At this point, you should have a fully functional AWS server with MySQL and Apache. Now it’s time to start building your online presence. Blogging is one of the quickest ways to build up a company’s online presence and brand. Thus, we will start with a blogging platform. There are many options to do this. You could buy a package from a hosting domain. Although these packages contain most of the tools and services pre-setup for you, these are usually at a cost. Alternatively, you can choose to build your WordPress instance. The choice is yours.
For this course, we are going to focus on how to build our WordPress instance. Doing so allows you to keep your costs and overhead low while learning another new tool for your belt. Just like the previous sections on AWS and Apache, there is not too much to setting up a WordPress instance. There is just an install, some configuration, and getting to know WordPress. Then it’s up to you to go out and start writing creative material to build your company’s presence on the web.
What are the problems we want to solve by taking this class?
- How do we set up a blog to build our company’s online presence and brand?
- How do we manage users and security?
- What is a blog post and what goes into creating them?
- How do we go about customizing our blog site?
What we will cover:
- WordPress Overview
- Installing WordPress
- Account Management
- A complete walk thru of using WordPress and its components
- Blogging in a nutshell
Class Goal: Each student will have a WordPress instance running on their virtual Linux server in the cloud that they can use for development (and production) purposes.
Note: This class can serve as a stand-alone when you need to setup a WordPress instance. Keep the link available for reference, particularly the tech notes. If you ever run through the tech notes and find WordPress has changed the process so that any information in this document is incorrect, please let us know.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is one of the largest blogging platforms in use today. It is an online, open source, website creation tool that individuals can use directly (or through blogging) to promote their products and ideas. WordPress was written in PHP and is for use with open-source technologies such as Apache and MySQL. We will focus on the blogging applications for WordPress, but it is a platform for online catalogs, company marketing sites, and other purposes. WordPress is a great tool for start-ups through to large organizations.
Before we get too far into the inner workings of WordPress, we need first to get a copy of WordPress and install it onto our AWS instance. Follow the steps on “Installing WordPress” on your AWS server before continuing.
Once you have installed your WordPress instance, we need to make a few changes to your WordPress install directories permissions. Otherwise, when we go to install plugins, themes or upload media from the WordPress dashboard, we will encounter problems. Follow the steps on “Troubleshooting WordPress Permission Issues” before continuing.
As your blog grows, your user base and contributors will also increase. You need a basic understanding of how to create and manage accounts. When you went through the steps to install WordPress you created an administrator account. Let’s start by logging into your WordPress site now using this account. Once you log in you should see the dashboard down the left-hand side of the page. Look for a person icon followed by the text “Users” and click on it. This action brings up all the users you have currently on your system.
When working with users in WordPress, you will need to keep in mind the different roles a user can have. These act as permissions granting users access and functionality. Below you will see a list containing the available roles and their uses. You can include more roles and permissions, but you will need to either customize the database or install third party plugins to do so.
Note: Be careful when using the master administrator account. The master account is for administrating your WordPress site, and you should only use it when you need to fix or address a problem, not for general tasks like blogging. Also, it is a good idea if you have more than one person who will be administering accounts to have separate accounts for each admin. These seperate accounts will make it easier to track and audit who is doing what on your system.
Here are the five types of user roles:
|Administrator||This user will have access to all of the administrative options and features available in WordPress.|
|Editor||This user who can manage and publish posts. This role is typically for individuals who are in charge of review posts submitted by contributors and then schedule them for consideration.|
|Author||This user will only have rights to create and publish their posts.|
|Contributor||These users can submit posts for review, but cannot publish them.|
|Subscriber||Has basic functionality such as changing their profile and leaving comments.|
Note: The level of access to your system starts with is the subscriber. The subscriber is the lowest possible access that can be assigned. As you go up the list, the access and permissions become greater up to the administrator who has full access to the whole system. Make sure you limit how many accounts have administrator rights.
Begin by creating a new Admin account:
Follow the steps on “Create User Accounts” to create a second account with admin rights that you will use to customize your WordPress instance and create blogs.
Note: This will be the administrator account you use going forward. Remember to store the master administrator account somewhere safe in case you need it to fix a problem later that you cannot fix with your personal admin account.
Update your new profile information:
Follow the steps on “Manage Existing Accounts” to customize your account.
