I work with WordPress a lot. I design and build websites for clients and coach them on how to edit and add content to their sites. As I work with users of many different levels of experience, I take note of their WordPress questions, as it’s hard for me to see it from a beginner’s perspective.
I started using WordPress in April 2006. My first few posts were so awful that I’m grateful I can’t find them on the internet anymore — and hope no one else can either. I live and breathe it pretty much every day now, so it’s all pretty easy and second nature to me. My goal is to make it the same for every user.
Here are the Top 10 WordPress Questions I Get From Folks Who are Just Starting:
- What’s the difference in WordPress.org and WordPress.com? WordPress.org is the self-hosted version, which means you buy your own domain name and secure you own hosting. WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress on its servers. You have much more freedom with WordPress.org and your own hosting than with WordPress.com. I often compare it to the difference between owning and renting your home; you can change drapes and furnishings in a rental home, but not walls, floors, windows and doors. If you’re building a site for your business, go with WordPress.org — if you’re blogging for yourself or for fun, WordPress.com will do nicely.
- What’s a content management system? WordPress is a content management system (CMS). These systems allow the user to edit and add their own posts, pages, images, and other content. A CMS also helps organize content, most often via a system of posts, pages, and categories.
- What’s the difference in tags and categories? Categories form a broader grouping for your content than tags. For example, if you’re writing about food, you may have a fruit category and use tags such as apple, orange, lemon, lime, etc. Tags let you organize in greater detail. A single post can have multiple tags and multiple categories, and a user can search your site using either.
What are permalinks and why are they important? Permalinks are permanent links to any piece of content on your website. They are important because the permalink is where a post or page will always live as long as it’s on your site. If your home page is example.com, your post permalink might be example.com/my-awesome-blog-post. It’s important to set permalinks on your site to display your post title, as it helps your content get found on search engines.
- What’s the difference between widgets and plugins? A widget is sometimes a plugin, and sometimes not. A plugin sometimes has a widget and sometimes doesn’t. Some plugins create widgets — for example an Instagram plugin. Say you’d like to display your last three Instagram posts on your sidebar. You’ll add a plugin and this particular plugin will create a widget you can add to any widget area on your site by drag and drop. You might also add an SEO plugin to your site, which won’t have a widget, but will help your content get discovered. There are also some native WordPress widgets, such as recent posts, archives, and categories lists that aren’t related to plugins. Plugins and widgets are sometimes related, but not always.
- How do posts differ from pages? A page is where you’ll post things that always stay in place on your site. This includes your about page, maybe a contact page, or anything else that you want your readers to always be able to access. Posts appear in reverse chronological order; today’s post will push yesterday’s post down in the order, and so forth. Posts are for adding fresh, new content on a regular basis, whereas pages generally don’t change.
- Why does my text look funky when I paste it in from Word/Pages/other word processing app? Word processors add their own formatting, even when it doesn’t look like it. So when you paste your text into WordPress’ visual (or WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get, pronounced ‘wizzywig’) interface, it’s already got a bunch of formatting. I have two tips to get rid of this problem: a) At the top of the post window, where you add your text, click the Text tab to bring up the text/HTML interface. Don’t worry, there’s no code involved. Just paste your text in the box, and click back on Visual to further edit; or b) Save your text as a plain text file (.txt) and paste it in from that. Both solutions strip the word processor formatting and will allow you text to follow the style sheet of the site and keep a consistent look.
- Why doesn’t my thumbnail show up when I link to my post on Facebook or LinkedIn? There may be a couple of reasons for this. a) You didn’t add a featured image. b) Your site doesn’t have Facebook Open Graph markup. The easiest way to get Facebook Open Graph data is to install the Yoast SEO plugin, which will add it for you at the click of a box. It’s also the best SEO plugin for WordPress.
- Should I update my themes and plugins when updates are available, or should I wait? Generally, yes, update. Many, if not most updates contain security fixes and patches that help keep your site safe from hackers and malware. The primary way WordPress sites get hacked is outdated themes and plugins. More recent versions of WordPress offer automatic updates for WordPress, but you’ll have to keep an eye on your themes and plugins.
- What’s the featured image? Do I need one if I have an image in my post? Add the featured image in the right column near the bottom of the interface. Yes, you do need a featured image, as it’s what Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites will pull for the image when you post a link to a post on your site. It’s also the image that will show on your blog archive page, which is the list of posts that will show up when you choose access all the posts in a category or with a particular tag.
What other questions do you have? Let me know in the comments. For more WordPress reading, here are more posts.
Do you have a WordPress site and need coaching and/or consulting? Get in touch.