You only have to spend a few weeks at max building backlinks to your site to realize that it will only go so far. You have to create content that people want to share. I think Google has been trying to tell you that for two or three years.
For instance, my girlfriend hardly knows anything about SEO, but she gets 10-12k visitors per month on her baking blog from social media marketing and blog commenting, and guest posting, and blog hops. She does not do this full time. She does it on the side in her free time.
I don't mean 10-12k crappy visitors. They are laser targeted. More than half of her traffic comes from search engines. She did not notice any visitor drops during the updates. Every month her traffic steadily increases as more people follow her and guest post for her.
She has started collecting emails with an email opt in form and has even converted some sales through Amazon affiliate links in her email newsletters.
If you had a major decline in ranking in the latest updates, I would highly recommend creating more highly targeted useful content for your readers.
Try networking with others in your niche and promoting each other in groups. That has been part of her success and I think the simplicity of her plan can be a lesson for most of us, including myself.
Try to imagine how you would promote yourself ONLINE if Google didn't exist. By doing all the things you can think of, you will find you will start ranking on Google for the keywords you optimized your pages for simply because of all the buzz around your juicy content.
Don't take this post the wrong way. I'm not saying 12k visitors is enough to live off, but it can be if you know what you are doing. I also understand there are some SEO ninjas out there with some awesome tactics. I love that stuff, I think those guys are awesome too. However, I would bet 9/10 of the people that read this forum are not SEO Ninjas, even if they claim to be. So if you really aren't a SEO ninja, and you are a wannabe, then stick to creating good content for your readers, because that will always be promoted regardless of what the search engines are doing.
I hope this helps some people get through this update and protect themselves from future Google Updates.