engine - 4:54 pm on Sep 16, 2013 (gmt 0)
Long ago I gave up aiming for first position of the SERPs.
Instead, I aim for traffic acquisition, and conversion, and the only care I have is from where it came so I can do more of it. If it ends up on page one, great. Long tail is still performing reasonably well, although even that is looking worse with the crowded page.
It's also true that even with a top ranking in the SERPs the traffic levels have tailed off. Most likely because of the busy-looking SERPs page.
It does very much depend upon the market sectors, and traffic comes from many different places (social, video, images, etc.), and it's no longer all from Google.
Webmasters have to be more agile and consider that it's not all about the traditional web site. Think mobile, think local, and yes, think of traditional methods to acquire traffic.
I don't blame Google, or its tactics, to combat spam, and i'm certain the busy SERPs is all a natural progression as their business model matures.
I'll embrace the new opportunities and not worry if the page isn't position 1 in Google's SERPs.