Some people have been asking what is the most important ranking ingredient in Google's magic algo recipe. Other people have been trying to reverse engineer the latest ranking updates to figure out what metric they should now focus upon. If you ask me, there is no one most important ingredient or metric if you are trying to build a successful long term.
If you don't have good content, people will avoid your site/won't link to it/likely convert less.
If you don't have good links, people & googlebot won't find your site.
If you don't have good usability, people will leave your site and won't convert into sales.
We could go on and list a bunch more ranking ingredients but the point I am trying to make is that you need a holistic approach. You don't want to focus on just one thing. You want to improve your entire site with an overall strategy that takes into account the many different elements Google cares about.
If you were the owner of Google and you saw people spamming your serps, what would you do? The more elements you use to determine rankings, the harder it is for SEOs to fake it and the more likely your serps will rank websites that fulfill your users. This concept is why I think Google keeps splintering the important ranking ingredients. I don't see it as links or content no longer being important. I view it more as there are more things we need to care about like site speed, ad layouts, mobile friendliness, etc.
I would also suggest people carefully consider what advice is coming from each SEO person. Link consultants tend to claim everything can be solved with links. Usability consultants tend to claim everything can be fixed with better layout. Writers tend to claim you just need better content for higher rankings. Kinda funny how so many SEO consultants tend to favor the solutions that they just happen to be selling. This isn't going to change because at the end of the day there is no profit margin for Google or SEO consultants when they help your site profit for free. So keep your eyes & ears open and make sure you have a wide reaching strategy to handle the many different moving parts needed for a successful online business.