We will be using our new WordPress instance for blogging. You will need to become very familiar with that process, which entails creating and writing posts. Posts will make up the majority of your site’s content. In general, most posts are content entries made up of whatever topics or articles you wish to present to your readers. These will be used to help promote your brand, ideas, or products. Here are some ways that WordPress handles posts:
- The Posts will be in reverse chronological order on your blog’s home page.
- Older posts are archived based on month and year.
- You have the option to organize your posts based on categories and tags.
Because WordPress posts publish with time and date in mind, so they can be used through the RSS feeds. Readers are sent notices of the most recent posts via RSS feeds. Bloggers can use the RSS feeds to deliver email broadcasts through services like MailChimp. You can also create a daily and weekly newsletter for your subscribers.
Note: If you wish to send out newsletters with your WordPress site you will need to get a newsletter plugin (See plugins). You can also use one of the many social sharing plugins to allow your users to share your posts on social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. (See plugins).
Breaking down the Posts dashboard
To get to the posts panel, you will need to be logged into your WordPress instance and on the dashboard screen. Look on the left sidebar for a push pin with the “Posts” label, and click it. This action will pull up the “All Post” page. This dashboard is where you will manage all your posts. From here you have the ability to add, edit, and delete posts. Also, on the left sidebar you should notice that you have a few other options under “Posts,” these are “Add New” (Same as “New.” In both cases these create a new post), “Categories,” and “Tags. We will not be going into too much detail of the “All Post” page as most of the functionality on this screen is self-explanatory. Instead, we will focus on the components of posts and what you needs to be done to get a post ready for publication.
Note: All users roles, except Subscribers, will have the ability to create and manage posts.
A post can be broken down into the following:
The title field is one of the most important parts of a post (next to featured images). Why is this? Well, if you think about it, you will see that this is how your visitors will see your post either on your site or social media. So you need to be very careful when picking a title. You can find the title text field at the top of the page with the text “Enter title here.”
What you put in the title could be the difference between success and failure. If you are too brief, then the reader will have no idea what you’re trying to say. If a title is too long, then it could be ignored or overlooked. The suggested characters a title should contain is no more than 30 characters (You can go above or below, but try and stick to 30). Ideally, most information sites on the web agree that the shorter and more descriptive your title the better. You can use any phrases, words, or characters such as commas, apostrophes, quotes, hyphens/dashes and other typical symbols. WordPress will automatically cleanup and converter any non-text character to generate a user-friendly and URL-valid name of the post.
The Title and Permalinks
The title will be useful for when you want to use descriptive permalinks. This URL is the link that browsers and search engines will use to link to your post. The more descriptive, the better (See Customizing WordPress Settings). Once you enter a title, you will have the option to change the permalink. If you choose to make your links descriptive, then the link should be close to your title. If you decide to use permalink or not, be careful not to use the same title twice. Not only will this make it hard for your readers to determine which article is which. It can also cause problems with permalinks if you are using your titles name as your link.
The “Body” section is where all your content goes. You will find this in the middle section of the page. The body will be primarily text, but can also include other media types as well (like audio, pictures, or video).
You will have a choice of working in a rich text environment using the “Visual” tab. The “Visual” tab” includes a menu bar with similar styling and formatting options (bold, underline, indent, etc.) that is found in most general rich text editors (like MS WordPress). The “Text” tab allows users the ability to work directly in code. This view gives the users the ability to see and manipulate the page’s HTML, CSS, and JS code. Coding is a more advanced way of building your posts and is not recommended at this time. You can revisit the “Text” tab after you have covered those topics in later classes (Creating your Marketing Site and Improve Site Design With CSS).
The body also contains a button for adding media. This button will bring up the Media popup displaying the media that is available on your system. You can also access Media from the “Media” button on the left sidebar in the dashboard. Images, videos, or audio files can be added by going to the “Adding Media” page and using the upload feature to upload a file from a local or remote filesystem. Once you transmit the data to the system, you can then embed into your post or page. Make sure you fill out all of the optional values for your media like title, caption alt text, and description. This way your media will be displayed correctly. Even on browsers that do not support your particular media type.
At the bottom of the body section, is the footer. The footer contains some basic statistics of your content. The footer includes things like total word count if the page is live, and when it was updated. Other statistical information can be added by making changes to your WordPress instance or through plugins.
