What Is WordPress? Everything You Should Know About the Most Popular CMS

What Is Wordpress

WordPress is a CMS (content management system) software with features for building blogs and other types of websites. The free and open-source software is a powerful backend and frontend designer/management system for eCommerce stores, forums, portfolios, and business websites.

Known for its user-friendliness (with help from themes and plugins), 42% of websites on the internet use WordPress (that’s 810 million sites), making it one of the most popular ways to create a website.

WordPress has helped democratize how users build websites. Anyone can download the software and generate a professional website without much coding. In addition, WordPress assists web developers in speeding up their processes, often with help from prebuilt web design templates and plugins for expanding the functionality of the websites. The large community of users, developers, and online content also allows users free, immediate customer support, making it a flexible, accessible, and affordable way to build any site.

Understanding WordPress

To understand WordPress, it pays to learn about its history and all the core components that go into the CMS. Keep reading to explore how WordPress has built its following through its democratized ability to integrate with third-party plugins and its user-friendly nature, which uses themes and templates.

History of WordPress

Released in 2003, the founders of WordPress (Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg) built upon a software called b2/cafelog to create a more powerful, user-friendly blogging system. By 2005, it grew into more than just a platform for writing blog posts. WordPress expanded into a full-fledged content management system, allowing users to build everything from eCommerce shops to online communities.

WordPress versus other CMSes pie chart
WordPress boasts the highest market share among CMSes. Source: W3Techs

Three primary features aided WordPress in its rapid success: its collection of third-party themes, plugins, and widgets. Themes helped users design a beautiful website without coding skills, while widgets and plugins extended upon its base features to add anything from social media buttons to online store functionality to WordPress.

As of today, WordPress has become the most popular CMS in the world, boasting more than 26 million downloads and 63% of the CMS market share.

Core Components

WordPress’s core components include its two versions: the paid, hosted option WordPress.com and the free, self-hosted solution WordPress.org. Its infrastructure also supports built-in CMS features and third-party elements like themes, plugins, and widgets.

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com

WordPress offers two separate platforms: WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

WordPress illustration

Users can download the WordPress.org version — the self-hosted, open-source solution — from the WordPress.org website. It’s a free download that requires users to find their own hosting or web server. That opens up additional options for full control over the design, site files, and content of the website.

The WordPress.com system, on the other hand, works more like a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) solution where the user pays for a subscription with hosting and multiple plugins and themes already installed. WordPress.com also offers a limited, free solution for simple blogs and personal websites. WordPress.org works best for those with some technical knowledge and the desire for full control, while WordPress.com offers a simplified version of WordPress.org for the easiest user experience.

Content Management System (CMS) Functionality

A content management system is software used to create, edit, and manage your digital content on a website.

CMS functionality illustration

A CMS can be used for blogs, eCommerce sites, and portfolios, to name a few examples.

The standard WordPress software includes core CMS features for creating, editing, and organizing online content. Users can then publish that content online. The content may include pages, blog posts, images, infographics, videos, and even product pages for online stores.

WordPress also delivers strong user management features, collaborative content creation, a user-friendly dashboard, and a design tool for customizing themes and templates.

Themes and Templates

A hallmark of the WordPress infrastructure, themes allow users to design various websites without the need for code.

Themes and templates illustration

WordPress already offers a free template library within its dashboard, or you can purchase and upload premium themes from third-party sellers.

Once installed, WordPress provides a designer for users to further customize the colors, logos, fonts, and preset images in the theme. Prebuilt themes like these turn the WordPress frontend — which is mainly designed for blogging — into a wide range of designs for eCommerce stores, online communities, eLearning platforms, portfolios, and much more.

It’s impossible to count the number of WordPress themes available online, but the free library has more than 12,000, and a popular WordPress theme marketplace called ThemeForest sells more than 17,000.

Plugins and Extendability

Whereas themes produce the initial design of a WordPress website, plugins add to those themes, helping users implement features missing from WordPress or their themes.

Plugins illustration

For instance, the WooCommerce plugin adds the backend functionality for payment processing and product management to any WordPress theme designed for eCommerce.

Other plugins act as social media integrations, website builders, contact forms, security tools, or even features for boosting search engine optimization. Like themes, thousands of plugins exist, both free and paid.

The free WordPress plugin library — accessible through the WordPress dashboard — provides more than 59,000 plugins, while CodeCanyon (a popular marketplace for premium plugins) sells more than 5,200 WordPress plugins.

The Evolution of WordPress: Major Versions and Key Features

Since 2003, WordPress has seen radical changes, ranging from the introduction of plugins in 2004 to a redesigned dashboard in 2008.

