Recently Matt Cutts, the Google head of search spam, released a video discussing the importance of backlinks. Although backlinks will continue to have a place for many years in Google’s algorithm, they may slowly try to take this away. Currently, their main importance is in determining the reputation and trust of a web page, but Google is beginning other initiatives to serve this purpose.
One of Google’s major focuses is in finding whether or not a web page meets the expectations of a user. Looking at the links, reputation of the page and quality content are ways to do so currently. However, as Google learns to better understand actual, natural and conversational language, it will be able to match better answers to a user’s search query.
Searchers are much more concerned about the quality of content returned after a search. As Google is better able to assess expert users and expert authors, the need for backlinks will possibly diminish over time. However it will continue to serve a purpose in assessing the basic reputation of pages and sites until that time comes, according to Matt Cutts.