Note: This is what is available in the WordPress installation. There are third party plugins available that can be installed to include other style and formatting tools (See Plug-ins).
The user has the option to change the way the post looks and feels. The content will not change, but how it will be displayed. The formats may differ based on the theme you are using, but here are some general guidelines:
Themes may wish to use the first <a href=””> tag in the post content as the external link for that post. An alternative approach could be if the post consists only of a URL, then that will be the URL and the title (post_title) will be the name attached to the anchor for it.
|aside||Typically styled without a title. Similar to a Facebook note update.|
|gallery||A gallery of images. The post will likely contain a gallery shortcode and will have image attachments.|
|link||A link to another site.|
|image||A single image. The first <img /> tag in the post could be considered the image. Alternatively, if the post consists only of a URL, that will be the image URL and the title of the post (post_title) will be the title attribute for the picture.|
|quote||A quotation. Probably will contain a blockquote holding the quote content. Alternatively, the quote may be just the content, with the source/author being the title.|
|status||A short status update, similar to a Twitter status update.|
|video||A single video or video playlist. The first <video /> tag or object/embed in the post content could be considered the video. Alternatively, if the post consists only of a URL, that will be the video URL. May also contain the video as an attachment to the post, or to enable support on the blog (like via a plugin).|
|audio||An audio file or playlist. Could be used for Podcasting.|
A general description or topic that classifies what the post is. Typical blogs can have approximately seven to ten categories for their content. These classifications can be grouped into subcategories to break these topics down into further groupings. Over time, your catalog will grow to the point that it will take on the form of a table of contents. Allowing your visitors the ability to browse for specific posts by a particular category.
If a category doesn’t exist in your list, you can add a new one by clicking the “+ Add New Category” link. Follow up with typing in a new category name (if it is a child make sure to select its parent category). You can also access the “Categories” page from the site dashboard on the left sidebar under the “Post” section. From here you will have the ability to add, modify, and remove categories. You can also adjust the categories parent/child relationships.
These are a way to make searches of your content more useful. They are typically more precise than a category, allowing users to pull up related posts based on their tags. Unlike categories, tags are optional and not displayed in a table of content fashion. Instead, tags are visible on the top (or bottom) of a post. If a user wishes to see other posts related to the tag, they can click on the tag link or search for the tag from the search box. Both of these options will bring up a list of related posts based on the tag selected.
Be careful not to overuse a tag. Even though you can add as many tags to a post as you want. We do not recommend over tagging. Too many tags can dissuade visitors from visiting your site or reading your posts. Make sure when you do use a tag, that your tag make sense.
Adding tags is simple. You can add a new tag by typing it in the “Tag” section of your post and clicking Add. Another option would be to select one of the commonly used tags. To see these tags, click on the “Choose from the most used tags” link and make your selection. You can also be manage tags by accessing the “Tags” page from the site dashboard on the left sidebar under the “Post” section. From here you will have the ability to add, modify, and remove tags.
Note: Tags alone do not provide Google with further context as to the relevance of your site. To add additional tagging for SEO, you will need to find a plugin that will allow you to include your tags for google searches.
Images are an important part of blogging. Ever hear the saying “a picture’s worth a thousand words?”. In the case of blogging this appears to be true. When adding a featured image to your post, it will display with the post at the top of the screen (or as a thumbnail, depending on your screen options). While images are not required, using them will help draw more traffic to your blog. Since most reader’s eyes will be attracted to a picture over a title, posts with images will be more likely to be read.
This section of your post is responsible for saving the document and publishing it out to the site. There are many different options to choose from for posting your material. While you are working on your post, it is always a good practice to save your work often. You can use the “Save Draft” button to save your content without publishing the post to the site. By default, at the time the post is first auto-saved (or manually saved as a draft or published), the footer will reflect the date and time of the update within the database. When posting a post the “published on” date will take into account the date and time the post was published. Setting the published date to a future date/time will put the post in a published state. However, the post will not be visible to a reader until that exact date/time.
