I've been reading with interest, although I don't respond often to be honest, but I think I'd like to weigh in.
Firstly, allow me to say that SEO is certainly not dead, although it does take some finesse and it's something that needs to be done ethically, even if the guys ahead of you aren't. Every SEO with some common sense, knows those stupid tricks. We've played them fairly nicely in order to bury ripoff reports and other things. They aren't things you use on the competition and if you do, you're not only unethical, you aren't too bright. It's like roulette with five bullets.
It's also interesting to me that sites which have a PR3 are not considered to be reasonable SEO providers. I find it quite the opposite actually.
It's very much like the plumber who doesn't ever find the time to do his own pipes. Believe it or not, that exists. It's also a fact that SEO is not cheap if its good.
You can find any hack anywhere who will offer you a good lineup, tell you what you should be doing based on what worked 5 years ago and everyone and anyone who is online today is an SEO expert, just ask them.
I've been in the business for longer than Google.I write online for some top notch websites and I seo them. I bust butt EVERY day to take care of my sites and my customers. I get a new client and review every competitor that they have and find out why they are ranking and the client isn't. That takes time and it takes effort,but most people don't want to pay for it. In many cases,I find that the client isn't ranking because they honestly don't deserve to rank. They don't want to hear that either. It's as much the fault of the clients in many cases as it is of the SEO who is trying diligently (in some cases) to help with their sites.
SEO is a holistic process. The entire site, off page and on page has to be healthy to rank well. Most folks haven't got the content or the links or the on page seo, their navigation is abysmal and they simply don't have what it takes, but most of them do not want to put any money into the site. They want an instant solution.One prospective client asked me last week to give him a 7 day solution to page one. he wanted me to build as many links as fast as I could and he was honestly silly enough to want to pay me for that, and was quite nasty when I said no, thank you. People today don't WANT ethics, they seem to want to PAY you to damage their site. EVERYONE who hires and SEO should know something about SEO. I teach my clients what I can because who wants to work for someone who doesn't understand when you're doing something positive and doesn't notice when you screw it up?
Most clients want a fast and a cheap shortcut to the top. These days there ARE no cheap shortcuts. If you want to pay peanuts, don't b!tch when you can only hire monkeys.
I've been called an "SEO Expert"( :) okay so mostly by people who aren't very tech savvy ) and I correct every single person who uses that stupid phrase. There is no such thing as an SEO expert. The algorithms are changing so rapidly, the internet is changing so dramatically that it takes every ounce of intellect that you have and a couple hours a day of studying algorithms and how they are functioning now, which sites are on top and which are on the bottom , to determine the best path forward for your clients. If someone tells you they are an seo expert, run like hell. There are good seo providers and bad seo providers.. the good ones know they aren't experts at all they are just running faster to catch up.
Lastly, just my humble opinion, social media beats the daylights out of Google every day of the week. I see so much about Google and getting traffic in Google that it makes me wonder why, when Google is such a fickle partner, you're not just fishing where the fish are and using social media more than you are.
I optimize for Google to the essential level and then move on. One client had a friend/SEO expert (cus of COURSE two seos are better than one, particularly if they aren't aware of each other) who very nicely sent them out links in __insert blog link network here__ I didn't know it was happening, had no clue that we had garbage links on the site and when I checked traffic 24 hours after the update it was great, it had actually risen. When I checked Google rankings, it sucked mightily. We've got it back already but clearing some of the links and diluting them slightly , but the real moral of the story is that Google doesn't owe us free traffic.it's time to get out there and make our own.