First, it's worth having a listen to the Social Media White Noise Podcast episode.
I've an opinion about the SEO point. Part of that is based on an annoyance at so many companies claiming to be SEO companies and "experts". The annoyance is based on knowing that some companies do very little for their money e.g. just update a report template document with the new client details and do a couple of hours research and then charge hundreds of pounds for that document. They have managed to market themselves so well as SEO experts by simply jumping on the bandwagon first and by doing this have managed to make money purely on the basis that companies are blind to what SEO is and that they must have their website SEO'd. Big corporations are terrible in this regard. The same SEO companies are now offering social media services simply because companies now feel they must have a social media presence - another bandwagon opportunity. They charge for setting up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and blogs but do little else for the client when what they should do is teach clients how to use social media or offer a full managed service which will ultimately transition to an in-house service. The long term full managed services will never deliver any quality as the turn over of staff at big SEO, Digital Marketing or Social Media companies is too large so the service will never be any better than manufactured blog posts from paid bloggers and streams of nonsense from managing twitter accounts. Sorry, rant over.
Nick - you're not wrong :-)
Firstly, I'm reasonably sure there won't be a massive amount of competition for "sweet shop horsham" or similar searches. Google returns ~12,500 results which isn't a lot for a Google search.
I also have a really simple belief, maybe even naively simple, that Google are just much cleverer than any SEO company (maybe that's my annoyance coming through again) and they know what the best result is for your search. No matter how much fake SEO is applied I hope that Google can see through this and will ultimately (it may take time) work out what the most relevant, and truly natural, results are for your search.
Google are very clever not only in knowing the most relevant result but also in the following way:
I've not read up on SEO for a good while now but I believe that the Google algorithm is publicly available so SEO companies with time and resource will always be working towards tricking (they'll say "working with") Google and if a client of an SEO company has enough money they probably can also pay for that trickery. However, eventually the Google Algorithm will update, the search results orders will change, the SEO companies will need to do more research and training (maybe at Google), the clients will need to pay more money to have more SEO applied and the search results ordering will update again. And so on.
I think it's reasonably safe to say that "sweet shop horsham" is a bit off getting into that vicious circle so we're probably getting the most relevant results. I believe this is largely thanks to the natural weighting applied to social media.