Content is King for Internet Marketing - and which I'd like to reinforce and expand upon.
I know you are interested in more than mere "theory" but from the brief question details, I do think what you are looking for is an effective search marketing and optimization strategy.
In particular, search engine optimization (SEO) is fundamental to getting your site exposed to a *qualified* audience - that is, people who are actively searching for your content / product / service but simply haven't found you yet (instead, they find your competitors).
So in really basic terms, SEO involves:
1. Identify your target audience
2. Understand how they search for your service or product
3. Produce interesting and useful content (relevant to your particular product / service) that will attract that audience.
4. Make sure your site doesn't get in the way of your content being found (both by your audience and the search engines they use)
As with all things dealing with your business identity online, I'd suggest considering hiring a professional if you want your website to convey a professional image. But indeed there are MANY practical steps you can take more or less on your own (i.e. "in a manner financially available to most folks") *if* you have the time to dedicate to the effort.
A pair of books come to mind which are linked below:
1. "Search Engine Marketing, Inc." - a comprehensive guide with actionable advice on how to implement a search marketing campaign. Definitely geared more towards the enterprise-level campaign, but this is really the definitive source on search marketing.
2. "Building Findable Websites: Web Standards SEO and Beyond" by Aarron Walter. - practical hands-on advice on increasing your sites "findability" from a more technical stand-point.
As for websites, there are literally thousands of sites out there offering SEO/SEM advice and honestly I think most of them are just spam for some SEO agency. One resource I feel confident referring you to however is SEOMoz.com.
Best of luck! Better you be lucky!