While it can be daunting, creating a blog with WordPress is actually pretty painless. While it may take a few minutes to set up, once you begin using WordPress you will find yourself comfortable with the user interface and ready to become the next big blogger! In this WordPress tutorial for beginners, we will cover all of the basics of the WordPress CMS, how to set it up on your hosted server, and how to navigate through the user interface. Read this article closely, and we promise you’ll be learning WordPress in no time!
PART 1: WORDPRESS INSTALLATION
The installation of WordPress is probably the hardest part with creating your new blog. This step is also the one that will vary the most depending on what hosting you are using. There are multiple paths you can take with installing WordPress:
WordPress Installation Option 1: Create a free WordPress blog onWordPress.com
WordPress.com offers free hosting and an automatic setup of your very own blog, all in the click of a button. If you aren’t too tech savvy, then this might be the best option for you. You will be given a free WordPress.com sub domain, free hosting, and an automated blog setup. All the heavy lifting is done for you!
While this is the easiest option, it is not always the best. WordPress.com strips some of the functionality of your WordPress setup, disabling plugins, custom templates, and limits what you can do with your blog. It is because of this functionality that we recommend you set up your own WordPress blog on your own server, as this will come in handy down the road. However, if you are just testing the waters of the blogging world, then this step will be fine for you. Just be aware of the limitations that you will face as you gain experience with the platform.
WordPress Installation Option 2: One-Click WordPress Install (Only available with select hosts)
If your hosting offers a One-Click Install Script, then once again, all of the work will be done for you. In my experience, the following hosts have offered me One-Click Installs of just about any CMS that is still in active development:
- HostGator.com – Very Affordable, but limited to one site on the cheapest plan.
- BlueHost.com – I haven’t used them before, but I have heard nothing but positive reviews.
- DreamHost.com – Offers a two-week free trial.
Of course, there are many other hosting options, and in this day and age, it is becoming more and more rare to find a host that doesn’t offer this one-click functionality. If your hosting provider includes this option on your cPanel, follow these steps to complete your WordPress installation:
- Log into your cPanel and scroll down to the Software/Services section. Look for an option that has something to do with “Installing” CMS platforms to your blog. On HostGator, this feature is called QuickInstall. On other hosting, it may be called “Softaculous” or something else. If your cPanel does not have any option relating to installing a CMS, then you cannot use the One-Click Installer. Scroll down to WordPress Installation Option #3 to learn how you can manually install WordPress.
- In the One-Click Installer, find WordPress from the menu of CMS platforms. You may be required to fill out a few text boxes pertaining to the name of your site, the admin username and password, and so on. Then, one all of the information is filled out, click install and the rest of the grunt work will be done for you!
- Navigate to your domain and log into your WordPress setup using the specified admin username and password from the last step. If you cannot find the log in for your website, then use this URL to reach the back-end log in screen: http://YourWebsite.com/wp-admin/
Now you’re ready to start posting and customizing your WordPress blog! Congrats!
WordPress Installation Option 3: Manually Installing WordPress
If your hosting provider does not offer a One-Click Install Script on your cPanel, then you will have to install WordPress manually. This step can be a little bit daunting, but we promise to hold your hand through the entire process. Let’s begin.
- Grab a copy of the latest version of WordPress from WordPress.org. Clicking the big blue download button on the homepage will download a .zip file containing the necessary files to make WordPress run.
- Extract the “WordPress” folder to your desktop or another folder. The “WordPress” folder should be located right inside the .zip file you just downloaded in the last step.
- Upload the contents of the “WordPress” folder to the root of your hosting file server. This can be done in a number of ways:
- FTP Upload – As a soon-to-be webmaster, you should probably familiarize yourself with FTP File Transfer. We won’t go super in-depth in this article about how to set up FTP, but stay tuned for a future article! We recommend that you use FileZilla while uploading the WordPress CMS. It is fast, fully featured, and best of all, completely free! When your FTP is set up, upload the files and folders inside of the previously extracted “WordPress” folder to the root of your hosting. You’ll want to make sure that these files are being uploaded to the “public_html/www” folder, so keep your eyes peeled. If no folder options with that name exist, you are good to go.