Here’s a look at the major versions and the key features of each:

  • Version 0.7: This was the first rendition of WordPress in 2003. This version included the original fork of the b2/cafelog software and offered features for simple blogging.
  • Version 1.2: This version of WordPress, delivered in 2004, introduced WordPress plugins, allowing third-party developers to integrate tools with WordPress and offer them for download to users.
  • Version 1.5: In 2005, WordPress released a version that supported themes. These templates helped users customize the WordPress frontend with minimal coding.
  • Version 2.1: In 2007, WordPress delivered essential features like autosaving for blog posts and pages, along with speed optimization and a revamped dashboard interface.
  • Version 3.0: Custom post types came with the 2010 version of WordPress. Users also gained the ability to update their previously installed plugins directly from the WordPress dashboard.
  • Version 4.4: This was a crucial update that included responsiveness for images and several other embed options for things like videos and links from around the internet. The update was in 2015.
  • Version 5.0: Perhaps one of the most significant and controversial updates introduced the Gutenberg block editor. This provided customizable, no-code content blocks for users to design visually.

WordPress comes out with about three updates each year. Some releases offer minor updates and security patches, while others gain more notoriety and press coverage with drastic interface modifications.

Getting Started With WordPress

Launching a website with WordPress only takes a few steps, and the complexity of the process often depends on which kind of setup you desire. Below, learn about how to set up a WordPress site, navigate the dashboard, and customize settings.

How to Set up a WordPress Site

The first step is to sign up for a hosting account. After that, you’ll install WordPress on the hosting server; that process varies depending on the type of WordPress (WordPress.org vs WordPress.com) you use.

Hosting Options

Hosting options for a WordPress site depend on whether you choose WordPress.org or WordPress.com. For WordPress.com users, there’s no reason to seek out third-party hosting options since the subscription already includes it. WordPress.org, however, requires you to sign up for a hosting account and install WordPress on that hosting account.

Several hosting options exist for WordPress:

  • Shared hosting: Ideal for smaller websites and blogs. It’s the most affordable hosting option but may not provide the best performance for rapidly growing websites. That’s because resources are shared by multiple users on the same server. For simpler sites, however, it works well.
  • VPS hosting: Also called a virtual private server, this type of hosting creates a virtualized section of a server that only contains your WordPress site. This separates your site from other users on the same server, opening up more options for customization, control, security, and performance. Businesses often turn to VPS hosting when they outgrow shared hosting. It is more expensive than shared hosting, though.
  • Cloud hosting: Similar to VPS hosting, cloud hosting offers a virtualized experience, but it’s supported by a network of servers (as opposed to one server with VPS hosting). This leads to greater redundancy, performance, and scalability since your WordPress site benefits from the power of multiple servers at once. All businesses could benefit from cloud hosting, but it’s generally used by mid-sized to large companies. Its price is usually close to VPS hosting or a little higher.
  • Managed WordPress hosting: This type of hosting caters entirely to WordPress users. It typically offers cloud, VPS, or shared hosting (be sure to check before you buy), and it eliminates the need for users to complete backend tasks like security monitoring, plugin updates, WordPress updates, and backups. In short, the hosting company provides these backend services so you can focus more on your business. Managed WordPress hosting usually costs the same or slightly more than the type of hosting it uses (shared, cloud, or VPS).
  • WooCommerce hosting: Similar to managed WordPress hosting, WooCommerce hosting offers pre-installed plugins to run an eCommerce website on the WordPress platform. Offerings depend on the hosting provider but often come with a pre-installed version of the WooCommerce plugin, automatic updates, and a payment processing integration.
  • Dedicated hosting: The most expensive type of hosting, dedicated hosting, provides a full server to run your WordPress website. Although pricey and requiring technical knowledge to operate, dedicated hosting boasts a completely controlled and separate environment for a website, allowing for the utmost security, performance, and customization. Enterprise businesses and rapidly growing websites often opt for dedicated hosting.

You have a long list of shared (budget) options to choose from, including Hostinger, IONOS, and A2 Hosting. Some VPS hosts to consider are Kamatera, HostGator, and IONOS. Notable WordPress hosts include Bluehost, InMotion, and SiteGround. For WooCommerce hosting, look into SiteGround or A2 Hosting. Cloud hosting comes from providers like Kamatera, Cloudways, and Hostwinds. And for dedicated hosting, you might consider IONOS, InMotion, or Liquid Web.

Installing WordPress

Installing WordPress only takes a few steps with the right hosting provider. Although it’s possible to install WordPress onto a server using FTP (file transfer protocol), most reputable hosts have a one-click WordPress installation button that does it all for you.

Depending on your host, you’ll either go to its custom dashboard or cPanel. Log into that page, then look for an Install WordPress option.

WordPress installation screenshot
Most web hosts allow you to install WordPress with one click. Image Credit: Kinsta Hosting

Give your website a name and select other settings that may or may not be available depending on your host (data center location, CDN, caching, etc.).

WordPress install step two screenshot
Choose a name for your site to manage it within the dashboard. Image Credit: Kinsta Hosting

Create a WordPress username and password, and enter the email address you want associated with the WordPress site. Depending on your host, you may also be able to install plugins like WooCommerce and Yoast SEO.

WordPress install step three screenshot
Users can create an admin username and password for proper access control. Image Credit: Kinsta Hosting

After that, click on “Install” or “Continue” to complete the process. The host then provides you with a link to your WordPress dashboard, which you can use to log in with the credentials you just created.

Navigating the WordPress Dashboard

With your WordPress site installed on a hosting account, move onto the dashboard for tasks like user management, post creation, and website design.

