Index What is WordPress? What can WordPress do? What are the basic features of WordPress? The advantages / benefits of using WordPress as a CMS Bespoke versus WordPress The pros and cons A bespoke content management system A pre-written content management system, such as WordPress Alternative free content management systems Customizing your WordPress website WordPress and Plugins Themes Writing code directly into a WordPress Theme Web hosting options Hosting your own WordPress website WordPress hosting your website WordPress security and privacy Comment “spam” Dealing with “false positives” and the ones that got away! Comments on Posts and Pages Managing people’s email addresses Software updates Learning to use WordPress Signing in Dashboard Re-arranging your panels The different digital assets within WordPress Posts Pages Categories Tags Links Media Adding a Post or Page Adding an excerpt Formatting problems and strange characters Editing a Post or Page Adding images and video Discussion options Re-arranging your panels Settings Discussions Privacy Permalinks Getting the most out of WordPress Making the most of social media and social networking Sharing your Posts and Pages on social media and networking websites Optimizing your website for the search engines SEO activities to enhance and optimize your website Extending your WordPress website Here are some ideas for you to consider What next? About the author and Octane Connect with the Octane community
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For many, WordPress is synonymous with blogging. It is, after all, a highly versatile and very popular system to use. But in recent times, WordPress has taken on attributes and features more common to a content management system (CMS) — and that’s when and where things become interesting, certainly from a small business perspective. I’ll be taking you through WordPress from a business perspective: what it does, its strengths and weaknesses, how to use it, how to get the most out of it, and how it can genuinely benefit your business. I’ll also be including a guided tour of WordPress, for the total beginners amongst you.
What is WordPress?
WordPress allows you to write articles and post them for others to read and share with colleagues and friends. For example, Octane’s website is powered by WordPress. WordPress is a web application that you install onto a web server (perhaps where your company website is right now) and access via a web browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Apple’s Safari. So for a small business with ambitions of managing its website in-house, WordPress is more than adequate. Everything you write is stored securely on the web via a database that runs on your website. Because of this, you and your team get to access your articles from anywhere you have an internet connected computer. I may, from time to time, refer to articles and web pages interchangeably, depending on the context of the discussion. However, in reality, when you add anything to WordPress, you’re not creating anything tangible like a web page. That’s because WordPress’s use of a database means that all of the various things you create / add are items in the database and not anything you could download to your computer. Are you wondering what a web application is? Read on for more information.
WordPress is programmed and maintained by hundreds of people from all over the world, working together, offering their time for free. This methodology is called Open Source, which is in many ways the direct opposite of commercial software development. The goal of Open Source is to offer free alternatives to commercially available software that avoids what they term “vendor lock-in”. For example, when you write a document in Microsoft Word (a file whose name ends in .doc or .docx), that document contains data specific to Word. Unless you choose a file format like Rich Text Format (.rtf), there’s no guarantee that someone else can open your Word file in some other application. Open Source endorses openness in software, so people and business are free to move their data to new software, as and when they choose and not when the vendor chooses. The database that WordPress uses is also Open Source and freely available.
What can WordPress do? WordPress is easy to use and offers many similar text-editing features that you’d expect to find in Microsoft Word (albeit an old version), keeping the learning experience to a minimum.
What are the basic features of WordPress? There are two basic types of documents you can create: Pages are “about us” and “services” web pages, for the more formal content that you don’t expect to update very often; whereas Posts are the articles that make up the blogging aspect of WordPress. The following is a list of WordPress features: • Scheduling — You can schedule Pages and Posts to publish themselves at a time suitable to you. That means you can write something in advance and have them publish in sequence, which is handy for holiday periods, when no one is available to publish manually. • Multiple users — WordPress is a multi-user application and supports different roles (Administrator, Editor, Contributor etc), which you, as an administrator, can assign to colleagues / staff — the head of marketing might be the editor, while the marketing team are contributors. This way, the editor has the final say on which articles go live and when. • Drafting — Pages and Posts can be saved as drafts, which allows you to store for later, for colleagues to read, comment on, add to etc. • Media content — You can add links, pictures, video and Flash movies to Pages and Posts. You also have the option to style your pages with header styles, bold, italic etc — just like you’d expect to see with Microsoft Word, but not as fully featured. • Media management — WordPress has a Media section, where you can upload and manage photos, images and videos. • Comments — People can comment on Posts and Pages, but you have the option to disable this, should you choose to. As a rule, I turn commenting off for Pages, which I’ll discuss later. • Tags and comments — You can add Tags and Categories to Posts, which are ways of organizing and, as the name suggests, categorizing your Posts. • Revision tracking — WordPress offers a feature called “Post Revisions” (a list of revisions for each Post), which you can revert back to should you make a mistake which you weren’t aware of until after publishing. • Edit notifications — WordPress is smart enough to let you know when someone else is editing a Post or Page at the same time as you. • Spam filter — WordPress does a good job of grabbing so-called “spam” comments, preventing them from appearing in the comments section of your Posts and Pages. • Multiple languages — WordPress supports many different languages.
