This is a GREAT discussion, thanks for continuing it.
Back when I ran Theme Lab, I was getting a few thousand visitors per day from mostly search traffic. It was an older site though, one of the first theme-related sites out there, and probably seen as more “trusted” because of it, due to all those old links.
Traffic mostly came to free themes, and “cornerstone” tutorials (some that I even refer back to myself today). It was relevant traffic, but not necessarily traffic looking to whip out their credit cards.
They were seeking free stuff (information or themes) so the traffic didn’t directly contribute very much directly to the bottom line, but it really helps with the next thing I’m going to talk about…
@NateWr, you didn’t specifically mention this in your post, but branding is definitely a huge part of it.
Getting that logo in front of as many relevant eyeballs as possible is crucial. You’re doing it now with your logo as your avatar here.
Just with that, I’m able to mentally cross-reference your comments on other blogs and know it’s the themeofthecrop.com logo.
It’s definitely a long and arduous process to really stand out in the crowd, especially nowadays, but it can be done with enough dedication.