Overview of the Admin Dashboard

On your first visit, the WordPress dashboard provides a welcome message and information on the most recent version. Below that, you’ll find quick view modules for checking the health of your site, creating quick drafts, and viewing comment activity.

The WordPress admin panel — the black menu on the left — includes navigational buttons to every part of the WordPress interface, including:

  • Updates
  • Posts
  • Media
  • Pages
  • Comments
  • Appearance
  • Plugins
  • Users
  • Tools
  • Settings

After installing plugins, additional buttons are added to the WordPress admin panel. For instance, the WooCommerce plugin adds WooCommerce and Product menu items.

WordPress dashboard screenshot
The WordPress admin panel has an easy-to-navigate interface.

The most important menu items include Posts, Pages, and Media, which we’ll cover below.

Managing Posts, Pages, and Media

To create and manage a post, click on the Posts button. That reveals a page with options to add a new post, search older posts, complete bulk actions on your posts, and edit individual posts. To make a new post, click the Add New Post button. To edit an old post, simply click on the Edit link below that post.

WordPress posts page screenshot
Finding where to manage and add new blog posts is easy.

The WordPress block editor lets you place your cursor anywhere to add a title, paragraph text, or items like images, bullet points, or headings.

WordPress editor interface
Once you enter the WP block editor, you can add whatever multimedia or text you want.

Click one of the Plus Sign (+) buttons to open a collection of content blocks. WordPress has dozens of built-in content blocks for things like images, lists, paragraphs, galleries, and headings.

Wordpress layout screenshot
The plus signs allow you to add different content blocks to your page.

Click the Publish button on the right-side panel when you’re ready. An alternative is to select a future date and time next to the Publish section. That lets you schedule posts for future publication.

WordPress editing panel
Users can schedule and publish their posts.

WordPress allows you to edit all posts after publishing them. You can also go back to your list of posts to delete them, filter by category, and view comments.

Customizing Settings

WordPress offers a wide range of settings to customize, many of which are located under the Settings menu.

WordPress settings menu
Check out the settings if you need more options or customizations.

Here’s what each settings page does:

  • General: Change elements like the site title, tagline, site icon, and default user role.
  • Writing: Adjust the default post category, mail server, and default post format.
  • Reading: Make your homepage display a feed of your blog posts or a static page — like what you would see on most business or eCommerce sites. This page also helps you customize search engine visibility and how blog posts display on your website.
  • Discussion: Dictate what happens with comments, emails, and avatars on your site. This is the main hub for setting communication standards.
  • Media: Set image sizes for thumbnails, medium-sized images, and large images. There’s also a setting for how to organize the images in your media folder.
  • Permalinks: Set your permalink structure. The most SEO-friendly option is “post name,” but other choices offer the ability to add dates to permalinks.
  • Privacy: Make a privacy policy page. This section gives you suggestions on how to craft a privacy page, along with options to preview before publishing.

We also recommend going to the Appearance page to customize your website’s design. Here, you’ll find options for choosing WordPress themes and customizing them to match your brand.

WordPress Themes and Templates

WordPress themes and templates offer pre-made designs for your website. They help developers work with less code, speed up the development process, and turn a bland WordPress site into something stylish and functional. Some themes instantly turn the WordPress frontend into an online store, restaurant website, or community forum.

Choosing the Right Theme

Choosing the right theme comes down to two necessities: brand style and functionality. In terms of style, you’ll want a theme that matches the colors, typography, and overall feel of your brand. Or at least find a theme that lets you customize these aspects.

Can you upload your logo to suitable locations? Is it easy to adjust the global colors and fonts? Ideally, you locate a theme that already looks good for your brand, but it’s always possible to customize it later.

You’ll also want to ensure that the theme offers pre-made demo templates. These fill in the theme with content, so it looks like a ready-made website after you install it. This way, you can simply swap out images, paragraphs, and other elements for your own.

For the functionality of your website, seek general theme requirements like mobile responsiveness, SEO optimization, and fast page loading. It’s also wise to check reviews and potentially test out a backend demo to see if the interface is easy to use.

Exploring Free vs. Premium Themes

Another important part of choosing the right theme is deciding whether you want a free or premium theme.

Free themes — the ones provided in the WordPress Theme Library (and available directly through the dashboard) — offer an economical way to design a website without code. These work well for starting a website since many offer “freemium” models, where you always have the option to upgrade to more advanced features when you need them.

Premium themes make sense for brands that want specific designs or the best customization. You can find premium themes sold on marketplaces like ThemeForest and MOJO Marketplace. Many premium theme developers sell directly from their websites, too, requiring you to complete a Google search to locate them.

Premium themes tend to offer more advanced functionality, unique designs, and power in terms of customization. One thing to keep in mind is that for premium themes, you need to download the .zip files from the seller and upload them to the WordPress dashboard.

Customizing Themes

All WordPress themes require some form of customization. Luckily, WordPress has a built-in block editor and tools for editing theme files. There’s also a child theme system for a more future-proof design.

