At the Nov 11-14 PubCon, one of the most discussed topics involved search engines and SEO. One discussion in particular has caused an uproar in the SEO community and it was delivered by Bruce Clay at a session entitled "Top-Shelf Organic SEO". In this discussion Bruce cited the death of page rank as we know it and instead says the future of SEO is in personalization.
The entire concept behind personalization is that everybody who enters a search will end up with entirely different results based on past search history. Take for example the search for the word "java" which Bruce used as an example. The word "java" could have several different connotations from someone looking for a coffee beverage to others interested in programming. In practice it is believed that Google will know which search result is desired based on past personal searches.
In addition to behavior based search results, which will work off of past searches utilizing third party cookies, search engines will also be utilizing intent-based searches by analyzing your IP and revising your search results based on location. If they know where you are located search engines will be able to make assumptions about the intent of your search.
In the words of Bruce Clay, "Ranking is dead". In the very near future we will be seeing more implementation of the intent based searches from search engines, which will lead to the mindset of "ranking is dead". This will cause a shift shift towards SEOs monitoring overall sight traffic instead of page rank as an indicator of success. Bruce suggests that SEOs will have to go back and look at analytics for overall traffic, bounce rates, and site action in order to analyze results.