News Release: Blogging Video Available

Blogging Video Available: 12 Tips For Better WordPress Content Creation

Veteran Blogger Peter DeHaan’s WordCamp Grand Rapids Presentation Is Now Accessible Online

Peter DeHaan spoke at the recent WordCamp in Grand Rapids Michigan. Peter’s topic, “12 Tips For Better WordPress Content Creation,” is now available for online viewing at WordPress.tv. Other recordings from WordCamp Grand Rapids are also being added.

WordCamps are informal, community-organized events, put on by WordPress users for WordPress users, including everyone from the casual hobbyists to core developers. “This is my second year attending WordCamp Grand Rapids; it’s such a great event,” said Peter DeHaan. “This year, I had the privilege to be able to give back to the local WordPress community. WordCamp Grand Rapids is a well-run event with a great core team of organizers. Everyone there – both speakers and attendees – were so willing to share what they know and to help one another.”

Peter DeHaan has been a magazine publisher and editor for the past fifteen years, a blogger for the past seven, and a published writer for much longer. Peter’s editing, blogging, and writing skills made him an ideal person to talk about blogging on WordPress. “I have multiple blogs and have written over 1,500 posts,” added Peter. “I think I’ve made about every mistake a blogger can make, and I hope I helped other bloggers avoid repeating my missteps.”

Grand Rapids WordCamp is an annual event put on by area WordPress enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, with each year being bigger and better than the year before. For 2014, the event expanded to three days.

The direct link to download Peter DeHaan’s presentation is http://wordpress.tv/2014/11/05/peter-dehaan-12-tips-for-better-wordpress-content-creation/.

WordPress Primer: Seven Tips to Get Started Right and Minimize Confusion

On this blog, I recently posted a series on getting started using WordPress for your blog or website. In case you missed some of them, here are the seven posts:

  1. Using WordPress For Your Blog: Two Options to Consider
  2. Getting Started with WordPress
  3. What’s the Difference Between a WordPress Page and Post?
  4. What’s a WordPress Theme?
  5. What’s a Widget and Why Do I Want Them on My WordPress Blog?
  6. What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?
  7. Essential WordPress Plugins

Setting up a blog is just the first step; the next one is coming up with great content and presenting it in the best way possible. So, on my blog Byline, were I discuss writing, I just completed a series on blogging, where I shared ideas on how to best use a blog once it’s set up.

Happy blogging!

8 Essential WordPress Plugins

Part 6 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Today we’ll cover plugins.

In many ways a WordPress plugin is similar to a WordPress widget: both enhance the functionality of a blog or website. Though widgets are visible to readers, plugins generally work behind the scenes. If a widget is like a smartphone app, a plugin might be akin to a computer software program. Here are eight essential plugins. These, by the way, are all free (though some have a paid premium version):

Akismet: Protects blogs from comment and trackback spam. If you have comments and trackbacks turned off, you don’t need this plugin, otherwise it’s essential.

All in One SEO Pack: The plugin adds search engine optimization (SEO) options to your blog, allowing you to add a title tag and meta description and keywords. If you expect people to find your blog, you need a good SEO package. This is the one I use, but others are good, too.

Broken Link Checker: Broken links are a disservice to readers and are penalized by Google search. This link checker alerts you to broken and redirected links so you can fix them.

Google XML Sitemaps: You don’t need to understand sitemaps or even know what they are, but search engines expect you to have one. This plugin automatically adds an XML sitemap to your website.

Jetpack: Jetpack provides a slew of added functionality to WordPress, and it now comes with all new WordPress installations. You won’t need every feature, but some are indispensable. Just activate the ones you want, and leave the rest turned off.

Online Backup for WordPress: Your host company should backup your site and the WordPress export tool allows you to save all your posts, pages, and feedback, but you still need a complete backup of your entire website under your control. I like Online Backup for WordPress, since backups are a breeze. However, restoring files is not as easy.

Wordfence Security: In addition to providing needed security protection for your website, such as real-time blocking of attacks, a firewall, and the ability to scan for known malware, Wordfence Security also includes two caching options to speed up performance.

WP-Sweep: This plugin removes old and obsolete items from your WordPress database. The result is a reduced database size for quicker downloads, the need for less storage requirements, and a faster site. Some of the items it removes are post and page revisions, deleted, unapproved, and spam comments, and orphaned or duplicated information. It also optimizes database tables.

More: There are 38,000 other plugins to consider, but these are the ones I think are essential. Just as it’s unwise to become carried away with widgets, be careful to not overuse plugins. Only install what you need and completely remove any you don’t use.

If you are just getting started with plugins, install one and learn how to sue it. Then pick a second one and work through the list.

What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?

