Ok I know it was a provocative title but allow me a few minutes of your time. I myself offer SEO services so I'm not only attacking the SEO service industry, but myself too.
This is why I believe SEO has no (or very little) value and why those offering SEO services do so unethically and in a lot of cases, illegally.
SEO can be split down into 3 distinct subsections:
- Meta tags
- Off-site optimization
Meta tags take two minutes to learn, 5 minutes to implement and zero time to maintain.
Content is an ongoing process that should be maintained by the site owner as the expert in his niche.
Off-site optimization is where SEO services do their work.
Now I have worked for Google in my time (as an internet assessor) and I've got 20 years of experience (11 years of it specializing in SEO) and I'm well aware of the webmaster guidelines. In essence, it implies that you should not do any link-building whatsoever. That links coming into your site (pages specifically) are from sites that like your content and vote for you in the form of a link, effectively giving you additional credibility, and that in "voting" for yourself (by creating your own links), you're deceiving your visitors by artificially enhancing your reputation.
For this reason, link building in itself is unethical and not white hat in the eyes of Google. There are a few things which you can do that will enhance your reputation that could be considered grey hat, but even using these methods are not strictly adherent to the webmaster guidelines so doing anything could get your site deindexed.
So any SEO service that purports to follow only white-hat techniques are blatantly lying to you if they build links. The only white hat way to perform SEO is to not do off-site SEO and frankly this will get you nowhere in the search engines.
The meaning of this thread is to assure you that if you don't dabble with breaking the rules, you won't get anywhere in the search engines, but if the SEO service you use states they only use white-hat techniques then they are either not working or they are lying to you.
We all need to do a bit of link-building, but if they are lying to you from the outset by misappropriating the Webmaster Guidelines, they what else are they doing to your site?