WordPress is ever-evolving and that’s a good thing when there are other products out there challenging your place in the market.
You need to adapt or die, no matter how big you are. Just look at Kodak.
Now, since 2018, the WordPress experience has changed. The classic editor moved to the Gutenberg experience or the Block Editor, which is now the default version.
But, looking at how many installs the Classic Editor plugin has, you realize that the previous WordPress users and not really ready to adapt and adopt…Change is hard.
This is why, in this guide, I’m going to cover WordPress blogging in both the Default and Classic editor.
Hypothesis: you have hosting and domain figured out already :).
Now, here’s the schedule for today:
And if you’re more into video tutorials, we’ve got you covered:
How to choose a WordPress theme for your blog
WordPress themes are the foundation of any WordPress site. Once you install a theme, you can use a predefined website layout that comes in the theme’s package. The theme will define your:
- Front-end page/ homepage
- Blog page
- Sample page
Some themes might create some other pages as well.
These predefined layouts can cover a variety of niches: business, travel, food, health, etc.
Here’s an example: a restaurant layout from the Colibri theme.
Once you install and activate a theme and choose a layout, all you have to do is insert your own content and copy. And you’re done.
If you want a more customized approach, most themes allow you to personalize the design. You can change the colors, typography, structure, etc. You can even add your own code (HTML and CSS). It all depends on your needs.
Some of the premium themes out there come with a page builder, which can give you even more options. An example: pre-design website section layouts (features, team, portfolio, etc), that can be dragged and dropped to your site.
But this can be a subject for a future article.
In a nutshell, your theme can come with different customization options. If they’re packed with a page builder, the experience can get really exciting and the sky will be the limit for your website’s design. If you want many customization options, this means that you might need to buy a theme, because the free plans usually don’t offer many personalization options.
Where can you find WordPress themes?
From here you can go to the website of each page and see which are the features, pricing plans, design options, and more.
What to analyze when choosing a theme?
- Latest update: make sure that the theme has been updated in the last 6 months, else it might crash and have bugs. WordPress is continuously improving, and each update needs to be incorporated into the themes and plugins in the ecosystem.
- Reviews: read how others work with the theme, if they loved it or not, which were the best and worst features.
- Simple layouts: don’t go with a complex design. Complex can mean trouble in the design world. Also, if you look at giants such as Google and Apple, their design is all about simplicity and making it easy for the end-user to find what they are looking for. Build your site with the audience in mind. You must help them achieve their goals on your site with ease.
- Responsive theme: your website needs to adjust perfectly to any device. This is no longer optional.
- Browser compatibility: your website needs to load well on the most popular browsers out there: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, etc. This compatibility should be communicated on the theme’s site.
- Theme speed: if you want your blog content to be easily discovered by Google and your desired audience, this means that it should load really fast. Now, it’s kinda difficult to check this on your own, but there’s plenty of research out there on the topic.
- Translations: if you will have a local blog, you won’t be needing this feature. But if you want to go beyond the border, you’ll need a translated website. You might wanna check if the theme is compatible with the most popular translation WordPress plugins.
- Plugin compatibility: there are some WordPress blog plugins that are good-to-have that we’ve talked about in a previous article of hours, chapter 8 Most Useful WordPress Blog Plugins. If you want to know if your particular theme supports a specific plugin, you can contact the theme’s developer (on Facebook, contact page) and find out.
Now, let’s say you’ve chosen your theme:
Here’s how you can install it:
WordPress Blogging – the Basics
In this chapter, we shall discuss some blogging concepts like:
- Blog listing and blog posts
- Blog categories and tag
- Blog sidebar
- And more
WordPress Pages versus WordPress Posts
By default, WordPress comes with two content types: posts and pages.
Posts are blog articles that are shown in reverse chronological order (newest content goes first).
Posts and Pages have their own menu items in the WordPress dashboard.
If you want to create a new post for your blog, just head over to “Posts”, and then select “Add new”.
When you want to edit a previous post, just hover over its title and select “Edit”.
Now, the moment you hit “Edit” there will be different interfaces depending on the Editor you are using: the Default or the Classic WordPress Editor. We’ll get into the nitty gritty details a bit later.
WordPress Blog Listing and WordPress posts
You’ve probably noticed by now that a blog has two types of content pages:
- A bigger page where you can see the most recent posts – this is found under Pages in the WordPress dashboard. This page will automatically pull your latest articles to its listing.
- The posts themselves, with separate URLs, and can be found in Posts, in the WordPress dashboard.
Technically, the first page is called the blog listing page. Below is an example of a blog listing page from the Bakery template by Colibri.
This particular template allows for articles to be shown in a two-column layout. Page builders allow you to change this default, maybe you want your latest post to be more prominent on the page, maybe you want a three-column layout, etc.
By default, the blog listings page displays:
- The post title.
- Post info (author, category, date, etc.)
- A featured image.
Some additional blogging settings can be done in the WordPress dashboard.
Just head over to Settings -> Reading.
By default, in WordPress, the homepage will show the latest posts. You can change that here. You can choose an already existing page or create one. You can also tell WordPress which is your desired posts page. Then you can decide how many posts to be shown in the blog listing.
When installing the majority of themes, as I mentioned earlier, they’ll create the Front Page and Blog for you. This means that they will override the WordPress default where the homepage will display the latest posts.
Blog posts URLs
It’s important that your blog URLs follow the same pattern. You can establish that pattern inside Settings -> Permalinks.
You can decide that your blog article URL contains the post name, or the year of the post, or both. It’s up to you.
More best practices on how to use WordPress permalinks, here.
WordPress Blog Comments
Comments are a great way to interact with your site visitors, but, most of the comments that you’ll get will be spam. This is why we advise you to manually approve comments or just shut them off entirely.