Beyond being the backbone to many thousands of personal and professional blogs all over the world, WordPress is also a good content management system (CMS) for businesses who feel they need to manage their own websites, rather than have someone like me add new web pages and manage the website for them.
The advantages / benefits of using WordPress as a CMS • • • • • •
You add your content to your website in your own time and on your terms. The learning curve is mercifully low... ... while the list of features is reassuringly broad. In managing your own website, you’re not paying someone to add new web pages. You’ll begin to appreciate the cost savings over time. You’re not tied to any single web developer — anyone with experience using WordPress can service your needs. • Updates are free, as is WordPress itself. • There is a huge support network of forums, websites, mailing lists, other blogs etc. Are you considering having a blog for your business? Read on for more information about the benefits of business blogging.
Bespoke versus WordPress
In the past, I’ve written bespoke content management systems (CMS) for clients. Sometimes, given their very specific needs, I’ve had to. But for the most part, their needs aren’t so specific that they preclude something pre-written. And to write a CMS from scratch is a major commitment of my time and their money, especially when there are perfectly usable (and often free) alternatives out there, like WordPress, for example.
The pros and cons Each option offers a variety of benefits and deficits, but on balance, WordPress is ideal for businesses who are new to managing their own website. Of course, over time, those needs might change.
A bespoke content management system Pros: • The client gets exactly what they need. • The developer can be more flexible to their needs and add new features on request. Cons: • Lengthy and often technical specifications are required. • The cost commitment on the part of the client is considerable (but it is a long-term investment). • The client is effectively tied to their CMS and its developer (raising the possibility of vendor lock-in, though this isn’t inevitable).
A pre-written content management system, such as WordPress Pros: • WordPress itself is free, which offers considerable up-front cost savings. • Systems like WordPress are very flexible and allow for a high level of customization, which mitigates some of the issues related to feature requests. • A greater responsiveness to security issues (updates are often issued regularly). • All updates are handled by the original developers of the software, which often means a higher level of quality.
Cons: • Possible installation and configuration fees. • Client is beholden to the WordPress developers’ schedule and has little-to-no say in what new features are included (although this is mitigated in part by customization). In an ideal world, all of the above points hold true. But this isn’t an ideal world, so things can change to varying degrees. At all times, make sure you understand your needs and ensure that your developer understands them as well. Advice — What’s free to the web developer doesn’t always translate into free for the client. As described, there are installation and configuration issues to contend with, as well as customizing the chosen CMS, based on an agreed design. Some developers might not even pass any cost savings on at all, so be prepared to ask questions and shop around.
Alternative free content management systems At this point, I just want to make it clear that there are alternatives to WordPress, some of which are much more sophisticated and also free. Those that I often encounter, and have used myself in the past include Joomla! and Drupal. I’ve even used Joomla! for a client website. However, the increase in features and options also means an increase in complexity, and I personally find Joomla! more complicated than it need be. You must put your needs first and choose the content management system that best meets those needs. It’s entirely possible that WordPress just isn’t right you, and that’s fine. So do your research and make sure you’re making the right choice. Advice — The first thing you need to decide is exactly what you want to accomplish with your website. Once you have some idea of the ‘what’, you can then start a conversation with a web developer about the ‘how’.
Customizing your WordPress website What all three systems have in common is that they’re written in a programming language called PHP, which just happens to be the language I write in. This means I’m positioned to customize any of these content management systems, should the need arise. WordPress is very flexible and it’s also very easy for someone like me to learn how to write code for WordPress. All three systems employ similar methods of extending themselves, so that people like me can write additional modules of code to make those systems do things beyond their core features. WordPress uses what it calls Plugins. If you’ve used Adobe Photoshop, then you’re familiar with the concept. Also, if you’ve used Microsoft Word (and few haven’t), then you’ve probably heard of
Macros, which is a similar concept. Advice — So if you’re interested in using WordPress for your website, be sure to pick a web developer who can provide demonstrable evidence of their PHP skills — it’s not easy to fake being good at anything, and programming languages are no exception. There’s little point engaging in the services of someone who can only get you from A to B if your long-term goal is to get to G and beyond!
