Back in 2014, Matt Cutts of Google said if they drop links, the search results get bad. Meaning, if they drop looking at links for ranking purposes, the quality of the search results that Google can return drop significantly. Gary Illyes repeated that message in the past year.
Dawn Anderson this morning ask Gary Illyes from Google if he was referring to external links or internal links. External links are links you get from third-party web sites, internal links are links you control within your site. Gary said he was referring to external links.
He said on Twitter, "I was referring to external ones. Those links translate in some sense to popularity and endorsement by others."
So the internal links don't translate to "popularity and endorsement," because they are internal.
Here are the tweets:
@dawnieando I was referring to external ones. Those links translate in some sense to popularity and endorsement by others— Gary Illyes (@methode) November 11, 2016
Forum discussion at Twitter.