"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
Rand Fishkin, as usual, is right. But your question itself suggests an underlying broader context that there is a section of marketers that believe rankings are not very important. We hear all the time that visibility, qualified traffic, conversions, etc. matter more and that rankings are secondary to these. But the fact remains that Google ranking was, is, and will be in the foreseeable future, the primary and single most important metric by which the success of your SEO is measured. Bettering your rankings definitely serves to provide a base to improve most other KPIs.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
Since we spend so much time and effort on content creation, I dont want to ease up on the promotion, ever. I keep building links, citations and discussions in varied contexts, around my existing content, so that even as it grows old, it keeps spawning new references on different channels and from new audiences. You could call this a content pyramid a modern adaptation of erstwhile link pyramids.
I also see a huge opportunity in having personalized content within your apps; these will be more visible once Googles upcoming mobile algo update rolls out.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
Instead of making your audits check-list-like and ticking off components, you should focus on elements that
are causing or have the potential to cause serious problems to the crawling, indexation and ranking of your site
could give you more visibility with little effort/resources
When you rely completely on tools to perform your audit, youre in danger of focusing on (and reporting) the wrong things. Plus, even the best tools are not perfect true content duplication and auto-generated URLs are but two examples.
Then, there are issues that are a bit complex to resolve (usually requiring developer or webmaster support). You should make a habit of following through on getting these errors resolved, no matter how long drawn the effort.
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you'd love to see automated?
Ill answer this in the context of your first question. We need one overall weighted metric that encapsulates the multiple personalized, device-based, location-based and context-based rankings, to which we can assign revenue a la conversion value in Google AdWords. I gather you guys at RankWatch already track geo-specific rankings, so all the best in coming up with such a feature. ;-)