Now that you have created a site using WordPress, it’s not unusual to open up the dashboard for the first time, and sit there thinking “Now what do I do?”. The greatest advantage of developing with WordPress can also be your Achilles’ heel. Sure you can edit your site at will, but for people who aren’t familiar yet with all the tools available to them, knowing what to do and how to do it can feel a little overwhelming at first. Hopefully, this will help you not only with the theory of how to keep your site fresh, but also with the nuts and bolts of editing your site as well.
First and foremost, a web site is powered mainly by great content. A web site exists to inform the user about something, whether it be the different products or services a business offers or expert advice. So the most important thing about running a WordPress-powered site is knowing how to add content in a way that makes sense and is an efficient use of a site owner’s time.
Step 1: Page or Post – What kind of content is it?
In the beginning, WordPress was developed as a blogging platform. People logged into a “dashboard” and created “posts” which were then displayed on the site in the order that they were created. There was an archiving system that grouped posts by 1) Publish date and 2) Category they were assigned. Then, a separate system was developed as part of WordPress that enabled people to create “pages”. Pages are a way for a site to have content that is always in the same location in the site’s navigation. That way, people who were looking for information about your site quickly, could always find it in the same place instead of having to hunt through the archives.
So how do you know which content should be a “post” and which should be a “page”? There is no definite rule, but the advice I give people is that “posts” should be considered like a press release that you would send out about an event, or a sale, or some item of news about your business or subject, and “pages” are like a brochure that gives a reader more “static” information such as hours of operation, mission statement, location etc.
Step 2: Getting the writing done.
Everyone has a writing process; a way of creating that they are comfortable with and helps them think things through. Lucky for me, I just open my site’s dashboard, select either Post > Add New or Page > Add New and start typing away. Other folks need to write it out long-hand and then edit from there. A lot of clients I’ve worked with are so used to creating content in Microsoft Word that they find their words flow better by opening a new document and going from there. All very valid approaches, but trying to “pour” the content into the dashboard editing window and end up with the correct result is reliant on a few simple practices.
Write Early, Write Often.
Put up a post about your business’s upcoming event, new client or special sale as soon as possible. And keep your audience informed about things as much as possible. You don’t need to post new content every five minutes, but you will find that if you keep up a pace that works for your audience, they will remain loyal and even bring in more readers. Pages don’t require as much upkeep, but it’s always a good idea to give your site’s pages a quick read-through every few months. That way, you can see it with a fairly fresh eye and decide what needs tweaking.
You’ve Got Competition, Make It Interesting.
Since a picture can say a thousand words, let that work for you. There are quite a few decent online stock image resources that can really keep a reader glued to your content.
Step 3: How To Create A Post
Think of the 6 tenets of journalism; Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Write the specifics down on paper if it helps. Then, go to your site’s sign-in page (http://yoursitesname.com/wp-login.php) and go to Posts> Add New. You will see a page that looks like the picture below:
The first step is to create a title. Keep if brief, and try to use words that people are likely to use in a search for similar content. For instance, if your post is going to be about an upcoming sale your business is having on lawn furniture, you could title it: Lawn Furniture on Sale During September!
Now it’s time to start creating the body of your content. Take a look at the top of the editing panel:
The 3 areas circled above are key to creating a post or page. From the left, there is the Upload/Insert media panel, the “Kitchen Sink” toggle button and the “Visual” or “HTML” selection. It’s a good idea to view a post or page you want to edit in HTML mode before you start to work. Sometimes there may be code that you don’t want to type over by accident that’s only visible when you look at the HTML of your content. If you click on the button in the far right of the toolbar, you will see the extra editing choices available in “Visual” mode.
To read a more detailed account of what the various buttons at the top of the editing window can do, check out: How To Use WordPress Part 1.
Tip: If you want to see what your content will look like “live” on the web, you can click “Preview” either in the top right corner of the edit window in the “Publish” panel, or next to the update notice that will appear above your title after you have saved your draft.
Step 4: Making Your Post Easy To Find
Posts are different from Pages not only in what they contain, but how they are organized on your site. They are automatically displayed in chronological order on the page designated as your Posts page (Settings > Reading). However, you don’t want your readers to have to hunt through your posts month by month to find something. This is where Categories and Post Tags come into play.
Categories are what I like to think of as the Big Topic labels for your Posts. Think of going into a library and having to look for a book about the Civil War. You know that you need to look in the History Section (Category) under American History (an example of a sub-category). If the library is well-organized into categories and sub-categories, you probably don’t even need to go through a card catalog right?
Try to come up with a system for creating categories before you put up too much content. If people find your posts easy to find, they’ll keep coming back for more!
Whenever you write a post, one of the last steps before hitting “Publish” is to either select a relevant category(s) from a list of the ones you have already created, or, to create a new one by clicking “+ Add New Category” and saving it. Once you have added a Category, your new post is automatically assigned to it. Categories can also have a hierarchy so you could have a Post entitled “Musings on the Battle of Bull Run” under both History, American History and Civil War history. Then, if a reader wants to find Posts specifically about the Civil War, they can select from the Civil War category or if they want to find all the Posts about history, they can select History.
Tags are an even more detailed way to organize your Posts by “tagging” them with keywords. To continue the analogy of a library, you can have very specific topics within the category of the Civil War such as “Bull Run”, “Manassas” and “Shiloh”. In order for readers to find posts that are about specific things, it’s always good to create a tagging system based on keywords that you think readers are likely to use to search for your content. I am always a big fan of the Tag Cloud, a widget (sidebar feature) that displays your Tags in a cluster of words sized according to how often a Tag is used. For example, I do a lot of writing about WordPress for this site, so the tag “WordPress” is featured in big letters in the tag cloud you see to the right of this post. If you can’t remember if you have used a particular tag before, you can always click on “Choose from the most used tags” to see.
Step 5: Creating and Editing Pages
Pages differ from Posts in a few basic ways: 1) They stay in the same “location” of your site as components of your site’s navigation bar (such as the one running across the top of this page). 2) They can be organized into Parent Pages (for example: About) and then Child Pages (such as About Jenn). 3) Pages do not have Categories or Tags assigned to them.
To create a new Page, you simply go to the left toolbar of the Dashboard and select Pages > Add New. The editing window that appears is basically the same as the one for Posts so no need to go into too much detail here.
To edit an existing page, you can access it a couple of ways. If you are logged into the site, you can see a small link on each Post or Page called “edit” (when you are looking at the site itself). Click on “edit” and you can go immediately to the edit window for that page. For my clients’ sites, I usually use a plugin called “Dropdown Page Manager” that installs a list of all a site’s published pages under the Page section of the toolbar. Then it’s just a matter of clicking on the title of the page you would like to edit.
However, if you don’t have that plugin installed or, you want to work on the draft of a page you began in an earlier session, click on “Pages” at the top and you will see a list of all your site’s pages, including drafts. You can either click on the title of the page to open it up, or you can click the Edit link that you see when you hover over the title.
Quick-Edit is another feature that pops up when you hover over the Page title (or Post for that matter) and it can be useful when you want to change certain things about the content. Clicking the words Quick Edit will open a small window directly on the same page where you can change the title of the Page, its place in the Page hierarchy (for example, selecting a Parent page so the page will now appear in the navigation’s dropdown selections) and other features as well.
You could change the template a page has assigned, if you have other ones available, whether to allow readers to comment on what you have written, the status to Draft, Pending Review or Published and even the date something was published (handy for when you don’t one one post appearing before another chronologically). Password or Private is used for content that you may only want to be accessible for people with the right credentials.
Coming soon: Part 2: Images.