Search engine optimization (SEO) is probably one of the more frequently googled terms among bloggers. And the searcher will find information in abundance. But a lot of it is just hidden advertisements and babble about details. Here I present for you the cornerstone of search engine page ranking.
One thing that is essential yet underestimated is the necessity of a fundamental understanding of the century old probabilistic model underlying Google's mechanics. Russian mathematician Andrey Andreyevich Markov (1856 - 1922) worked with stochastic processes at St. Petersburg Academy of Science founding what today is known as Markov chains. Which is used for page ranking.
Stochastic process basically means any series of events that cannot be entirely predicted but whose individual events can be assigned probabilities. Like next year's weather. A Markov chain is a sequence of random variables, whose individual values depend on a given "state space", not the values of previous variables in the chain. The works of Markov have been used for a number of scientific and practical purposes; i.e. modelling sentences in the English language, hereby founding the field of information theory and ranking World Wide Web pages that fit a given query.
The latter was done by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google, and is a fine example of a matrix describing possible Markov chains. A monkey or illiterate person surfing the web would produce a Markov chain of web pages as the links chosen are random and independent on the actual semantic content of the page. The rank of a given page is the combined possibilities that the random surfer would visit the page. The more inbound links and the higher rank of the pages providing them, the higher probability of the random surfer visiting it.
So yes, inbound links are good for traffic. Obviously. But not as important as quality content of your pages or the pages linking. And Google has developed algorithms to detect link farming which will basically mark sites as a kind of spam. Which could be disastrous for traffic. Google and their competitors have come up with many other additions to the core engine and Markov theory. But that is beyond the scope of this little article here - go google it.
But what if the point of interest is the entity emitting the chain rather than the frequency of arrival at a given site? I think I will leave that for the plot of a science fiction novel or something like that ;-)