With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that Gary Illyes from Google just confirmed at PubCon that links are no longer considered to be a top 3 Google Search ranking factor. This is relevant because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up changing the way people approach SEO, with a greater emphasis being placed on content quality than might have been the case otherwise rather than just generating links.
While Illyes clarified that links are still useful, he went on to say that their importance tends to be overestimated with all things having been considered and taken into account. Links are no longer seen as votes of confidence, perhaps due to the manner in which so many SEO professionals attempted to game the system by generating backlinks without providing suitable content quality.
Google’s MO in recent years has been to clean up shop, and prioritizing quality content has been a major aspect of that. Illyes went so far as to claim that a site can receive a high ranking on Google’s SERP even if it does not have a significant quantity of backlinks, which just goes to show that the game has changed entirely since the mid 2010s.
Even as far back as 2020, John Mueller indicated that links were starting to be seen less favorably by Google. The only way to receive a high enough ranking now is to become an authoritative source of information, and it will be interesting to see how this impacts SEO down the line as the algorithm continues to change.