"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
The reason why rankings are valuable in SEO is that we don't have a lot of ways to measure how our SEO campaigns are doing.We can measure organic search traffic to a given web page, but we don't really get a complete picture that way. For example, if we get 1,000 visitors to a specific web page within a month, we don't know how many of those are from branded search terms vs. non-branded search terms.
That's a problem because you don't really need SEO to rank for branded search queries unless you have a bad problem with your site. So, for most site owners, organic search traffic just does not provide much insight.
Of course, Google Webmaster Tools provides keyword data, but it's pretty crude and imprecise due to the sampling methods used in putting that data together for us.
Rankings info gives us one way of measuring our progress in SEO.Admittedly, rankings data has its limitations too. Google is constantly tuning and tweaking their also, you have to be careful to obtain the data in an "incognito mode" so personalization of the results does not mess things up, and your geographic location can be a factor too. But, even with those limitations, rankings data is one of the best scorecards we have for SEO.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
I think one of the most underutilized methods for on-page SEO optimization is optimization of the content on the pages of your site. I am not talking about simple title tags, meta descriptions, and keyword usage analyses. I am talking about analyzing how likely your pages are to satisfy users who come to your site. For example, if someone comes to your site after searching on "buy blue widgets", what are they looking for?
All of these things are a part of the equation for satisfying users to the pages of your site. These may all seem like usability considerations, and they are, but you should be taking them into account as part of your overall SEO strategy.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
Architecture review - There are many things that people do with their site architectures that make life difficult for search engine crawlers. One of the most important parts of an audit is to review the architecture and make sure that it's relatively simple and easy to navigate, for both humans and search engine robots.For example, making sure that you don't have content that is 20 clicks away from the home page, or that there is no tagging structure that allows for infinite variations of pages to be created. These are just two simple examples, but the bottom line is that your site needs to be structured in a search engine robot friendly manner.
Keyword coverage - Does your site have a separate page for each major user need that it addresses? It should. Of course, be careful to not go overboard with this. In my answer I mentioned "each MAJOR user need". You don't want to have a page for every possible keyword variant someone might type in.A good test to see if a page should be created is if an end user who compared it to other pages on your site which are the most similar, would it make sense to them that you have both versions of the page?
Thin content review - Many sites have pages that really have very little content on them, or content that is, frankly, pretty crappy. Google's Panda algo, which was released in February of 2011, was only the first overt move by Google to lower rankings for sites with these types of pages. Panda has been updated many times, and it's likely that they have done more, and will continue to do more, to lower the rankings of poor quality sites and web pages.
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 room for a tool that focuses on content quality analysis. I know, that's not a simple sounding tool to build, but I think one like that is needed.