A loud "Amen" and a tip of my hat to this guy:
At my old company, there was a big huge to-do about getting our site in the top 3 results on Google for an extremely ambiguous and competitive search term. While it would have been nice and I don't think it was undeserved, these expectations were unrealistic.
I spent hours in meetings trying to explain to my coworkers and managers that paying an "SEO" firm to optimize our site was not going to help us, not to mention that I did not want some idiot blackhat SEO scumbag riffling through our carefully crafted XHTML. The thought of the keyword stuffing that some were suggesting just made me ill. And everyone we talked to who'd ever managed a website thought they knew everything about SEO.
Fortunately my whining worked, and at least while I was there, no one ever did any SEO on the site except my team. We started to see our results getting better simply because the content producers were actually paying attention to what they wrote, which had been our biggest problem to begin with. If your pages do not contain the exact search phrase, you cannot expect get into the top of the results.
Yes, there are "good," honest and well-meaning SEO firms out there, but they aren't easy to find... and if you ain't got it already, they aren't going to be able to get it for you.