James currently works at Creare in the United Kingdom and has published many blogs about plugins, videos and tutorials on the topics of design, development and SEO. He regularly attends and speaks at industry conferences in the UK and shares his valuable ideas in online forums, such as Google+ communities. You can follow James on Twitter: @jamesbavington.
Cloudways: You started as a web designer. How was that experience? Tell us about your initial struggles during this eventful journey.
James Bavington: I initially started making websites when I was about 16 years old. As a designer, I’d always been fascinated with the web and started teaching myself HTML and CSS. I started by making a website about skateboarding which was featured in Sidewalk magazine which really spurred me on to what can be achieved online. One of the biggest struggles I faced when starting out was how to rank pages within Google’s results. After much research, I eventually began to understand how I was coding and fame masking my websites incorrectly which started my path onto learning about SEO.
Cloudways: WordPress has now become a trendsetter in the CMS industry. What was the reason that enticed you to use WordPress?
James Bavington: I started using WordPress at Creare about 6 years ago. The primary reason behind it was the simple fact that Google loved—and still does love—fresh content and WordPress provided the mechanism to update and add new content easily. At Creare, we also were looking for a simple lightweight CMS platform for our clients at the time. So, WordPress was a welcome addition to our product lineup.
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Cloudways: There are many other CMS available now, such as Drupal, etc. How do you compare between WordPress with others when it comes to reliability, functionality, and convenience?
James Bavington: The reason I’ve stuck with WordPress is its flexibility. WordPress has had some fantastic features added over the years. I’ve never had to stray away to solve a brief. Having worked on existing client sites that use platforms like Drupal and Joomla, I’ve struggled to use these CMSs effectively.
Cloudways: Do you think WordPress supports SEO practices well enough? What one thing will you change in WordPress to make it more SEO friendly?
James Bavington: Out of the box, I think WordPress does a good job of supporting SEO. Key features like Permalinks have been around for a long time now, but to have a really SEO friendly WordPress site, you need Yoast’s superb and yet free SEO Plugin. If I could change one thing about WordPress, it would be to include Yoast’s features as standard (and have the Yoast team contribute to maintain the features).
Cloudways: There is a debate going on about “SEO is dead” phenomenon. With persistent changes within the Google algorithm, how do you foresee the future of search engine optimization within the industry? Is there any ethics involved in SEO practice?
James Bavington: I’ve heard people saying that “SEO is dead” for years. Granted more and more businesses are investing in SEO and Google are tightening the belt with the algorithm. However, digital marketing for businesses of all sizes is more important than ever. I don’t think at all that SEO is dead and I don’t think it ever will be. As the last few black-hat SEO techniques are closed down by Google, I believe that ranking well will be a combination of a well-structured website and good old fashioned PR and brand building.
Cloudways: In your opinion, which is the best strategy to apply for SEO of a website? Please share your experience about using SEO technique on your own site.
James Bavington: As a front-end website developer at heart, I believe the first logical step to good SEO is the on-page and technical implementations. Having a good solid foundation of the website allows for off-page marketing, PR, and brand building, which in turn can naturally raise a site’s authority and respective rankings. At Creare, we used to pine after very competitive ‘Trophy Phrases’ that were difficult to rank for and didn’t really bring us the right kind of traffic. I’ve learnt over the years that it’s better to target more specific long-tail phrases which are easier to rank for and target the right kind of traffic.
Cloudways: WordPress offers very useful themes and plugins. Which one theme and plugin is your favorite that you will recommend to our readers?
James Bavington: Personally, I love Underscores: it’s a very stripped-back, lightweight starter theme for developers looking to build a custom theme for their project. We’ve recently used Underscores to build our own internal WordPress theme at Creare, which we’ve made publicly available on GitHub. My favorite plugins that I use on every site are: Advanced Custom Fields, WP Cookie Banner, WP Headmaster, WordPress SEO by Yoast and Contact Form 7.
You can follow James Bavington (@jamesbavington) on Twitter.
Fahad is an SEO Expert at Cloudways - A SEO friendly hosting Platform. He monitors organic traffic trends and helps rank the site higher on search engine. As an expert in SEO, he also likes to spend his free time researching and learning about new things in web development.