Well, being a <cough>dinosaur I would have to both agree and disgree DJKay. Nothing like straddling a fence, eh?
I will agree that SEO --meaning obtaining high rankings-- is much harder today than it was a decade or so ago. Mainly because there's simply more competition in ever market, not because of anything the engines have or haven't done.
However SEM --read: Marketing and actually selling things-- is much, much easier today than it was back in the day. Not only is more understood about selling online today and not only are there considerably better tools one can use to tailor their marketing message, but back in the Internet Stoneage it was practically impossible to get anybody to pay for anything online. There was a whole lot more anxiety and friction to overcome during the sales process, beginning with You want me to put my Credit Card information into a Browser?!?!?! Are you crazy?!?!?!?!
And of course back then nobody could afford to buy anything anyway since they had to be able to afford that $700 AOL bill just for the privilege of logging on for a few hours each month.