WordPress dash iconsWhen it comes to getting the most out of your website these days it really does pay off to keep it regularly updated with new content. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to regularly add new blog posts, articles, or tutorials (like this one) that provide value to your target audience and help you target the keywords you want to rank for in the search engines.

But if you’re new to WordPress you might not be feeling confident about using the back-end admin panel yet. But the best way to build up your confidence is to dive right in and start drafting out some posts straightaway.

This tutorial will outline the basic process of publishing your first WordPress blog post.  Remember that if you’re creating a new post or page, it doesn’t go live until you hit that ‘Publish‘ button, so feel free to explore and experiment without fear!

Table of contents

  1. Creating a new post
  2. Add a post title
  3. View and edit the post permalink
  4. Working with the post body:
    1. Laying out your post
    2. Understanding headings
    3. Writing effective body copy
  5. Publishing your post

1). Creating a new post

Simply log in to your WordPress admin back-end. Then hover over ‘Posts’ and click on ‘Add new’. This will bring up the Add Post page, where your new post will be born!

2). Add a post title

The post title is the most important element used by search engines to determine the subject of your post or page. By default, WordPress will take your post title and insert it into the HTML title tag as well.

Wordpress: adding a title to a new post

In other words, the post title will become at least part of the blue title that potential visitors will see when your post appears in their search results. In addition, WordPress will use the post title to generate a permalink for your post.

Besides looking at the title, search engines will also take clues from the keywords they find in the permalink, which is another good reason to choose a title that’s relevant to the content of your post. But more importantly than that, the title must be relevant to the main body text of your post, or else your post might be dismissed as spam and downgraded by search engines.

Try to keep your title short and catchy. As a general rule of thumb aim for fewer than 8 words.

The permalink is the web address from which your post can be accessed once published. As the name suggests, this address is intended to be permanent.

WordPress: adding and editing the permalink

By default, the permalink is generated automatically as soon as you’ve created your post title. It is displayed directly beneath the post title, but if you can’t see it yet, make sure you’ve finished writing your post title then click outside the post title input box.

WordPress will then assume you’ve finished writing your title and create a URL-encoded version of your title that forms the permalink. However, if you’re not seeing a permalink but instead have a link with a question mark at the start and a bunch of numbers instead then I’d strongly recommend changing your permalink settings.

Assuming you’re using the postname in your permalink structure, you can also edit it manually if you wish. Generally, it’s best to leave it alone unless you know what you’re doing, or if you decide to change your post title after WordPress has generated the permalink automatically.

Again, it is important that the permalink is relevant to your post title and content. So if you do change your title the easiest way to update the permalink too is to copy your new post title first, then click the ‘Edit‘ button next to the permalink and paste the title in. WordPress will then automatically generate a web-friendly permalink for you.

Important note:

Once you’ve set your post permalink and published your post don’t change the permalink without setting up a permanent redirect at the same time.

If you change the permalink without adding a redirect, search engines and site visitors who arrive at your post through links pointing to the original permalink will get an error message saying the post can’t be found. This is bad for your visitors and search engines alike.

4). Working with the post body

Adding text to your post body is very similar to using a word processing program like Microsoft Word. If you’re familiar with computers at all you’ll probably recognise some of the WYSIWYG tool icons, such as Bold, Italics, and text justification.

WordPress: post editor WYSIWYG tools

For some reason I’ve never figured out, by default WordPress likes to hide away half of the icons (which it used to refer to as the kitchen sink). These tools are not optional in my view (it’s absolutely essential to make good use of headings for example), so click the icon to the far right labelled ‘Toolbar toggle‘ to uncover them.

4.1). Laying out your post

Paragraphs

The basic building block of any page of text is the paragraph. WordPress automatically creates a new paragraph every time you hit ‘enter’.

You might be used to reading long paragraphs in books and newspapers, but reading on computer screens is tiring and long paragraphs are very off-putting. You’ll notice how this site rarely uses paragraphs that are longer than four lines. As a rule of thumb, every time you introduce a new idea start it off with a new paragraph.

Headings

Headings make posts easier to read, and also provide valuable keyword clues to search engines. Use headings wherever it makes sense to break up content. People don’t read much on the Internet, and tend to scan headings to find the information they’re after. Using relevant, short, and catchy headings is your chance to pull your reader into the rest of the text.

Lists

Use unordered (bulleted) lists or ordered (numbered) lists wherever you have content that needs to be separated but is closely related, for example: step-by-step instructions, or a table of contents like at the top of this post.

