How to use WordPress: A rough beginners guide to the best CMS in the world
Would you like to learn how to use WordPress? Are you a complete beginner? Well then… this introductory guide is for you! This is just a quick post to cover the basics, and hopefully will provide a jump off point for people who would like to learn more.
Every client I have starts off with the same new questions when they “begin their WordPress journey”. This guide is therefore a collection of the most common questions of those who start using WordPress in order to create a website or create a blog.
Remember that if you have any questions or need professional support, send me an email and I would be happy to get back to you as soon as possible!
How to use WordPress: introduction to CMS
WordPress is a CMS (Content Management System), a tool that allows you to manage the contents of websites even without special coding skills, such as the knowledge of programming languages.
One of the strengths of WordPress is the constant release of updates: in fact, the developers are always working to ensure greater security, fix bugs, and to improve and expand the features.
Keeping your WordPress site up to date is very important! You need to update WordPress itself regularly, the installed theme and all of the installed plugins. With my websites I usually set everything up to “auto update”, but it is still important to “check in” now and again, to see if everything has updated properly.
The frequency of updates depends on when they are released by the developers of the various themes, plugins, and so on. When there are updates available, you can find them in your Dashboard > Updates.
Warning! Before making updates, always make sure you have a backup copy of your site, as updates may occasionally generate errors.
I do not see the Plugin menu in my dashboard, why?
Most likely you are using the .com version of WordPress (the version that does not require you to have a domain and hosting plan, but is very limited). To use the plugins, you will need to use the .org version of the platform instead.
The differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org concern the availability of features like these. In this post, I shall only talk about how to use WordPress in the .org version.
How can I see how many people visit my site?
The best tool to monitor traffic and interactions on your site is Google Analytics. It is a completely free tool that allows you to gather a lot of information about how users interact with your site.
I advise you to link your site to Google Analytics as soon as possible, as data can only be collected from the moment the tool is connected to the site.
How do I add images to posts?
WordPress uses a file archive (images, but also videos, audio tracks and other file types) called Media Library. Many WordPress beginners find the system of inserting images through the Library very simple and straightforward. If you are writing a post, go to the Add Media button located above the Visual Editor, i.e the box in which the contents are written.
Here, you can choose whether to select an image that is already in your Media Library, or to upload a new one from your PC.
Once you have selected the image, use the options visible on the right to format it (you can work on alignment, size, etc.).
A reminder! Make sure you images have been resized to a good size (ideally below 200k). If this image is too big, it will slow down the loading of your site. Resize your image through photoshop, paint or online with resizeimage.net
Is there a way to schedule posts in advance?
Absolutely! Managing a blog is a demanding job, and if you’re learning how to use WordPress you’ll have noticed that sometimes it might be very convenient to be able to write multiple posts at once and schedule their publication.
To schedule a post in advance, prepare the draft as usual. So instead of selecting “Publish”> “Immediately” on the right, choose a date in the future.
After scheduling the post, it will be published in the day and time you have selected.
How can I make money with my site?
This is the big one! Many users are interested in the monetization strategies of a WordPress site. There are so many different ways to make money online; one of the most important requirements is to have a certain volume of traffic. In fact, I wouldn’t even think about monetizing a site until you have built up a steady stream of traffic. As for real monetization strategies, the list is long and includes:
- sale of services,
- sale of products,
- promotion of other affiliate services / products
- membership programs,
and many others.
Do I have to back up my WordPress site?
Absolutely yes! It is essential that you have a backup of your site, to protect yourself from the possibility of losing your content in the eventuality that there are errors, hacker attacks or other technical problems. You will be astounded as to how many hackers will try and infiltrate your website on a daily basis. This is also why having a strong password is VITAL!
There are several ways to back up a WordPress site:
- manually, downloading files via FTP and the database from your cPanel, (for advance users)
- by subscribing to one of the backup services offered by hosting providers,
- using one of the many WordPress backup plugins, (I recommend WP All In One Import Export or Vaultpress)
- using a service like ManageWP
These are all valid options, but the important thing is that the method you decide to use allows you to restore your site in case the files and / or the database are lost or corrupted.
How can I change and / or customize the appearance of my site?
Now we get down to the bread and butter side of things. For WordPress beginners, themes are used to create the layout of the sites. There are thousands of themes, with many different styles.
My advice is to choose a theme that is as close as possible to the look you want to get, so as to minimize the amount of additional customizations.
In addition, the latest generation themes have many options to customize colors, fonts, etc. (when you get ready to choose a theme, I always suggest you try the demo so as to see the template “in action” and test its various features).
Another way to further customize the appearance of your site is through CSS. In this case, you will have to do a little coding, but do not be scared, CSS is easy enough to learn and apply. Why not download a free app on your phone to learn the basics! But make sure you create a “child theme” first however, or else all your changes may be removed at the next theme update!
As tempting as it may be, do try to avoid free themes. You get what you pay for in this world – and the free themes just don’t cut the mustard. I recommend “X” or “Divi”, two of the best wordpress themes out there.
How can I send a newsletter?
A newsletter is one of the most powerful tools to keep in touch with your users!
But how to use WordPress to manage your newsletters? Here are the two main methods:
You can rely on one of the many external newsletter services, such as MailChimp and GetResponse. Alternatively, you can use a WordPress plugin that sends the newsletter through your server space (for most users, however, it is easier to use one of the external services mentioned above). Among the best, MailPoet is worth checking out.
If I have a blog, how much and when should I write?
Good question! The answer: it depends. That is, it depends on your goals and why you have a blog in the first place.
A blog can in fact have different purposes, can be used to keep in touch with your readers, to improve the SEO of your site, or both.
Frequency is important in both cases. You want users to often have new content to read on a regular basis, and you want the search engines have new content to add to their indexes! A website which hasn’t had any new content for a while tends to look a little like a “Ghost town”, and Google promotes those sites which are updated regularly.
The “quantity” is instead more important from an SEO point of view. Google and other search engines prefer long and in-depth content. If you are interested in the SEO aspect (which I recommend you pay close attention to), it is ideal to publish content longer than a thousand words. Industry experts indicate 1600 words as the ideal length! But – make sure the content is GOOD CONTENT – SEO experts will always chime on about “good content”. It means content which serve a purpose for the reader, and keeps the reader on your website for a length of time, and also coming back for more on a regular basis.
How can I get more visits on my site?
First of all, remember to be patient. On the web, “quality” traffic, that of loyal users who follow you over time, grows gradually. A new website could take anywhere between 4 – 8 months to have an impact on Google! A new blog post can take 9 months to reach 90% of the traffic it will generate.
Here’s how to use WordPress to increase traffic on your site. First of all, you will have to combine various communication channels: I suggest you publish content regularly and share it on social media (very important!) And through a newsletter.
My second tip is to pay attention to the topics you deal with and to how you structure your editorial calendar. In fact, you want to propose a good mix of topics, so that users always find something interesting.
Another very effective way to increase traffic on your site is through guest blogging, which allows you to get to know users of other sites, who will hopefully link back to your site. Backlinks from quality websites in the same niche as your own are gold dust for Google ranking.
Finally, be sure to work on SEO, which helps you position your site high on search engines.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to WordPress, but hopefully it has been some use in explaining to complete beginners what WordPress is all about!