I believe that there will always be an on going intellectual use of SEO (StumbleUpon, Wikipedia), but I also feel that SEO is going to go the way of the dinosaur, not so much because of the white and black hat aspect of it, but more because of the overwhelming nature of online searches in general.
What I hear more than anything else from people is that they are tired of being online, and suffering from TMI. They miss face-to-face communication and find that the online world of SM and searches, etc is starting to bore and overwhelm them.
At the end of the day, we are all still “alive” and prefer to interact with the living. The tech geeks will always prefer a machine to a man but most of us do not. And even the geeks have not figured out how to create a warm smile online, and that is what people are missing.
SEO is going to roll null because the most powerful use of social media is the pull of commonality. Gone is the controlling rule of the corporate world. The power has been returned to the people and they are very wise after years of brain-numbing manipulative advertising. NICHE marketing is going to rise to the top – friends and neighbors the influencers – recommandations coming from those you know and trust – information gained from those you know care about you.
A desire for the living to bond to each other, will overcome the marketing manipulations of SEO experts. In other words, we will stop searching and ask a friend what they like the best and where they go to find a great golf course, a awesome restaurant, a great online shoe store that gives you an awesome pair of shoes for a great deal.
Sure there are always going to be the online versions of the cheesy coupon fliers in the snail mail world or spam SEO (which I NEVER read anymore – they all go straight in the trash) or Google or Facebook paid ads (which my mind totally blanks out of my vision unless I am absolutely desperate and force my eyes to see them) BUT people will start using SM programs like Foursquare more because they get to see what their friends like, feel that they have something in common with them ( “…a golfer who loves pizza just like me!…I’ll go where he suggests!” ), ask a questions, and get a real deal from those they believe truly get them.
Yep, SEO is gonna die, unless the creators recognize that the human touch always wins out. When it comes to those “living in the real-world”, niche marketing will RULE online.