In the table below you will see a listing of these options:
|Preview||Opens up a new window or tab with the current content of your post. Preview does not save your content but gives users an opportunity to see if they like their changes before publishing.|
|Save Draft||Allows users to keep their post in a draft status which is only available to users with permissions to view draft messages.|
|Status||Displays the current status of the post. Publishing the post will change the status to be either Published, Pending Review, or Draft. If you are not publishing a post, the options will be Pending Review or Draft. Again this based on user roles.|
|Visibility||This represents the level of security required to see this post.|
|Public||open to everyone|
|Private||open to members only|
|Password protected||requires a password to view.|
|Published on||This is the date the post is published. If you click the edit button, you can schedule a future date/time for the post to go live.|
|Move to Trash||Move the post out of circulation to be deleted.|
|Publish||This will make the post live. If the “published on” date changes to a future date, then this button will become schedule.|
|Update||This button appears once the post is live and is used to publish any new changes.|
Create your first post:
Follow the steps on “Creating a Post in WordPress” to create your first post.
When it comes to customizing your WordPress site, the sky’s the limit. Thankfully, WordPress has broken this down into some quick and easy components to make managing your sites appearance easy to handle.
We can divide these components into the following:
Themes are responsible for the overall look and feel of your WordPress site. Out of the box, WordPress comes with some basic theme layouts. These basic designs are meant to give new installations the ability to get up and running quickly with little setup. Thankfully, there is a full library of themes available to choose from that can be bought or downloaded for free.
Follow the steps on “Managing WordPress Themes” to add a new theme to your WordPress instance.
This option allows you to make modifications to specific elements of your page. Customize includes things like color schemes for specific components like text color and links. You can also make changes to site identity, widgets, menus, headers, and background images from this page as well.
These are standard components that can be added to enhance the usability of the site. You can add, rearrange and remove Widgets from the Appearance Widgets Screen. You can add Widgets to some available navigation menus such as Sidebar, Content Bottom 1, or Content Bottom 2
Available Widgets to choose from:
|Archives||displays archive links for each month that has posted.|
|Calendar||displays a schedule of the current month. Dates appear links if there are posts for that day.|
|Categories||displays a list of post categories as links to those posts.|
|Custom Menu||displays a custom menu.|
|Meta||displays links to meta functions such as Register, Site Admin, Login/out, Entries RSS, Comments RSS, and WordPress.org.|
|Pages||displays a link to each Page.|
|Recent Comments||displays a list of the blog’s latest approved comments.|
|Recent Posts||displays the list of the blog’s most recent posts.|
|RSS||displays an RSS Feed. Multiple instances of this widget can be attached to the Current Widgets list. Using RSS Widgets allows you to add several feeds to use with this widget.|
|Search||displays a Search box to enter text to search your blog.|
|Tag Cloud||displays a list of the blog’s top 45 used tags in a tag cloud.|
Just like in applications Menu bars are an excellent way to organize or group like actions or navigations of your site. The Appearance Menus Screen enables a user to create custom navigation menu in place of a theme’s default menu. Support for this feature requires registering the navigation in the theme’s functions.php file.
Headers are the section at the top of your page where you can insert an image. Even though you can crop images after you upload it, we recommend that you pre-format your header image to be 1200 × 280 pixels.
The editor is where you will find all your themes HTML, PHP, and CSS information. I do not recommend making any changes to this section at this time. Instead, see the HTML and CSS sections for details on how to make changes to these files. A more in-depth look at PHP will be available in a future course and is outside the current scope of this class.
Pick a new theme:
Follow the steps on “Managing WordPress Themes” to add a new theme to your WordPress instance.
Similar to customizing your WordPress appearance through themes, WordPress offers the use of plugins. Plugins offer users an easy way to extend and expand the functionality of their WordPress instance. These plugins consist of PHP scripts. By adding a combination of plugins, one can drastically change and enhance the available functionality and features on their site.
WordPress plugins are stored and accessed from the Plugins directory located in the WordPress directory. Adding new plugins is as simple as using the Add Plugins installer or download a plugin from a vendor and extract it to the plugin directory. In either case, after installing a plugin, you will need to activate it (Just like themes).
Things to watch out for when using plugins:
- Plugins that are free are created by volunteers. These plugins generally have limited support.
- Some plugins have free and subscription services. Make sure you read the fine print to avoid unnecessary billing.
- WordPress Plugins hosted here are considered thoroughly tested and “safe.”
- Most plugins are a work in progress and need updates from time to time. Otherwise, you may end up with bugs and compatibility issues.
