Today, I thought I would take a look at the slightly mysterious options that lie to the far right of your screen - Wordpress post settings for beginners. They're important and worth tweaking every time you write a blog post, so take the time now to check them out, and the time when you write your next blog post to give them a try.
Your posts will look better, they will perform better on Google, and you'll have gained confidence when it comes to stepping up your blogging game.
It will help you to understand if you're looking at the options as explain them, so go ahead and open up Wordpress and check out each one as I go through them.
I'm writing this post from the point of view of a free Wordpress.com account. If you have a paid account, themes enabled, or a Wordpress.org account, the options might be in different places, and the interface might look different. In essence, however, the gist will be more or less the same, so be brave, and poke around until my advice makes sense in your version. Google is your friend here - for example Google "how to find post settings in xx theme". You (probably) won't do any harm!
You'll see this option in both a new post and an existing post. To create a new post from the home page, navigate to Manage Blog > Posts Add. To open an existing post, click on edit or double click on the title. When a new post opens, focus your attention on the Post Settings column that appears on the far right. If there's nothing there, hit the settings "cog" in the top bar.
You'll see something that looks like this:
What are post settings?
Post settings are all the tweaks that will affect how your post behaves once it's been published. It's easiest to make changes once the post has been written, so feel free to write a new post or open up a post that has already been written and tweak the settings there. Settings only apply to the post you have open, so you need to check them every time you write an article.
The status of the post refers to whether it is online and published, in drafts, or something else. If it is published or intended to be published, you will have access to the date of publication. In most cases, the post will be published with the date of the day you clicked "Publish" and that is fine.
When might you want to change the publication date?
A date in the future - perfect for planning ahead, write posts and set them to publish at a time in the future if you want to provide for holidays or busy times, or if you're just so organized you have them ready now and want to set them and leave them to publish automatically. Don't forget that if you do this, you'll also have to have a plan in mind to deal with the promotion of the post (it's easier to forget if it's publishing automatically).
A date in the past - you might publish in the past to add a post that completes a series (when the post in question is relevant at the start of the series), or just to make something else square up. By and large this isn't too common and won't be something you'll have to worry about. To illustrate, I'm moving blog posts from one blog to another at the moment, and when I bring a post to the new blog, I backdate it to when it was originally published on the old blog.
Public, Admins & Editors or password protected?
Most blog posts will be published, so all the world can see them. Admin access can be handy for blogs where there is more than one team member, so you can leave instructions and examples for each other without the whole world seeing. Some people are also in the habit of using this for draft posts when they are waiting to be checked by a second person, but if you look below, you'll see that you have a little check button for that - pending review. You enable that when the post needs review, and disable it when it has been reviewed.
Stick to the front page
This is fairly self-explanatory. All posts will initially be on the front page of your blog if they are not backdated, but will eventually be pushed off the front page by new posts. How fast this will happen depends on how many posts you have to a page, and how quickly you produce new posts. If you want a particular post to take pride of place for longer, enable this button and it will "stick" to the top.
Categories & Tags
This section is essential - categories and tags are how people and Google (to an extent) navigate around your site. Think of categories like overarching sections, and tags, well, like more individualized labels.
You should give your categories a good think before implementing them. Ideally, you'd have them planned before publishing a single post and use the right category consistently.
If you haven't set categories, read this and take 15 minutes now. Add new categories by clicking Add New Category and decide if you want that category to be a top-level category or a sub-category of another category.
Again, this is important for SEO and user experience, so take your time and read up on it. Remember, even though they are important, you don't have to use categories, so if you need more time, categorize everything "blog" or leave it blank for the tags to provide interim information - but do sort it out sooner rather than later.
Tags describe the details of the post you are currently writing - but keep it relevant! To add tags, just type in the box - new tags will be created every time you press space or a comma. Remember, tags and categories are like breadcrumbs leading around your site. If you use the tag "purplerabbit", it should ideally also bring up other posts that - somehow - have something to do with purple rabbits. To see categories and tags in action, look at mine, at the bottom of this post.
This is a huge one, and people get it wrong all the time. To start, get some background information by reading this, and some image inspiration by reading this. Now, click on the add Featured Image button. This is the image that will be most obvious in your post. Depending on your theme, it will span the top of the post or feature near the top. Again, depending on various factors, it is also the image that other services pull out to feature when they are displaying your blog post, so it's worth ensuring it's a good one.
In brief, the featured image should be:
- Relevant to your post
- The right size (no bigger than 500kb, around 1200 x 800 pixels)
- Properly tagged and named
Sharing is where you will decide what options readers have to share your post with others and on social media directly from the blog interface. To give them all the available options, you need to connect the accounts of any social networks you use to the Sharing page in your Wordpress account.
If this isn't already done, take 20 minutes and do it now. Sharing from the blog post is a major component in helping people to discover your content, and by not setting it up, you are severely hampering your blog's chance at success. Don't forget to examine and set up both the Connections and Sharing buttons tab within the sharing page. There is information about how to do this here.
Once everything's set up, all you have to do for a given post is enable or disable the two show sharing buttons and show like button toggles. I can't think of why you would not enable these, unless you don't have any social networks set up or, for some reason, you don't want to draw attention to the social networks you do have!