WordPress and Plugins So what’s the big deal about Plugins for WordPress? Well, if WordPress itself can’t do exactly what you want it to, you web developer should be able to write a Plugin to give it that ability, within reason. Think of Plugins as being like mini applications. They have access to almost all aspects of WordPress, but are mostly contained (by being partitioned off), to prevent them from causing WordPress to generate errors if they go wrong, which can be the case if they’re not programmed properly. So testing is essential. Anyone who’s an accomplished PHP programmer can write their own Plugins for WordPress and there are thousands available to download, the vast majority of which are free. As an added value aspect of the service I provide to my clients, I might (given the need) write a Plugin to perform a particular action or to include a specific feature that my client needs but WordPress itself doesn’t support or offer. Recently, I wrote a Plugin for Berryman Glass Recycling that allows us to change the names of the navigation items, alter their order and exclude certain items (be they the parent or the child navigation item). What do I mean by parent and child? As I’ll be discussing later, Posts and Pages offer slightly different features, one of which is that one Page can be made a sub-page of another — or to be made a child of. In turn, the Page that has sub-pages is the Parent. As you can imagine, this is useful for creating a hierarchical structure for things like product ranges, where one Page contains information about the range and you have a collection of child Pages for each item in that range. So it’s entirely possible to take a basic version of WordPress and turn it into something that is a hybridized system, that retains all of the benefits of being Open Source and yet also has customized aspects that allow you to bring your business and its services right into the web, and into the hands of your customers. When I install WordPress for a client website, there are several Plugins which I nearly always
include in the initial installation, because I consider them to be essentials, and they are: • Google XML Sitemaps — A file is created and updated that contains a formatted list of all your Posts and Pages, and is placed onto your web server, which helps Google index your website. • All In One SEO Pack — Your Posts and Pages are enhanced in such a way that they are specially optimized to make them more visible to the search engines (search engine optimization), which you can then control on a per-Post / per-Page basis. • FeedBurner FeedSmith — Because people are going to be able to subscribe to your blog, it’s as well that you’re able to measure all of the different ways in which this happens. • Google Analytics for WordPress — Google Analytics is a free tool that Google provides, which allows you track all of the visitors to your website, as well as measure and analyze their activities. • WP Cache — For those times when your website is busy, the various parts and components of WordPress are stored (cached) in such a way as to make accessing those files much quicker than it would be otherwise. There are some other Plugins that I might use from time to time, depending on the circumstances and the needs of the client, and they are: • Socialize Me! — When people visit your website from a social network or a social media website you’re a user of, the visitor will see a discrete welcome message, offering them the chance to hook up with you, closing what I call the Social Loop. • WordPress Database Backup — As its name suggests, a backup of your database is made which you schedule to your own convenience, with the added option of either saving the backup to your web server, or having a copy emailed to you, or a designated member of staff. • Subscribe to Comments — Again, this is fairly self-explanatory, and is a good way of allowing your commenting visitors to keep the conversation going. So what’s the big deal with SEO and Sitemaps? Being found on the search engines is the most cost-effective means of marketing your business, but it relies entirely on the relevance of your web pages to the searches being performed by a prospective customer. By using the All In One SEO Pack and Google XML Sitemaps Plugins, you are helping your web pages get found for the keywords and phrases relevant to your products / services.
Would you like to know more about optimizing your website for the search engines? Read on for more information about search engine optimization.
Themes In terms of visual customization options, WordPress is very accommodating — you can either use one of the many hundreds of freely available Themes, or have your very own theme designed just for you. Think of a Theme as a kind of framework for your website. A theme is a collection of files that represent the various aspects of WordPress, as seen by the visitor. There are several files that perform core services (such as a home page, a search results page, header, footer and archives page etc), while other pages are optional (such as an author page, a categories page, as well as a custom error page). A common question from my clients is whether a Theme is synonimous with a template. And the answer is yes and no. Yes — in that it’s a series of standard files. No — in that a well-designed Theme doesn’t look like something you’d expect to find in the gallery for Microsoft Office, which most people despise. If you want to keep the cost down, you can choose from the wide variety of free Themes out there. All you have to do is download a Theme you like the look of and then upload the files to your web server, into the correct directory. Once uploaded, you sign into your Dashboard and activate your new Theme from the appropriate section (Dashboard » Appearance » Themes). Advice — If you want something that incorporates your company brand and style, then you’d be as well to have your very own Theme designed for you. Once a design has been approved, you’ll want that design turning into a Theme. As a guide, I can create a Theme from a design in about half a day, depending on the complexity of the design and the specific requirements of the Theme itself.
