...One day, a new search engine named G came along, and decided that if [a man] referred to himself as a pacifist, and others pointed to him as he walked by, then G would rank him as a pacifist.
...It did not take long before the criminal figured out that if the people who pointed to him as he walked by called him pacifist while they pointed, rather than just calling him by his name, his rankings went up for the term "pacifist." So he wore a sign - "pacifist" - and people called him that as they pointed, and his rankings rose.
...After a time, the man realized that if he got all of those he knew to call him pacifist, his rankings would rise further still, and that is what happened.
...So he thought, why not get strangers to call him pacifist, and in return he would refer to them as they wished to be referenced, and all those in his newly expanded network could rank even better for their respective terms. And so it was.
...This worked for a while, but eventually, G began to suspect that the faux-pacifists were getting better and better at creating the illusion that they were true pacifists, by begging, borrowing and buying the necessary accolades. It even became known that some faux-pacifists were bribing true pacifists to say nice things about the faux pacifists, so that G would be fooled.
...So, G decided to take drastic measures. They became a registrar so that that could look at each man's historical records. They learned to keep track of what each man said about himself and when, and what others said about each man, and when. And G learned to not trust those who suddenly one day out of the blue proclaimed themselves as pacifists, though their records bore no hint of that previously.
I think this narrative does a terrific job of describing the differences between real and synthetically manufactured authority.
In many small industries there is not much of a topical community, so it may not take much to rank in them, but if there are other legitimate sites ranking for the queries you want to rank for you really have to build reasons why subject matter experts would want to reference you in a positive light.
I think pointing out the social aspect of many links also drives home the concept of a natural editorial citation, and the fact that many real links are driven from social relationships.
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