Are backlinks still important for ranking?

Backlinks are imperative for ranking because when search engines, such as Google, analyse the relevance of a website to a keyword, they consider the number of quality backlinks to that site. Satisfaction should not be obtained from merely getting backlinks, is it the quality of the backlink that is essential. For example, if a webmaster has a website about how to rescue orphaned kittens, and received a backlink from another website about kittens, then that would be more relevant in a search engine's assessment than say a link from a site about car racing.

The more applicable and pertinent the site is that is linking back to your website, the higher the quality and credibility of your backlink.

However, lately, a search engine's criteria for quality backlinks have become even tougher, thanks to deceitful webmasters trying to achieve these backlinks by deceptive and illusory techniques. These include hidden links, or automatically generated pages whose sole purpose is to provide backlinks to websites. As a direct result of this, Google are implementing strategies to differentiate between spam backlinks and high quality reliable links in order to keep backlinks important for ranking.

Source: http://www.webconfs.com/importance-of-backlinks-article-5.php