"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
Rankings, of course, are still very important in terms of organic search. However, it's important to realize that we are rapidly moving towards a world in which there will be no such thing as a "defined rank" (if there ever really were such a thing).
The question of "What is my site's rank?" will become increasingly meaningless because ten different people will often see ten different SERPs today based on their locations, languages, search histories, Google+ activity, the types of devices on which the searches were performed, and countless other factors.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
As I described in an essay, here is my strategy: Build, promote, and publicize a website that delights its target audience, and everything else will fall into place. It's about simply doing good marketing and web development to build a brand that deserves to rank highly in Google. The days of viewing SEO as a "bag of tricks" died a long time ago.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
A technical audit, a content audit, and a PR and publicity audit. I'll go into my three-fold process outlined above in more detail:
Build - Make sure that Google can crawl, parse, and index your website and that it loads quickly and presents well for users on all types of mobile and non-mobile devices. (technical audit)
Promote - What does your target audience want to see on your website? Make sure to include whatever that is in your marketing collateral and content. If you are a mobile-app advertising network, then you want to create "stuff" that mobile-app developers want to read -- such as guides on how to create and monetize mobile apps. Then, how will you promote that marketing collateral and content? (content audit)
Publicize - How you will you use public relations and publicity to build your brand, generate awareness, and get coverage of your company, product, website, and content? The best and greatest numbers of links come as just by-products of doing good marketing and PR to "earn" links naturally. (PR and publicity audit)
For more on my overall SEO and marketing strategy, I invite your readers to read my essay at Moz on the marketing department of the future.
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you'd love to see automated?
What is called "SEO" is actually just a collection of best practices in marketing and web development. So, I use SEO software such as Moz and Ahrefs, PR software such as Cision and Meltwater, and content tools such as BuzzSumo. Of course, it costs a lot to use a bunch of tools ifsomeone could find a way to combine everything into a single platform that would cost less than the sum of all of the tools individually; I'd buy it in a digital heartbeat.
Personally, I'd like to see less automation in the marketing world. The best marketing results come from real, human interaction and not algorithms -- so everything needs to be tailored on an individual basis as much as possible. Of course, this brings problems of scalability, so it's not a simple situation.