- cPanel File Manager – Every cPanel has its own File Manager. Go ahead and click on it, and make sure that “Web Root (public_html/www)” is selected when the File Manager Directory Selection is prompted. Once you’re in, you can start uploading the files and folders inside of the “WordPress” folder that was extracted in the last step.
Completing the WordPress Installation
Once all of the WordPress core files have been uploaded, navigate to your domain to complete the setup. The setup may ask for settings such as your SQL database. If it does and you have not yet created a database, follow these steps:
- In your cPanel, scroll down to the “Databases” section and click “MySQL Databases”. This will bring you to a new page where you can create a database.
- Under the “Create New Database” section, type a surname for your database and click the Create Database button.
- Take note of this database name! You will need it later.
With your database created, you should now have all of the information you need to finish the on-page instructions on the homepage of your blog. Just fill in the required text fields and you will be good to go!
PART 2: WORDPRESS BASICS
WordPress is incredibly easy to use, but all of the on-screen options can be confusing. Here are a few terms you should know in order to be able to effectively manage your site.
WordPress Tags and Categories
WordPress has two main systems of classification that you can use to organize your blog:
- Tags – Think of tags as keywords that classify each post. For example, say I wrote a post about “Xbox 360 Games”. In my tags, I could name each game that I listed in my post, and when a visitor clicked that tag, it would direct them to a page that listed all other posts with the same tag. This is useful for both classification and Search Engine Optimization purposes, so be sure to use tags!
- Categories – Categories are a more formal way of classifying your posts. Take my previous video game example. If I reviewed each game, I could classify that post in the “Reviews” category, and since these games were for the Xbox 360, I could also file my post in the “Xbox 360 Games” category.
Each post can have an unlimited number of tags and categories, so don’t be afraid to use them! Just a quick rule of thumb: Tags can be used for whatever terms you’d like, but for Categories, make sure that they aren’t made to file just one post. Categories should be used to classify many posts, while tags serve more as a keyword than anything.
Posts and Pages
WordPress allows you to maintain a blog as well as a website. Being able to distinguish Posts from Pages allows you to completely customize the way your site functions.
- Posts – Posts are essentially just single articles that can be classified with the use of tags and categories. This is where the meat of your content will go, or at least it should. You do not want to create a page for an article unless you plan on it being an entire section of your site.
- Pages – Pages are the opposite of posts. They serve as an individual page that has custom information pertaining to a specific function. For example, whereas a post would be an article, a page would be a Contact Us form, an About Us page, or an About the Author page. Additionally, with a little bit of HTML skill, you can create your own page templates to only display a list of articles with certain tags or categories. Pages can be extremely powerful in building a website, but they will usually require knowledge of HTML and PHP or the use of a plugin in order to fully customize the look and feel of the page itself.
If you have yet to fill out your blog options during the installation, then you want to take care of that before setting out on writing content. Under the settings tab in the admin interface, you will notice options such as General, Writing, Reading, and so forth.
- General – The General tab is where most of your site’s meta information is modified. In this tab, you can set your WordPress site’s title, tagline, domain name, email address, and time zone settings. All of these settings are crucial to first setting up your blog and allowing it to run properly, so be sure to fill out this information! This should be your first course of action after you install WordPress.
- Writing – The writing tab pertains to the default settings when writing a post. Configuring these settings allows for using WordPress more fluidly and with less initial set-up for each post. You can also configure WordPress to publish posts via Email in this tab.
- Reading – The Reading tab only contains a few options, but they are also very useful in controlling the design and flow of your Home Page and Posts. You can customize the posts that appear on your Home Page, optimize syndication feeds, and turn off Search Engine Indexing. We don’t know why you’d want to do that last option, but the option is always there if need be.
- Discussion – The Discussion tab allows you to modify how comments work on your WordPress blog. Extensive filters allow you to block out spam comments and control how the comments section of your posts looks.
- Media – The Media tab is often overlooked, and for good reason. WordPress usually knows what’s best, and so these settings should only be changed if you are a web developer looking to create your own template.
- Permalinks – The Permalinks tab is very important for Search Engine Optimization. If your post’s URL is something like http://MyBlog.com/?p=123, then Search Engines don’t know what to expect upon visiting the link. You should set the permalink structure of your WordPress blog to something that uses keywords and post titles for increased Search Engine Visibility. An example of an ideal Permalink structure is something along the lines of http://MyBlog.com/blog/top-10-Wordpress-hosts/. Notice how the post title and keywords are now visible.