Part 5 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Categories and tags are confusing. They seem to do the same thing and offer similar results.

Category: A category is like a file cabinet drawer for your posts where you place related content. Categories are general groupings of broad topics. Our site (or blog) should have at least three categories (else, why bother) but no more than perhaps eight (else, it’s too hard to find things).

Each post needs one – and only one – category. Just as you wouldn’t try to put one piece of paper in two folders, don’t assign one post to two categories. (I understand using multiple categories for one post can mess up search engine optimization, and no one wants that.)

Last, never default to “uncategorized.” That’s just lazy and doesn’t help anyone.

Tag: Think of a tag as a cross reference tool. Tags can be a subset of a category (like a folder in a file cabinet), transcend categories (like an index), or both. Regardless, their purpose is to link related content. Every post needs at least one tag and can have more, but don’t go crazy. One or two is great, three is okay, but definitely stop at six.

In determining tags, consider reoccurring themes or words in your posts. Unlike categories, you don’t need to limit the number of tags you use, but do seek tags you will reuse. A tag used only once accomplishes nothing.

Also, a tag is not the same as a keyword. Keywords are used (or more correctly, were used) to indicate main topics within a post, whereas tags link related posts.

(In case you’re wondering, I wrote many posts on this blog before I understood the difference between tags and keywords, so I have many tags used only once; I will remove or consolidate them – when I have time.)

This blog has seven categories and 231 tags (though once I redo the tags, it will be closer to 50). This post is in the category of “Tips” and has three tags: “blogging,” SEO” and “WordPress.”

What’s a Widget and Why Do I Want Them on My WordPress Blog?

Part 4 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Last week we talked about WordPress themes. Today, the subject is widgets. If a theme is analogous to a cover or skin for a cell phone, then a widget corresponds to an app. Just as our smartphones don’t need apps, our websites and blogs don’t need widgets, but for both they increase functionality and usability.

On  the main blog page of this website, the widgets appear on the right side of the page. There are presently six widgets:

Text: In a text box you can put any text (or html code, such as a link). I use this text box for a mini “about me” section.

Subscribe: Many people, myself included, like to receive an email each time a post is added. This is an essential element for every blog.

RSS Feed: Other people use a blog reader, which requires a RSS feed. After email, it’s the second most common way people read blogs. If you don’t have one, you will lose audience. (You don’t need to understand how RSS works, just add the widget and WordPress does the rest.)

Topics: This lists categories of posts. Clicking one of the links will list posts on the subject.

Recent Posts: Shows my last five posts.

Post Archive: This pull down menu lists each month I posted something, along with the number of posts for that month.

There are, of course, many more widgets to choose from. Some come standard with WordPress and others are included with the JetPack plugin (more on plugins next week). Plus there are many, many more. But start with some basic ones and go from there.

There are a couple warnings about widgets. First, less is more, so don’t clutter your site with every possible widget. Second, certain widgets can slow down your site or conflict with other widgets or certain themes, so add widgets one at a time to evaluate the impact on your site.

What’s a WordPress Theme?

Part 3 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Each blog or website needs a theme. There are two ways to understand this.

From a content standpoint, a blog needs a theme or topic to guide writing and attract readers. The theme of this blog is book publishing, of which blogging is a related concept. However, that’s not the focus of this post.

From a technical standpoint, a theme is how a WordPress blog looks. This is the focus of this post.

Consider cell phones. We can buy a skin or cover to change how our phone looks. Just by adding a cover, we alter its appearance so it looks like an entirely different model, even though it’s the same phone underneath. Some people buy one cover and never change it, while others change their covers often.

A WordPress theme is like a cell phone cover: it alters how WordPress looks, even though the same WordPress platform exists under it. Some people pick one WordPress theme and never change it, while others try different themes and frequently change them. However, while a cover is optional for a cell phone, a theme is required for WordPress.

Some WordPress themes are free and others have a cost. There are thousands of themes to pick from. If you install WordPress today, it comes with a free theme, called Twenty Fourteen. Each year WordPress releases a new theme. For this blog, I use the Twenty Eleven theme, which I have on all twelve of my WordPress sites. Someday, I’ll look at other themes, but right now, I enjoy the consistency of maintaining sites that all use the same theme. Plus, I like the elegant simplicity of the Twenty Eleven theme.

To begin, I recommend using the free theme that comes with WordPress. Don’t worry about finding a different theme to start with. Instead, focus on the basic configuration and adding great content.

When we get a new cell phone, the first goal is to use it; adding a cover is secondary. So too, when we install WordPress, our primary objective is to use it; finding the perfect theme can happen later.

What’s the Difference Between a WordPress Page and Post?