Writing code directly into a WordPress Theme But there’s more to WordPress than just Plugins, which are sometimes just not enough. Because of the way Plugins work, it’s not always possible or practical to write a Plugin to do just what you want it to do. That’s when you have to write code directly into the Theme itself. It’s possible to create totally unique content sections that goes far beyond what WordPress offers by default. In the case of the Emily Cagle Communications website, I recently built a Media section that allows Emily to add a new Page to showcase each new publications she’s been featured in. Armed with nothing more than the copy (the text), a PDF (Portable Document Format – a common file format which keeps a document’s appearance consistent on different computers) and a logo, Emily can add a new entry, which is a child Page of the Media section Page. Once complete, her new entry appears in a list, along with the other child Pages that belong to the Media section Page, with a link to her PDF. In a way, it’s bespoke programming, but within the
framework of WordPress, so it’s the best of both worlds, with none of the deficits. Because WordPress uses a template methodology, certain aspects like the search engine, the side bar, categories, tags and the content itself are all contained within individual files that are editable. This means I have almost complete control over not just how a website using WordPress looks, but over how it functions, too. You can edit any aspect of WordPress, given the right tools. However, even as a seasoned and experienced PHP developer, I have no inclination to edit the core aspects of WordPress itself; which includes any files outside of the Themes directory. Once you make any changes to the core of WordPress, upgrading becomes exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, so you would be ill advised to do so.
Web hosting options Each company is different and has different needs. Fortunately, WordPress is very flexible. You have the option of installing WordPress on your own server, where your website is stored, so long as your server meets the technical requirements for WordPress. The vast majority of web hosting companies will be able to accommodate your needs. Alternatively, you can let WordPress themselves (via the WordPress.com website) host the website for you, so all of the installation and configuration aspects are dealt with. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option:
Hosting your own WordPress website Pros: • Complete control over the customization of your website (the choice of design, the custom programming of features). • You can install your own Plugins. • You can install your own PHP themes. • Far greater flexibility over the long-term. Cons: • A web hosting account is required first, which will incur an annual fee. • WordPress must be physically installed by someone like myself with the correct technical background.
WordPress security and privacy
Like almost all software, nothing is 100% secure or 100% safe. However, because WordPress is developed by hundreds of people from all over the world, security updates are issued with reassuring regularity. If you’re a PC user, then you’re more than likely familiar with Microsoft’s many security patches and updates. Often, these updates are pre-emptive rather than remedial, and the same applies to WordPress. But the software itself is not the only concern; there’s also the question of privacy and decency to contend with.
Comment “spam” WordPress does a good job of grabbing so-called “spam” comments, which are useless, often misleading and sometimes offensive comments left on your Posts and Pages by individuals or automated scripts designed to inject comments with the sole purpose of getting you or your visitors to click on the links within. The reason? Money. In many cases, they’re links to pornography, online casinos and various other digital detritus. WordPress has been rather helpful in this respect and has written its own Plugin called Akismet, which sniffs out these comments and ensures they don’t find their way into your Posts and Pages, for others to read. By default, Akismet is not active. However, there are built-in instructions on how to activate it and begin blocking spam comments.
Dealing with “false positives” and the ones that got away! These spam comments are filtered out into a special area (Dashboard » Comments » Spam), where you can chose to delete or approve. It’s worth mentioning that WordPress doesn’t always get things right and occasionally either allows spam comments through — otherwise known as a false positive — or throws a perfectly legitimate comment into the spam list.
Comments on Posts and Pages To add a comment to any Post or Page, the commenter is required to enter their name and email address, with a web address being optional. Spammers will routinely supply fake details and a link to a website or blog of dubious quality.
Managing people’s email addresses For the legitimate commenter who enters a real email address, how are you to handle their details? First of all, commenters have to be comfortable with entering their details into a Post or Page, so some level of trust is required. On the other hand, as a manager or owner of a copy of WordPress, when someone comments, you will receive a notification that contains the aforementioned details (Dashboard » Recent Comments). By default, once you have approved a comment, it will appear on your Post or Page showing only the commenter’s name, which is often highlighted as the link they entered. What you or anyone else won’t see when viewing the Post or Page is their email address. Now that you have a commenter’s email address, it is up to you to manage their data responsibly. If your business based in Britain, then you’re bound by regulations laid down by the Data Protection Act, so you should not sell on the email addresses of your commenter’s to a third party. If you do intend using their details for any other purpose, then I suggest you provide some kind of opt-in system, whereby each commenter is able to choose for themselves.
Software updates New exploits and methods of intrusion emerge all the time. The more up-to-date your version of WordPress, the more secure you’re likely to be.
WordPress features tools to automatically update Plugins as well as itself, all from the touch of a button. It’s essential that you stay up to date with the latest version of WordPress. You’ll know when an update is available because you’ll see a small message appear on your Dashboard. However, I’d recommend some preparation before performing an update to avoid problems. For example, an update to a Plugin might clash with the current version of WordPress if the update is specifically for a newer version of WordPress than you’re using.
