Don’t fear! Matt Cutts states “Backlinks still have many, many, many years left in them” BUT he did confirm Google will be using “actual language” to help improve search. What is “actual language” in the eyes of Google? Actual language is a term Google uses to help the search engine better understand exactly what the customer is wanting to extract from the Google Search. So when someone search “how tall is Brad Pitt and when is he born” Google will recognize the searcher is looking for both Brad Pitts height and his birth day.
Cutts also mentioned they are working on a possible “Expert Author Boost” in terms of search. So if an article is written by an expert in a specific field it may receive a better tank within search. For example if Dr. Brian Fallon wrote an article on Lyme Disease we would assume this article would get an extra in search as it was written by an individual who is a leading expert in the field of Lyme Disease and control.