"Rankings continue to matter more and more for SEO." What is the importance of Rankings in 2015 as far as you're concerned?
Rankings are important in terms of seeing big shifts across your industry or big sets of your own keywords. I don't tend to rely on individual keyword rankings too much because they can fluctuate. However, looking at rankings in aggregate can be useful and help you spot problems. I'd still prefer to use traffic and conversions as core KPIs though.
What are your favorite strategies to get your site or content ranked in the Google SERPs?
I'd recommend a few ways to do this. Firstly, it's important to have a solid foundation by making sure that your website is set up correctly from a technical perspective. There is no point doing link building or content promotion if the website itself doesn't work properly and provides a bad user experience. Secondly, I'd focus on mapping out the customer journey from researching through to conversion, then create content for each step of the process, the goal being to capture people at each step and hopefully keep them on the website. Thirdly, link building is still very important and always will be. I'd recommend content based link building which is one of the most sustainable ways of getting links.
What would you say are the 3 critical elements to be covered in an SEO site audit?
The top three elements of an SEO site audit for me are - unique and quality content, site speed and good site architecture.
What features do you think are missing in mainstream SEO tools? Are there any processes you'd love to see automated?
I don't actually use that many tools and am not a fan of fully automated solutions. If I did have to fill a gap in SEO tools, it would probably be the ability to map SEO work to ranking and traffic increases so that we can better understand the value of our work.