SEO isn't dead. Or dying. But the industry surrounding it is getting people to focus less on the tactical and more on a strategic approach to their authority, semantic relevance, and the user experience.
I have many clients and prospective clients whom, in the course of our discussion about content, ask about our ability and proficiency with SEO. It's clear what they are looking for - someone to fool the Google algorithm into getting their site - no matter its quality - higher in the rankings.
These are like the people who want to learn the 'trick' to winning the Home of the Year contest. But instead of simply planning to design and build the best house they can and fill it with the most attractive and useful contents, they look at the elements of previous winners and try to incorporate all of those to shortcut their way to the finals.
But Google, --like the judges in the Home of the Year contest--keeps evolving their idea of a what is best. The same home--or even the the same style home--won't win in successive years because the judges don't want you to follow a formula. They want you to build something great.
So it is with your website. Make it smart. Delight the people who come to visit by giving them what they need and expect from you. And fill it with great content. That is your best chance to be a winner -- whether for home of the year, or in building a successful online business.
Our friends at Mashable recently published a powerful view about this topic (Are we coming to the end of SEO?). While 'optimization' will likely always play a role, at least in the basic efficiency of a website, we concur that the way to go forward, the direction that Google and the rest of the industry is looking to move, is away from the gaming of search results, with a focus on strong content quality.
Build something great.