WordPress is the one of the world’s most popular website Content Management Systems (CMS), and it comes in two distinct forms: .COM or .ORG. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Although they’re both part of the same happy, if not a little inbred, family, they serve different purposes. And if you’re looking to maximise your SEO and you’re after a unique, highly customisable web design, it’s important you choose the correct one.
The magic of the WordPress platform gives you total control over your online presence. And with great power comes great responsibility.
An essential part of mastering WordPress involves maintaining WordPress, and in this article we show you how. (If you’re new to WordPress and Themify, we recommend that you first read, How to Master WordPress & Themify. Oh, and we promise. There won’t be any Yoda quotes or references to Star Wars in this article.)
How to Maintain WordPress?
In How to Master WordPress & Themify, we looked at how to create Posts, Pages (and Menus) and how to add images. Now, maintaining your WordPress platform is the focus, and this includes four tasks: backing up your website, keeping your plugins updated, updating the WordPress platform when new versions are released, and optimising your site. Sounds overwhelmingly un-exciting? Yeah, but it has to be done, and you’ll be a WordPress super-geek once you’ve worked through this guide.
Backing Up Your Site
The importance of this task is obvious. If you’ve never experience the horror of losing all your work, you don’t ever want to buy that T-shirt.
There are two ways to back up your site and we recommend both.
Using Your Webhost
We highly recommend purchasing the security and backup features that your webhost offers. Most webhosts provide a backup service for around $20-$30 a year, and this usually includes regular automated backups and the ability to manually backup your site. Find out from your webhost how the backup service works and utilise it!
Using a Plugin
Why would you need another back up if your webhost has you covered? Well, let’s just say, you can never be too thorough when it comes to backing up your site. Why? Because the backup services of your webhost are not infallible. Say no more.
There are a number good plugins that you could use for this purpose. We recommend using the excellent UpdraftPlus Backup plugin that we install as an essential plugin for all our clients. With it, you can make manual or scheduled backups, and you can backup to a remote storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, FTP, email and others. We’ve already connected it to your Google Drive and all you need to do is click “Backup Now” to make a fresh backup of your site.
Go to Settings → UpdraftPlus Backups and click the blue “Backup Now” button. Easy as.
Updating Your Plugins
Plugins to WordPress are what Apps are to your Smartphone. Plugins enhance the functionality of WordPress and we’ve installed a number of essential plugins on your site.
Now, the creators of these plugins regularly release updates. Why? To add new features, fix bugs and glitches, or simply to adjust to new WordPress platform releases.
If you’ve installed an app or five (hundred) on your mobile phone or tablet, you know the importance of keeping them updated. Failing to do so causes performance issues and could leave your mobile or tablet vulnerable. The same is true for plugins.
How do you know when a plugin needs updating? Simple.
WordPress notifies you the minute a plugin update becomes available, and does so through no less than three different notification markers in your WordPress dashboard.
The process of updating a plugin is simple enough. All you need to do is go to the Plugins tab in the left-hand sidebar of your Dashboard, scroll down to the plugin that requires updating (clearly indicated by the coloured sidebar), and click “update now.”
Wait a few seconds and…
…and do the dance of joy when you see the Updated! green tick.
Voila! Easy as pie. If you have several plugins that need updating at one time, you can do a Bulk Action, but we recommend doing them one at a time.
Because, while the process is easy enough, you should check the details of the update before updating.
Each plugin update allows you to check what the new update entails. In some cases, you may need to ensure that your website’s theme is compatible with the plugin update. This is especially true for larger plugins like Woocommerce, and security and caching plugins.
Find this all a little time consuming?
(We even write SEO-strong articles for you!)
Updating Your WordPress Platform
Once in a while, you’ll need to update the WordPress platform (also called a WordPress core update). This might not happen for several months, and then suddenly, you may find it necessary several times within a few weeks. If you’ve got a good webhost, many of these updates will be done automatically for you. Occasionally, you’ll need to do it manually. In this case, follow these instructions…
First, you’ll be notified that a WordPress core update is available in the back-end of your site.
Second, make a backup of your site, as discussed above.
Third, choose a time when you’ll have a little or no traffic to your site. In other words, crack of dawn 😛
Fourth, make sure all your themes and plugins are up to date.
Finally, navigate to Updates in the left-hand sidebar of your WordPress dashboard and update the WordPress platform by clicking on the Update Now button.
Breathe a sigh of relief when the task is complete.
Optimising Your Website
This is the quickest step of them all, if we’ve designed your website for you. Why? Because we install the clumsily named but phenomenal plugin Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions into all our websites. While the name tells you exactly what it does, it’s not an easy one to keep on instant recall.
What does it do? It does a thorough, deep cleansing of your site. Technically, it optimises your database table but first, it deletes unnecessary trashed items. spammed items, expired transients, and pingbacks and trackbacks, shedding the unnecessary “weight” of your site. Even if you don’t quite understand it, you have to admit, it at least sounds good.
Because all the settings are done for you, all you need to do is go here: TOOLS → OPTIMIZE DATABASE
You’ll be presented with the below page. Simply click Start Optimization.
