16 Apr 2016

How to Setup Menus on WordPress

WordPress maybe one of the simplest Content Management Systems to get started with, but when it comes time to start adding functionality to your site and getting things looking just the way you want them, be prepared to clear at least a few hours of your time.

Indeed, whilst WordPress’s instant installation is touted as a major selling points among web hosting companies who offer it, setting everything up to be just the way you want it (whilst keeping SEO in mind of course), takes much longer. 

 This is particularly true of the navigation menu, one of the most critical parts of your entire site. Yet as complicated as it may seem to setup your WordPress menus and incorporate them into your site, you’ll soon be on your way with this comprehensive how-to guide, where I’ll take you step by step from accessing your menu panel to putting those all-important links on your website.

About WordPress Menus

Menus in WordPress is the simple solution to offer a proper navigation to visitors. In most cases, it displays links to your content in the horizontal bar across the top of your site, and -depending on theme you’re using- can often be incorporated into secondary areas of your site, too.

WordPress introduced this feature in its third version, and since then it has been a valuable part of the CMS. By default, it isn’t setup, and thus requires some manual effort to get your menus set upand displaying on your site.

How to Setup Menus on WordPress Blogs

You need to first publish the elements or sections which you plan on keeping in the Menu. If you wish to keep only the Categories, then create those categories. The same applies to important pages like About Us, Privacy Policy, Contact Us, or even the Tags. Yes, showcasing Tags are allowed in WordPress Menus.

Step 1 

Once you’ve got all the pages set up and published, head over to the Menus option available under the Appearance section in the left-hand menu panel on your WordPress dashboard, and hit the link to open it.

Wordpress Menus from Dashboard

Step 2 

Click on create a new menu link and give your menu a name so that you’ll always be able to access it easily.

Step 3 

Select the menu you just created (it will be selected by default if this is the only Menu available) and select the elements from left side section. Click ‘Add to Menu’ and watch as these elements are moved over to the right side section. This is how you insert elements into Menus.

Wordpress Menu Structure

Step 4 

You can put in Pages, individual Posts, or Categories, or even custom links (can be used to showcase Tags). Once all those elements are available on the right side area, you canto re-arrange them in any order you wish.

How to Set up Menus in WordPress - Adding Pages

Step 5 

If you wish to keep a particular element or category as Child one, drag it slightly towards the right side and put it on its Parent one. It isn’t necessary for a category to be a Child one to make this thing work.

Step 6 

Once you’re happy with the arrangement, select the Location as per the Theme and click on Save Menu button.

Select Location

In future, when you think of making a change in the Menu, or re-arrange the elements, you can come at the same place, select the Menu, make changes, and hit the Save Menu button to make those changes publicly visible.

Also, if theme allows showcasing menus on different parts, like primary area, secondary area, or footer area, then all you need to do is, create a dedicated menu, and select the position of it.

This sure wasn’t quick but I hope it was easy enough for you to remember in future.

What if Theme doesn’t support Menus?

Many outdated themes don’t come with support for Menus, and if you happen to use one of them, then there is still a way to make things look friendly. You sure can’t display a properly functioning menu on the top area or even the footer one, but you can do that in the widget section.

If the theme supports a sidebar, then you need to create a Menu by following the aforementioned steps and save it. Then, move to the Widgets section and using the Custom Menu widget, you can showcase those Menu elements in the sidebar.

In the worst case, if the Sidebar isn’t supported, then its high time to look for a modern theme.

Key things to remember

As mentioned numerous times in this guide, Menus are among the primary elements which increase the user experience and the usability of your website. It helps the visitor to wonder around your blog through its structure and reach other pages and sections. But, it doesn’t mean that you need to put everything in the Menus section.

To make it simple and straight, I usually keep Categories and few more important pages on the Menus like About, Team, Privacy & Disclaimer, Contact Us. If there are Child categories, then I arrange them under their particular Parent one, in order to achieve more user friendliness.

Always keep the primary Menu on the top, maybe below the logo or completely at the top. If possible, keep it sticky so that it scrolls down and user has access to it everywhere.

Finally, there is a trend of keeping the Logo within the primary menu. This helps in saving some space in the top area, and thus more content is visible in above the fold area. You can also opt for this layout for obtaining higher user experience points.

Final words

By now, you’ve hopefully got a fully functional menu up and running on your website by following the simple steps above. If not, do let me know in the comments section below if I’ve missed anything out that you were hoping to see covered.