Using the WordPress Customizer

To access the WordPress Customizer, go to Appearance > Themes. Click on the Customize button next to the theme you’d like to edit.

WordPress themes screenshot
Themes are a great way to start desiging on WordPress.

Each theme has unique settings once in the WordPress Customizer, but in general, you can find menu items for Navigation, Styles, Pages, Templates, and Patterns.

WordPress design page screenshot
Users can customize the theme according to their liking and vision.

The Customizer lets you click on any content module and edit it, too. For instance, you might choose to edit text in a visual environment, add an image, or move a button up the page. Whenever you select a block, you can customize individual block settings — often with settings for colors, sizes, and dimensions.

WordPress design editor
Move content around and shift images with the block editor.

In addition, the Template tab presents design tools for headers and footers, items that remain the same across your entire website.

Editing Theme Files

For more advanced theme editing, WordPress offers theme file control, which you can find by going to Tools > Theme File Editor in WordPress.

Theme stylesheet code
WordPress also allows users to dive deeper into design with its Theme File Editor.

It’s not recommended you modify any core WordPress files, and you should avoid editing theme files unless you know what you’re doing. If you’re inclined, however, the theme file editor lets you open and edit files like style.css, functions.php, and header.html.

Understanding Child Themes for Customization and Updates

Child themes play an important role in the customization of WordPress websites, particularly for website owners who want to ensure their edits remain saved well into the future. A child theme acts as a sub-theme to a parent theme.

The parent theme sets the primary features and functionality, which all get inherited by the child theme. Therefore, WordPress admins can edit the child theme at will without changing the parent theme.

As a result, any updates to the parent theme leave the child theme unaffected. You lose no customizations made to the child theme, making it a future-proof system for live websites and the perfect environment for testing websites.

Extending WordPress with Plugins

One of the hallmark traits of WordPress is its ability to integrate with thousands of plugins. Plugins extend the standard functionality of WordPress by adding extra features like those for social media buttons, menu capabilities, and payment processing.

Keep in mind, however, that too many plugins can significantly hurt the performance of your website and cause security vulnerabilities. So, always look to see if your theme, or WordPress, has the feature you need before installing a plugin.

Overview of Plugins

Plugins are add-on software for extending the feature set of WordPress. Built by third-party developers, plugins get listed on the free WordPress Plugin Library or sold on a separate website. Many free themes follow the “freemium” model, which eventually tries to sell you on additional features.

You can install a WordPress plugin in the WordPress dashboard by either searching for it in the library or uploading a previously downloaded plugin. Thousands of plugins exist, and they cover categories like eCommerce, SEO optimization, social media integrations, security, email marketing, and many more.

Popular Plugin Categories

Before installing anything on WordPress, consider adding plugins that improve performance, help with SEO, strengthen security, and allow customers to contact you. Below, you’ll find the most popular, useful plugin categories. Activate plugins from these categories before anything else.

  1. SEO plugins: These help improve your on-page SEO with readability statistics on posts, keyword optimization analysis, sitemap creation, and metadata assistance. Popular SEO plugins include Yoast SEO, All in One SEO, and Rank Math SEO.
  2. Security plugins: Adding a security plugin protects your WordPress site in many ways. These plugins provide features like firewalls, security monitoring, malware protection, and brute force protection. Commonly used security plugins are Wordfence Security, All-in-one Security (AIOS), Jetpack, and Sucuri Security.
  3. Performance optimization plugins: Performance optimization plugins improve page load times and performance by caching pages, optimizing images, minifying files, and combining redundant files. Here are some popular performance optimization plugins for WordPress: WP-Optimize, Speed Optimizer, Jetpack Boost, and W3 Total Cache.
  4. Contact form plugins: For customers to email your business, you must include a contact form plugin that collects submissions, sends them to your email inbox, and allows you to customize the fields within the form. Notable contact form plugins are Contact Form 7, WPForms, and Ninja Forms.

Beyond these popular plugin categories, you may add plugins made to support your specific type of WordPress site. A payment processing plugin, for example, turns a WordPress site into an online store. There are also plugins for event bookings, online courses, website building, and more.

Installing and Managing Plugins

To install a WordPress plugin, open the WordPress dashboard and click on Plugins > Add New Plugin.

WordPress plugins page
Plugins are essential in WordPress website building.

The first method to install a plugin is to search for keywords in the bar that says “Search Plugins.” That reveals relevant plugins. Find the plugin you want, then click on the Install Now button.

WP plugin install page
Adding a plugin can extend your site’s functionality and capabilities.

After that, be sure to click Activate to complete the process. You can then access the plugin by finding its new tab in the main WordPress menu; sometimes plugins have launch wizards that make it easy to configure settings.

The second method to install a plugin is by clicking the Upload Plugin button on the Plugins page.

How to upload plugin screenshot
Installing plugins is easy, but uploading a third-party one can take additional steps.

Click the Choose File button to upload a .zip file of your plugin — most likely bought from a third-party vendor — from your computer. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the .zip file to this window in your browser. Make sure you click “Install” and “Activate” after uploading the file.

Adding plugins from a .zip page
Click “choose file” to upload a third-party plugin.

