jmcc, interesting commentary, and I hope the admins allow the occasional slight diversionary comment on the monthly thread as much of what is written in these comments is a natural reaction to what we see - we see inexplicable things in the SERPs and sometimes it's good to theorize and offer advice. One thing stood out for me:-
site owners should really be developing their site's social network.
Absolutely. And I take "social network" literally - be it word of mouth, picking up the phone, meeting people in real life - networking. Not just Twitter and Facebook, of course. To quote Depeche Mode, people are people - people don't change. It's people who are looking for that service or product you provide, and have the money to pay for it. People don't care so much about "stellar content" when they're looking for a service or product. Just because Google is now ignoring 95%+ of the commercial web, it doesn't mean people don't want those services and products Google are hiding.
If you're in the "information industry" (product reviews, product information, product discussion groups etc) then for sure - you have to rely on search engines like Google - but that kind of business model is extremely risky, and it's hard to bolster the site via TRUE social networking (IMHO).