While search, search consultants, the end of serendipity and the putative value of paid posts have been the topic of much discussion as of late, I'd like to put in a word in defense of search optimization from a consumer POV.
Because if nothing else, search optimization makes my life a whole lot easier than it was even 5 years ago.
It's the little things, like being able to put in the name of a local ice cream parlor and getting a map and all 6 locations as the first result. Or searching for a very specific technical question and finding the answer I was looking for more or less immediately. All that happens because more and more companies are optimizing their sites for search.
Point here being that while search is a great tool for marketers, the true benefit is to the consumer.