I consulted a few years ago before Yahoo and CNET and my clients were all small businesses, even friends' sites. No matter the size of the project, you can still try to get some insight into your target audiences and what they need or want. I mentioned in a previous comment I used Search once to determine sentiment on a site vs. it's competitors by searching for a feature the site and its competitors all had, along with "like", "love", "hate", "wish", etc. I also took note of who the people were who said those things and where they were talking (forums, twitter, etc). It's a hacked manual approach and although not nearly as quality as a good market research report, at least I have a llittle bit of insight before going out to make site recommendations based solely on tags & links. If you're recommending the site build things that people want (and fix or remove things that they dont), you're more likely to gain links and traffic naturally.
Each organic search engine ranking places emphasis on variable factors such as the design and layout, keyword density and the number of relevant sites linking to it. Search engines constantly update and refine their ranking algorithms in order to index the most relevant sites. Other variables that have an impact on search engine placement include the following:
In our research with what we have done for ourselves and our clients, there is a definite co-relation between content greater than 1000 words and better rankings. In fact, we are finding amazing ranking jumps when you have content over 3,000 words, about 12 original images (images not found anywhere else online), 1 H1 (not keyword stuffed), 12 sub-headlines (H2), 12 relevant internal links, 6 relevant external links and 1 bullet list. I know it sounds like a lot of work and a Big Mac recipe, but this does work.
Getting free website traffic may not cost you monetarily, but it will require effort on your part. However, the effort you put in will equate to the quality of the traffic you generate. As mentioned above, there is no point in getting more traffic to your website if those visitors are not likely to engage with your pages, convert into leads, or become customers.
Nice work Laura! This is going to be a great series. I'm working my way through SEOmoz's Advanced SEO Training Series (videos) Vol. 1 & 2 to build upon the advice and guidance that you and your team provided to me during my time at Yahoo!. Now many others will benefit from your knowledge, experience and passion for SEO strategy and tactics. Best wishes for great success in your new role.