You can set up comments and comment moderations inside Settings -> Discussion.
If you choose to allow comments, you can definitely use plugins to prevent spammy stuff.
WordPress Categories and Tags
Categories and tags are ways of organizing posts, to make them easier to discover by both your readers and Google’s bots.
In Colibri, we group our articles into the following categories:
- WordPress know-how
- Learn from
- UX & Web Design
- Marketing tactics
The categories show up underneath the blog article’s title. We also show them in the sidebar.
Categories are meant to classify in a broader way a series of blog posts. Categories can have their own sub-categories. If you feel that inside the main category, there are some important subsections, you can definitely define sub-categories.
Next, you’ve got tags, they can get even more specific than categories. Consider them as micro-categories. This article for example has the “WordPress know-how” category. Now, every topic here can be a tag: “WordPress categories”, WordPress blogging”, “Blogging plugins”, and more.
Categories and tags help the end-user navigate your website, and this will help you rank better. More on the topic, in our previous article: How to Deal with WordPress Categories Like a Ninja
How to Add the Blog to the Main Menu
Most of the themes come with a pre-built menu. Usually, the blog is there too. If not, here’s how you can add the blog listing page to the menu. Here are the steps:
- Go to the WordPress Dashboard -> Appearance -> Menus.
- Under “Add menu items”, you’ll see the pages you created on your site (or the default ones created by the theme). Tick the blog pages and click on “Add to menu”.
- Hit “Save menu”.
That was all!
If you want to dig more on the topic, here’s an article on creating a menu in WordPress.
The WordPress Blog Sidebar
WordPress sidebars are column areas, usually on the right-hand side of a website, that display information that is not a part of the main content. Some sidebars can be shown on the right, or even below the content of a page.
Blog sidebars are used for different purposes. You can use them to help users better navigate the blog. You can customize them, based on the info of the article. You can have a different sidebar on the blog listing page, than on the blog articles.
On the Colibri blog, we have the same sidebar both for the blog and the posts.
At the moment we have 3 items:
- A search bar – readers can look for a specific topic
- Categories listing – readers can choose to read articles from a particular category
- Banner – an image widget with a call to action to get the readers to try our product
Our sidebar has two purposes:
- To help users find the articles they’re more interested in
- To convert users into customers via the banner and call to action
You can also have social media items in the sidebar if your purpose is to get more followers.
Here’s a more in-depth article on the blog sidebar issue: do’s and don’ts and how-tos.
And here’s how you can create a sidebar in under 2 minutes.
Now, it’s finally time to create a blog article.
Blink if you’re still with me :).
Remember this screenshot?
We’ll be taking our discussion forward from here.
WordPress Blogging in The Classic Editor
When you click “Add New” you’ll be prompted to a new window where you can start writing your article.
Let’s look at some elements here:
- Blog post title – Make sure you create a catchy title for your article (but not clickbait)
- Blog post slug or URL – the moment you type in the title of your article, WordPress will prepare a URL suggestion that can be edited.
- The text editor – it’s that blank section of the site where you can start typing or pasting your text. One thing you should know is that you can’t paste images.
- Add Media – the moment you want to insert a video, an image inside the article, just head over here. You can upload all sorts of files here and access any previously uploaded files by name, by date, etc. you can insert Youtube and Vimeo videos by URL as well.
- Basic text editing – alignment, paragraph styles, and more can be edited from here.
- HTML and CSS editing – if you are a web design aficionado, you can make changes to your text if you change from “visual” to “text”.
- Add categories and tags to your blog article – on the right you’ll see a dropdown of categories. Assign one category per blog article. Tags can be added manually, and our recommendation is not to exceed 10 tags per article.
- Add the blog article featured image – that’s an image that represents the topic, it will show on the blog listing as well, and it will be the first image from your article. When you select “Set featured image” you’ll be taken to the Media Library, where you can select an image or upload a new one.
- Save or schedule your article – here you can save the post as a draft, schedule it for later, or even delete it.
The moment you hit “Publish, the article will go live. Still, you can make changes whenever you want via the “Edit” option.
WordPress Blogging in the Default Editor (Gutenberg)
The moment you hit “Add new post” or “Edit”, inside “Posts” you’ll get to a window that looks like this:
Let’s take its elements one at a time:
- Add title – add the article’s headline
- Insert text – type or paste your desired text
- Basic text editing – if you hover over your text you’ll see the option to make your text bold, italic, you can align it, duplicate it. Basic, as I said :).
- Choose a block – if you want to add an image, a list, a Youtube video, insert a tweet, you’ll be adding a block. This is why Gutenberg is called a Block editor.
- HTML editing – if you click on the three dots in the upper right, you’ll see some extra options. Here you can also switch to the Code Editor if you feel you need to go wild.
- Adding categories, tags, and a featured image – head over to the upper right corner and go for the Settings icon. Here you can select or add a category, and also assign tags.
- Publish your blog article – you can do it from the previous settings or from the “Publish” button in the upper right corner.
Hooray, your first blog post is out there!
That wasn’t that hard, was it?
One more stone was left unturned: blog plugins. Promise it won’t take long!
WordPress Blog Plugins
I’m not going to insist too much on the topic because we’ve covered it in our WordPress widgets and plugins article.
I’m going to just wrap the info a bit for you.
There are tons of plugins out there that you can use for your blog. They can cover different functions:
- Help with SEO – these plugins guide you in making some tweaks to your blog article in order to help them rank better.
- Prevent spamming
- Lead generation (eg: pop-ups for newsletter subscription)
- and more.
Myself, I’m using 2 SEO plugins, a guest author plugin, a newsletter plugin and some plugins to optimize my images and prevent spam.
The article mentioned above will give you more information and provide you with 8 popular plugin recommendations for your blog.
And, I think we can call it a day.