Are there other aspects of building a WordPress website that you’d like me to cover in future How-To Guides? Again, drop me a note and let me know.

Until then, thanks for reading, and best of luck with your new website!

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06 Apr 2016

How to Setup & Install Yoast SEO on WordPress

Search Engine Optimization is vital for any website to get better rankings on search engines, or, at least, get a chance to reach those higher positions. WordPress comes optimized for SEO norms, but they aren’t good enough alone.

For years, webmaster’s have been taking help from third-party plugins and there have been two very old plugins. The first one was the All in One SEO, and the second one was Yoast SEO. 

Trust me, I’ve been using these plugins for years, and I can tell you that the decision of going with Yoast SEO plugin is only going to bring results. All you need to do is to get its setup in a right way.

Install and Setup Yoast SEO on WordPress Blog

Since there aren’t many features of tweaking options available inside this plugin, you can easily get started with it. Still, a newbie might need help and that’s exactly what I’m going to bring down here.

All you need to do is to follow the simple steps as below mentioned and if you need an explanation on any individual part, it will be either available with the same or you can fire up the issues in the discussion section below.

Step 1 – Login into the Dashboard area of your WordPress website and scroll down to the Plugin option. Click on the Add New button.

Setup-Yoast-SEO-on-WordPress

Step 2 – Now, use the search tool available to find Yoast SEO plugin and once you do, click on the Install option. The moment it gets installed successfully, you need to click on the Activate option ahead. Congratulations, you’ve completed installing the plugin which brings down one step from our overall task.

Setup-Yoast-SEO-on-WordPress2

Step 3 – In the Dashboard area on the left sidebar, you’ll have a new option available labeled “SEO.” Click on the same and let the tool package loaded up.

Step 4 – Then click on Your Info tab and enter your website’s name, and select Person in the next drop down option. 

Setup-Yoast-SEO-on-WordPress3

Step 5 – Now leave other options untouched and click on Titles & Metas option, which is our next one.

Step 6 – Select the Title Separator of your choice, and hit Save Changes button. Do not touch the first option i.e., Force rewrite titles.

Step 7 – Click on the Homepage tab, where you can modify the Title template section and add a custom Meta description for your homepage. Make sure you add a worthy description as it will appear in the search engines. Click on Save Changes button and move ahead to Post Types section.

Setup-Yoast-SEO-on-WordPress4

Step 8 – Then you can put a no follow (noindex) request for individual Post or Page or Media files. I’d recommend you to keep everything as it is and do not change anything at all.

Step 9 – Moving next to Taxonomies option, you’ll find same noindex options for Categories, Tags, and Format. Personally, I prefer indexing categories of my website but not the tags and format. So, I keep it that way. You can pick according to your site’s structure. FYI, noindex clearly means that those individual pages of your websites will not be indexed in search engine, which further helps to keep the duplicate content issue from occurring. As usual, click on Save Changes button and move ahead.

Step 10 – You come to the Archives section where you need to leave first two options untouched and Enable the two options below it, i.e., putting a noindex request for the author and date-based archives which both prevent the duplicate content issue from occurring. If you want, set a custom template for Search and 404 pages or leave the default ones. Don’t forget to click on Save Changes button.

Step 11 – Now in the Other tab, I prefer keeping the first option Enabled while keeping rest of the options untouched. It is again a safety measure from staying away from the duplicate content issue.

Step 12 – Moving next are the Social settings, which if you understand correctly and wish to use, can go ahead with the on-screen options and set things up. Having a better social profile helps in achieving better search engine rankings, so do not ignore this step completely.

Step 13 – Moving onto the next XML Sitemaps option, click on the very first checkbox which enables this option. It creates a sitemap file on automation which is required to help search engine bots to get a maximum of your webpages indexed.

Setup-Yoast-SEO-on-WordPress5

Step 14 – Under the User sitemap, you can keep that option disabled, as showcasing sitemap for posts and pages are enough for search engines. Under Post Types section, you can exclude a particular type like I’ve excluded Media ones. And, finally under Taxonomies, you can keep Tags and Format away from showing up in Sitemap file. Hit the Save Changes option and move ahead.

Step 15 – Under the Advanced settings, you can enable Breadcrumbs if the native theme doesn’t provide this functionality. And, you can control Permalinks and RSS settings, and tweak them according to your usage. If you don’t understand any of these advanced options, I’ll like to keep them untouched or explain what you’re trying to achieve in the comment section below.