As time passes, you’ll need to manage the plugins. This requires you to install updates to prevent security issues and receive new features. To view which plugins need updates, go to the Plugins page in the WordPress dashboard. If an update is required, you’ll see a warning about a new version. Click the Update Now link to proceed with the update.

Plugin update notification
Updating plugins is crucial for the security of your site.

The result is a green “Updated” message.

Plugin updated on WP dashboard
Once you update a plugin, WordPress will alert you.

Handling updates in bulk is easier than doing it one-by-one. To bulk update plugins in WordPress, use the Bulk Actions dropdown menu on the Plugins page. One of the options in the menu is called Update. Check off every plugin you’d like to update, select “Update,” then click the Apply button.

Plugins update dashboard
Users can update multiple plugins at a time.

You might also consider auto-updates. Each plugin has this option if you click the Enable Auto-Updates link next to a plugin.

Enable auto-updates
You can enable auto-updates but be cautious of new plugin versions and how they can affect your site.

Some site owners and developers prefer not to auto-update plugins to ensure no issues arise with a new plugin version. If you’d rather have a full view of which plugins may cause problems on your website, it’s best to update plugins manually and consider backing up your website before every update.

Best Practices for Plugin Selection and Use

Every WordPress site owner should select plugins carefully. Not only that, but limit your choices to absolutely necessary plugins. You’re better off finding a theme with the features you need, or a custom-coded solution, compared to having dozens of plugins installed.

The reason for minimizing plugin use is to prevent security vulnerabilities that happen from outdated, or poorly coded, plugins — and to cut down on performance problems caused by some plugins.

As a general rule, stick to the essential plugins outlined in this article, and do your best to keep the number of plugins below 10 or 15.

When selecting a plugin, consider the reputation of the developer. Are there reviews or comments to read? Do past users seem to have issues with the way the plugin runs? Does it slow down their websites? Plugin popularity (downloads) often shows the overall sentiment about a plugin, but it’s wise to also read into the comments and reviews.

After choosing a plugin, wait to install it on your live site. Use a staging website to see if the plugin significantly impacts page load speeds or creates a conflict between other plugins/themes. You may also find that the interface lacks what you need. As a final tip, keep all plugins updated with either automated updates or bulk manual updates to make things easier to remember. Another option is to find a managed hosting provider that updates plugins for you.

Creating Content in WordPress

Content creation fuels the flow of knowledge on your site and adds the bonus of potential boosts in search engine rankings. Content may include business pages that feature services and products, blog posts with tutorials, or even knowledge base articles with in-depth support pieces.

The Difference Between Posts and Pages

Post and pages may seem similar, but they each have distinct purposes in WordPress. WordPress posts, usually used for blog posts, get published in reverse chronological order, so the most recent one is at the top.

Blog post illustration

They get posted as a feed mainly because the original idea behind a post was to offer time-sensitive information, like how a news organization releases content that quickly becomes outdated. Many organizations, however, still use posts for “evergreen” content, where the topic and content remain relevant for a longer period.

WordPress pages show static content on your website — the areas where there are not many changes after you first design the page and write the content. Examples include the “Contact Us” page, the “Homepage,” or the “Services” page. Pages typically have links from the main menu. You can still edit pages, but they aren’t tied to a date or changed that frequently.

Writing and Formatting Content

Content, whether on a page or post, requires proper formatting to make it appealing to readers. Luckily, all writing and formatting happens in the WordPress editor. You can choose from multiple content editors: the traditional WYSIWYG editor, the Gutenberg block editor, or one of the many third-party website builders like Beaver Builder or Elementor.

Visual editor illustration

Most site owners write posts using the traditional editor or block editor, while you can design and format pages without code using the block editor or a website builder. All content editors include toolbar options for inserting images, writing text, formatting headings, and even adding more complex elements like galleries, buttons, or quotations.

The best format for a blog post or page includes an introduction to the topic, followed by headings that separate paragraphs and images. It’s wise to keep paragraphs short, include media elements to break up text, and incorporate bullet points for easier scanning.

Adding Images, Videos, and Other Media

The traditional WordPress editor lets you add images, videos, and other media. The same is true for the Gutenberg block editor and all third-party website builders. All of these editors use the built-in WordPress Media Library, which lets you upload media files directly through the WordPress dashboard.

Multimedia illustration

After the upload, those media files get saved to your site database for use anywhere on your website — without having to upload the same image or video ever again.

To add an image or video to WordPress, go to Media > Add New. This lets you either click to upload an item from your computer or click and drag one into the window for upload. Another option is to click the Media button in the WordPress editor (or use the Image or Video blocks in Gutenberg).

In addition, each image and video receives its own URL associated with your domain name. If you’re worried about storage space, or you’d like to use a video or image hosted on another site, WordPress supports the embedding of URLs from other websites. For example, you can copy and paste a link from YouTube to render it on a WordPress post or page.

Managing Categories and Tags

Categories and tags help organize content created as posts and pages. They also allow for organizing other content types added by plugins, like how products have categories in the WooCommerce plugin.

