"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
Rankings matter if the keywords drive traffic. Otherwise they mean nothing and aren't good for much more than what I refer to as "trophy keywords" because the only value they bring are being able to brag that you rank #1 for something. All of that said, even if you rank for keywords that drive traffic, it won't matter if it is the wrong traffic.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
I like to pick my battles wisely. Finding keywords with medium search volume and low competition with little content around the subject are great places to quickly win.Picking high search volume keywords with tons of content and businesses that have more resources that can create a stronger content machine make for an uphill battle.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
The umbrella categories of an SEO site audit are onsite, offsite, and a review of analytics, adwords and webmaster tools. You have to first and foremost make sure that the programming of the site is sending all of the right signals to search engines, and that the content is covering the subjects that are of highest ranking priority thoroughly. Second, an offsite review of the link profile of your site and that of competitors ranking for keywords where you would like to be. This second step will carry more weight than onsite, but if the onsite optimization isn't done, not much else will help. Third, reviewing analytics, adwords and webmaster tools for insights into what is currently working and what isn't will help. In analytics, look at what pages are getting the most traffic and ask yourself why. What content is there that people love? Is it the right content that drives rankings and more importantly sales?Are there other keywords/phrases that could be used that would allow you to use the already high ranking capability of the page to rank for better terms? In adwords, look at your most lucrative and high traffic keywords. Ask yourself if your content and linking strategies match up with the keywords you would like to rank for. With webmaster tools, most importantly, go and make sure that your site hasn't been manually penalized by checking the messages. Review the link profile there for bad links you don't want that you should ask be removed, and consider other places online where you aren't but could easily be that are similar to the good links you already have. That is low hanging fruit.
An SEO audit that covers these three umbrella categories is bound to give you a long list of actionable items you can go to work on right away. If I were to add a fourth category it would be a sub category of onsite specifically analyzing and making a list of the content marketing that has already been done to see where it is most lacking.
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you'd love to see automated?
A SEO tool that quickly reviews the link profiles provided by all of the different SEO tools, sorting out the duplicates between tools, and creating a master list link profile based on what you can get from tools like OSE, ahrefs, and webmaster tools.