Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, said in a video that backlinks, over time, will become a little less important. Matt did say that backlinks in the Google ranking algorithm still have many years left in them.
Matt explained that Google is focusing a lot now on working on ways to determine if a web page is meets the expectations of an expert user. They do this currently by looking at the links to the page, the reputation of the site and pages and the quality of the content on that particular page.
When Google is better at understanding actual language, natural language, which you see with their conversational search efforts. Google will be better to understand expert user’s queries and match them better to a better answer.
If they can tell a story is written by an expert in a specific field, then it is easier. Google said they are working on an expert author boost for their rankings. But without that, that is where using natural languages comes in to help determine if the author is an expert on the subject query on a page by page basis.
Matt Cutts added that for the “next few years” links aren’t going anyway and will still be used for determining reputation. But overtime, Google will rely a little bit less on links for reputation purposes.
Here is the video: