Think of it this way: The more specific your content, the more specific the needs of your audience are -- and the more likely you'll convert this traffic into leads. This is how Google finds value in the websites it crawls; the pages that dig into the interworkings of a general topic are seen as the best answer to a person's query, and will rank higher.
This philosophy is beautiful in its simplicity, and it serves to correct the “more, more, more” mentality of link building. We only want links from relevant sources. Often, this means that in order to scale our link-building efforts beyond the obvious tactics, we need to create something that deserves links. You have links where it makes sense for you to have links. Simple.
Thanks for bringing up this point - I agree Eric - competitive positioning can help you determine value that you bring to the table that your competitors dont.  I'm all for it.  Neilsen does some reports that provide awareness, likelihood to recommend, sentiment and other insightsfor your site/brand and your competitors. You can also pull some of that type of insight out of social listening platforms like NetBase, SM2, Radian6, Dow Jones, Nielsen, and so many others.  I've even done some hacked compeitove sentiment comprisons before using Search: searching for [brand or feature] + "like", "love", hate", "wish" etc. 
If you havent see it already, check out the links in shor's comment below - there are some great resources in there. In some cases you can also consider surveying your current audience or customers through email, on-site surveys or SurveyMonkey.  Be sure to ask for some profiling information that you can use for determining specific persona needs like age, sex, location, etc. (Probably best not to make it sound like a creepy text chat like I just did though...)  :)
Current search engine optimization focuses on techniques such as making sure that each web page has appropriate title tags and that the content is not "thin" or low-quality. High-quality content is original, authoritative, factual, grammatically correct, and engaging to users. Poorly edited articles with spelling and grammatical errors will be demoted by search engines. For more information on thin content see More Guidance on Building High-quality Sites.
When would this be useful? If your site has a blog with public commenting turned on, links within those comments could pass your reputation to pages that you may not be comfortable vouching for. Blog comment areas on pages are highly susceptible to comment spam. Nofollowing these user-added links ensures that you're not giving your page's hard-earned reputation to a spammy site.
This was all free information I found online in less than an hour, that gives me some great ideas for content, partnerships and potential tools to build into my site to be relevant and useful to my target audience. Of course this is just some quick loose data, so I'll emphasize again: be careful where your data comes from (try to validate when possible), and think about how to use your data wisely.
Search engines may penalize sites they discover using black hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines' algorithms, or by a manual site review. One example was the February 2006 Google removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for use of deceptive practices.[54] Both companies, however, quickly apologized, fixed the offending pages, and were restored to Google's search engine results page.[55]

I second Rand's comment!  Congrats on moving from the corporate world to the independent consultant.  This is my goal for the near future.  I too have been testing the waters of independent consulting, but it doesn't quite pay the bills yet!  Sometimes I feel like I should find a mentor who has been where I am now and is where I want to go.  Perhaps i'll find a few in this community over time!

Awesome tips Brian. Always enjoy your posts. My question is, how can I boost traffic significantly if my keyword has pretty low search volume (around 100 monthly searches based on keyword planner)? I’ve been trying to expand my keyword list to include broader terms like “customer experience” but as you know that is super competitive. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thanks in advance.
The intent behind “SEO agency” is obvious… The searcher is looking for an SEO agency. Most of these searchers aren’t looking for life lessons from an SEO agency owner. Instead, they are just looking for the best SEO agency to get them more traffic and customers from Google. Plain and simple. I knew this when I created that page, but my SEO ego was too big.
Content is king. That’s the saying, right? It’s true in a way. Your website is really just a wrapper for your content. Your content tells prospects what you do, where you do it, who you have done it for, and why someone should use your business. And if you’re smart, your content should also go beyond these obvious brochure-type elements and help your prospective customers achieve their goals.