I applied to 15 programs last year and got shut out (all straight rejections). It sucks a lot. I knew a couple of applicants last year who were involved in 4 application seasons (twice for MA programs and twice for PhD programs). They all said that it gets better and they were absolutely right. This season, I applied to 10 programs and got accepted to 1 PhD and 2 MA's, and waitlisted at 2 other MA's. Also, one of the MA acceptances knew that I had an offer from a PhD program, they decided to change their offer to a PhD one. Maybe my season wasn't as good as other applicants but I am very happy that I got accepted at my top choice program.
Now, here is what I did differently and I think it helped a lot: The program that changed their offer to PhD said that they were very impressed with my writing sample. Thus, the main difference from 2014, I believe, is the writing sample. I wrote on a topic that is current and I know that some of my top choice programs work on that topic. Also, I can't emphesize this enough, write a paper that is directly correlated to you areas of interest. In the 2014 season, I was told by my advisors to send my best paper regardless of the topic. I think that killed my application (some might disagree). Moreover, I found what Sid has posted regarding writing samples to be on point and it is pretty much what I did. I would also like to add that you should have a lot sources. It shows that you did your homework before you have opened your mouth.
Another minor difference is the statement of purpose. This time, it is much more specific and tailored to every single program. Do not just read the general interests of the faculty members. Get specific on what Professor X currently works on and how it relates to your interests.
Finally, what I think that would have helped but I did not do is networking. I think networking would get you much further. I graduated from a state school with an unheard of philosophy program (though the faculty were excellent in my opinion). Their placement for the past 2-3 years were in the 50's to 40's range with an exception of 1 student who got into a top 10 program. I asked my advisor how she did it and he said that she knew people there. She's a brilliant student nonetheless, but I am not sure she would have gotten accepted there if she did not know the right people.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. Keep your head up, it gets better.