Plugins are a great way to increase functionality in your WordPress blog. The best part? WordPress hosts a database of free and paid plugins. Just go to your plugins tab, select “Add New,” and you can search for whatever plugin you desire. Note: If you are using a free WordPress blog, you cannot use plugins.
Here are a few plugins we recommend to optimize your WordPress blog:
- WP Super Cache – WP Super Cache saves copies of your blog’s pages in order to speed up your site for visitors. In addition, the speed boost obtained from this plugin will make your WordPress blog more valuable in the eyes of search engines such as Google. Loading speeds are very important!
- Shareaholic – Every blogger wants visitors, and social media is a great way to obtain them. Shareaholic places customizable sharing buttons on your posts, effectively adding an extra source of potential traffic.
- Google Analytics – Being able to track where your visitors came from, what they are doing on your blog, and how they are leaving your blog are all crucial steps to being an effective blogger. You need search metrics, and Google Analytics provides them…in real time. Set up a Google Analytics account, generate a tracking code, and install the Google Analytics plugin with the provided tracking code to gain access to valuable search and behavior metrics.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – Search Engine Optimization is the name of the game in blogging. While you don’t necessarily need to target specific keywords, Yoast’s SEO plugin comes packed with other functionality. It can clean up your Permalinks, generate sitemaps for Google Webmaster Tools, and optimize the metadata tags on your blog to allow Google to easily index and classify your content. This plugin is a must-have.
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
If you are serious about blogging, you are going to need traffic, and lots of it. Luckily, search engines love WordPress blogs! Sign up for free Google Analytics and Webmaster tools accounts and they will love your blog even more!
Google Analytics provides real-time analytics of your blog’s visitors. This includes data on how the visitor found your blog, what they did on your blog, how long they stayed on your blog, and how they left your blog. Access to these metrics allow you to correct errors in your posts and verify what you are doing wrong/right while writing compelling content.
Google Webmaster Tools is a platform that allows you to submit your website to Google and control how it is displayed in search results. Google is highly unlikely to index your site for a long time if you do not manually submit it to Webmaster Tools, so be sure to sign up for an account and submit your blog. Additionally, if you have the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, you can submit your sitemap and Google will regularly visit your blog to check if there is new content.
We’ve covered WordPress Installation and the various functions and options of WordPress, but we still have a few miscellaneous tips to give you before releasing you into the blogging world.
WordPress Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is a critical part of running a successful blog. Without visitors, what good is writing content? As stated before, Google loves WordPress’s classification and permalink abilities, so why not take advantage of those abilities? Here are a few WordPress SEO pointers:
- Install the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin and modify the options to your liking. Yoast has included some extremely powerful tools to boost your Search Engine rankings, so why not take advantage? After all, the plugin is free.
- Use tags and categories. Google loves being able to determine what content goes where, and how each post relates to one another. By using categories and tags, you are essentially helping Google classify and rank your content!
- Submit your website to Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Yahoo.You want your blog to be visible to as many people as possible, so target the big three search engines for maximum visibility.
- Social Network. It’s that easy. Start discussions with readers and other bloggers. They will not only give you ideas for content, but they will also visit your WordPress blog, share your posts, and provide valuable insights on your content.
Free WordPress Templates and Themes
WPExplorer.com has a listing of tons of great themes and templates for WordPress. Take a look around their site and find one that you and your readers like. Remember: sometimes simplicity is the best option.
If you are using a free WordPress.com blog or do not want to manually install themes, both the free and official WordPress versions offer a built-in theme search that allows you to find templates with ease, so if you are not tech savvy, fret not! WordPress still has the built-in option to find themes. Just visit your admin panel, navigate to the Appearance tab, and click on Themes. This will list thumbnails for each installed theme, as well as display a blank thumbnail that redirects you to WordPress’s built-in theme search.
I hope you have found this article to be helpful. I have been working with WordPress blogs for over two years now, and trust me when I say it gets incredibly easy. Just take the time to explore the various options of WordPress and mess around with layout and content settings and you’ll be a pro in no time!
I wish you all the best on your new blog, and hope that you will reach out to me via comments if you have any problems, concerns, or would just like to say hello!
Until next time!