"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
The fact remains that getting traffic to your website depends on your placement in the SERP's. If you're not near the top then you're going to have issues. The problem is that rankings are much more localized down to the neighborhood than they ever have been before and thus can fluctuate greatly. Tracking these rankings in your primary geographic areas allows you to get a good snapshot of where you and how your website is progressing over time. If you can show an upward trend of increased rankings and tie that data with the actual conversion data then you're doing a good thing. The key is really using attribution to correlate the results so you can prove a strong ROI for your clients.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
A common mistake with content creation is that people tend to create it and then set it and forget it. I like to tell people that you should invest as much time as it took to create the post on promoting the post. The same goes for an ad budget on the post. If a piece appeals to a certain audience it will have more conversions and the opportunity to build new links and rank higher if it's shared with them. Therefore one of our biggest strategies is creating good resource built content that solves problems and promoting it to the proper audience.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
This is a tricky question. There are so many different things you need to check while conducting an SEO audit and many of them are equally important. The top three critical elements for me though would be a link analysis, site structure analysis, and content analysis. If a client has a link penalty or is in a situation where they could be penalized, it needs to be addressed immediately. If the site structure is poorly laid out or there are too many links on a page they may not be getting all of the benefit from their link juice and internal linking. Lastly a content penalty is something to watch out for but I also like to look for keyword cannibalization. This is a common problem on SMB websites.
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you'd love to see automated?
I think there is not a good resource that integrates a full SEO Audit. Some tools do an OK job but with site speed, mobile considerations, content evaluation, link evaluation, etc., in one place it would be easier to get a snapshot of where you and your competitors stand.