Categories and tags illustration

Categories allow for the broad organization of blog posts within relevant groups. You must file each post under at least one category.

Posts on a travel blog, for instance, may have categories like “Italy,” “France,” and “Germany.” This way, readers can easily locate posts most relevant to them.

WordPress tags are optional but add an extra layer of specificity to the organization of your posts. You might consider tags as sub-categories, like how an eCommerce store may have a broad “T-shirts” category but break that category into smaller sections with these tags: “Summer Trends,” “Inspired By Movies,” and “Hawaiian Shirts.”

Scheduling and Publishing Content

Once you complete a post or page, it’s time to either publish the content online or schedule it for a later time. Through WordPress, both publishing and scheduling get handled right from the editor.

Publishing illustration

Publishing the post or page immediately requires you to click the Publish button. That’s it. Your post is now visible to the public through a unique URL.

To schedule a post, click on the area next to the Publish section that shows a date and time. You’ll see options to select a date and time. Once you’ve set the appropriate date and time, click on the Schedule button.

For best results, you should aim to publish a blog post daily.

Best Practices for SEO

WordPress already has basic SEO elements that make your site more likely to get indexed and ranked. These include mobile optimization, fast loading times, SEO-friendly permalinks, and clean code within the site files. You can also install SEO plugins to improve upon this foundation.

Importance of SEO for WordPress Websites

Even with clean code and mobile optimization, search engines expect more from businesses if they want high rankings. On-page SEO, for example, requires optimizing each WordPress page and post with proper titles, meta descriptions, and SEO-friendly URLs. You can also add SEO plugins for keyword targeting and use off-page SEO strategies to improve rankings.

On-Page SEO Techniques

When talking about “on-page” SEO techniques, we’re referring to actionable strategies added to individual pages and posts on a WordPress site. Many on-page techniques get placed on a page manually. Examples include optimized titles, meta descriptions, image alt tags, and keywords.

Here are the basics:

  1. Optimizing titles and meta descriptions: To optimize a page or post title in WordPress, you must make it short enough (less than 60 characters), relevant (with the right keywords), and engaging (is this an interesting topic that readers may enjoy?). For meta descriptions, keep them to 160 characters, and also include relevant keywords. Make sure each page has a unique title and meta description, and always avoid keyword stuffing — the practice of cramming as many keywords as possible just for ranking.
  2. Creating SEO-friendly URLs: Start by using permalinks with the post name at the end. This makes it prettier than having the date in the URL. You can change this structure under Settings > Permalinks in WordPress. Other tips: Use relevant keywords, hyphens between words, and descriptive wording. And avoid upper case letters and special characters.

These guidelines are a starting point for WordPress SEO. There are plenty of other on-page and off-page SEO tactics to consider, and many of them are available through SEO plugins.

Using SEO Plugins for WordPress

WordPress site owners can install a WordPress SEO plugin, like Yoast SEO or All in One SEO, to receive SEO ratings, suggestions, and automation tools. These plugins expand upon the basic SEO features you get from WordPress by offering help with keyword optimization, readability analysis, and reminders to add metadata.

You can also generate automatic XML sitemaps, ping the search engines when a change occurs, and integrate with Google Analytics for further analysis.

Off-Page SEO Strategies for WordPress

Compared to on-page SEO strategies, off-page SEO requires you to take action without changing your website. These tactics involve reaching out to other website owners for credible backlinks and completing social media marketing to bring more visitors to your website.

Realistically, any method used to get more visitors counts as off-page SEO:

  • promoting content on Twitter.
  • chatting with people on forums and linking to your website.
  • handing someone a business card that prompts them to visit your site.

Additionally, backlinks from reputable, relevant sites show authority to the search engines, potentially increasing your rankings. And any increase in traffic tells search engines your site has some sort of value to readers and customers.

WordPress Security Essentials

Protecting a WordPress site requires security-focused web hosting, regular updates, and monitoring to eliminate threats and vulnerabilities. It’s essential to learn about common threats and how to secure your site.

Common WordPress Security Threats

There are endless security threats to public websites. WordPress isn’t any different from other platforms. The most common type of threat is called a brute force attack, where hackers attempt to infiltrate your website by repeatedly trying to guess your username and password. They often use automated password and username generators for the highest success rate.

Cross-site scripting and SQL injections function similarly to each other; both attacks work by injecting either malicious code or scripts inside website files or the site database.

Attackers can then use the code to either take control of the website or steal valuable information. Along with malware and dozens of other potential threats, you should always be prepared to protect your WordPress site from attackers.

How to Secure Your WordPress Site

The security of your WordPress site relies on strengthening with three elements: updates, passwords/user roles, and security plugins/firewalls.

  1. Keep WordPress core, themes, and plugins updated: The core WordPress software needs updating. So do your themes and plugins. Most updates include security patches, so you must either update them manually — when you receive a notification — or turn to a managed hosting plan so that the host does it for you.
  2. Create strong passwords and user roles: To avoid brute force attacks, everyone using the website should create strong passwords; it’s recommended everyone use a password manager. Strong user roles also prevent unintended access. For instance, a freelance writer shouldn’t have admin access since they have no reason to control anything besides content.
  3. Implement security plugins and firewalls: Your hosting company may provide a firewall to prevent issues from malware and other threats. Security plugins like Wordfence, AIOS, and Jetpack have suites of security tools with features like firewalls, security scanners, backups, and login attempt limiting.

