Learning WordPress: Morgan’s Ten Minute WordPress Guide

Hello and welcome to my ten minute guide designed to help web geeks learn WordPress. This guide was designed for people who are quick learners, already understand the basics of the Internet and domains, and are sick and tired of long, boring, drawn-out tutorials. I’ve found that there are so many great tutorials online but many of them move at a great pace for Internet novices but go too slow for geeks you and me (assuming you’re a geek). So if you’d like to learn WordPress, and have a spare ten minutes, this guide has everything you need to get started.

Installing WordPress
This is one of the greatest things about WordPress – it is unbelievably easy to install. There are a few ways to do this depending on how you plan to host your domain, I’ve listed three of the most common options below:

  • Hosting With cPanel – this is probably the most common scenario as cPanel is used by just about every hosting company under the sun. In cPanel you can simply use Fantastico De Luxe and a few clicks later, WordPress is installed.
  • Installing Via FTP – if you don’t have cPanel and you normally access your site directly through FTP you can simply download WordPress and then follow the famous five-minute WordPress installation process.
  • Installing on Go Daddy Hosting – since so many people use Go Daddy I thought it was important to mention it here. If you go to the Hosting Connection within your Go Daddy hosting account you’ll see WordPress as an option. Just like Fantastico De Luxe, a few clicks later and WordPress is up and running.

WordPress Themes
When it comes to themes I’ve found there are a few go-to Theme providers that have the best themes. Don’t be afraid to spend money on a theme, almost all of them are under $100 and a good theme makes all the difference. Below are my favorite theme providers:

  1. WooThemes – this is my favorite WordPress Theme designer on the planet and the one I’ve been using the longest. Their themes are always bullet-proof and have phenomenal customization options and great support. As an HTML/CSS geek myself I also find it’s easy to tinker around with these themes without worrying about uncovering coding errors.
  2. DIY Themes – I run my own blog on Thesis which in my mind is the single best WordPress theme out there for blogs. Thesis is probably the most customizable theme out there and if you are handy with CSS, this will be a dream for you.
  3. Elegant Themes – this was a new one for me this year and I really like their themes. Elegant Themes definitely has some of the most creative and clean-looking themes but often lack the sophisticated interfaces that WooThemes and DIY Themes provide. Expect things not to be perfect and there’s definitely some configuration necessary to get these themes running but great documentation makes it all possible.

There are many other theme designers out there, but I’m trying to give you something you can walk-away with in ten minutes and be ready to rock. You can’t go wrong picking themes from any of these providers above. One word of caution is when it comes to themes from ThemeForest, while I really like the company and their services I’ve had countless problems with WordPress themes I’ve downloaded from them. Don’t get me wrong, they have some beautiful themes, but expect some heavy tweaking/fixing.

WordPress Plugins
You could spend a lifetime reading articles about the top five or top ten WordPress plugins that everyone should have. Once again – my goal here is to provide you with a ten-minute introduction so I’ll give you three essential WordPress plugins that you should always install.

  1. All In One SEO Pack – the defacto standard for WordPress SEO
  2. Secure WordPress – basic WordPress security
  3. Akismet – make sure you get an API key for Akismet, this will eliminate comment spam

Of course there are tons of other great plugins for WordPress, ProBlogger has some great recommendations and was my original go-to source for plugin recommendations. Make sure to take a look at these ProBlogger posts below if you really want to go deep into the world of WordPress plugins.

WordPress SEO
There are a few key things you should know when it comes to WordPress SEO. First, it is critical to install the All In One SEO Pack and make a great title, preferably under 70 characters. The title tag is one of the most important elements to good SEO so make sure your dominant keywords are in the title. Also complete the meta description and keywords, the description should make someone want to learn more.

Next is permalinks, a very small change that makes a very big difference. Go to “Settings” -> “Permalinks” and change the format to “Custom Structure” and then enter /%postname%/

This is a very important step as it will make sure that your pages and posts have SEO-friendly URL’s rather than the default ?p=7. If you write a post with keywords in the title, having those keywords in the URL is a very valuable part of any SEO strategy. By making this one small change to the permalink structure WordPress will do this for you going forward.

Monetizing WordPress
WooThemes is probably the easiest when it comes to monetization as they have ad spots clearly visible and easily configurable from their theme control panels. Still, you can easily create ad spots with any theme by using a text widget.

To access widgets simply go to “Appearance” -> “Widgets” and drag a Text Widget onto your sidebar. You can place any ad code you want inside this text widget and the ad will appear on your sidebar.

Now what if you want an ad to appear in your header? This is a common question and it’s not very hard to do. To access the Header.php file itself you can go to “Appearance” -> “Editor” and then click on the word “Header” in the list on the right. All you need to do is navigate down just after the </head> tag and paste in your ad code. If you want it to be centered surround it with the <center> and </center> tag (i.e. put your code in between those tags).

The same technique can be done with the footer if you’d like to place an ad at the bottom of your blog. This can be one of the biggest hurdles for people when they first start working with WordPress. Just remember – the text widget can save your life by giving you a nice chunk of space in which you can put any code you want.

If you don’t know how to place ads on your site I recommend starting with an affiliate company like Share A Sale or Commission Junction. Both of these companies make it easy for webmasters to search for products or services, and then get paid to sell them through their own site. In most cases you will apply for a specific program and, once accepted, you will have access to banners and links that will allow you to get commission on any purchases that your visitors make.

Learning More About WordPress
So that’s the ten minute version, but I’m sure you’re hungry for more. Below are some great additional resources you can check-out to help take your WordPress skills to the next level.

  1. Learn.Wordpress.com – the #1 place to learn WordPress inside and out from the creators themselves.
  2. Nuttuts – this is one of the top tutorial sites on the net and they have some great WordPress tutorials.
  3. The Ultimate Guide To Learning WordPress – created by Six Revisions, awesome guide and a great read.

That’s it! If you have ever wanted to get started with WordPress, you now have all the tools you need to go forth and conquer. Make sure to always focus on high-quality content above everything else. You can make the most beautiful site on the planet but if the content stinks, you won’t get the wonderful steady stream of visitors you’re looking for.

Also, and one final warning here before I let you loose into the wild. Don’t build a million WordPress sites at once. Sometimes when you finish a tutorial like this you want to build a millions sites, spend the weekend at home drinking Mountain Dew and picking themes. Start with one site, make it great, get some nice traffic, revenue, and make a real connection with your visitor. Don’t build Site #2 until Site #1 is performing above-and-beyond your expectations. You can build incredible sites with WordPress, all you need in the information in this post, some time before or after work, and most importantly – your voice. Now go out there and make your mark, oh and if you have any questions along the way I’m always just an email away!

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • VinceD December 7, 2011, 2:10 pm

    Can I also make a suggestion to look for your local Word Camp conference? http://central.wordcamp.org/

    They have great resources and offer tracks for beginners as well as advanced users. The cost to attend is usually very cheap, and the knowledge from the event is priceless.

    Reply
    • Morgan December 7, 2011, 2:14 pm

      Great recommendation @VinceD – thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  • John December 8, 2011, 12:14 pm

    Do you know of any limitations/differences when using WordPress through GoDaddy vs Downloading Wordpress?

    Reply

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