"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
The search interface is getting more ad heavy across all major global search engines. In some cases on Yahoo! you can almost be below the fold on a huge desktop monitor with a #1 organic ranking. In some verticals where Google is aggressively monetizing the vertical (like hotel search) the same can be true. And on mobile devices there is even less screen real estate to work with. So increasingly SEO is becoming an area where you either rank first or you are stuck praying the user scrolls past a screen or two full of ads to see your listing.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
I think every website & every market is unique. The best marketing strategies depend a lot on the personality of the site owner, how their site's business model differs from competitors in that vertical, etc.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
Different types of search have different search interfaces and different markets have different opportunities. As an example, as the barrier to rank a smaller independent ecommerce website has increased, many would be better off selling on Amazon & trying to get their Amazon listing to rank rather than trying to rank an independent ecommerce site for highly competitive keywords. But I think a few key elements to any audit would be
what does the search result layout look like (is it ad heavy, do other similar sized competitors rank, are there opportunities to be listed on some of the sites or pages that already rank, etc.)
how large is your site in terms of page count & how much brand awareness do you have to carry that page count
how unique is your on-page content & do you have compelling areas of your site which are unique and potentially linkworthy to others?
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you'd love to see automated?
I think many people are focused on data and automation to an extreme degree & as the market becomes more obfuscated, for many players sustained success will likely require better leveraging soft skills rather than hard data. As much as we may want to, it is hard to create software which understands human emotions & what motivates people. As an industry I think we've likely become overly reliant on tools.