Part 2 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Many beginning WordPress bloggers are confused by the difference between a page and a post. Aside from both being one-syllable, four-letter words that start with “P,” they also look the same, both when writing them and viewing them. However, they are different and each has a purpose and place.

Page: A page is like our Twitter profile or the tabs on Facebook. Consider using a page for content you want to always be available. Use a page for topics such as “About,” “Contact,” “Services,” and your home page. Often pages are shown in tabs or menus on blogs.

Post: A post is like a tweet or Facebook status update. Use a post for ongoing content. The most recent post is shown first, with the rest following it in reverse chronological order. Also, posts may be placed in a category (analogous to a folder) and linked with similar posts using a tag.

Though I don’t recommend it, I’ve seen WordPress sites that use only posts, as well as ones with only pages. Though there may be good reasons for this, the list is short. Usually someone who only uses pages or just posts doesn’t understand the difference. Most blogs use pages and posts – and blogs look better when they do.

Getting Started with WordPress

Blogging is an important aspect of book publishing; this series on blogging with WordPress provides a starting point.

Last week, focusing on WordPress, we talked about two options: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. In a basic way, WordPress.com is analogous to Gmail, while WordPress.org is more like Outlook (or in the extreme, it could be like an in-house email server). The differences are the amount of effort to get started, the degree of control, the number of options, and the level of technical expertise required.

WordPress.com, like Gmail, is an online tool. You log in, set up your account, and begin using it. It’s basic, powerful, and easy to use. It provides some options, but not too many.

WordPress.org, like Outlook, requires more effort to configure, while giving more options, greater control, and increased flexibility. This is what we’ll go over today. (An extreme example, like setting up an email server in-house, is setting up your own webserver and adding WordPress to it. Few users, however, go to this extent.)

WordPress.org is a self-hosted option, that is, the user needs to find a host, usually tapping a company that specializes in webhosting or WordPress hosting (as opposed to setting up their own computer to host it).

I use GoDaddy to host this WordPress site. This is mainly because I already had an account and could add WordPress at no additional charge. With my account already active, it was just a couple of clicks to add WordPress.

If I was starting from scratch, I’d likely use BlueHost and there are two helpful videos to make it easy. Michael Hyatt put together a comprehensive 20-minute tutorial, while Jeff Goins has a more concise 8-minute version. (I believe they earn a small commission when you set up your WordPress account using their tutorial, but it won’t cost you anything more.)

Aside from GoDaddy and BlueHost, there are many other hosting options.

While WordPress.com can be completely free, there are two costs associated with WordPress.org. The first is an annual domain registration, usually around ten bucks and a monthly hosting fee, starting around five dollars, but which can go up to twenty or even more for high-volume, feature-rich, robust hosting.

Next week, we’ll peak inside WordPress and talk about its various components.

[If you want to mention a different hosting company, please add it in the comments section. Feel free to include a link to a tutorial.]

Using WordPress For Your Blog: Two Options to Consider

This is a blog about book publishing, yet today starts a series on blogging. Why?

  1. Authors need a platform to promote their book, and blogging is an effective platform-building tool.
  2. Blogging is a form of publishing.
  3. Blogging helps us hone our writing skills in a public setting.
  4. Some writers turn successful blogs into a book.

While there are many options to use for blogging, I’ll only address WordPress, simply because it’s the most popular option. WordPress is to blogging, as Microsoft Word is to word-processing.

With WordPress, there are two flavors to consider: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. They’re essentially the same thing and merely implemented in different ways.

The benefits of WordPress.com:

  • The beginner package is completely free. (There is an annual cost for the premium and business plans.)
  • It is quick and easy to get started with WordPress.com.
  • It has a reduced feature set, which minimizes complexity over having too many options.

The weaknesses of WordPress.com

  • An awkward address: The web address for beginner plan (the free option) will look like: blog-name.WordPress.com. (You can buy your own domain name to point to your WordPress.com blog, but then it is no longer free.)
  • A long web address: Most of the short and nicer blog names have already been taken, so your blog address will likely end up being long. (Again, buying your own domain name is a workaround.)
  • No direct support (with the beginner package). There is, however, a strong WordPress community, which is often – but not always – a good resource in resolving problems and answering questions.
  • Ads: In exchange for completely free, you agree to allow ads on your blog. (There are no ads with the premium or business plans.)
  • Limitations: To achieve simplicity, the trade-off is some of the functionality available from WordPress.org.

Here’s why you should consider WordPress.com:

  • The beginner package is completely free. If you have no money, this is the ideal solution.
  • It’s a great way to learn WordPress. That’s what I did, but I soon switched to WordPress.org because I needed additional features and flexibility.

If WordPress.com feels like the right solution for you, start using WordPress.com today.

Next week I’ll talk about getting started with WordPress.org.