I know this title sounds weird but this is what I think Google has done in the past few years with algorithm updates through Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird etc.
Google has basically picked up spirituality as its core value. Google sees everyone as equal (a trait often given to the divine), but the ranking depends upon the qualities of the devotees. The divine does not choose, but there are certain ways, parameters, or methods that ensure that you become a better bhakta. In SERP, the ranking is dependent on the value that a particular devotee carries. Google is open to anyone who wants to get closer–like spirituality, marketers has to work on their web properties to make them a better product, like humans work on themselves to rise higher and higher.
The first step is on-page. Spirituality says that the change starts with your own self. You can’t change the world. But these is no limit to the refinement that you can bring in yourself. So, work on yourself.
Then, you go on sending positive signals–links and backlinks. If you are a good human being, people will refer you automatically. This is what Google meant when it says that negative backlinking is not endorsed.
Unethical methods can never yield results when it comes to spirituality. Similarly, Google asked marketers to depend on quality information and value addition.
God is impartial we know. So is Google. However, it has certain metrics with which devotees or marketers for that matter get more benediction. Karma theory is also applicable–the more good you do, the better rewards you will get.
SEO is a not an alien industry–it is the way of life. Thanks, Google!