Post format is a well-implemented feature on Wordpress, and worth taking a look at. That said, it is not at all important if you're just getting to grips with your blog, so, by all means, leave it until another day.
If you want to look at it now, however, be my guest! Apart from the Standard post, you have some options for other post types that display a little differently. Some of how they appear will be influenced by the type of theme you have enabled and the content you want to publish. It's fairly self-explanatory - if you're posting a quote, pick Quote. If it's a link, pick Link! I've published a few types on my test website. Remember, this website is a testing ground - so it's seriously bare-bones. Your site will be much nicer - right?!
Down here, under the misleadingly blandly-named More Options, are some of the most important bits of your post! Now, remember that I am looking at blog posts from a business point of view - if you're writing only for personal satisfaction, this won't be your primary concern.
Why is More Options so important?
More options is where 2 of the most important features for SEO come into play - slug and excerpt.
The slug is the bit of the URL (webpage address) that refers to the post you have just written. If you don't modify it, Wordpress will call your post a variety of possible things, based mainly on the default settings for your website - default settings that you or someone else may or may not have modified. If you want to check what it is set to do by default, publish a post with a title but without modifying the slug option and see what comes out the other side - i.e. what is visible on the front end of your blog. If you do this, do not share the post - once a URL is "out in the wild", it's a bad idea to change it unless really necessary.
Alternatively, have a poke around in your website's settings. In a paid plan, you'll find this under Settings > Permalinks, and you can set a new default for your posts. The new URL (the permalink) should be as plain and sensible as possible, and you can find more information about how to do that here.
In a free plan, you don't have access to permalinks. Instead, you can modify the slug here. The best bet is to make the slug as straightforward as possible, including your post keyword or a variant of the keyword, if you have carried out keyword research. If you haven't, just make sure it is clear and to the point.
On this post, for example (even though this blog is not Wordpress), I have changed my URL to "www.clockworkblog.com/blog/post-settings-wordpress-beginners". The automatically generated URL, before I added a title, was "www.clockworkblog.com/blog/m2zt2e8fhylq6e7pc8oy1sfwo6x3k1". You can guess which one people would be happier clicking!
Get it right, and it'll make your post feel like it's at the top of its game. In reality, excerpts are just "optional hand-crafted summaries of your content", but they are great for a few reasons:
- They're the bit Google will use as the summary of your post when it appears in a search results
- They're an additional, powerful opportunity to get your keyword mentioned
- They're a good opportunity to improve your writing
- They can be used in the promotion of your blog post, wherever you need more words to fill out a social media update
Create your excerpt by taking your keyword (if you have one) and the 2 - 3 main points of your post. Then combine them into something succinct and more or less stylish.
My keyword here is "Wordpress post settings for beginners".
My 2 - 3 main points:
- It's worth taking a look at your post settings - some are optional, but knowing them will help your confidence
- More Options, Categories and Tags, and Featured Image are the most important areas to focus on
- We look at each one and show you why it matters
"Wordpress post settings for beginners. Post Settings hide lots of options but get to grips with them if you want to become a confident blogger. More Options, Categories and Tags, and Featured Image should be your focus, but we take a look at everything hiding behind the Post Settings menu."
It's worth mentioning that Google has recently increased the number of characters that will display in a search snippet (taken from the excerpt). It used to be around 160 characters and now seems to be at 275 or so. You can find more information here, but be warned, this info is intermediate level. My summary above is 278 words or so.
Location is, again, optional and pretty self-explanatory. If where you are writing from is important to your business, for whatever reason, consider adding location. If it doesn't matter, or you'd prefer not to say (although there are other ways of finding out where you are, if someone cared to look), leave it blank.
This pertains to comments and pingbacks. Highly important for some bloggers, especially those involved in blogging communities, for the rest of us there's a definite number of pros and cons to weigh up. There are many opinions online. Here's a balanced report. For context, I don't have comments on this blog because on my last blog, they were a waste of space - no one commented except for a very small bit of spam. Recently, however, genuine readers have been asking why they can't comment, so I am considering enabling them.
If you choose to enable commenting, have a look at Settings > Discussion out on the main blog page (not within a blog post). Examine the options here and modify as you see fit.
Pingbacks and trackbacks are a Wordpress-specific hangover from an earlier era of blogging. Have a look here and decide if they are for you. Personally, I feel a bit meh about them and probably would not enable.
As we near the end of the menu, we see two important options that can be hard to find if you don't know where to look! Copy post does just that - if for whatever reason, you need to copy a post, you can do it here. Just select the post you want to copy and click overwrite - but do bear in mind that it will, in fact, overwrite whatever is currently on the page! If you want to copy a post without losing anything, chose this option on a new, blank blog post.
Move to trash
Again, very important! Remember, you can also trash and copy posts from the summary, by clicking ...More and Trash or Copy.
I hope that leaves you a bit clearer about the mysteries of blog post settings. Remember, the best way you'll learn is by doing, so get in there and start experimenting. Don't publish your experiments if it's a business site (until you're confident they represent your business well), or make sure they are password protected. By tinkering in the blog post settings, it's very unlikely that you'll make any fatal or site-wide changes, so be brave and get investigating. Once you feel more confident, you can let your new, improved blog posts out into the wild!