The Beginner's Guide to WordPress 2013 - Part 1

By on May 2, 2016 in How To
The Beginner's Guide to WordPress 2013 - Part 1

Starting a blog is easier than you think, and using WordPress as your CMS system makes updating your blog with a constant stream of awesomeness a fun and easy process. Whether you're just starting out, or using WordPress for the first time, there are a few things you may want to know about WordPress before you get started. We've compiled this handy guide to help you get started with WordPress this year and start busting out some awesome content. As there are so many different aspects to getting started with WordPress and we want to provide you with a complete guide, this is going to be Part 1 in a multi-part series to help you get started with WordPress in its entirety. This post will cover the following topics:

An introduction to blogs and blogging

In its most basic form, a blog is a continuous online chronicle of information in a diary or journal-type format. Individuals, companies, and groups can all have blogs that recount their personal opinions, link to outside sources, and provide a place for discussion on a variety of topics. In all honesty, it's pretty difficult to describe what makes a blog a blog these days because there are so many different styles and types of blogs.

Blogs across the internet vary in their focus, and you'll find everything from political blogs to graphic design blogs to personal journals on various websites. In a sense, blogging is a tool for making your private thoughts public and accessible to the billions of people on the internet. It's a way of making a personal connection to people you wouldn't normally get to talk to, in (hopefully) a useful and informative way. Some blogs are organized by an array of images, others in a list type format, while many provide long form content. It's all about creating a blog that provides information to your targeted audience in a way they can best comprehend and digest.

What is a blog?

A blog may cover a wide variety of topics, but usually individual posts tend to focus on a single subject. You can think of a blog like an online magazine article that aims are providing you with information about something, attempting to sway your opinion, and/or entertain you.

Components of a blog

A typical blog will usually have similar components besides the main concept area for posts. Usually you will find the following elements in a blog:

  • Comments: An area where people can make commentary on the article that has been posted, offer their opinions, suggestions or advice. Not every blog has comments and you can disable comments, but they are a good way of getting useful feedback. In addition, you can monitor all of your comments and only approve appropriate ones.
  • Archives: A list or section that provides access to past blog posts arranged chronologically or into categories.
  • Social sharing: Most blogs have defined areas on each of their posts that provide links to share posts socially via platforms like Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and others. Social sharing buttons and widgets are designed to help more people gain exposure to posts you've written and hopefully help your content go viral.
  • Categories: Every blog should have categories to separate parts of the blog into types to help people know what they're readying about or find other related content on a topic.
  • Content/Body: The body of a blog is mainly text that provides information, lists, or other text/written content for your readers.
  • Tags: Tags are basically words that reference the type of content in the body of each post. Geared toward search engines and people looking to find certain types of content.
  • Publication date: Typical blogs feature the publication date for each post in the upper corner of the post to let readers know it's fresh and new content.

Characteristics of a Successful Blog

One of the main reasons people have a blog is so their content can reach a large audience. You want to create awesome content that is highly shareable, engages your audience, and get's people to believe you're a trusted authority on a topic. Since this post is a Beginner's Guide to WordPress, I've not going to delve into the characteristics of creating a successful and highly shareable post (however, I will do this in a future post) but I will touch on the basics of creating an awesome post.

Tips for Creating a Successful Blog:

