13 Jan 14 8:50 pm
I have a site that is basically built on the "if you build it (and it's awesome) they will come" principle. Mostly out of laziness: I built it in 2007 after doing AffiloBlueprint 2.0 with Mark, but I was too lazy to go the hard yards building links. So it just sat there languishing for a long time.
Around mid-2009 it started getting reasonable traffic -- like 5000 visitors a month. I was pretty happy, particularly since I hadn't been doing any work on it. Most of the traffic was from Stumbleupon -- people were sharing and liking my site because I had some particularly link baity items of content. Stumbleupon traffic is pretty worthless from a conversion perspective, in my opinion, but it was getting my site out there in front of people.
From there, traffic kept increasing. A few good educational sites linked to me, and there was lots of sharing happening on social networks. People were sharing my site on forums, Yahoo Answers has sent me a lot of traffic. People were even adding my site to their "blog rolls" on their WordPress blogs, which I think is cute. I get a bit of Pintrest as well (it helps to have good images for this).
Then Panda and Penguin came along, and either gave my site an extra boost (no unnatural backlinks, good user experience, not loaded with ads...), or wiped out the competition who were likely engaging in these practices. Whatever happened, my site started ranking very highly in Google for my "buyer intent" keywords, and it's been up there ever since, and making pretty decent money.
The only downside to this is that it takes a hellova long time to snowball and gather momentum, if you just do it lazy like me. I think it's worth planting the seeds in forums, blogs, ads, wherever else to begin with, and then (assuming your stuff is really shareable) it'll pick up speed and grow naturally.
The other thing that helped me is that I'm in an educational niche, so I was able to pick up valuable backlinks from respected .edu sites, universities and stuff. A lot of faculties will have their own websites, so if your content is really good and worthwhile and useful for their students, you could contact them directly and maybe get powerful links that way.
So in my opinion, it's worth spending money on content if you KNOW that your audience is going to love it. I mean really love it. I would be hesitant to spend big bucks on a pure plain and simple article, but I don't know what you were thinking of doing. I don't think articles are quite as sharable as something like an infographic, or an interactive tool, but it depends on your niche.
Good content doesn't instantly equate to good rankings. Google doesn't instantly know your stuff is awesome. But awesome stuff will eventually start attracting the kinds of behaviours that Google will see as being indicative of good content -- and I think they're only going to get better at spotting that in the future.