Lists also tend to make it easier to write shorter sentences, since you need fewer ‘linking’ words to maintain a logical flow of ideas – the list does that for you. Short sentences are easier to scan and understand.

Quotations

Whenever you quote somebody else (or another website), select the text and then hit the quote button. This will make it clear to search engines that this is a quotation and that you’re not trying to pass off somebody else’s words as your own. On the web, plagiarism will be treated as duplicate content by search engines, who will downgrade any pages they consider to be copied from elsewhere.

Emphasising text

By all means use Bold and Italics to emphasise text, but don’t overdo it. Emphasised text carries extra significance to search engines. But as a word of warning, if you emphasise too much text it will become difficult to read and look spammy.

I strongly recommend that you don’t use Underline — I won’t even use it in this example because I think it’s too confusing. Hyperlinks are generally underlined on the web, so if the text in question isn’t a hyperlink it shouldn’t be underlined. Remember: if you frustrate your visitors, they will leave your site and never come back!

Adding links

Add in links to other parts of your site (or even other parts of the page) that are relevant to the topic under discussion. So-called internal links help to keep your visitors on your website for longer.

Linking to external websites is healthy and helps establish you as an authority in your field. Linking to well-respected websites may also benefit your SEO (although there is debate about this). As a word of caution however, adding too many external links to your posts will definitely damage your SEO.

Most importantly, any links you add to your post must be relevant to the context in which they appear. Don’t link to sites selling clothes if you’re talking about philosophy unless you really do have a good reason to: for example, you’re discussing t-shirts that carry quotes from philosophers.

4.2). Understanding headings

Once you’ve clicked the Toolbar toggle to reveal the full set of WYSIWYG tools you’ll see a dropdown menu appear in the row beneath. This lets you choose from a range of preset text styles, and is set to ‘Paragraph’ by default.

The most important feature of the text styles dropdown is that it lets you easily create headings, much like the headings used in this post.

With any decent theme, WordPress will automatically take your post title and generate a Heading 1 (H1) for you. Every page on your website should contain one, and only one, H1. So if we assume your H1 has been taken care of for you, you should only be using Heading 2 and lower to mark out the key sections of your post.

Headings are hierarchical and should therefore always run consecutively. Never skip a heading level in a document – this is bad practice. For example, if you haven’t yet used a H2 in your post, don’t be tempted to jump straight to using a H3.

Above all else, don’t just use the ‘bold’ button to make your headings – search engines will give more weight to keywords found inside real headings.

4.3). Writing effective body copy

Whilst it’s essential to use keywords in your post body, be sure not to repeat the same ones too many times. Always aim to make your text readable, rather than repetitious. There are tools out there that will analyse keyword density — make sure no single keyword accounts for more than 5% of the text on your page.

In terms of length, 300 words is good, 500 is better. Don’t make the mistake of creating ‘thin’ pages on your website. They won’t rank well, and may even drag the rest of your site down with them.

If you want to become established as an authority, keep in mind that Google is starting to display long-form content (2000 words or more) in its search results separately. But never write extra words for the sake of it — keep your content relevant and focused.

5). Publishing your post

WordPress: publish options boxAt the top right of the post edit page is a section called ‘Publish‘:

  • Use the ‘Preview’ button to see what your work will look like when it is finally published. I often find it easier to spot mistakes in preview mode than in the post editor.
  • If you don’t feel the world is ready for your magnum opus just yet, save it as a draft for now using the ‘Save Draft‘ button. WordPress automatically saves your work periodically — but don’t rely upon it, be sure to hit the save button regularly.
  • If you’re feeling brave, hit ‘Publish’ and go for it! You don’t have to publish straightaway, if you click ‘Edit‘ next to ‘Publish immediately‘ you can pick a date and time for future publication. The Publish button then turns into a ‘Schedule‘ button instead.

Once published, it’s always worth checking out your post, and seeing how easy it is to reach from different parts of your website — do you have a widget displaying your latest posts in your sidebar or footer for example?

Conclusion

WordPress is a sophisticated piece of software. Despite being fairly easy to get to grips with, like all new skills there is a learning curve to publishing your own web content.

Creating a new post provides the perfect opportunity to play around and experiment without needing to publish anything or show the results to anybody — it really is a great playground in which to build up your confidence.

At EggCup Web Design we not only build WordPress websites, we also provide WordPress training for small groups and one-to-one sessions. If you’re still struggling with posts, or would like to take your skills to the next level, why not contact us and we’ll see what we can do to help.