Whitey - 6:19 am on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0) [edited by: Whitey at 7:02 am (utc) on Sep 9, 2013]
On the site I am helping out (local, one person service business), they are short on man hours and need things to turn around pronto
Have you told them it may not be a quick thing to turnaround, per John Mueller's advice?
but probably look to Better leverage my core competencies so that I have an even more attractive value proposition, or do better demographic research.
I would also spend the time to go through the link development forum on webmaster world
@Planet13 - Have you thought about going beyond your own competencies to get some perspective. I'm a great believer that established knowledge can actually limit thinking. It happens to me all the time.
A lot of SEO's have a fixed view of how things "should" work. The best one's I see at work, work closely with folks who understand their business. In an ideal World the business people can drive the SEO, which then becomes more a matter of enablement. Having said that, a lot of the folks inside large organisations which should have those resources invariably struggle with any complementary inputs to assist SEO's. I stress some, even the majority perhaps.
Why am I saying this?
Well if connecting with your site's audience is key [ via links / social whatever ] , someone has to be across the foundations. I see it in a broad 3 steps :
1. Platform [ working , Google compliant, link cleansed, good UI / architecture , content and a properly validated value proposition - something folks really want ]. I may have missed something, but that's the giste.
2. A good understanding of how and who the value proposition is useful for, and how you're going to reach them. At this point, you can only work with the traffic you've got, plus other methods including social, advertising [offline and online] , partnerships and any other marketing channel you can think of; - from the Google perspective I'm suggesting building up the authority signals and perhaps consequently the link profile to "bridge that gap".
3. How to enable , and scale the traffic.
I just think that SEO's and webmasters could do a lot to open up  with complimentary inputs.  is the work that can go on while folks sit and wait for results that take them to the next stage - and that could involve multiple updates. That could take 1-26 weeks, even longer until rolling updates occur + monitoring and tweaking.
My hunch is that Google might not be releasing sites automatically, that haven't done "something" to bridge that gap. So if you have a manual action, then succeeded in having it removed, it's not enough to just sit on your hands and wait for a recovery. Folks have really got to get cracking. Think "Fresh Content" ; "New Ideas" ; "New Offers" ; "Reactions" .... the list goes on ..... help me someone, my list is short.
Google notices this, and tells the algorithm something's happening. And do it well, it can be good.
@Planet13 - have you considered introducing thoughts from folks who are shrewd and savvy, but not SEO trained? Sometimes a bit of perspective helps with challenging questions in that  area. Yes, fresh thinking.
If you don't want to advertise than the best bet is to develop a strong YouTube Channel, Facebook page, Linkedin, Twitter and slideshare accounts. Plus give away some free useful e-products. It works wonder.
@Zivush +1 - Now we're cooking on gas. Let's see some folks step out into this territory and share it on this thread. Let's hear some success stories that help whilst waiting for recovery. [idioms.thefreedictionary.com...]
What can folk's do, if they have lost their income and all they have is there bare hands to turn things around? That's worth a thought. Zivush - you're onto something.
[edited by: Whitey at 7:02 am (utc) on Sep 9, 2013]