When search engines like Google, Yahoo and Alta Vista (R.I.P.) first started indexing the Internet, their algorithms rewarded sites that had many links to them from external sites (that was enough to establish that the site had something worth other sites referring users to). For a long time this meant that the system could be gamed by people who bought links or traded links, or set up numerous worthless sites for the sole purpose of linking, or created bad links to competitors (black hat tactics). But, as it happens with evolution, search engines have gotten smarter and smarter, and the Google algorithm in particular has adjusted over the years to narrow its focus ensuring that it is the quality of the site and how much it benefits the user that guarantees a higher ranking.
There is a reason why we have the phrase “the cream always rises to the top,” and Google’s latest algorithmic changes prove that adage is particularly true when it comes to search rankings on the Internet. In 2013, search engine optimization (SEO) has really evolved into a much wider strategy than it ever was before. As social sharing (especially with the data the Googlebots can collect with Google+) allows search engines to take into account the virality of a website, linking has dropped in importance.