Today’s post in the “How to start a Blog” series covers how to publish posts and how to use categories and keywords.
If you’re just joining this series now and want to catch up, this is what we have covered so far:
- the pros and cons of free vs. paid blogs
- how to set up a free blog on WordPress
- how to get a domain name and web hosting
- selecting a theme
- how to set up a self-hosted WordPress blog
- pages: what to include, how to publish
In the last post, we talked about pages, and to recap: pages are where you should put information that remains constant (like your bio, contact information, etc.) and that you want to be visible and easily accessible from your blog’s front page at all times (withthe help of menus).
And today, we’ll talk about how to publish a blog post. Posts are the dynamic part of your blog where you have a chance to “talk” to your readers on a regular basis. Posts are published in reverse chronological order, so the most recent one shows up first on your blog. If you want people to always see a particular post when they land on your front page, you need to make it “sticky” by checking off “Stick this post to the front page” in the publish menu in the post.
What should you write about in your posts? The answer is: anything you want, but for SEO reasons, try to keep it within your niche. You could write about upcoming events, events you have attended, case studies, your thoughts on a particular subject, your favorite websites or books or products; whatever you feel like writing about.
How To Publish A Blog Post
I’m keeping these instructions on the short side; for a more elaborate “how to”, see the post about how to publish pages – it’s basically the same steps.
- Log into your blog (you’ll land on your dashboard) and under Posts, click on Add New
- This brings up a new page with blank fields. Just as when posting a page, I always change the visibility to Private and keep it that way until I’m ready to publish it
- Fill in your title
- Click on the Text tab and copy your text from word and paste it here. Click on Update
- Switch to the Visual tab. Here, make any style changes that you want. The functions are very similar to those in MS Word – to bold text, highlight the text and click B, and so forth
- If you want to add an image, click on the Add Media button. This will open your image library, and you can either select an image here, or upload a new one. We will go over images more in depth in a separate post
There are two more things to add to posts that you don’t do in pages: Categories and Tags (keywords). Both are important, because they help people find your post.
Categories are used to group related posts together, to make it easier for your readers to find the content they are looking for. When you first start a blog, there is only one category: Uncategorized. Make sure you don’t leave your posts uncategorized; it looks sloppy and it will make it difficult for you to organize your content. So before publishing your post, scroll down to the Categories window (on the right hand side of your screen), click on Add New Category, type in the name of your new category and click add. It will show up in the list of categories, checked off and ready. Just uncheck the Uncategorized category and you’re all set.
A Note About Categories
It’s a good idea to take some time to think about which categories you might want on your blog, even before you write your first post. The reason I say that is because depending on how you set up your blog, categories can really help you organize your site well from the start.
When assigning a category to a post, think of it as a one or two-word overarching title that best describes for your particular audience what the posts in that category are about. This one, for example, is in my categories “Blogging” and “Business”. But if I had a site that was all about WordPress blogs, it would probably be in something like “Posts”, and “how tos”. So it really depends on your site and how you choose to organize it.
You can also add, delete and edit categories under Posts – Categories in the dashboard menu.
Tags (a.k.a. Keywords)
Tags are keywords that describe more in detail what your post is about. They can be short or long, and can also help people find your post more easily. If you for example write a post about animal massage and how to do that with different animals, but don’t have the term “massage for beginners” in the text, then someone searching for that exact phrase wouldn’t necessarily land on your page. So if you talk about how to massage cats in your text, but don’t want to add that particular phrase – it might not sound right to you, you might not like it in your writing, etc. – you could add the phrase as a keyword, and then those searching for that would be more likely to find your post.
In general, the longer the keyword, the easier it is to rank for (meaning they can help your post to show up on the 2nd page in Google rather than the 22nd). “Long tail keywords” is a popular term in online marketing, and it describes almost sentence-like keywords, which, because they have less competition than shorter ones, are good tools to use to get your site to show up higher in the search engines.
For example, if you enter the term “animal massage” in Google, you end up with almost millions of hits, but if you enter “how to do animal massage with rescued feral cats”, you get a far fewer results. Having said that, your tags should be related to what your post is about, not be just any good long-tail keyword.
Over the years, there have been quite a few keyword search tools appearing and sometimes disappearing almost as quickly, as keeping up with Google’s ever changing algorithms is a challenge to say the least. Many were paid services where you could enter a keyword and the tool would magically generate all these great long tail keywords that people were looking for. Google was not happy with that, and cracked down on many of them; others closed up shop on their own.
The easiest way to do keyword research is to use Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner tool, where you can see which terms are searched for the most, and use that information to add keywords that relate to your post.
Adding Tags To A Post
Once you have decided on a few tags, type them into the window in the Tags section (in the menu on the right hand side of your post), separated by commas, and click Add. You’ll see your tags below the window. If you decide you don’t want one of them, just click the little x right next to the word. Keep your tags to less than ten, more than that is considered spammy; I recommend using around five.
Set Featured Image
Just as with pages, if you have images in your posts, and especially if you have your blog set up to show images in excerpts and categories, it’s a good idea to set the image you want to “represent” the post. If you don’t select a featured image, it will be the first image you have in your post. Scroll down to and click on “Set featured image”. This will bring up your media library, just select the image you want here and click Set featured image.
Review your post. If you like what you see, go back to your post page, change the visibility to Public and hit publish. Your post is now live !
In the next few posts in this series, we are going to talk about plugins; little pieces of code that help with various functions, and the appearance of your site, and images – which formats to use, how to upload them, formatting and linking, etc.
For a complete list of the blogging products I use and recommend, see the Recommended Blogging Tools & Resources page.