Let us know how the search engine ranks particular website for the search term or keyword. Almost 80% percent of world population rely on the Google search engine to get the result. To know whether the content or links are important for a page we must know about how search engine know our site and decides page rank. The result page of the search engine (SERP) has some number with seconds at the top of SERP which shows “How many websites Google finds” that are probably similar to what you are looking for.
Though it finds lakh of websites in less than a minute it uses some order to position the site; some websites ranks just on the first page of SERP where some other sites rank a way back. Here the important question comes on what basis the site has been indexed. In the beginning search engine works on the Keyword. Whenever we search, Google uses the search term and get all the website which exactly contains the search term in it and the site that contains the search term more often ranks higher on the results page. Later they found web pages which contain the search term more often didn’t necessarily mean they are more relevant.Rather what matters was how often the web page has been visited or referred(link) by other site or page. Here the place where link comes into the play of website ranking. The websites are often ranked with the number and the quality of backlinks it gets.
Google see your site from the aspect of content present in it, and know what it is all about and through the backlinks(link to your site from another site) Google determines how much Google TRUST your site.
So the Contents are important because it tells Google what the web page is all about at the same time Links were used to improve the rank of the site.
Based on two aspects Google handles the website. First is On-Page SEO this is a place where we ensure our page has keywords in it(probably not keyword stuffing). The keyword should be placed in the URL, MetaDescription, Title Tag, Alternative Tag(Alt) for images, and most importantly in the content of the page; the content should be unique, should give complete information about the keyword and so on.
And the second aspect is Off-Page SEO obviously backlinks; we can generate backlinks from another source. Backlinks can be created through Article Writing, Blog Posting, Blog Commenting, Forum Submission, etc.,
So the conclusion is both the content and links are equally important if you have copied contents or duplicated contents or the contents which are not relevant to the keyword, Google takes Penalty action against your site and if something happens like that there is no use of backlinks and ranking. On the other hand, if your content is unique and good enough, through links it get better ranking.