Always check with the developer’s website or with the “Read Me” file that came with the Plugin first, if you choose to upgrade manually. Additionally, always make a complete backup of your entire WordPress installation before installing an update to WordPress itself. If anything were to go wrong, there’s the potential for data loss — this is the reason I’m using the WordPress Database Backup Plugin more and more.
Learning to use WordPress
The purpose of this beginner’s guide is to equip you with enough knowledge to get started using WordPress on a day-to-day basis, so that you can begin adding, editing and deleting Posts and Pages, among other things.
Signing in This is the main sign in screen for the WordPress Dashboard.
Advice — While painfully obvious, I’m going to say it anyway: bookmark this web page! You’d be surprised how many people forget the URL, or simply rely on the history function of their web browser. 1. Go to the sign-in screen for your copy of WordPress (typically, something like: http://www. yourwebsite.com/wp-login.php). 2. Enter your username and password. 3. Once your details are entered correctly, click the “Log In” button. You could perhaps check the “Remember Me” button so that WordPress remembers you. However, make sure you only do this from your own computer and not someone else’s, or a shared computer. Once those login details are “remembered”, anyone using that computer has the ability to sign into your website as you.
Dashboard Put simply, the Dashboard is where you manage the vast majority of WordPress, but this does depend on what type of User you are — the higher your User level, the more options you’ll have access to. On the left-hand side is a menu that offers access to most of the sections within the Dashboard. To the right, there are several panels offering a variety of information points, such as: • • • •
Right Now — An overview of Posts, Pages, Tags and Categories. Incoming Links — Which websites are linking to your Posts and Pages. QuickPress — A quick and easy way to add Posts. Recent Comments — A list of comments on your Posts and Pages.
To choose which panels you want to appear on your Dashboard, click the “Screen Options” tab button in the top right of your window — watch the YouTube video tutorial for this right now » For the purposes of using WordPress on a day-to-day basis, the “Right Now”, “Recent Comments” and “Recent Drafts” panels are the ones most relevant to you.
Re-arranging your panels You can re-arrange the layout of these panels by dragging their title bars — watch the YouTube video tutorial for this right now »
The different digital assets within WordPress WordPress isn’t just about Pages and Posts, although they are at the core of WordPress. There are several other types of digital asset which you and your team will have access to.
Posts Posts are the articles added to the blog, which people can comment on and share.
Pages Pages are often used for the product and / or service web pages of a website.
Categories Categories are a means of organizing and categorizing the Posts of a blog. A visitor can click on a Category and see a list of all Posts that have been assigned to that Category. On business blogs, Categories are typically named after the services or products a business offers. Once a Post has been written, it is usually assigned to one or more Category, which it is associated with in terms of its topic. If you sell mortgages, then a possible Category might be “first time buyers” “remortgaging” “buy to let”, for example.
Tags Tags are a simple collection of key words, such as industry terms, phrases, systems and acronyms, which are deemed relevant to, or are included within the body of the Post. Tags are another means of categorizing Posts, but in a less structured way, and unlike Categories, they are optional. In the mortgage example above, tags might include the name of a politician you mentioned in your Post, who was responsible for changing interest rates.
Links Links are just what you would expect. You can add Links to WordPress, all of which will be compiled into a list and displayed via the sidebar; an area reserved for such items as recent Posts, Categories etc.
Media If you have any pictures, photographs or videos you’d like to upload and display on your website, here’s where you start. Media is a powerful library that allows you to sort and organize all of your media files, allowing you store them by date, and to see which Pages and Posts they’ve been used in.
Adding a Post or Page The steps below describe how to create a post. I have highlighted where the options differ between Posts and Pages. 1. In the Posts or Pages sub-menu, click the “Add New” button. 2. Add an appropriate title (excluding any unusual punctuation marks (see below). 3. Add the body of the Post or Page to the larger text field beneath, again excluding any unusual punctuation marks. 4. Add a short paragraph of text into the Excerpt field (typically an introductory section) — this applies to Posts only. 5. On the right-hand side, add your Tags (if required) and choose your Categories from the list — this applies to Posts only. 6. If you wish to schedule a Post, choose a publishing date by clicking the “Edit” button next to “Publish immediately” in the Publish pane in the top right. 7. If the Post or Page is incomplete, in the Publish pane, click the “Save Draft” button. 8. If the Post or Page is complete, in the Publish pane, click the “Publish” button. Advice — Do not copy and paste from Microsoft Word if you’re using “Smart Quotes”. If you do, you will find unusual characters present in the Post or Page, once published or previewed. To avoid this, be sure to save as a Draft first and then preview by clicking on the “Preview” button. Always ensure your Post or Page is displaying correctly before you publish.
