Three of the Worst Marketing Techniques – and What to Do Instead

Three of the Worst Marketing Techniques – and What to Do Instead


This is a guest post by Andrew Youderian of

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:

  1. Find an article on a subject you know very well.
  2. Leave an in-depth, informative comment that adds to the conversation.
  3. 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:

What to Do Instead:

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:

Blindly Outsourcing Your SEO and Marketing

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?

  1. Learning to market is – hands down – the most valuable skill you can develop in business.  
  2. 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.
  3. It will save you money that you can pour back into your business.
  4. You'll do a better job than 99% of low-end marketing freelancers.
  5. 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,, 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.


  • Antonio Vaughn
    Antonio Vaughn
    May 14 2013, 10:13AM

    GREAT POST!!!!

  • Jane
    May 14 2013, 10:45AM

    Great post. Now check out my store for excellent deals on tea. Just kidding. I read the article and would never pull such a spammy stunt.

  • Jordan B.
    Jordan B.
    May 14 2013, 10:50AM

    I’m the head of the strategy team at Coalition Tech, one of Shopify’s LA based experts.

    Fundamentally, the best litmus test for your online marketing company is this: Does their marketing strategy center on your potential consumers?

    If the answer is no, avoid them. If the answer is yes, give them a closer look.

    For the past decade, many SEO companies and online marketers have endangered small businesses by focusing primarily on search engines- how can Google be duped, how can Bing be tricked, etc. Inevitably, algorithms will improve, and all of that trickery is caught and penalized.

    A consumer centered marketing effort (even if its goal is a #1 rank in search engines) is algorithm proof. It brings your marketing strategy in line with the purpose of search algorithms and will never embarrass you if a prospective consumer stumbles onto it.

    Checkout more about us, and how we approach consumer driven SEO at (There’s my validated comment link :D)

  • Ben
    May 14 2013, 11:25AM

    Jane, because of your humor, now people are going to check out your site lol. Reverse Reverse Reverse psychology!

    Anyway, Great post! I loved the part about “Blindly outsourcing your SEO.” Unfortunately, our company Woodchuck Case learned the hard way :( <— Real Wood Skins & Cases for Phones, Tablets, Laptops and Headphones | WOODCHUCK | Truly American.

  • Josh
    May 14 2013, 06:57PM

    Jordan, to add to your point, I am quite new to this whole eCommerce and IM stuff, and one surprising fact i have noticed so far throughout my research is how desperately marketers are trying to dupe google, bing and other search engines.

    I know a guy who worked for bing in the past and believe it or not most of the search queries is actually ranked based on relevance by people and not robots.

    If internet marketers would put as much effort and time into fulfilling the needs of customers instead of spending hours and days to find loopholes in search engines, Im sure they wouldnt have to go looking for traffic in the first place.

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    May 15 2013, 01:55AM

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  • Rose
    May 15 2013, 12:22PM

    Well written topic, thanks for bringing this up, keep them coming. You can also visit for ecommerce seo reference.

  • Sarah Reilly
    Sarah Reilly
    May 15 2013, 04:51PM

    This is a really great post. There is so much emphasis placed on the word “buzz” that many companies fall into the damaging practices you have outlined by focusing on quantity over quality.

  • Ollie
    May 17 2013, 10:10AM

    Hey guys, following on the from the point about ‘Blindly Outsourcing your SEO’, this is exactly what we did incorrectly a few months ago.

    We wanted to raise the profile of our website via google listings so immediately signed up to the nearest company who did ‘SEO’, this really didn’t work for us and after a long learning process and doing a lot ourselves we have improved greatly. We now have a different SEO company working for us who we did our due diligence to make sure they really understood our business plan, market and strategy and didn’t just pointlessly ‘link build’ but really improve and make great content.

    Our advice is really read up a lot yourselves about SEO and ways to improve, there is a great Shopify Blog article actually which we used that talked about Title Tags, Meta Descriptions and great content.

    We would really appreciate it if you checked out our Shopify site :)

  • Rob
    May 20 2013, 09:53PM

    If you’re learning about this just now, your page rank may have been suffering in the past year or so already.

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  • David's Delicious Chocolates
    David's Delicious Chocolates
    May 24 2013, 12:17PM

    I found this article refreshingly honest, a bit “selling” but honest. I launched Sept. 2012. I am on the social networks, offer free 6 mo. financing, and my blog is The Chocolate Postman.
    Despite 20+ years using a computer I am appalled at how much I do not know about commerce.
    I get a few hundred visitors but not my 1st sale.
    My niche market is healthy delicious chocolates for those with special dietary needs, religious needs and diabetics and still looking for more suppliers and my 1st order.

  • Karen
    May 25 2013, 07:05PM

    Sadly, when I hired a web design company for my service dubbed ‘the builders mls’, I had no idea about the internet, and 3 yrs later I discovered neither did they! Andrew, you are absolutely right, it’s my responsibility, I ought to have learned all I could!

    1. Had I have used Google Webmaster Tools at the very start I would have seen all the programming errors, what Google (& other search engines) actually saw my Keywords to be and much, much more. This would be the very first thing I would pay attention to.

    2. Another tip, run your URL thru the W3C Validator and,

    3. I use this tool for help with titles, metatags and keyword density in my text, etc –

    In fact, I would state in any future contracts that there were to be no errors etc showing up and the ‘site had to be compliant with all of the tools noted in my 3 points here. By cleaning up the errors noted, you’ll learn a lot about your website, I did.

    Best, Karen

  • Jennifer
    May 27 2013, 01:46AM

    I don’t know if anyone else did this—but it took me a few days to click on the story. I didn’t want to find out I was making one of the three big marketing mistakes! :)

    Luckily, I’m in the clear, but I just learned a lot about some additional things to do as I market my shop. Thanks for the tips, Andrew (I’ll click through faster next time!)

  • Irfan Elahi
    Irfan Elahi
    May 27 2013, 03:20PM

    Really great and compact compilation of insightful recommendations for online marketing. Another form of online marketing is email marketing which can be a source of huge traffic for your website/blogs. I’ve seen many companies violating all possible ethics and spamming the hell out of my inbox.
    I’ve tried contextualized commenting on relevant blogs pertinent to my startup ( niche and have found the wonders of this tip working practically. Relevancy is the essence of marketing and if you aren’t in context of the ongoings, you are an outlaw in online marketing world! :)

  • Betty
    June 14 2013, 11:08PM

    Thank you for this info and tips. I am a beginner at this

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    Inet Global Solutions
    June 18 2013, 01:14PM

    Yes this is a great article. We could use some more Do this, not that help. Thanks so much.

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    David Johnson
    June 22 2013, 01:39AM

    Thanks a lot for sharing such a good source with all, i appreciate your efforts taken for the same. I found this worth sharing and must share this with all.

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  • Visakan V
    Visakan V
    July 07 2013, 11:51PM

    I agree completely. I look forward to a world of enlightened, thoughtful comments on all blogs.

    Side-note: It’s tragic and comical to see spam comments on a blog post about the futility of spam comments…

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    November 15 2014, 04:32AM

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