  • Focus on one topic: Build a brand around yourself, and become a trustworthy source on one type of information. Create a fitness, foodie, design, or personal blog and stay on topic. Once you've gained a large follower base feel free to branch out.
  • Get involved in social channels: Start using Twitter, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and Facebook. These tools can help you get your blog off the ground and open up your posts to a larger audience.
  • Incorporate an about page: Let people know who you are, why you're writing, and a little bit about yourself. People like to know who they are learning information from. In addition, provide some way of people to get into contact with you if they have tips, suggestions, or advice.
  • Learn about SEO: SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is how search engines like Google determine what articles and pages on the internet show up in search results. Having your post optimized for SEO helps people find your content when they plug in certain search terms. For some more resources to help you optimize your blog for SEO check out these resources: 8 Essentials When Optimizing Your Site for SEO, the Beginner's Guide to SEO, Why Search Engine Marketing is Necessary, and Blogging for SEO.
  • Understand what makes a great blog post: A great blog post provides valuable information in an easily digestible manner. Your audience has to be able to see and understand what will engage your readers and not give them too much information overload. Here are some articles you may find useful to help you create stellar posts: 5 Critical Components of a Blog Post, How to Write a Great Blog Post Your Readers Will Respond To, and Components of High Quality Blog Posts.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a CMS, or Content Management System, that allows you create any kind of website and customize it to suit your needs. A CMS like WordPress allows you to easily update your blog, change the design, manage settings, and keep everything in an organized place. WordPress is a blogging tool with a variety of features that help you manage everything from the images you incorporate into your posts to the comments and appearance of your site.

WordPress.com vs. Wordpress.org

WordPress.com

  • Free Hosting: You can have free hosting for your WordPress.com site, but the domain name will contain .wordpress.com, for example http://www.yourdomain.wordpress.com. If you choose you can purchase a domain name through them at a price to remove the .wordpress.com
  • Themes: A multitude of free themes and then some available for purchase, but all through the WordPress.com system you cannot purchase themes from other sites.

WordPress.org

  • Paid Hosting: You're going to need to find your own host and your own domain to operate a WordPress.org site.
  • Themes: You can install custom themes from third-party site, build your own PHP and CSS.

When should you choose a WP.com versus WP.org site? Well, if you want full control over the code of your site, you want to have it self hosted with lots of space, and endless edit options then you should probably consider WP.org. If you're just looking for a basic blog that you don't feel like you need to add a lot of customization to WordPress.com might just be the right fit. For a complete guide to the difference between WP.com and WP.org please check out this resource.

Key WordPress words and terms

Categories: A way of sorting posts into types. For example if you blog had posts about a variety of topics the best way to organize your posts is to separate them based on their theme or idea. Categories can be anything like cooking, personal, lifestyle, business, SEO, design, inspiration, random thoughts, or whatever you're writing about. That way if a person wanted to see all the posts you've put up related to design, they could easily search through and find what they were looking for.

HTML: A web language that helps determine the structure and layout of all your pages and posts. It's important to have a basic understanding of HTML to help you make your website look and feel just the way you want it. Need help learning more about HTML? Check out these resources: HTML basics and HTML beginner tutorial.

Pages: A page is a static page where the content doesn't change. Pages are the perfect place to put information about yourself, contact information, or any other general information that doesn't need to change.

Pingback: Simply, a notification that someone has linked to one of your posts or pages.

Plugin: A plugin is code that adds functionality to WordPress, for example you can have a plugin that allows for special social sharing, or embedding your Instagram images in your sidebar.

Posts: Posts are normally what are featured on your homepage. These are entries you make on your blog daily, weekly, hourly or whatever you want.

Tags: Although similar to categories, tags are less structured and aimed at pointing to the content and topics mentioned in each post. For example if you did a post called The Perfect Blueberry Crumble Bar Recipe, that would be in the Cooking category with tags like: baking, blueberries, fruit, recipes.

Sidebar: A section of the website (typically on the right or left side, but that depends on the theme) that typically appears on all pages. A great place to put widgets (see below)

Widgets: Most themes have a side bar area. This side bar can have a series of 'widgets' or add ons that increase the functionality of your site. For example you could have a widget that allows your audience to view your post archive, sign up for your blog, or share your posts on social channels.

WYSIWIG / Visual Editor: This is the dashboard where you can edit what the look and feel of your text as opposed to looking at html. This is incredibly helpful if you're just starting out blogging and don't have a vast amount of HTML knowledge.

First steps with WordPress

Logging In

If you're using your own self-hosted WordPress site you'll need to log in to the administrative area or back-end of your site. This usually looks something like http://www.domain-name.com/wp-admin. The form will look like that depicted below:

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Dashboard

Once you've logged into your WordPress account, you'll be directed to the dashboard. This area shows any recent comments on your blog, allows you to quickly post something on your blog, add post ideas into a queue, view incoming links and more.

