Hi Rand! Thanks for a really informative and thought provoking Whiteboard Friday. I agree with Namrata about the challenges to local and small businesses that all the rapid changes with little to know warning from Google as far as they're concerned. In many cases, they're just rapping their heads and marketing strategies around having someone create and optimize their website and content for how Google SERPs used to work, and even with basic GMB listings, they have been unaware or unsure of how to use them. Some have been taken advantage of because of lack of understanding and awareness of how Google listings and GMB work and that it's free.

Website saturation and popularity, or how much presence a website has on search engines, can be analyzed through the number of pages of the site that are indexed by search engines (saturation) and how many backlinks the site has (popularity). It requires pages to contain keywords people are looking for and ensure that they rank high enough in search engine rankings. Most search engines include some form of link popularity in their ranking algorithms. The following are major tools measuring various aspects of saturation and link popularity: Link Popularity, Top 10 Google Analysis, and Marketleap's Link Popularity and Search Engine Saturation.
What you are in fact talking about, are Google's death stars like the Shopping box, Knowledge Graph etc. It's fully understandable why many SEOs can't stand them 'cause whole categories of websites (price comparison platforms, for instance) have already fallen victim of such death stars, and there will be certainly numerous other portals, which will lose almost all of their traffic in the near future. Despite your (quite good) suggestions on how to circumvent such an issue, the situation for such an endangered portal can be hopeless when it's its whole business model, which a new Google feature makes obsolete. See geizhals.at for a very famous example.

Keyword difficulty is a number that lets you know how difficult it will be to rank for a certain keyword. The higher the number, the more difficult it will be to rank on that keyword. There are a few sites online that will tell you keyword difficulty of a word or phrase. Record these numbers in your Excel document or Google Sheet that you made earlier.

On the other hand, structured data are also a real asset to increase your organic traffic and improve your CTR. They refers to values that help search engines categorize and index your content in a creative ways for the user. While there is no direct correlation between those data and a SEO improvement, structured data can really help you boost your visibility in SERPs.
Get a handle on your brand reputation. Your brand story is the one that you tell. Your reputation is the story that customers tell on your behalf. If someone consistently stumbles on your site when they type in niche search queries, they’ll be intrigued. The result? They’ll start conducting navigational searches for your brand. The intent behind that search? They want reviews and other customer’s experiences with your business. Ask your customers for reviews and reach out to third-party review sites in your niche. This way, these navigational searches don’t come up empty. I also recommend monitoring your brand mentions. The easy way is to set up Google Alerts. Type in your brand name and create your alert. Any mention online and you’ll be notified.

Keywords may get eyes on your content, but they won’t hold a viewer’s interest. You need something that’s going to keep them engaged, and keyword stuffing won’t achieve that. This is where the quality of your content is essential. Well-written, well-researched content keeps people reading, as it provides the solution they need, even if that solution is just something funny to fill a spare five minutes. It’s possible to enhance the content in many ways, such as formatting to arrange material in easily digestible sections, using infographics that are visually appealing and easy to share across social media, or creating videos that express ideas instantly. And don’t forget links. Creating a network of related content keeps viewers engaged with a constant stream of relevant information, and increases the chance they make a purchase.

Well as noted in the post it is not just above the links that was only one key part of a wider strategy. This website in question has deep levels of content. So it is not just about a blog section, they have numerous high quality content sections we have developed over time. It would not be advisable ever to attack competitors sites with low quality links.
For our client: We only used a smaller quantity of very high-quality link building each month. So, for example we only built 40 of the best links each month to supplement the work we were doing on the content marketing front. We also invested heavily into tracking competitor backlink profiles, using Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer. We worked out how the competitor's acquired specific backlinks, then by using outreach and content creation we obtained these links.
At our agency, we work with sites of varying sizes, from very large to quite small, and recently, we have noticed a trend at the enterprise level. These sites aren’t relying as much on Google for traffic any more. Not only are they not relying on Google traffic, but also, the sites are getting less than 10 percent (or slightly more) of their organic traffic from the search giant.