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I dunno how much it has evolved, but Google got started by weighting search results based on how many other pages linked to that page. More links and your pages was found closer to the top of the results page.

So a easy way to game that was to set up "link farms" that pointed to each other, but not really offering anything worthwhile except a bunch of words people were likely to search for.

Goodhart's law: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."


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