Adding an excerpt By default, WordPress displays the most recent list of Posts on the front page of your blog, in the form of a list showing the title, a small snippet of text from the Post itself and any Tags and Categories.
However, the snippet of text WordPress selects is from the very beginning of the Post, which is cut off after a certain number of characters. If this isn’t ideal for your blog, you do have another option. In the Edit page, you’ll see a panel called Excerpt, and in there, you can add which ever portion of text you feel best represents the Post. You can take the text from anywhere in your Post, or write
something totally unique.
Formatting problems and strange characters Imagine you’ve given your Post or Page a title like: “Nikon Coolpix P5100 Digital: best ‘prosumer’ camera?” First of all, we have four different characters: a colon, a left and right single quote and a question mark. WordPress will omit these characters from the final web page URL (or Permalink, to use WordPress parlance). Also, any spaces are replaced with dashes, and all words are demoted to lower case. Your final Permalink should look something like: http://www.yourwebsite.com/2009/11/nikon-coolpix-p5100-digital-best-prosumer-camera/
But why does WordPress remove these characters? Because they’re not allowed in URLs, especially the question mark, which has special meaning. Now imagine a Post or Page with a title like: “Nikon Coolpix P5100 Digital — a review”. Notice the em dash, the long horizontal line after Digital? In our Permalink, that would be rendered (interpreted) as the special character: &#8212. This odd looking code is how punctuation and accented characters are managed on the web — each accented character and symbol is given its very own unique code. Within a web page, this is perfectly fine. However, when they turn up in a URL, that’s when the trouble starts. So your final Permalink would look something like: http://www.yourwebsite.com/2009/11/nikon-coolpix-p5100-digital-&#8212-a-review/
Not optimal. This is why you should always save your Posts and Pages first, then review the Permalink, which is displayed under the title.
If you spot unusual characters, you can remove them: 1. In the Permalink URL area, simply click the area marked in yellow, or click the “Edit” button. 2. Either remove or change the strange character. 3. Click the “Save” button. 4. Click the “Save Draft” or “Publish” button. However, I would advise using some caution — if you’re unsure, ask someone else with more experience in these matters. A simple rule is that wherever there should be a space between two words, use the “-” (dash character, without the double quotes) instead. Under normal circumstances, WordPress will do this for you, but in the case of strange character encodings, you might see something different.
Editing a Post or Page The true power of any content management system lies in the editing options. Here is where you get to control the content of all your Posts and Pages. 1. In the Post or Page sub-menu, click the “Edit” button. 2. From the resulting list, click the title of the Post or Page in question. 3. Make your edits. 4. If the Post or Page is incomplete, in the Publish pane, click the “Save Draft” button. 5. If the Post or Page is complete, in the Publish pane, click the “Publish” button. Alternatively, you may use the “Quick Edit” option to edit the title, the Permalink, select Categories and add / edit Tags from the Dashboard.
Adding images and video WordPress allows you to place a variety of media types into your Pages and Posts, including images and video — watch the YouTube video tutorial for this right now » 1. Either add or edit a Post or Page. 2. Within the main text area, choose the paragraph of text where you’d like the image or video to appear and click at the beginning of the first line of that paragraph to place the text cursor. 3. Above the tool bar, to the right of the “Upload/Insert” title, click on the first grey button to insert an image or click on the second grey button to insert a video. 4. From the panel that appears, click the “Media Library” tab button. 5. From the resulting list, click on the “Show” button for the image or video item you wish to insert. 6. Choose the desired alignment for the image. 7. Click the “Insert into Post” button. You can edit the attributes of a media item at any time. Those attributes include the text label that appears when someone rolls their mouse over the picture, as well as the alignment options (left, right etc). 1. Click on the media item. 2. Two small icons will appear within the media item itself. Click the “Edit” button. 3. Make the necessary alterations to the item attributes and then click the “Update” button.
Discussion options WordPress is about empowering you to create a conversation with your clients. It’s entirely your choice whether to allow comments to be made on your Pages and / or Posts, but I would suggest allowing comments to be made on your Posts, if nothing else. Fortunately, you have the option to enable comments on a per-Page / per-Post basis. As I’ll be explaining later, comments are your way of connecting with the visitors to your website. But you might not want comments on every Post and every Page. Personally, I enable comments on Posts, but not Pages. Why? Because, more often than not, I use Pages for products and services, which aren’t written in a conversational style, are mostly for static information, rather than being for things like news updates, client case studies and how-to guides, which you expect to see in Posts, which are more about the conversation. 1. Choose your Page or Post to edit and click on the “Edit” button, or click the title itself. 2. Scroll down to the “Discussions” panel. 3. If it’s not already selected, check the “Allow comments on this post” checkbox. 4. Make sure the “Allow trackbacks and pingbacks on this post” checkbox is selected.