Step 16 – Finally, you can opt for the Premium version of Yoast SEO plugin and get more advanced and premium features. You can even connect the Search Console (Google Webmaster) tool.

That’s all guys! As I said, if you need help on any related matter, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll come up with an explanation and required help. 

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05 Apr 2016

How to Setup W3 Total Cache on WordPress

Better WordPress performance is something most site owners strive for at some time or another. After all, the faster your sites load, the more likely you are to keep visitors on there and have them check out what you have to offer. As with just about everything on the world’s most popular CMS, there’s a wealth of plugins to help you do just that with limited technical know-how. Remember that no matter what web hosting you have, it’s key to optimise your site as much as you can. Tracking performance (site loading times) has always been an important aspect so once you’ve found the perfect host you can continue optimising by using a caching plugin. 

Among the best of the bunch are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.

Both of these include tools and features designed to reduce loading speeds and deliver better all round performance. Yet whilst the latter is a simple, no-frills plugin which covers the basics, those looking for a fully comprehensive approach to improving their sites are often better suited with W3 Total Cache, a tool which -I’ll be honest- can take some getting used to.

I use W3 Total Cache on all my WordPress websites as I personally prefer this plugin over its competitors, having spent a lot of time configuring the different options available and seeing positive results. To help you do the same, I’ve put together this step-by-step guide to installing and configuring W3 Total Cache.

Setup W3 Total Cache for Better Performance

The setup procedure goes through both simple and advanced set of tools, so you need to follow each and every step with precision.

Before we go any further, it’s a good idea at this point to use a website testing tool like Pingdom or Google PageSpeed to see how your website is currently performing. Once we’re done, you can go back and run the tests again to see the difference in real time. 

Step 1

 The first obvious step is to install W3 Total Cache plugin. You can either download its package from the WordPress Plugins Directory, or search it inside the Dashboard itself. Either way, get it installed and activated.

Find W3 Total Cache Plugin on WordPress

Step 2

Now in the left-hand side list inside Dashboard, you’ll see a new column added, named Performance. You need to click on this and select the General settings first.

Setup and Install W3 Total Cache on Your Website

Step 3

You need to leave the General tab untouched and scroll down to the Page Cache section. Under this, Enable the Page Cache option and select Disk: Enhanced option from the drop down list ahead of the method.

Wordpress W3 Total Cache Disk Enhanced

Step 4

Up next is the Minify section, which again needs to be Enabled.  From there, select Auto option from the mode. Select Disk as the method and leave rest of the options as Default. In the case of using MaxCDN, you need to keep the Minify mode to Manual.

Setup WordPress Minify Options on W3 Total Cache

Step 5

Keep the Database Cache Enabled and select Disk as the method for it.

W3 Database Cache on WordPress

Step 6

Next, keep the Object cache Enabled and again keep the Disk as the method for it.

Step 7

With that done, keep the Browser cache Enabled and hit Save all settings button. The General setting section ends here and whatever is left underneath or above, is required to stay Default. 

W3 Total Cache

Step 8

Now, after making the General settings happy, we need to dive into individual ones. Starting with the Page Cache, you need to enable first, second, and second-from-last options. You can leave the remaining options untouched.

W3 Individual Cache Settings

Step 9

Scrolling down, you’ll find Cache Preload option, where you need to enable Automatically prime the page cache option and make sure to click on Save all settings button.

Step 10

Keeping the Minify, Database Cache, and Object Cache options as default, click on the Browser Cache option from the left sliding menu. Over here, Enable the first Six options and leave the rest on default.

W3 Total Cache Settings

Step 11 

Click on the Save all settings button underneath and you are good to go.

Checking your performance

Now after getting over with all these settings and tweaking, I’ll recommend to check out the current grades of your website using FTP tool of Pingdom and also using Google Page Speed insight. I’m sure you’ll find improvement in each of them.

The key thing to note here is that I never went into the details of any individual option. That’s because a lot of these things are technical in nature, and to be honest,  what’s important isn’t so much how they work as much as it is that they get the job done. If you do want to look further into how each option helps you to achieve better WordPress performance, a good technical web developer or Search Engine Optimisation blog should provide everything you need to know.

Also, if you’re still not satisfied with the performance improvements, I’d recommend using a CDN network. You can start with CloudFlare which is free to begin, offering limited options, or you can opt for much advanced MaxCDN which offers tons of features and a guaranteed improvement. This is included in most of the hosting companies that we have reviewed. The second one is paid and comes with a premium support team, always ready to help you out in any situation.

