That really depends on who you ask and what SEO you are talking about.
If you populate your website or your blog with relevant, interesting naturally keyword rich content that people want to read – that is definitely not cheating.
But what if you use article spinning to change some of the words and then submit slightly different versions of the same article to multiple blogs and article websites, to get more links back to your website?
Personally I think that is cheating and apparently so does Google; this is one tactic targeted by their recent Panda update.
What about paying for links from websites with a good reputation in Google? That sounds a bit like cheating to me and eventually it will damage the reputation of the link-selling website in the eyes of the search engines. So presumably they think it is cheating.
But when a website naturally gives you a link because it believes your content is valuable and relevant – that is genuine approval.
Regular addition of valuable, relevant content to your website that is so good it generates natural links is exactly what the search engines want. And how can giving them what they want be cheating?
It’s a bit like telling the winner of a marathon that exercise, structured training and good diet was somehow cheating!
But what if cheating works?
I can’t deny that in spite of Google’s Panda update and all the clever search engine algorithms, many websites have benefited from ‘cheating’ Google’s index. If you are considering using so called ‘black/grey hat’ SEO, my advice to you is to carefully consider the longer term risk to your business – Google will catch you in the end!
To conclude, while it is possible to attempt to cheat the search engines, SEO itself is not cheating.
I don’t believe I make my living out of cheating the system, and neither does Google. They endorse that fact by providing this SEO Starter Guide: Google SEO Starter Guide
If you’re interested in more SEO Myths, please read