"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
I have a feeling that most internet marketers you ask will say "Rankings don't mean anything"....and I'd say they're wrong. To me, rankings mean a lot. For the majority of our clients, ~75% or more of their traffic comes from Google. Maybe a site has 10% Branded traffic, and the other 90% were non-branded keyword phrases. Of course some of the phrases will convert better than others, but it's those phrases, and the rankings that they have which determine the majority of most websites traffic. We use tools such as Spyfu and SEmRush to measure rankings and traffic over time.
I think the biggest change has been that in the past when we talked of "rankings" we were talking about looking a a few short tail phrases...today it's much more looking at the sum of everything instead of the few short tail money phrases. In today's world it's near impossible to specifically target short tail phrases without risk of getting penalized. Therfore, we want to look at a clients site, and several of their competitors to see what phrases they are ranking for to "fill in the gaps" where the competitors are making money and the clients are not...all this data is keyword and ranking data. We use this every day. I can't imagine someone saying, "eh, ranking data doesn't matter"...if they're concerned with Google non-branded organic traffic, then they must be concerned with keyword phrases and the ranking positions on them.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
Well, if we're talking about getting ranked in Google SERP's then the biggest factor in that is still "Links". To get the links we must write great content that has a chance of getting links from other sites because other sites already must link to this type of content. We're not talking commercial pages here, we're talking resourceful and educational content. We write it, get the clients to publish this content, and then we market this content to trusted sites who might add another link to this trusted content.
In addition to the trusted content we may also do other things to help attract natural links such as infographics, quizzes, case studies, interviews, videos, guides, etc, etc.
I feel that in order to get ranked high in the Google SERPs you must build your site and your brand. You must be a resource for the community. The site should have a trusted author writing for it. There should be social accounts linked to the site. Ideally, over time, the site and those writing for it, should become influencers in the neighborhood of their topic.
Usability of the site has to be optimized as well. With out a good user experience, all the other work is a waste.
Also to get content to rank, you need to know what content to write. Study all of the competitors to see what they're ranking for and what they're bidding for.
Take all the phrases everyone is ranking for and group them into user intents.Apply those phrases to existing pages if they match that user intent, and build new content to services user intent phrases that are valuable to you but you don't have those pages yet.
I wish I could say something like, "hey, just buy about 20 links and you're #1"...but those days are over....it takes a lot of things, a lot of time, and a lot of hard work.
Does your site deserve to be #1 in the SERPs...maybe ask yourself this question...then if you want to be ranked, start by working to be the best.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
Backlink Audit - are they in danger of getting penalized? Where are we starting from? What pages have links?
Content Audit - No one ever has enough content. Since we're not thinking short tail, we need to go deep with the content. What are the competitors ranking for that you're not. Do we have that content and those words on the client site?
Technical Audit - Spider the site, look at the code, what's messed up.
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you'd love to see automated?
Not that I can think of. We use a lot of private internal tools for our work. If we find a need, we build it. Can you build a tool to create a few more Me's...and Ann Smarty's?