Imagine a time when the invention of the telephone was new. Let's pretend there was a small firm that determined they would make a directory available with all the names and phone numbers of the citizens of the town.
The marketing department, small as it was, decided that they would list the most prominent citizens first, which or course made the successful citizens happy, but did little to make the other citizens feel included.
Back at the drawing board it was suggested that sometimes it made sense to list the phone numbers numerically. The problem was you had to know an individuals phone number to link them up with their name.
One after another the directories were printed and distributed with phone customers feeling as if the entire process were unfair. So the phone directory firm started listening to the people they served.
In our fictitious story in our fictitious town the directory publisher determined that after several tries to make people happy he would simply list the customer alphabetically by last name. Oh, there were still those who felt there must be a better way, but at least people could find each other easily and the system was based on something other than preferential treatment. In time it was accepted as normal.
This story is a bit like indexing websites using Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
For some savvy webmasters it was easy to crack the code in learning how to get their client's websites indexed and ranked well early in the history of search engines. In fact, some websites learned how to work the system well enough that their site pages were listed at at least all of the first page positions. That's when search engines learned that the fair and equitable ideas related to search engine rankings were only serving those fortunate to know how to manipulate the system.
Refinements continued to be made and webmasters and designers needed to reevaluate strategies. In the end the black hat methods that had been in use were abandoned for the most part and actual quality in content and keyword positioning were implemented.
It seemed the search engines grew up and webmasters learned it was time to play fair. New rules were in place and strategists had to revise their plans in order to help their clients fit in this new search relevant environment.
So, today, when you hear Internet marketing experts talk about the need for quality keyword rich content they are carefully guiding you to a method of significantly better long term placement in search engine rankings.
The phone book operates on a principle that does not play favorites, so do search engines for the most part. The primary difference is you can affect the outcome of your site rankings you simply need to learn how to best adapt to the requirements of the search engine and improved rankings will follow.