The simple answer to this is; yes! But, before you stop reading, here is an explanation and a few words from Mr Cutts.
Google’s past algorithm has always been largely based on links and PageRank. They have invested a huge amount of time and money into improving this throughout the years. They have invested so much time and resources into using links to rank sites, that dropping it now would make for a mess
In this video, Matt Cutts states that backlinks, “for the most part are still a really really big win in terms of quality of search results”. Google have been experimenting with a version of the search engine that excludes any backlink relevance. However, the quality of the search results were much worse.
Matt said, “We played around with the idea of turning off backlink relevance and at least for now backlink relevance still really helps in terms of making sure that we return the best, most relevant, most topical set of search results.”
I can’t see this changing any time soon. Yes; there are regular changes in how these links are used and Google do seem to be favouring big brands etc. but a lot of that favouring is done with the use of backlink data. OK, the way they look at links and the quality of links they use has changed but they still rely a lot on this data to advise them on relevance as well as the strength of a brand.
So, of course link building is still important; it’s just changed. Forget the quick, low quality links now. It’s about gaining/earning links that Google will take notice of and use for these signals. This is why marketers are taking much more of a PR type approach to their outreach and link building efforts but these links aren’t easy to get. You need to have something great to offer the people who can provide these signals for you. But getting just a few of these links is so much more rewarding and beneficial than 10,000 directory and social bookmarking links.
I think these types of links and the need for gaining links will be around for a long time to come. What do you think?