In microseconds, your website will be optimised and a report delivered to you on screen. Unnecessary “weight” would have been shed from your site. Yay!
How often can you do this? As often as you fancy! How often should you do it? Before you make a backup, after you’ve updated a plugin, or if neither of these have been required, after you’ve added two or three new posts. It’s not a bad idea to do it every second week. And if you don’t post regularly, once a month is fine, too.
Yes, you can also optimise your website’s database through your webhost’s cPanel, but this is just as effective. And it’s easier.
You’re done! Wasn’t so bad was it?
If you’re not keen on getting a little techie…
(We manage your website for you and offer copywriting options, too)
For more advanced issues, see the following sources:
WordPress on FTP: Using FileZilla
WPbeginner: How to Use FTP to Upload Files to WordPress
Like most things, using WordPress is a cinch when you know how it works. This article is compiled for WordPress beginners and covers the most basic steps (with as many helpful screen shots as possible).
As Yoda once averred: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Actually, it wasn’t Yoda who said that, but the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu).
So, on your pilgrimage to master WordPress, let’s begin young Padawan…
How to Master WordPress?
First, a quick definition of two important terms: front-end and back-end.
The front-end of your website is that which is publicly visible to viewers. The shiny, pretty version. The site’s back-end is that which is only visible to you, also called your WordPress Dashboard. This article will address the back-end of your website, your WordPress Dashboard. And here’s what it looks like when first installed…
Your Sitename is located in the top left-hand corner and your Username in the top right-hand corner. And your Dashboard’s navigational menu runs down the left-hand sidebar. Got it? Good.
If we design your website for you, we’ll lay a firm foundation by installing all the essential plugins needed and configuring the necessary settings required. We’ll also build the site’s structure by creating main pages that match the core focus areas of your business and setting up custom menus to help site visitors navigate your site. Aligning all this to SEO best practices is crucial.
While the front-end will look all skeletal at this stage, and not very pretty, we’re making progress. Next we’ll install your theme, including your choice of colour scheme and typography, add the content and images you provide, and mix in a dash of sass and swagger, making your site come alive with personality.
So, yes, we’ve done all this for you.
Now, over to you … we’re going to look at the main areas you’ll use: (1) Posts, (2) Pages, (3) Plugins and (4) Images & Galleries. Let’s start by showing you how to add a blog post. May the force be with you.
Creating WordPress Posts
Please Note: Don’t start creating a blog post just yet. The idea here is to simply give you an overview, to orient you with your site’s functionality. We’ll cover the details of blogging in the “How to Write a Blog Post that Gets Google” guide shortly.
First, what’s the difference between a Post and a Page? Good question.
A Post is a webpage that forms part of your blogging component. When you create a Post, it will appear (and be accessed) via your blog thread. Through posts, you can add regular, fresh content to your site.
A Page is a webpage that forms part of the main structure of your site. When you create a Page, it needs to be added via one of your custom menus. This includes the Home page, the About page, the Contact page, etc. Once created, this is content that rarely changes (aside from a few edits now and then).
Okay, onto Creating Posts…
Once you’ve selected POSTS from your left-hand sidebar, click on “Add New” and…
You’ll be presented with this blank canvass in the WordPress WYSIWYG visual editor.
WYSIWYG = “What You See Is What You Get”
When you create a blog post, you’ll follow these steps. (Remember, we’ll run through this in more detail down the track. Just get a feel for it at this point.)
First, select the relevant CATEGORY. Why?
If we design your website, we’ll create categories to match the keywords your main pages are built around. Categories help site visitors peruse blog posts that cover similar topics. If you don’t select a category, the post will automatically fall into the default “uncategorized” (or “other”) category.
Second, create your POST TITLE.
Your post title is one of the most important ingredients in the SEO mix. By default, WordPress correctly makes this your H1 heading. This is great SEO. Every Post and Page must only have one H1 header tag. (So, don’t use the H1 option again in your text. Instead, use the H2 heading for sub-headings. We’ll show you how to do this later.)
Now, click on the blank WYSIWYG visual editor, and watch WordPress magically generate your post’s permalink…
The permalink is the permanent URL for this blog post. Your post title will appear in lower case, the words separated by dashes to improve readability. Perfect! (In some cases, depending on how we’ve structured your site, you’ll see your chosen category nestled in the permalink. However, this won’t be the case in most situations.)
Still with me? Great.
Next, scroll down your page using the power of your mind. If that fails, use your mouse.
Let’s tidy up some meta data. (Yes, you haven’t even added the post’s content yet. We’ll get there. Soon.)
If we design your website, we’ll install the fantastic WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin (now simply called Yoast SEO). With this little magic wand, you can customise the way your blog post appears in search results—rather than allowing Google to guess what to include. (There’s a lot more this plugin can do, too. In all the websites we design, we configure its key settings. In the blogging guide, we’ll show you how to utilise all of its Jedi mind-powers … so the force will be strong in you).
Okay, once you’ve done that, there’s a bit more house cleaning to do. Don’t give up. Remember the quote about … um, miles and uh, steps. Whatever…
Now finally, you’re ready to add your content to the visual editor. So, scroll up…
Wow! That looks like a busy screenshot with several Jedi mind-tricks going down.
