The future of search engine optimization
I suppose the only way out for SEO firms is to be really focused on optimizing websites for their users. Let's call this process OSU -- Optimizing for Search Users. Replace the "S" with Site --- I think it is pretty much interchangeable.
OSU should always have been an important goal for any website or SEO firm, but with various changing scenarios, I believe it has only become all the more important.
Search may become quite personalized (may take a bit of time--- but indications are that we are going down that path). As and when that really happens, the search results that one user sees for the same keyword will most likely be a lot differnt from what another user sees. Therefore, a default no.1 rank in a search engine may have little meaning in that case.
In such a scenario, what is really important? That a website ranks at the top when its ideal target user types in that keyword. A website publisher or a SEO working on behalf of the website publisher doesn't have to be bothered about the rest.
Has it become more challenging for the SEO? Or a lot easier and more focused? Probably the former--- because the SEO really really needs to be able to define the right user and then ensure that the right user sees his website during a search..
There is no doubt about one thing though--- SEOs will have to adopt the OSU approach.