It's taken long enough to get clients to understand why they need a copywriter. Then, Google's algorithms made it necessary to explain the value of SEO. Another algorithm update came out, and then another. So where are we with SEO copy now?
In answer to the question in the title of this post: I say yes. Google has killed the most commonly-used methods of SEO stone dead.
Every time that the search engine mucks about with its rankings, websites suffer. It doesn't matter if they're one-page overviews or complex sites packed with information, they get bumped all the same. It's hard to keep track of what 'works' and what doesn't.
At first, exact keywords really did matter. Woe betide you if you missed out an 'ing' or a 'with' in your sentence. At the same time, keyword stuffing was the method of choice (mostly by lazy site owners who were trying to cover all their bases). I'm not advocating that approach here, far from it, but at the outset it worked for websites that tried it.
Panda, Penguin, Pirate, Pigeon, and Hummingbird (the odd one out) have come along and turned SEO on its head. Now, if I put a particular word or phrase into one paragraph too many, my site will be punished for it. Bye bye, search ranking.
The search engine is now smarter than just keywords. It's designed to know what the user wants before they've even started looking for it. As an example, if you search for pretty much any phrase at least three words long, Gooogle will show you variations on that search automatically. I tried looking up 'saving money london' and I got results for 'save' instead. The top result doesn't even have those words together in the same sentence.
SEO has evolved to the point that it's not worth bothering to write in the way you think will optimise your website. Doing that will, conversely, drag you down. Even if your keyword is what your customers are most likely to type in, it's not the result they'll get when they hit 'search'.
Google's love these days is for natural-sounding copy that isn't trying too hard. Above all, sound human. Use your keyword maybe once, twice at most and three times at your peril. This bizarre twist means that successful SEO basically means trying not to do it at all.
Isn't that for the best? We copywriters are constantly campaigning for plainer English and more natural wording. When a page has been stuffed with specific and grammatically incorrect keywords, it's easy to see. If Google decides keywords don't make a difference, why try to shoehorn them in?
I'm fine with SEO (as long as Google doesn't roll out any more updates), but I have to say I much prefer the freedom of writing without knowing I need to use certain words X number of times.