The best strategy for WordPress protection starts with a secure web host. Then you should add a reputable security plugin, along with some way to update plugins with ease. On top of all that, implement a system to generate the most secure passwords possible.

Optimizing WordPress Performance

The optimization of WordPress targets website speed and overall performance. WordPress comes well-optimized — and the best way to boost performance is with a good web host — but it’s still wise to mitigate issues with efforts like caching and image optimization. View these tips for the best ways to optimize your website:

Importance of Website Speed

We encourage you to keep website speed at the front of your mind at all times. Website speeds impact many aspects of your website, like its customer experience, SEO rankings, and how elements load up in browsers.

Fast websites keep customers around longer. Fast websites lead to more sales or conversions. Fast websites also tell search engines that your site has a strong user experience, leading to improved results on sites like Google. Overall, you should spend a great deal of time optimizing your website for speed. Below, you’ll find the best tactics to do so.

Performance Optimization Techniques

The internet has many WordPress optimization tips. To start, you should focus on the most important ones:

  1. Caching: Sometimes caching comes with your web hosting. Other times you simply install a WordPress caching plugin to speed up page load times. Caching saves data and content as a recent snapshot so that the server doesn’t have to reload all of that data every time a user visits your site.
  2. Image optimization: Again, image optimization can come from your web host or a plugin. Image optimization tools automatically compress and optimize images you upload to WordPress. As one of the greatest causes of slower page speeds, it’s essential to get your images optimized.
  3. Minification and concatenation: Minification is a tactic used to identify and remove unnecessary characters in website files — like those that use JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. Concatenation, on the other hand, combines redundant website files. Both methods, available through hosting providers and third-party plugins, reduce page load times by minimizing cluttered files and HTTP requests.

Of course, fast page loads mainly come from your hosting provider. If your site struggles during elevated traffic levels, maybe it’s time to upgrade to a VPS or cloud hosting. You may also find that simply switching service providers helps.

Testing and Monitoring Website Performance

You must still test and monitor your site performance, even after implementing tactics like caching and minification. Otherwise, you don’t know if those efforts actually work. Simple tools to evaluate the effectiveness of optimization methods include GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights, both of which provide optimization scores and tips to make improvements to your WordPress site.

Pingdom provides similar testing. It’s also important to run human tests since people can often identify optimization issues not seen by automated websites—like a clunky pop-up that blocks the user’s movements or when a page loads slowly even though a website like GTmetrix says it’s fine.

WordPress Maintenance and Troubleshooting

The maintenance you put into a WordPress site can help to avoid security breaches and performance issues. If you’d rather not worry about WordPress maintenance, consider managed WordPress hosting. Otherwise, check out the following tips to maintain and troubleshoot your WordPress website.

Regular Website Backups

Completing a WordPress backup means saving its content and database information on a separate server from the one that hosts your website.

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The more backups, the better. WordPress doesn’t come with a backup tool, so it’s wise to sign up for a hosting provider with automated backups or consider installing a WordPress backup plugin.

In addition, you’ll want a backup solution with a restore feature. In short, backups come into play when your site gets attacked or an error crashes the website. Restore features return the state of your site to a previously saved version with a minimal amount of downtime.

Performing WordPress Updates Safely

WordPress updates almost always come with security patches. So, forgetting about updates leaves your site open to vulnerabilities.

Software updates illustration

Managed WordPress hosting often completes the updates for you, but if you plan to do them manually, make sure you go about it safely.

First off, you’ll want to make a manual backup of your entire website and database prior to running the update. Use your hosting company’s backups or any backup plugin (as discussed in the previous section). Then run the updates.

Be sure to check the functionality of your website after each update, as some updates may cause issues with themes or plugins.

Troubleshooting Common WordPress Issues

Although known as a secure, user-friendly platform, you may occasionally encounter issues when working with WordPress. When a problem arises, walk through these troubleshooting steps:

  1. Identify the exact problem. Write down the feature that’s struggling to work on the site, even if it’s the entire site failing to load.
  2. Check error logs with the WordPress dashboard. If you can’t access the dashboard, try to load your website in a browser to see if an error code appears.
  3. Contact your hosting company with the error code to see if it has a fix.
  4. If that fails, search the error code online to find what others have done to fix the issue.
  5. If you suspect a plugin is causing the problem, uninstall every plugin, then reinstall them one by one to see when the issue returns. When it does, you’ve found the problem plugin.
  6. If you suspect a syntax error, tap into the built-in debug feature from WordPress. This gets activated in the wp-config.php file to identify where in the code the error occurs.

Overall, your best bet for troubleshooting is to reach out to an expert, like customer support from your hosting company or forums where developers or users discuss ways to fix problems. And if you find that a plugin or theme causes the issue, look for support documentation or a forum for that specific plugin or theme.

