"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
I still think they're a great "directional" metric. Sometimes this directional metric can give a good marketplace overview in lieu of competitors' actual traffic and conversions. My opinion on rankings are really the same as they've always been - directional data just gives you something to start thinking about, instead of something to definitively act upon. But if you live (and sell services) by the ranking, youre selling it all far too short.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
Content strategies vs. content tactics. Developing content is fine as long as it's a step in the funnel, and the funnel has been wisely planned out from end to end. Iterate as needed, but go in with a plan based on KPIs, bandwidth, and research into the competitive landscape. Sorry I don't have a specific strategy to cite - they should always be custom to the campaign.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
Technical: look at the crawl path and make sure crawl budget is efficient.GWT, analytics, and Screaming Frog are key for understanding what pages are vital, and what pages are bloat. Contextual: a content audit is extremely valuable to make sure there are clear funnels and a smart site layout. URLprofiler is a great tool to help gather the data, while Screaming Frog can give you a good architecture view. Links: Looking up links to not only review for a natural profile, but to make sure the best converting content is getting its fuel. URLprofiler is also really good here.
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you'd love to see automated?
I've always wanted to see tools that audit more of what the SERPs display. Granted, this is different for many people, but a directional sense of whether snippets are showing, whether Google has changed titles on you for keywords, etc.I think Sean Malseed created something great using Google Docs, but certainly more can be done with alerts and deeper digs.