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 10.54.06 AMPin ItThe dashboard for WordPress is designed to help you keep everything in one place and know what's going on with your site, or easily submit a post or idea.

Take a look around admin

The first thing you're going to want to do is take a look around the admin panel. On the left hand side of the dashboard, you'll see a series of navigation items.

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Menu items:

  • Dashboard: The dashboard is where you can see a general overview of your blog. You'll see the latest comments and links to your site, as well as have the ability to write down post idea and submit new posts. Need some more help getting to know your WP dashboard? Check out the WP guide to all the tools in Dashboard.
  • Posts: This area of the navigation panel allows you to add a new post, along with modifying categories and tags for posts. The posts section is where you will do the majority of the work on your blog. It's where you get to craft awesome and engaging posts.
  • Media: The media tab allows you to view any media (music, images, videos) that you've added to posts. You can view all the images in your media library and edit any of the text, alternate text, links and more in this panel.
  • Links: Here you can look all the links you've added to your blog, make edits and manage them.
  • Pages: Pages are separate from posts. Pages allow you to showcase static information somewhere on your site - for example an "About Me Page" or a "Contact Page" where the information doesn't change. This tab allows you to add new pages and manage existing ones.
  • Comments: This tab allows you to monitor all comments being posted on your blog, you can filter comments out as spam, delete comments, and approve comments for your blog.
  • Appearance: The appearance tab is one that we will go over more in depth later in this post, this tab allows you to customize the look and feel of your blog. Here you can edit everything from the theme of your blog to the header and footer.
  • Plugins: Plugins are features that you can add to your blog that don't come standard with WordPress or the theme you've chosen to use. Here you can discover and install new plugins, and delete or de-activate ones in use.
  • Users: This section allows you to manage everyone who can log in and post on your blog, identify administrators, see who subscribes to your blog, and more.
  • Tools: The tools section allows you to import or export your content (say if you had a previous blog, or you wanted to back up old content), look at post ideas, and more.
  • Settings: This area is basically a variety of things to help you manage the basics of your site such as your time zone, format of the writing sections, and basic feature modification.

WordPress themes

What is a theme?

A theme is the look and appearance of your site, it's what controls the functionality and feel of all of the elements of your site. Different themes have different dynamics such as columns, headers, footers, and more.

Basics

If you're using a WordPress.com site hosted under their domain, you cannot purchase and use themes bought from other sites. If you want to buy and use a premium WordPress theme you're going to need these three things:

  • Your Own Web Host
  • Domain Name
  • WordPress Installed: Many hosting sites have specific plans and options for WordPress type sites. In these cases WordPress should be part of the package when you set up your site with them. Otherwise, you're going to need to download WordPress, which you can do so by clicking the link here and following the instructions. If you need help with the installation process, WordPress has this handy guide to help you.

What should I look for in a WordPress theme?

You're going to want to find a WordPress theme that suits your own personality and style, while having the functionality you are going to need.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Theme:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What message are you trying to send?
  • What are features/options you need in your theme?
  • What sort of style are you going for?
  • Do you need any special customization or unique features?

Once you've answered these questions, take a look at this blog post: 4 Must Have Features in a WordPress theme, to help you better understand certain features of WordPress themes that can help you really pick the best theme possible.

Finding a WordPress theme

Once you've determined all of the features you need in your new WordPress theme, you're going to actually need to find an awesome theme and lucky you...you've landed in the right place. Creative Market has a multitude of WordPress themes perfect for everything from blogs to businesses to portfolios to online stores.

WordPress Themes for Blogs

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 WordPress Themes for Online Stores

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WordPress Themes for Portfolios

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WordPress Themes for Businesses

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Installing a WordPress theme

We've put together a guide to help you install the new theme you've purchased without hassle. Click here to read the article.

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We hope you've found the first part of this series on getting started with WordPress helpful, and we are excited to bring you more tools and resources in upcoming posts.

 

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