Adam and Chad discussed whether or not links are still important in a recent Brown Bag -- Do Links Still Matter? (Spoiler alert: Yes, they still matter.)
Today Matt Cutts put out a quick video that addresses the same question:
"Google changed the search engine market in the '90s by evaluating a website's backlinks instead of just the content, like others did. Updates like Panda and Penguin show a shift in importance towards content. Will backlinks lose their importance?"
Leah, New York
Cutts says that backlinks still have many years ahead of them, but Google's goal is to get better at determining how to match the content on a particular page with what the user is looking for.
Google is getting better at understanding actual language and conversational search. And as it improves its ability to determine who wrote something and the real meaning of the content, links will become less important. But for now (Cutts says "for the next few years"), Google continues to use links to determine the basic reputation of pages and sites.