claaarky - 7:10 pm on Mar 22, 2012 (gmt 0)
To me, the only way Google could ever really "level the playing field" is by nullifying the effects of anything done for SEO purposes (easy to say I know, but maybe Google is almost there).
Anyone can still buy their way to the top of Google if they have a good enough SEO company on board and deep enough pockets. Your SEO may be ethical but ultimately it's mostly about obtaining more top quality links than your competitors.
Google has made the job of an SEO harder and harder over the years and that means it's more and more expensive to hire a good one. Small companies push themselves to their financial limits trying to keep up with the SEO effort of larger competitors and really it's a crazy game which will come to an end one day, maybe soon.
I hope so. Until a few years ago we didn't need an SEO. These days it's our largest overhead and is prioritised above every other cost, including additional staff. We have to be able to compete but if it comes down to who has the deepest pockets then we can't.