Here is a video that Chad shot over to me that you might find interesting, especially if you are trying to figure out exactly where Google stands on the topic of search engine optimization. It's not long, so give it a quick watch. I don't want to bias you too much before watching. But after you watch it, check out my points below. Matt really leaves out more than he puts into this video. And he leaves out critical information about the very heart of SEO (link building).
What Matt does say:
Matt very clearly says that there are "Good SEOs". These people focus on crawlability, user-experience, making your website easy and fast, and conversion. These are extremely safe topics and nobody would disagree that they are firmly white hat SEO. No kidding. Matt also goes on to define black hat SEO. He clearly states that hacking someone's website, keyword stuffing or auto re-directs are all black hat. And I think most SEOs would agree that those are not acceptable practices.
What Matt does NOT say
Matt absolutely does NOT address link building. Notice that it was not mentioned as either white hat or black hat SEO. That's because it falls somewhere in the middle. The reason he doesn't go here is that link building is a very difficult topic for Google. It is at the heart of their algorithm, having amazing influence on who is ranked highest on lucrative terms. However, backlinks are also game-able and Google does not people who overly manipulate them to game their system. That being said, there are no hard-and-fast rules. There is no "Official Google Policy" on link building. They have tried in the past to address the notion of "earned links," but it is so messy in the end. Notice here that Matt completely leaves link building out of his video.
Matt Cutt's closes this SEO video with a statement that is near and dear to our mission here at Semify HQ. He says to work with an SEO who shows you what they are doing (transparency), and is very helpful (accountable). We agree with him. And if you read between the lines he is really saying that you can be more or less aggressive with your link-building. You should understand the pros and cons and be working with an expert who can advise you honestly and will show you their activities openly.