :-)

  30. Platforms come and go. Your domain name — and the high-quality site you build on it — lives on. love your article ,tnanks

  31. Georgia Finch-Williams :

    I’m more of the opinion that Google is a slightly psychotic business partner. Capable of doing just about anything.
    A partner when it suits them, a competitor who makes up the rules as they go along when it doesn’t.
    It’s hard sometimes to focus in on the fact that they are in the game for profit. I think many outside of IM and SEO think of Google as almost the ubiquitous information providers of the internet and perhaps think they are some kind of charity or “internet overlay” that is required to find what you want.
    Not a privately owned commercial website which arguably has far more power and influence than any public company with profit as a prime agenda should have.
    Agree 100% with your short cuts. I think the WP and Facebook ideas are sometimes about cost. Though with integrated domain name/hosting accounts with one press WordPress install, there really is little excuse for even the least web savvy marketer not to spend 10 minutes working out how to self host.
    When you self host it’s your content – not someone else’s.
    Check the small print on WordPress.com and Facebook. Whatever you put content on those sites belongs to them the minute you press “send”.
    So in effect you are not building up your own business content at all – you are building up theirs. And they can and will use it to market with.
    Read this post on just how erratic Google are, and how scared any right minded marketer should be about relying on them too heavily
    http://www.demondemon.com/2013/10/10/site-hammered-by-simple-negative-seo-attack/
    A really nasty situation to get in. Google as a business partner that can’t seem to understand the difference between self promotional links and those made by spammers to attack your sites ranking. The problem with the spamming and dark SEO community is that it does attract a lot of intelligent (in a cunning way) young men in particular. Ones who seem to adapt quickly.
    Maybe they worked out that last months idea of negative SEO didn’t work, so adapted a new more subtle and far more effective method. All the same it’s a scary prospect and one that shows how you should not rely on one business partner for all your traffic. Particularly if it’s Google.

    Georgia Finch-Williams

  32. Great content rocks! I have been researching for a while now different websites and your has taught me a great deal over the last two weeks. I have found many ways to make my marketing a lot easier so freeing up my time and started to look at great designs of which yours very much is.

    My site needs a lot of work on the design, look and feel and I will need advice if anyone is willing I do take criticism well.

    Thanks again & I wish you all a great day! ;0)

  33. What a great article. Sometimes I think people will run out of greatcontent…and then POW….this article is spot on.
    We (ImageWorks Creative) just bought you entire theme collection and are excited to market them!