You know what they call a shortcut that actually saves time?
That was the wisdom my dad gave me the first time we went hiking together. Sometimes when you look at the map, it looks like there’s a better path. But the route is the route for a reason. Chasing a shortcut feels like making progress — but it might not get you to the trail’s end.
Marketers dig shortcuts. Or, as we call them, “hacks.” It makes sense: We’re usually overworked, understaffed, and expected to work wonders. A content marketing hack promises to cut a straight line through a tedious process, increasing efficiency and boosting results.
While some hacks can absolutely aid success, there are several instances in which you’re better off sticking to the route. Here are five shortcuts that will actually cost you time, resources, or reputation.
#1 – Shady Linkbuilding
Search algorithms consider how many backlinks your content has, right? So why not treat backlinking like another paid channel? There are plenty of entities that will help you out. Their tactics range from moderately shady (groups that exist only to share each other’s links) and incredibly shady (you pay them, they link you on tons of cloned spam sites).
But backlinks only work in your favor if they’re from reputable sites — and if your content is really worth linking to in the first place. If shady sites are linking to your content, that will actually hurt your ranking. And if Google finds out you’re engaging in shady linkbuilding, they might choose to penalize you further. Search engines are fiercely protective against any attempt to game the system.
Link building is possibly the only marketing function for which there isn’t a good paid alternative. It has to be organic, and you have to put in the work. The best way to get quality backlinks is to create amazing content.
Make stuff people will want to link to. Include influencers who will throw you a link. Do some outreach to reputable sites who would find the content relevant. It’s a drawn-out and tedious process, but it’s better than risking Google’s wrath. Plus, even if you don’t earn hundreds of backlinks, you’ll still have quality content to bring people in.
#2 – Copy/Paste Repurposing
As an agency, we’re bullish on repurposing content. It’s a good way to fill out your editorial calendar. It’s great for squeezing every drop of potential from an eBook, a blog post series, or an influencer submission. But proper repurposing takes a little time and effort. So why not just take some old stuff, paste it into a new blog, and call it good? Who’s going to remember that blog post from 2009, anyway?
Short answer: Google. Duplicate content is another ranking factor that can move you down in the SERP. Thoughtless repurposing can get you in trouble with your audience, too: If they catch on that you’re repurposing without updating (those “Call Me Maybe” references are a dead giveaway), you’ll lose credibility. And if you’re just slapping a new image on an old blog post to fill out the content calendar, odds are you haven’t considered whether the content is still relevant to your audience.
If you’re just slapping a new image on an old blog post to fill out the #content calendar, odds are you haven’t considered whether the content is still relevant to your audience. @NiteWrites Click To Tweet
As with all content marketing, repurposing should start with strategy. Make sure the content you want to repurpose is still resonating with your target audience. Update it so it’s superfresh and hyper-relevant. You could even add some influencer quotes (original or curated), or transform the content into another medium entirely.
In short, repurposing is great for putting out content with less effort… but it still requires a little effort to truly rock it.
#3 – Uninspired Curation
Curation is another way to fill out an editorial calendar with low-effort, high-return content. That means list posts, news roundups, lists of stats — anything that’s primarily bringing in third-party content.
You can see uninspired curation posts everywhere. I won’t call anyone out specifically, but try a search for “[subject matter] stats” for one type. You’ll see dozens of articles all listing the same 20 statistics, most of which don’t cite their source (or they’ll cite another stats article as the source).
Lazy curation can also look like a news roundup with nothing but headlines and hyperlinks. Or a “x best books” that’s just a list of titles. Or a quotes roundup with content everyone’s seen a dozen times. There are lots of ways to go quick, easy, and dull.
What sets good curation apart from lazy curation is an intent to provide value. Lazy curation is all about filling blog space. The alternative is to understand your audience and actively seek out stuff they might have missed that would be useful to them.
Your curated content should also include your brand’s point of view. Anyone can compile a list of links. Stand out by bringing valuable editorial context that only you (and your brand) can provide.
#4 – Single Drafting
It takes work to make sure your content is the best it can be. And look, I know how it goes: Sometimes the deadlines are looming, the creation process was slow, and you just want to click “Publish” on that first draft. It may not be perfect, but it’s something, right? Maybe you can glance over it once before you publish. You do good work; who needs an editor?
Based on some of the content I’ve read recently, publishing without editing is a new favorite content shortcut. But all those typos, awkward sentences, and trailing thoughts can hurt your credibility.
We believe every piece of content needs at least two pairs of eyes on it. Everything gets an edit. Even this blog post by a senior content writer. Ideally, you should write, edit, and have someone else QA before you publish. It’s as simple as that.
#5 – Shallow Influencer Marketing
We all know influencer marketing – working with industry experts and thought leaders to add value and credibility to your content – is a great way to increase amplification, connect with new audiences, and build valuable relationships.
The quick and easy way to do influencer marketing is use a tool to find influencers, pay them for content, then go your separate ways. Like the other shortcuts on this list, it’s quick, and it works – for a while. Until the budget runs out, or your audience gets jaded, or your influencer gets on someone else’s payroll.
Shallow influencer marketing is similar to a celebrity endorsement. There’s no relationship-building, no follow-up, no mutual excitement for the content you’re creating. Of course, some influencers want financial compensation, and that’s fine. But if you want truly effective influencer content, something has to be in it for them beyond the money.
We strive to cultivate relationships with people who are not only influential, but smart, fascinating, and doing cool stuff we want to share with our audience. Over time we have developed a community of influencers who we love working with, and who love working with us.
The True Danger of a Shortcut
All of the above shortcuts seem like they can save time or effort with just a little trade-off in quality. But those little compromises add up, and can actually hurt you in the long run. The real danger, however, is that chasing these shortcuts keeps you from optimizing, improving, and perfecting.
Definitely keep an eye out for ways you can genuinely increase efficiency. Move faster and get better results over time. But remember that there’s no shortcut for doing it right and doing it well. There’s only the route.
There are no shortcuts in content marketing. But there are ways to increase productivity and efficiency in a strategic way. Check out these posts to find more inspiration:
Of if you need help planning your route? Check out our content marketing services.