As an SEO who makes pretty good money doing it for a living, though I love Google, I wouldn't follow everything they recommend. If I did I would never rank. Its great to build awesome content for people to link to but let's say your a plumber who owns a plumbing company. What the heck could a plumber write about to get people to link to it? Could he write articles on his blog? Of course he can. Good luck to build enough link juice to rank for all the cities and towns that he service's. Participating in link schemes like buying them or going on fiverr will surely get you penalized no doubt. What I would do starting out is to build social profiles for your business. Google KNOWEM and start building social profiles. Most of these are no follow but if you set it up right you can build a little power to your website as well as establishing your brand. Think Facebook, Myspace, Yelp, Pinterest, Etc Etc. Those are 100 percent safe and will not get you a penalty. This will get you started. Unless you go the complete white hat route of SEO you will have to write awesome content and participate in guest blogging among many things.
As far as all these SEO news places which talk about what Google is looking for is pretty much garbage. I would Google Alex Becker and start there.
Matt Cutts is no longer working for Google and I did everything he told me not to and did very well. Good Luck hope you learn what you set out to!