Basically, pingbacks and trackbacks are the same kind of thing — they’re a request notification when somebody links to one of Posts, which you’ll see in the list of comments for that Post.
Re-arranging your panels When creating or editing a Post or Page, you can re-arrange the layout of the panels by dragging their title bars in a similar fashion to that described for the Dashboard. In some circumstances, certain Plugins add their own panels into the editing page, such as the All In One SEO Pack.
Settings WordPress has, as you can well imagine by this stage, many different options. Some are best left as their default settings, while others need some attention. Fortunately, many are self-explanatory, and often accompanied by guidance notes. To access these options, click on the Settings button in the left-hand navigation. By default, Settings opens up the General Settings window, where you get to configure many of the most immediate options specific to WordPress. Rather than go through each and every aspect of Settings, I’ll instead deal with those aspects I feel offer the most impact and are generally of greater importance to the functioning of WordPress.
Discussions If the static, monolithic corporate website was a species, it would be on the endangered list. Today, the emphasis is on building communities and fostering discussions around you, your products / services, and your customers and clients. That’s where comments come into their own. But there’s so much more you can do with WordPress — you can enable “threaded (nested) comments”, which allows your visitors to reply to other comments, rather than all of the comments appearing in a long continuous list. This nurtures the conversation, moving people from simply commenting in response to your Post or Page, to responding to the comments of others. However, there will be those times when people are using the kind of language you’d prefer them not to. Fortunately, you can use the “Comment Blacklist” option, to prevent certain words appearing in comments. In addition to this, it’s wise to ensure that the: “A comment is held for moderation” option is selected. This will provide you with notification that a comment has been made, and the option to approve it – allowing it to be published – or delete it.
Privacy By default, your copy of WordPress is hidden from the search engines and their prying eyes. Once you select the option called: “I would like my blog to be visible to everyone, including search engines (like Google, Sphere, Technorati) and archivers”, you will open for business. However, if you’re just playing around and don’t intend people to see your WordPress installation, leave this option set to: “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors”.
Permalinks As mentioned previously, Permalinks are the URLs that relate to your Posts and Pages. WordPress offers several different ways of representing a URL and some are better than others. Do not leave Permalinks on the default setting. Why? Because each Post and Page is simplistically referred to by nothing more than a sequential number. As an identifying attribute, such a URL confers absolutely nothing. Instead, select either the day and name, or the month and name. Remember what I said about making your Posts and Pages search engine friendly, by adding words relevant to your products and / or services? Well, that doesn’t just apply to your writing — it also applies to the name of the file itself. Search engines want to see a file name that contains words similar to or the same as those found in the copy of the article itself. So if you have a Post with the title: “Nikon Coolpix P5100 Digital: best ‘prosumer’ camera?”, your final Permalink should look something like: http://www.yourwebsite.com/2009/11/nikon-coolpix-p5100-digital-best-prosumer-camera/
By finding these groupings of key words and phrases (file name, article headline, titles and body copy), the search engines add weight to the relevance of your article because of its extra specificity, which in turn increases the chances of your articles being found by someone searching for your products or services.
Getting the most out of WordPress
As you will now appreciate, WordPress is very adaptable and versatile. But aside from all of the Plugins, themes and potential for including custom features, there’s still more you can do to make it your own and get it to earn its keep.
Making the most of social media and social networking On its own, WordPress isn’t going to pull in the crowds and suddenly attract huge swathes of people. Like any other aspect of marketing, a website needs to be a part of a coordinated long-term strategy. That’s beyond the scope of this document, but what we can do is add in the right tools to make sure that when the crowds do eventually arrive, you’re prepared.
Sharing your Posts and Pages on social media and networking websites The social web is all about sharing what we find with like-minded people. WordPress makes that simple because of its versatility. I’m sure you’ve heard enough people talking about Facebook and Twitter. Well, these are common social networking websites, where people will post a link with a title and a few words, which their friends can then read and forward onto their friends, if they wish, and so on and so forth. It’s this sharing that is the backbone to the staggering popularity some articles have enjoyed, covering a wide range of topics, such as: how-to guides, technology coverage, scientific breakthroughs, movie rumours, gossip, politics etc. To facilitate all of this, it’s a common option is to add buttons for Facebook and Twitter into Posts, so that people can instantly share what they find. This might sound complicated, but it’s often as simple as installing a Plugin, which does all of the hard work for you. If you’re more familiar with social media websites like StumbleUpon or Digg, then there are similar options for these. I prefer to use a service called FeedBurner, which you may recall the name of from the earlier discussion about Plugins. FeedBurner has a tool called FeedFlare, which adds a strip of buttons
into the footer area of all your Posts (added as a line of code which you add into a specific web page in your theme, so some technical know-how is required in this case). Once in place, people simply click on a button to share your Posts on the social media website of choice. Assuming you’re using Google Analytics, you will be able to track and then measure all of the visits from those websites, where your articles are listed, back to your website.
