The return on investment of efforts made to build traffic and ranking exposure has only been going down in the past couple of years. There is an urgent need to increase productivity.

2013 and 2014 were devastating for those who used unnatural backlinks and content as shortcuts. Many businesses have gone offline. Those who tried to clean their backlink profile with Google’s disavow tool had to wait months before a refresh would happen. SEO companies and consultants were put under a tremendous amount of pressure to correct these mistakes. Many have even questioned their ethics and integrity. Others have questioned their relevance.

Invariants Of Online Presence

No matter how the SEO landscape has changed, some facts and principles are still standing the test of time:

  • Users drive search engine attention. When it comes to organic traffic, search engines pay more attention to user behavior, than to the content itself.
  • Links are used as trust proxies. “I don’t know if I can trust you, but if someone I trust trusts you, then maybe I can start trusting you too.”
  • Niches are saturated. In any niche with a bit of competition, it is impossible to rank (even with great content) if you don’t have good backlinks to your page or to your hosting website.
  • Attracting referral traffic and links requires exposure. If people don’t see your content, they are unlikely to link to it. Combined with the above, attracting natural links is now a chicken and egg problem. How do you get one if you don’t have the other?
  • Ethical content and links have always been rewarded in the long term. In some cases, Google may have been slow to react to unnethical tactics, but when it gets into motion, it hits hard. It is a business imperative for them. Ethical websites have consistently been spared.
  • Successful websites have a diversified backlink profile – Moz research has established that the quantity of unique linking domains and the trust of linking domains are the two most important link factors influencing a website’s authority.

For small and new websites, achieving online presence is a real challenge to overcome nowadays. Well-funded and profitable websites spend a lot of time and money to develop and maintain their online presence. It is a David and Goliath situation – the established and mature websites versus the new and growing ones – making the problem worse.

The Reality Of Content Marketing In 2015

If you are using content marketing to increase your online presence and traffic, you likely have observed the following:

  • Low quality content does not drive traffic. Websites and blogs hosting such content slowly lose their ranking and progressively become link farms 2.0.
  • Writing for specific keywords is not enough. No matter how much time you spent selecting ‘valuable’ keywords, if your content is not relevant to users, as observed by search engines, it does not help.
  • Attracting good content is challenging. If you are open to outside contributions on your website, attracting good writers or fresh and relevant content is not an easy task. Submitted content must be thoroughly edited to remain appealing and relevant.
  • Sustainable online exposure is a marathon. Unless you already have strong website and a lot of cash to spend on advertising, building sustainable presence is a slow process.
  • Quality content and links stand the test of time. Once you have earned quality links to quality content, the ranking lift they provide is typically reliable and requires little maintenance, unless you are in a strong, competitive niche.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is determining to what extent you can trust a potential host or contributor when content exchange opportunities arise. In other words, what is their agenda?

Many content exchange platforms have been demoted or severely penalized by Google for breaking guidelines or for enabling link schemes. Although guest blogging, article exchanges and content sharing is not forbidden, everyone is walking on a tightrope.

A New Ethical Content Exchange Platform

There is something broken in the system. You need some exposure to attract traffic and have your content discovered. And yet, there are many cases where this doesn’t happen naturally with search engines anymore. The cream does not automatically rise to the top. Moreover, many content hosts have become defensive and protective of their web property – not so much against contributors, but by fear of being penalized or of losing rankings. The natural fabric of the Internet is wearing thin.

The solution to this chicken-and-egg issue is not more SEO, or more content marketing made for SEO purposes only. The return on such efforts is declining since Google is doing its best to squeeze it from the marketing tool kit.

However, creating trust relationships between hosts and content producers for the benefit of users (via referral traffic and while forgetting about search engines) is a solution. This is why Ligatures.Net was created. The first release offers basic functionalities to express needs and to identify content exchange opportunities.

Don’t mistake it with other platforms aiming at facilitating SEO tactics (explicitly or implicitly), because this is not its purpose. In the future, additional features will be implemented to help fabricate a network of trust between participants (e.g. endorsements, metrics, statistics about users and websites, etc.).

Ultimately, the idea of content sharing boils down to exposure of remarkable, deserving content to relevant audiences. Whether you’re publishing it on your own web properties, or lending the real estate from others, the goal should always be to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. This can be achieved only with proper promotion and distribution – and that very likely will include content sharing of some kind.