- Not all plugins will be stable or compatible with new updates to WordPress. Therefore, you should test your updates on a separate instance. This way you ensure they are stable and compatible. Otherwise, you may install a plugin, only to find out it has taken down your site.
- To delete a plugin, you need to deactivate it before you can remove it.
- When applying updates to WordPress, you may find it necessary to disable certain plugins. You need to do this because some plugins are sharing the same WordPress dependencies.
Find and Install a Plugin:
Follow the steps on “Managing WordPress Plugins” to add a plugin.
These are stand alone pages for marketing purposes. Some common uses for static pages are Customer Contact Forms, About the Author, or an Event Calendar.
Pages are similar to posts. They both have a title, body text, and associated metadata. However, they are different because they are not part of the chronological blog stream. Just like permanent posts. Therefore, we do not categorize or tag a page. Instead, they can have a parent/ child hierarchy. For instance, you can nest pages under other pages. Start by making one the “Parent” of the other, creating a group of pages.
This section allows users to manage the overall WordPress instance. These are the behind the scene customizations that affect the user interface and overall WordPress functionality. For example, you can change some of the core information of your WordPress. For instance, the name and location of the WordPress install or how to direct users to this site via URL. The Settings is also where you customize the way users can read/write the content available to them. Such as, via the website, RSS feeds, default media settings, and permalinks. For instance, custom plug-ins may also add additional functionality to the configuration menu. Especially, if the plugin has any behind the scene configurations settings that may need customization.
Here is the list of components available out of the box:
|General||The fields on this screen determine some of the basics of your site setup.|
|Writing||You can submit content in several different ways; this screen holds the settings for all of them.|
|Reading||This screen contains the settings that affect the display of your content.|
|Discussion||This screen provides many options for controlling the management and display of comments and links to your posts/pages.|
|Media||You can set maximum sizes for images inserted into your written content; you can also add a picture as Full Size.|
|Permalinks||are the permanent URLs to your individual pages and blog posts, as well as your category and tag archives.|
When using permalinks consider the following:
- Permalinks define how to format a posts URL. So by default, WordPress builds the URLs using the post id. Unfortunately, this URL does not contain any information about the post. Therefore most search engines will not know how to rank them.
- I recommend changing the Permalink setting to Post name. Which will replace the posts URL to match that of the post title. WordPress will automatically format the titles text to be URL friendly.
Most of these components are pretty self-explanatory. Clicking on this link will take you to the WP documentation page. This page contains more detail of how to use them.
Blogging in a Nutshell
Blogging is a great way for you to reach out to others and build your brand. For example, you can start by sharing your ideas or talking about a product you are selling. Regardless of your topic one thing is crystal clear. To be successful, you will need content and lots of it. So how in the world are you going to write that much material? Do not panic. We will cover all the ways on how to do this and become successful in Writing for Fun and Profit. For now, here are a few simple steps you can start with to begin building your blogs:
- Create an outline of topics.
- Try to schedule out blocks of time every day to write.
- To be a successful blogger you must release content in a consistent and timely manner (same time/day each week/month)
- The more you release content, the higher your Google rankings and the more traffic you will direct to your site.
- Better chances of obtaining affiliate revenue
- Repeat steps in Create User Accounts. This time set up four more accounts. Then make sure each account will need a different role. We will use these accounts later to test how roles affect posting.
- Search online themes and install one that fits your brand.
- Create a table of contents to organize your site posts. Then build out your categories.
- Create a post using each of your four new user accounts, mix these posts up amongst your categories.
- Have each user publish their individual posts. Which users will be able to post? Which ones can’t? Try to publish all of the posts.
Bonus: Take a look at some sites about along the lines of Sending newsletters in WordPress. Figure out how to send your blogs to members when you post them. Then look at how to build and send weekly newsletters to your followers.
When you are ready, it is now time to move on to the next step: Domain Registration and Configuration.
Outside of additional classes here, we have found these sources to be ideal for learning more about WordPress:
- Professional WordPress: Design and Development.
- WordPress Theme Design: A Complete Guide to Creating Professional WordPress Themes.
- How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time.
- Blogging For Dummies.
Now you are ready to begin blogging and driving traffic to your site. We will address more advanced ways to customize your WordPress appearance in future topics when we cover HTML and CSS. Start writing and generate as much content as possible to start to build your brand.