You can craft your content directly into the WordPress visual editor, or copy-paste content you’ve crafted in a Word Document. Add images and hyperlinks before publishing your post or scheduling it for a later date. There are many other things you can do, but these are the important basics.
What about Tags? You can add tags if you really want to, although they add no value to the SEO mix. Once upon a time, in a far, far away galaxy they did … but because they were roundly abused, search engines don’t even bother with them now. Tags may be useful to site visitors, but usually they just add to the clutter. Like C-3P0. Your choice.
WordPress: WordPress Posts
Find this all a little time consuming?
(We even write SEO-strong articles for you!)
Creating WordPress Pages
Creating a WordPress Page is very similar to creating a WordPress Post. So, what’s the difference again?
WordPress Posts, which we’ve covered above, contain dynamic content that becomes immediately visible through your blog feed when published.
WordPress Pages contain static (fixed) content that only becomes directly visible on the front-end of your site when added to a menu. Your home page and secondary pages (all the content visible via your navigational menu tabs) are all WordPress Pages. (Incidentally, you can create blind Pages, content that you don’t want visible on the front-end; content accessed by others via the page’s permalink. A private password-protected, client-viewer gallery is an example of this.)
Although they both look similar when you’re creating them in the WordPress editor, think of Pages as informational content for your business and site. This content is of a ‘permanent’ nature.
Think of Posts as blogs or topical content you create. This content has a date stamp to it (although you can hide the date or keep it visible). You shouldn’t need to create too many new Pages now that your website’s structure is complete, but Posts are where you’ll really express your Jedi potential.
So, to create a WordPress page, simply select PAGES → Add New in the left-hand sidebar of your Dashboard, and follow the same steps as outlined above for POSTS.
Then (and here’s the difference) … then add the Page to an existing menu or create a new menu by selecting APPEARANCE → MENUS in the left-hand sidebar.
See this excellent tutorial on creating custom menus.
WordPress: WordPress Pages
Installing WordPress Plugins
Installing WordPress plugins is easy-peasy, installing well-coded plugins requires a little work. First, let’s look at plugin installation…
Too easy. Yeah, that’s why we recommend first going to the WordPress.org plugin page to search for the plugin you want. Once you find it, it will come up as follows:
Unless a plugin has been recommended by a reliable source, make sure you check the following metrics (and check them even if you do have a reliable source):
- Star Rating: At least an average of 4 stars from at least a hundred reviewers.
- Compatibility: Compatible with the latest version of WordPress.
- Last Update: A plugin that hasn’t been updated in the past six months is a plugin you want to avoid.
- Active Installs: At least 100 installs. The higher the better.
- Support: Does the plugin creator offer adequate support?
We suggest that you also check some of the worst reviews given. Every plugin has bad reviews. Even WordPress SEO by Yoast that averages 4.6 stars from over a million active installs has 90 1-star reviews. Usually, these reviews are from newbie WordPressers who didn’t read something important, or should have lodged a query in support. Either way, you can pick up some clues and tips about the plugin. (And if the 1-star reviews scared you, read a few 5-star reviews to build your confidence!)
Please Note. We have already installed all the plugins you need. You do not need to add any more. However, you’re most welcome to do so 😉
You will need to process plugin updates. This is super-easy to do and we cover it under How to Maintain WordPress.
WordPress: WordPress Plugins
Installing WordPress Images & Galleries
Installing images is very simple. In a Page or a Post, just click the Add Media button.
The Media Library pop-up displays in your browser…
If you choose to Upload Files from your computer, you’ll be presented with a meta-box field in your right-hand sidebar once the image has uploaded.
The most important fields to complete are:
- The Image Title field: Add a title that includes the keyword phrase for the post or page in question.
- The ALT-text field: Add a well punctuated sentence that describes the image and again, include your keyword phrase.
This is important for SEO purposes.
What’s the ALT-text for? The “alternative text” is the text that appears should a viewer’s browser not be able to read the image. It is also, along with the image title, the only way search engines can “see” your image.
- Finally, the Attachment Display Settings allow you to choose the alignment of your image (centre, right or left), what you want the image to link to (usually select “None”), and the image size you prefer. These settings can be adjusted in the WYSIWYG visual editor, too.
Adding Galleries is not much more complicated, and WordPress.com have put together a great tutorial you can peruse entitled, Galleries and Slideshows.
You can also access your Media Library directly by selecting Media in the left-hand sidebar in your WordPress Dashboard.
WordPress: Images and Galleries
There you have it. Are you feeling the power of the force? Well, you’re not quite a Jedi knight just yet. A very important part of mastering WordPress involves maintaining WordPress. So, before you head off to battle storm troopers, we suggest you work through the article entitled, How to Maintain WordPress?
WordPress Codex: Getting Started with WordPress
Again, if you’re time poor and need help…
(We manage your site for you and also offer copywriting options)
Our Classic or Premier packages come installed with the fantastic Themify Drag & Drop Builder. With this tool, your ability to create unique and custom pages and posts increases exponentially.
In order to get the most out of this tool, please see these two articles: