We encourage blog contributions from a wide range authors across our network. We have regular blog contributions from our staff, as well as our Issue Analysts, Regional Coordinators, and Chapter leaders. We’ve created this Author Help page for those who have been given credentials to make posts. If you’re looking for information on the public side of our site, you’ll find what you’re looking for on our general site help page.
MANAGING YOUR USER ACCOUNT
Once you’ve successfully logged in, you’ll start off at the Dashboard, a collection of information about our site and news from the WordPress community.
The settings for your user account are managed on the Profile menu selection. You can control:
- Visual Editor
- First Name, Last Name, and Nickname – and which of those is displayed
- Your contact info, especially your email address
- Your Biographical Info
- Your password
There are 2 editors, Visual and HTML. It’s a personal preference which editor you use. The Visual editor presents information in a format closer to how it will appear when published on the web. However, that advantage comes at price. It’s more difficult to see formatting codes on the Visual editor, and the Visual editor strips off some embedded HTML. The checkbox at the top of the Edit User window is a setting that, when checked, disables the Visual editor. If the Visual editor is disabled, you’ll only see the HTML editor. If the checkbox is not selected, you have the option of switching between the Visual and HTML editors. But keep in mind that if you switch to the Visual editor on a post that contains embedded HTML, you might inadvertently delete it. Since the editor remembers the last type of editor you used and uses that same type the next time you edit a post, it’s easy to open a post in the Visual editor when you didn’t intend to do that. For the vast majority of authors, the Visual editor is the best tool.
In the Profile window, you’ll also have the ability to manage your your name, contact info, and password. Since only logged-in users can see this screen, you already have a Username that can’t be changed. But you can change your First and Last Name, your Nickname, and which is displayed to visitors to our site. For consistency, we’d like you to use a combination of your First and Last Name, as in Jane Doe. This helps to insure proper attribution.
For Contact Info, you have to record the same email address you assigned to your gravatar. If your gravatar isn’t displaying, the most likely cause is the email address recorded here doesn’t match or the E-mail field is blank. All you need to do to display your gravatar is record the same email address used when you created your gravatar. If you haven’t created a gravatar or want to change the image you uploaded, visit Gravatar’s website.
To help familiarize our readers with the background of our authors, we include your gravatar and Biographical Info at the bottom of each of your posts and at the top of an archive listing of all of your posts. Take the time to enter a brief bio, usually about 4-5 sentences. You can include HTML markup, as well as links to a longer form bio or curriculum vitae. Here’s a sample of what your bio will look like:
WRITING A POST
To write a new post, click the Add New menu selection on the Posts menu. To edit a post you’ve previously posted, click on the Posts menu, where you’ll see a list of posts by all authors. Scroll to find a post authored by you and click on your name, which is a hyperlink to a list of your posts. The search box in the upper right of the Posts screen is another quick way to locate a post you’ve written. Enter a portion of the title or content and click the Search Posts button. A portion of the Add New Post screen is shown nearby.
Writing good blog posts involves understanding some important concepts about how information is organized on a web page and the markup that is used to enable search engines to find your content.
Each post has what a writer might commonly label a title. For now, let’s avoid describing this as a “title” and instead label it the primary heading, or H1. The primary heading normally becomes the end of the permalink, or the URL to your post. Your post’s primary heading is converted to a permalink by removing punctuation, converting characters to lowercase, and replacing spaces with dashes. In HTML markup, the primary heading is wrapped in Heading 1 (or, more simply, H1) tags, indicating it is the most important heading. A post should only have a single H1 tag, and it’s put there automatically for you. You should never use an H1 tag in your post. Instead, use Heading 2 (H2) through Heading 6 (H6) to mark headings in decreasing importance. Unlike the H1 tag, you can use multiple occurrences of other heading tags. In the adjacent screen shot, “My Test Post” is the primary heading, H1, and that heading becomes the end of the permalink, “my-test-post”; the text “Writing a Post” is a secondary heading H2, because it represents the next most important heading.
We avoided labeling the primary heading H1 a “title” for a reason. In HTML markup, there is a separate title tag. This is the title that appears at the top of your browser window. Our site gives a writer the ability to specify a Custom Document Title. If you don’t specify one, the primary heading H1 will get both a primary heading and title tag. That duplication wastes a lot of the power of the title tag, so we recommend you hand-craft the Custom Document Title.
The title tag and the permalink are 2 of the most important pieces of information for search engines to index and rank your post. For that reason, choose the words in your title (i. e., the Custom Document Title) and permalink carefully. The primary heading H1 plays a less important role in helping search engines index and rank your post. Since it is the largest heading on the web page, it’s best used to focus your reader’s attention.
In addition to the title tag (the Custom Document Title) and the permalink, there’s another very important element of a post to enable search engines to index and rank your post: the Custom Post/Page Meta Description. The Custom Post/Page Meta Description is exactly that, a hand-crafted description of the content of your post. It should be a concise 1-2 sentence description of your post content using the keywords that a web searcher is most likely to use when looking for that content. If you don’t enter a Custom Post/Page Meta Description, search engines will attempt to create one for you, often using the first 1-2 sentences of your post. That can work for posts written in a dry, journalistic style, but it often doesn’t work for more creative writing. The Custom Post/Page Meta Description isn’t seen by a typical reader, and a result many writers don’t take the time to create one. That’s a shame, because the title, permalink, and meta description are the 3 biggest factors that help your post get indexed and ranked by search engines. Since 50% or more your readers come from search traffic, not taking the time to fine tune these critical elements could cause you to lose the majority – possibly even the overwhelming majority – of your prospective readers.
Both the Custom Document Title and Custom Post/Page Meta Description include character counters. As you type, the counter shows the total number of characters you’ve entered. That’s because there are limits on how many characters in each of these fields search engines will use; unfortunately, popular search engines don’t publicly disclose those limits, so there’s no absolute length that is too long. A good rule of thumb is to keep the Custom Document Title under 75 characters and the Custom Post/Page Meta Description under 200 characters in length.
You’ll also find a field for Custom Post/Page Meta Keywords near the fields for Custom Document Title and Custom Post/Page Meta Description. Don’t waste your time entering keywords here. Years ago, keywords were an important element to web searches. Today, most major search engines ignore them. Nevertheless, the term “keyword” is sometimes used to refer to the phrase a web searcher enters into a search engine. You do want to try to include in your title, permalink, and primary heading those search words or phrases commonly used by a searcher looking for your content.
You can see how post settings are reflected on a search engine result page in the nearby sample of a Google search. The link to the content is our Custom Document Title and the description below that link is our hand-crafted Custom Post/Page Meta Description that provides a clear and concise description of the content.
For tips on making the most of these posts elements, see our recommended Best Practices.
POST STATUS AND VISIBILITY
An important aspect of writing a post is understanding post status and visibility. Settings for post status and visibility are controlled in the Publish meta box, a sample of which is shown at the right. The status of a post can be 1 of 3 possible values: Draft, Pending Review, or Published. A Draft indicates the original author is in the process of writing and revising the post. A Draft is not visible to the public and can’t be located by search engines. A post with a status of Pending Review has been completely revised by the original author and is ready to be published once reviewed by a user with at least Editor permissions. Like a Draft, a post with a status of Pending Review is not visible to the public and can’t be located by search engines. These status settings are only used as a workflow indicator to signal whether the original author has completed the post. Although a permalink is displayed for a post with a status of Draft or Pending Review, the post can not be reached through that URL, even for a user with Administrator privileges. Instead, it can previewed by clicking the Preview button in the Publish meta box.
When you click the Publish button (which becomes the Update button on an already published post), the post status is changed to Published. To save a post but keep its status without publishing it, click the Save Draft or Save as Pending button.
By default, the visibility of all published posts is set to Public. That is, any published post is visible to any web browser. If you want to have a published post (i. e., one that is complete and no longer subject to review) but not visible to the public, you may opt to change the visibility of the post to Private. A Private post – even a link to the post in an archive – is only visible to users with at least Editor permissions. You may opt to allow the post to be visible to the public but restrict access to those with a password by setting the visibility to Password protected.
We’ll only review posts with a status of Pending Review to determine if they’re ready to be published. It’s up to you to change the status of your post from Draft to Pending Review. Under normal circumstances, the visibility of all of our published posts is Public, and we recommend that authors don’t use the Private or Password protected visibility settings.
We manage images on our site using the NextGen Gallery (NGG) plugin. We don’t use the standard WordPress Media library for image management. NGG offers more flexible image management, a lightbox visual effect, and reduced image thumbnails in a post. Click on any thumbnail in this post to see a larger image in a dimmed viewport in your current browser tab. NGG creates thumbnails for images in the gallery, and these reduced-size thumbnails are displayed when the post is viewed. Since the thumbnail is created the first time a post is viewed, subsequent visitors are served the already-created thumbnail. That approach is faster than re-sizing a larger image each and every time a post is viewed, and speed has a big impact on readership.
A typical web image should be a .JPG or .PNG that is:
- 800 x 600 px or smaller
- under 500 Kb in size
If your starting image is larger than these guidelines, before uploading the image to our site you’ll need to re-size it using an image editor, such as Adobe’s Photoshop or GIMP, a free image editor.
To use an image in a post, the first step is to upload it to a Gallery. From the Dashboard, choose the Gallery -> Add Gallery / Images menu selection to access the Upload Images window. For uploading a few images at a time, stick to the Upload Images tab, and click the Browse… button to locate the images on your computer. If you use the Flash uploader (see below), you can select 1 or more images; otherwise, you’ll have to upload images one at a time.
Normally, unless we’ve made special arrangements in advance, all of your images should be uploaded to Gallery 2 – Post Images. When you’re ready to upload the images, press the Upload images button. By default, the NGG uploader will use Adobe Flash, and some users experience an error when attempting to use the Flash-based process. If you experience an error, click the button to Disable flash upload and re-try your upload.
Once you’ve uploaded your images, go to the Gallery -> Manage Gallery menu selection and click on the link to Gallery 2 – Post Images on the Galleries window. Find your uploaded images in the Gallery window and make note of the ID of each image you want to use in a post.
By default, NGG sets the Alt & Title Text to the name of the file you uploaded. It’s a good idea to change that to accurately describe the image. The title text will appear when a browser’s mouse hovers over the image, so the text should be short and descriptive. To see how we’ve customized the image titles on this page, simply mouse over an image. After updating the Alt & Title Text for all of your images, click the Save Changes to save your work.
In the Gallery window, NGG shows the image dimensions of the image you uploaded. You’ll normally want to display a thumbnail, or smaller version, of that image in your post. NGG will proportionally resize your image automatically based on any 1 dimension. That is, if you provide the desired width for your thumbnail, NGG will calculate the height, and vice versa.
An image is placed into a post by using a shortcode. A shortcode is an instruction with 1 or more parameters that starts with a left bracket [ and ends with a right bracket ]. An NGG shortcode for a single image specifies the image ID, at least 1 size parameter (either width or height), the float (where the image should be positioned relative to adjacent text), and other options.
Below are a few shortcode examples. Keep in mind the spaces after the opening brace [ and before closing brace ] are for illustration only. Don’t include these spaces when you put a shortcode in your post. If we didn’t include these spaces, our example shortcode would be converted to an image, and all you would see is the resulting thumbnail.
All of these shortcode examples will produce a proportionally-sized thumbnail of image ID 123 that is 300 pixels (px) wide.
[ singlepic id=123 w=300 float=left ]This is an example of a shortcode that will float an image and the adjacent content starting on the left side. That will produce text that is on the right side of image. Note that the shortcode is placed in line with the text.
[ singlepic id=123 w=300 float=right ]This is an example of a shortcode that will float an image and the adjacent content starting on the right side. That will produce text that is on the left side of image. Note that the shortcode is placed in line with the text.
This is an example of a shortcode that will center an image.
[ singlepic id=123 w=300 float=center ]
Note that the shortcode appears on its own line.
The image immediately before the shortcode examples is floated to the right; the image before that is floated to the left.
Our site also makes use of image thumbnails when displaying posts in an archive, such as a list of posts for a single author or having a specific tag. These archive thumbnails are square, normally about 150 x 150 px. If you don’t add a unique image to your post, we’ll add a default image for you, but your post will stand out more if you take the time to specify a unique image. You can use any image in our Gallery (e. g., an image you’ve already uploaded for your post or an existing image) or you can upload an image to be used just for an archive thumbnail.
We store the archive thumbnail setting as a Custom Field, and you can find Custom Field settings toward the bottom of the post editing window. At the bottom of the Custom Field meta box, there is an option to add a new Custom Field. Choose thumb from the drop down list and enter the relative path to the image you uploaded. If you uploaded your image to Gallery 2 – Post Images, you can follow the pattern below but change the filename to the name of the file you uploaded. Keep in mind the NGG image uploader automatically converts all characters to lowercase. If you’re unsure of the filename of the image you want to use as an archive thumbnail, you can mouse over the link to the image in the Gallery and the URL to the image, including the absolute path and filename, will normally display in the status bar of your browser.
If you re-use a larger image for your archive thumbnail, our site will automatically resize it to the square proportions used by our archive thumbnail. Since we could change the proportions of our archive thumbnail in the future, letting our site automatically resize your image to the current proportions is a reasonable choice. However, you may not like the way our automatic image cropping is applied to an image, especially one whose proportions don’t match that of the archive thumbnail. If you’re concerned about the appearance of the archive thumbnail, review it in any archive in which it appears; if it’s unsatisfactory, upload an image that matches the proportions of the archive thumbnail to be used for this specific purpose. If we change our proportions, which currently call for a square image, we’ll update this page.
The simplest way to include a video is get the video ID on the site where it’s hosted and use that ID in a shortcode. The ID is usually a string of about 10 characters and numbers.
Below are a few shortcode examples. Keep in mind the spaces after the opening brace [ and before closing brace ] are for illustration only. Don’t include these spaces when you put a shortcode in your post. If we didn’t include these spaces, our example shortcode would be converted to a video, and all you would see is the resulting video player. The descriptions after the boldfaced shortcode are to clarify what the shortcode will do; don’t include these descriptions with your post.
[ tubepress video="xxxxxxxx" ] – basic video display using default settings
[ tubepress video="xxxxxxxx" title="true" ] – forces display of video title
[ tubepress video="xxxxxxxx" views="false" ] – hides display of video view count
Note that the shortcode appears on its own line.
Now that you know how to post, let’s pull everything together with some recommended best practices to improve readership. After all, you took the time to write a good post. Spend a little more time to insure interested readers can find it.
- Think about your permalink: keep it short and based on the keywords relevant to your content; make sure there’s no punctuation other than a dash in place of a space; if you used punctuation, such as quotes, in your primary heading, you’ve got some checking to do;
- Take the time to hand-craft a Custom Document Title and Custom Post/Page Meta Description;
- Don’t upload overly large images; images should normally be 800 x 600 pixels or smaller and under 400 Kb;
- Load images using our shortcode to take advantage of our lightbox effect and insure that your images are loaded as pre-sized thumbnails;
- To make your post stand out in a listing of posts, specify a “thumb” custom field;
- Use the Click Tags to find existing tags; avoid adding new tags because infrequently used tags are routinely deleted;
- Share your post using our built-in social networking features that make it easy to post on your own social networking sites;
- Make relevant comments on other sites addressing similar issues and include a link to your post for the purpose of increasing your readership;
- Don’t focus all of your energies in the online world; a short permalink makes it easy to tell friends and colleagues how to find your post.