The reason why I use WordPress, and recommend it to everyone starting a blog, is because it’s so powerful and flexible. But with that comes a small learning curve. If you’re totally new to the WordPress interface, here’s a quick guide to the basic settings you should know about.
A word of warning – if you’ve never used WordPress before then you might find the number of settings overwhelming. But don’t worry! It’s pretty intuitive to use, and you don’t actually need to know how to use all of the settings. In fact, I recommend getting to grips with just a few to start with.
TIP: Don’t forget to first login to your WordPress login URL that you noted down when you first installed WordPress. It’ll be something like http://www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin/
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Introducing the WordPress Dashboard
When you login to the admin area of WordPress, you’ll see what’s known as the “Dashboard”. From this menu, you can access all of the settings you need to manage your website – plus extra settings for your theme and any additional plugins you may choose to install.
On the left-hand side of the Dashboard, you’ll see expandable menu items that include:
- Theme Information
- (+ links for other installed plugins)
Top 5 Settings to Change & Familiarise Yourself With When You Start a New Blog
Don’t worry, you don’t need to understand what every single one of the Dashboard settings does! I recommend you change the following when starting a new blog:
1) Change your blog post URLs: There are a few settings I recommend you must change before your blog goes live. One of these is your blog post URLs (otherwise known as “permalinks”) – the default settings in WordPress aren’t very SEO friendly. Here’s how to change them:
- In the WordPress Dashboard left-hand sidebar navigation, head to “Settings” > “Permalinks”
- The default setting is “plain”. Instead, select “post name” and then scroll down to “save changes”
2) Extra blog settings: Also take a minute now to browse the other pages under the WordPress “Settings” menu. They’re fairly self-explanatory, and most you don’t need to change. But you should take a look at the “General” settings page to enter your blog’s name and tagline (this is what will show up in search engines)
3) Create a navigation menu: The navigation menu is the collection of links near the top of each page that help people find their way around. It’ll probably have some links already on there by default, but you can customize which pages and links you want to show on your site. Note – as you get started with your blog, you’ll probably create some basic pages like About and Contact pages – don’t forget to add these to your navigation after you’ve created them.
- Edit the navigation menu by going to “Appearance” > “Menus”
- You can even add custom links to pages outside of your website, such as your Twitter profile.
4) Create your sidebar: Pretty much all themes come with a sidebar – a section of content down the left or right-hand side of the page that stays the same no matter which page of the site you’re currently viewing. This is a great place for: an email opt-in form, a little photo or text about you, social media links, links to your latest posts, ads etc. You don’t need to worry too much about all this when you’re just getting started, but if you like you can play around with some of the options.
- Access the settings at “Appearance” > “Widgets”
- Test some out and then refresh your site to see what they look like (you can always delete them after!)
5) Optional: Choose your homepage: By default, when people land on your homepage they will see your latest blog posts. This is fine for most people to get started with. However, maybe you want people to land on a specific page that describes you or your services instead. If so, you can create and publish the new page before choosing this as your homepage.
- To access the homepage settings, go to “Settings” > “Reading” and choose “Static Page” then choose which page you want as your homepage.
- Note – there’s also a setting here that lets you block search engines from accessing your site. You don’t want to check this unless you temporarily want to block access while your site is under construction!
Other Settings to Explore
Have a click around and see what you find from the WordPress Dashboard – it’s how I first learnt to use WordPress many years ago 🙂 Here’s a brief explanation of some of the other settings you might see here:
Posts: If you click on or point to Posts you’ll get a drop down that says: All Posts, Add New, Categories, Tags, and maybe other things again depending upon the plugins you’ve added. It’s okay to try out each link to see what it does. Don’t be scared, you won’t break it! Ultimately this is how you’ll add your new blog posts, so you’ll soon be very familiar with this section.
Media: Under this section, you’ll see your media library, which is all the media you’ve added to your library (things like any photos you upload to your blog posts), and a way to add new media, and maybe other items depending again on the plugins you’ve added that have to do with media and graphics. This may come in handy in future if you want to upload PDF files to give away as “content upgrades” (if you don’t know what this means, don’t worry!)
Pages: If you click on Pages you’ll see a list of all the pages already on your WordPress website, and an “add new” link. Remember that a page is different from a post. A post is a blog post, which shows up on the main blog area of your website in reverse chronological order, and an easy way to give updates to your audience and keep them coming back for more. Whereas a page is an actual new page of your website that should be considered more “static” – it doesn’t show up in your blog section, and they’re often linked to from your main navigation menu (think things like your “about” page, contact page, a page with details of your services etc.) With WordPress, it’s really just as easy to add and subtract a page as it is to make a blog post.
Appearance: This is where you control the appearance of your website and also install new themes. There are plenty of free and paid themes available to suit your tastes and brand (>>>>click here to read my separate post all about that<<<<) Once you’ve installed your theme, and depending on the theme you’ve chosen, you’ll often find extra settings for that theme available in the menu here.
Plugins: In addition to all you can do with WordPress you can also add plugins. These are basically apps that add a lot of functionality to your WordPress website such as better image controls, security, back up features, social media, contact forms, and even shopping carts. There is no limit as to what you can do with plugins. Just take a look at all the free plugins available, and yes, you can also purchase premium plugins.
Remember, the very best way to familiarize yourself with your admin panel or “Dashboard” is to just go for it! Get in there and click around. Don’t be scared. You can always uninstall it all and start over if something goes wrong. Read all directions and concerns with each new addition to your site and you should be fine.
Don’t forget, if you want more help getting your blog set up without spinning your wheels then I actually have a FREE 1 week course to get you set up the right way…Click here to sign up to my FREE 1 week blog course... & get your blog set up the right way