Marketing a business online can be very time consuming…Manually submitting content, bookmarking, growing social media numbers, communicating with people in Web 2.0 and creating quality links will all take plenty of your valuable time. And this is not even taking into account writing massive amounts of content to submit to directories.A lot of very smart software developers are continually finding ways to create shortcuts to eliminate this lengthy process (and make a pile of money at the same time!).But does it work?First up I will explain the commonly used marketing terms: Black Hat and White Hat.Black Hat are the online techniques used by the spammers we all love to hate – those incessant, irritating and unethical marketers who plague your inboxes, your social media messages, your blogs with an avalanche of automated spam touting the next get-rich-quick scheme or some dubious product!On the other hand, White Hat is as pure as the driven snow: 100% ethical, following all the rules – and suffering in page rank as a result!Software in online marketing? Yes or no?Here are a few guidelines from my experience.Any software that spins content to create multiple, keyword-rich articles should be avoided at all costs. This produces synonym-based nonsense which damages your credibility and will be punished by the search engines. Always create content for human readers, not search engines. It is the customer you should be focused on. Top page rank is pointless if you look like a half-wit.Software to submit to hundreds of directories? Avoid! If it is a one-button, automatic system you will have your account banned by many of the sites immediately and permanently. Software to get views, friends, followers, likes, clicks, etc? There is some variation here; anything auto on YouTube is very risky. Get identified by YouTube for abusing the system and you’ll lose all your videos when your account is banned – inconvenient if your YouTube-hosted videos appear on other sites.Try to use anything software-related on Facebook? – I don’t think so! Facebook is like a fortress. So tight are the systems that sometimes it is hard to add a friend you have known for 20 years.Twitter is a bit of an exception. Free services that add followers and remove followers automatically are shut down within a short period of time. But the paid services seem to be tolerated, and these can be a massive time saver. This is obviously not generally known in New Zealand, as the follower numbers, messaging and effectiveness of NZ Twitter accounts for business are way behind the international standard.So you can definitely use these – for now!Any software that builds links to other sites to improve your site rank – avoid! You will be dropped down the search results like a stone.Any software that automatically comments on blogs to build site rank? Avoid for the same reason. Most blogs have Askimet or some other spam filter anyway.You will have found that most directories, Web 2.0 and other content sites have a ‘Captcha’ form to stop software abuse. Those requests to read distorted words or numbers and type them into a box are aimed at telling whether there is a human being or a ‘robot’ at the other end.So in most cases, software will damage your online marketing campaign, but there are a few exceptions. Steady, manually submitted content is the best practice when combined with SEO-based techniques to substantially improve and speed up the results.Of course, people are constantly trying to find ways around this and to stay one step ahead of the famous Google Algorithm. A new wave of very smart submitter sites has cracked the code by using outsourcing on a global level. By paying a subscription your content can be syndicated by hundreds or thousands of outworkers earning a living from their own computers – totally manually, and importantly, from many different IP addresses. The costs are low because most are from developing nations, and the brilliant thing is that it appears completely natural.The next time a site asks you "Are you a robot?” I am sure you will find it less irritating, as this process is one of the key defences against the Black Hat marketers destroying the essence of the Internet.