Is Search Engine Optimization art or science? Is it dying or dead?
Search engine optimization, almost by definition, implies that there is a difference between what is good for PEOPLE to see and what is good for ranking in SEARCH ENGINES.
It's certainly true that there is a difference. As anybody who has searched and surfed knows all too well - you often don't find what you need and often find things you'll NEVER need.
It's not clear to me that things are improving as huge amounts of irrelevant and junky content continues to find it's way despite valiant efforts by very sharp teams of spam fighters at places like Google.
However, Search Engine Optimization as "gaming" the engines to give your own results rather than more appropriate ones is dying fast and may soon be dead. Good SEOs emphasize the importance of quality content, natural linkings, good site navigation and tags, and other basics, and many no longer even try to "spoof" results with manipulative schemes which can lead to penalties by the search engines.
Less spoofing and more quality is a good thing as it will allow all of us in publishing to work on better content and user experience. At the point where good SEO is simply creating a great website the entire concept of SEO starts to lose it's value as a marketing framework.
I read and know a lot of REALLY good SEO people - some of the best in the world are regulars at the WebmasterWorld and SES conference series, but it's hard to separate some of the fact from fiction since they feed their kids by promoting the idea that SEO is still a critical piece of advanced internet strategy rather than a dying art.
What is very clear and rarely disputed by anybody is that, aside from the basics (which you'll find HERE with some great technical clarifications HERE and HERE, masterful SEO is art not science and may be a dying art.
That's a good thing as it will allow us to work on better content and user experience.
At the point where good SEO is simply creating a great website I'm not sure the concept of SEO has much value at all.