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01 Apr 2016

Self-Hosted WordPress vs WordPress.com

Let’s be honest, in this day and age, not many of us have the time to deal with all the technical ins-and-outs of setting up a new website. So when it comes to choosing WordPress as your CMS, the difference between self-hosted and a site at WordPress.com often means all the difference between getting set up quickly, albeit sacrificing some level of control in the process.

If you do want want full control of your website and plenty of advanced features to go along with it, then picking up the self-hosted WordPress will be a wise choice, otherwise going with the WordPress.com option will get the job done.

By “job” I mean, sharing your content with rest of the world.

About Self Hosted WordPress vs WordPress.com

First, it’s worth pointing out  that there is huge confusion between these two options, and the moment we sign up for a WordPress account, the confusion increases further.

This happens as the core WordPress team asks us to create our first website, and we do it as it is extremely simple. If you still haven’t signed up for an account, then go ahead and do it.

The moment you setup the first website after getting a free account, you’ll get behind that blog and will have access to its Dashboard area.

This is where we first start to see some big differences. To explain them, let me provide a clear definition of both the options.


WordPress.com option

Have you used Blogger platform in past? It’s a Google-owned platform, allowing users to quickly setup an online blog and start sharing their thoughts. If you’ve used it or even seen it in action, then WordPress.com is almost a replica of that idea.

Wordpress.com post editor

It offers a free platform to setup a blog within half an hour (or even less, depends on how far you wish to play with the customizations) and start sharing your thoughts. It works like a normal website and can get tons of organic traffic too.

There is an inclusion of social media integration to help your thoughts share quickly, and a built-in Like system, so that other bloggers on the platform can appreciate your work.

For the record, there is also a premium option if you pick a custom domain and enjoy a few other enhanced features, though you’re still fairly limited when compared to the all-consuming web building prowess of a self-hosted WordPress site.


Self Hosted WordPress option

In this option, you need to buy a hosting server and a domain name separately, and then using some software tools (like SimpleScript), WordPress script is installed on your hosting account. This is the first and prime difference as you’ve to do the installation, manually.

Self-Hosted WordPress Dashboard

The moment that installation is complete, you gain access to the Dashboard area behind the newly created website. Go ahead, login into the system with the credentials (either you chose or using the WordPress’s default).

Now the second difference will appear,  with the WordPress dashboard presenting many more options than its .com counterpart. It can let you pick your own theme, change every possible setting, customize the way you like it, and even add third-party functionalities, better known as Plugins.

About Plugins

When we talk about plugins, we’re essentially referring to a tool which uses code  to add a particular functionality to your site which isn’t offered by the core WordPress platform.

Self Hosted WordPress Plugins Page

Now, because of this Plugin option, you can use most types of software or script into the system, which is compatible with the WordPress core inside. For example, you’re allowed to use Google Analytics to keep a track of every visitor arriving on the website and noticing its activities. Like this, there are lots of powerful tools available online which makes the web way faster, way more functional and way more enjoyable.

And, all this is possible because of Plugins.

Themes

Plugins aren’t the only thing which can add a functionality, a powerful Theme can also be a big help in adding user interaction and visual attraction to your new site.

Wordpress themes

Assuming you’ve picked the Self Hosted option, you can install and use any sort of compatible theme available online. There are many premium and free themes available to pick and trust me, the more you spend, more functionality you can get.

Usually, the Premium theme these days come up with their own Options Panel available in the Dashboard area, which offers a GUI tool to bring possible changes into the visual and functional part of the website.

Again, this isn’t possible in the WordPress.com option. Even if you find few options to bring customizations, still they will be limited to a certain level.

So, in other words, WordPress.com is an option where the core WordPress team picks what’s best for you, and in the Self Hosted WordPress, you’re allowed to pick whatever you think is best for the website.

Making the decision

If you wish to customize, develop, and manage a website which is truly according to your taste and requirements, then go ahead with the self-hosted WordPress option, as the other one doesn’t have any such options. All it can promise you is a base platform to quickly share your content of multiple types like videos, and images.

Which one are you picking?

So, now you’re aware of the exact differences between these two methods of starting a website (just a blog in WordPress.com case). I personally picked the self-hosted option as I’ve to learn everything about WordPress, how it works and how I can make a living out of it. If my plan was just to start a blog, I would have definitely picked the WordPress.com option.

Did I leave anything uncleared? Let me know in the comments section below and I’ll try my best to clear up the confusion.

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