Do you want to know more about social media? Then download my free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media.
Optimizing your website for the search engines By default, WordPress already includes some of the key elements to help make it optimized for the search engines, but aside from the mechanical optimizations (such as the All In One SEO Pack and the Google XML Sitemaps Plugins), there are things you can do, too.
SEO activities to enhance and optimize your website • Think of the search engines as being like a subscriber to a magazine; they want to see something new every week, so plan a writing schedule and keep to it. Perhaps you want to write once a day, or perhaps only once a week. Either way, it’s essential you’re writing something on a fairly regular basis. This regularity informs the search engines that your website is alive and well, and worthy of their attention. • When you begin writing your Posts and Pages, think about the words you want to use (such as words relating to your products and services, for example) and make sure those words — often referred to as “keywords” — are included. • The search engines like to see hierarchy within a web page, and titles offer this by way of the various header options (header styles 1-4, for example), so use titles where appropriate — using the header styles and not the bold option — and ensure they’re both descriptive and include your keywords. • Once a Page or Post has been written, its usefulness can be enhanced further by linking to it from new Pages and Posts. Let’s say you’re writing a Post about buying a house abroad, you may have previously written a Page about the pros and cons of buying and letting. Here’s a perfect opportunity to link the two. In doing so, you’re helping the reader, keeping them informed, and you’re also indicating to the search engines that something you wrote previously is still relevant, enhancing its value.
Essentially, there are two types of SEO: 1. Mechanical SEO is within the code itself 2. Written SEO is contained within the Posts and Pages you and your team write. As you can see, this isn’t the realm of science or high technology, it’s a question of common sense, best practice and professionalism.
Extending your WordPress website So we’ve seen that it’s possible — what with Plugins and custom programming — to turn a WordPress-powered website into a hybridized Jack-of-all-trades, so long as you know what you want and you have the right people at hand.
Here are some ideas for you to consider • An ecommerce website — For the beginner, PayPal is now a mature and trusted method of payment and WordPress is fortunate to have a host of ecommerce Plugins that make selling over the web very cost-effective and simple. • An internationalized, multilingual website — Although WordPress supports many different languages, that doesn’t mean to say it supports Pages and Posts being written in multiple languages. To do that, we need a specialized Plugin like qTranslate, which allows you to add different languages to WordPress. • A community — If your business is people, then enabling those people is most likely high on your list of priorities. So let’s imagine you’re helping local businesses get onto the web and establish a presence for the first time, with their own blog. Here’s where you create a network of blogs, using WordPress Mu, the multi-user version of WordPress, which allows you to manage many blogs, all from one version of WordPress. • A forum — Let’s say you offer local business support and you want to offer all of your members the chance to meet up on-line. A forum is the perfect place to start, which is why the makers of WordPress created bbPress, their very own forum software that links into WordPress. • A photography blog — What with the upsurge in camera phones, photography is arguably more popular than ever. Integrating your WordPress blog with photo services like Flickr and Photobucket is relatively simple and allows you to share or perhaps even sell your photos.
We’ve covered a lot of ground here, and I hope that the explanations provided haven’t proved too technical or complicated. If you have yet to try out WordPress, download it right now, or get one of your IT people to do that for you. If you’re totally new to it, I recommend installing WordPress somewhere safe and out of the way of the public gaze so that you can just play around with it and get used its features and foibles. You’re bound to make some mistakes, but it’s far better to do so on a test version, rather than the real thing, one that both current and prospective clients, as well as the general public would have access to. If you’d like to know more about how to get the most out of WordPress for your business, or perhaps you’d like more technical assistance, visit the Octane website and send me a message.
About the author and Octane My name is Wayne Smallman, and I’m the Managing Director and principle founder of Octane Interactive Limited, a web design & development and internet marketing consultancy started in June 1999. I sell ideas that change the way companies do business, usually in the form of novel web applications. More recently, I’ve been writing for a number of business publications, as well as pouring everything I know into Octane’s own blog, which is a great source of business help, tips and advice, all gleaned from my years in the design industry.
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