Seeking Help from the WordPress Community and Support Forums

The open-source nature of WordPress means that it doesn’t come with traditional customer support.

Support forum illustration

Although you can pay for technical support or seek it from specific plugin developers, you typically have to turn to the WordPress community.

On both blogs and forums, people chat about the WordPress platform on a regular basis. These forums and online communities provide excellent resources where you can either search for keywords to solve problems or start your own conversation about a unique issue.

WordPress for eCommerce

It only takes a few extra tools to launch an eCommerce store on WordPress. You have several plugins and themes to turn the WordPress interface into one suitable for listing products, processing payments, and marketing to customers.

An Introduction to WordPress eCommerce Solutions

To build an eCommerce store on WordPress, you need the following:

  • WordPress installed on a hosting account.
  • An eCommerce plugin designed to work with WordPress.
  • A WordPress theme with eCommerce functionality, ideally one that works with your eCommerce plugin of choice.
  • A payment processing solution (often provided by the eCommerce plugin, but you may need extra payment processing plugins).

Outlined below, you’ll find some of the most popular eCommerce plugins for WordPress. Keep in mind that, for your payment processor, you’ll need to sign up for an extra processing account and attach your checking account.

Popular eCommerce Plugins for WordPress

Many WordPress eCommerce plugins cater to one type of selling, like digital products or marketplace selling, while others offer a complete eCommerce solution with the capability to sell just about anything. The most popular eCommerce plugins for WordPress include:


This is the most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress, primarily because it caters to a wide range of online stores. With WooCommerce, you can sell physical products, digital products, subscriptions, and even more complex items like services or appointments. WooCommerce has built-in tax calculations, shipping rules, and simple payment processing, but you can always upgrade those options with its many add-ons.

Easy Digital Downloads (EDD)

Designed specifically to build a site for only selling digital products, EDD integrates with WordPress and other platforms for a multi-channel selling experience for products like digital artwork, music, and eBooks.


The main advantage of Ecwid is that it creates an online store on WordPress and syncs your product collection to other channels, such as social websites and marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. It’s the best way to sell on multiple channels or websites, and it technically doesn’t need a plugin at all since it offers embeddable shopping carts and product pages.

BigCommerce for WordPress

Here’s a plugin that combines two platforms: BigCommerce and WordPress. It lets you use the backend power of BigCommerce — a robust eCommerce system — with the customizable frontend of a WordPress website.

You may even install more plugins or add-ons to expand upon the features offered by these eCommerce platforms. For instance, there are add-ons for selling on Facebook, incorporating a unique payment processor, or accepting gift cards.

Setting up and Managing an Online Store With WordPress

Installing the right components for an online store takes a few simple steps, outlined below. We’ll also include details on how to manage your online store.

  1. Install WordPress on your hosting server: Choose a hosting provider — ideally one with a one-click WordPress installation button. You might even opt for a host with WooCommerce pre-installed. Use the host’s WordPress installer to activate the CMS. This gives you access to the backend WordPress dashboard.
  2. Install the WooCommerce plugin: Inside the WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New, then type “WooCommerce.” Install and activate the plugin.
  3. Walk through the WooCommerce setup process: WooCommerce has a startup wizard for configuring everything from taxes to shipping rules and payment settings to the store’s location. Go through the wizard to make your shop as ready to launch as possible.
  4. Pick a theme and customize it: Install a WooCommerce-ready WordPress theme, preferably one with as many features as you want (to prevent the need for too many plugins). Once added, customize the theme’s colors and typography, and upload your logo (and any other media items) to match your branding.
  5. Create product pages: Go to Products > Add New in the WordPress dashboard. Here, you can create a product page by adding a title, description, pricing, images, and various other elements to sell your products. Add as many products as you’d like, or consider using the bulk upload feature.
  6. Test the store: Test every part of the store to see if everything works properly. Try to add products to the shopping cart, process a test payment, and even send a message through your contact form. Also, make sure the store looks good on all devices.
  7. Launch the online store: Choose and buy a domain name, then point your DNS settings to the website (if you haven’t already done so). Launch the store by publishing it to the internet and ensuring that the domain name brings customers directly to your website.
  8. Manage everything from marketing to customer orders: The WooCommerce dashboard serves as the hub for managing your online store. There, you can check sales analytics, accept orders, communicate with customers, and even integrate with marketing plugins for bringing in more sales.

With your store up and running, you can now move to other tasks like further marketing, protecting the website from intruders, and adding new products. Although you should keep plugins to a minimum (for performance reasons), turn to plugins when you need features that are unavailable in the core version of WordPress or WooCommerce.

Keep Calm and WordPress On

WordPress provides opportunities for developers and regular users who want to speed up the design process and approach web design in a no-code atmosphere. Once only used for blogging, WordPress has grown into one of the most popular content management and web design systems on the market.

Its customization options and robust community make it ideal for developers, while its visual design experience and friendly interface gives beginners an excellent choice when building a website. Whether you’re interested in launching a simple blog or a high-traffic eCommerce website, we encourage you to use the power of WordPress for a streamlined, reliable way to build and maintain your website.