WordPress Guide – Learning The Basics

Got your site up and running, the WordPress settings changed, but aren't quite sure how to use it just yet? Don't worry, because in this article, we will take a look at the basics on how to use WordPress. You'll be a pro in no time. Some parts of this article assume that you are using Site Ground web hosting, so if you aren't, you should simply disregard those sections.

This article is part of the process in creating a website.

WordPress Basics

Logging In

The login page is your domain plus /wp-admin (for example: www.empoweredowl.com/wp-admin). Check out the tutorial on how to login to WordPress for details.

Site Title

One of the first things that you do is change your settings as we have discussed. Part of that is changing the title of your website. You can find it in the general settings screen. Check out the tutorial on how to change the site title in WordPress.


When someone creates an account for your website, they will be assigned the default user role that you have in your  general settings. Here are the different possible user roles:

  1. Subscriber - can only read the website
  2. Contributor - can edit and delete unpublished posts
  3. Author - can edit and delete unpublished and published posts, and upload files
  4. Editor - can do all of the above, plus edit, publish, and delete pages, and moderate comments and edit categories
  5. Admin - can do everything

For any person working on your website, you should carefully consider what user role permissions they should have in order to prevent unwanted actions.

Here's a pro tip: you can manipulate any page or post when you are logged in as an admin, and assign an author to any page or post (instead of having to log in as that author). You will need to turn on the "Author" box for both posts and pages separately.

You can do this by creating a new post or editing an existing one. Go to the admin panel sidebar and click "Posts", and then go to the edit screen by clicking on the title of a post.

On the next edit screen, near the top right, click "Screen Options", then check the box next to "Author".

You will need to do the same thing if you want this turned on for pages, by repeating the process after going to the admin panel sidebar and "Pages" first.

Once the "Author" box is turned on, you can scroll down when editing a page/post and then select the author from the drop down box to assign that page/post to that user.


One of the easiest ways to make your site look great is by installing a theme. There are many free themes out there, but be warned, you usually get what you pay for.

You want a theme that looks great, works well, has fast load times, and is mobile device ready. I have found that Thrive Themes has a great selection that meets all of these requirements. You also get free image optimization and scaling built right into the theme, which will save you a lot of time, money, and website space.

To install a new theme, go to "Appearance", "Themes", and then click "Add New". You can then browse many themes that are available, or you can click the "Upload Theme" button at the top, which is how you would install a theme that you buy.


You can change the way that your site looks by using the Customize feature. Go to "Appearance", then "Customize".

You will then be able to change the settings in many different areas for your site. Keep in mind that some of these options are theme specific.


Plugins are a great way to add capabilities to your website. However, keep in mind that many plugins could make your site load slower, create a security risk, or have a conflict with other plugins which results in breaking part of your website. You should also keep them updated to avoid security risks.

I always research a plugin well before I decide to install it. Thrive Themes offers many useful plugins and has a proven track record of high quality. To install a new plugin, go to "Plugins", then click on the "Add New" button. You can search for a specific plugin, or click the "Upload Plugin" button at the top to install one that you have bought.

Important Note: There are tons of plugins to add or change functionality in WordPress. It is easy to find and install new plugins. However, remember that anyone can create a plugin, and many times there are some plugins that don't work very well, have security problems, slow down your site, break your site, and may not be updated regularly. Therefore, you should use caution when installing a new plugin. I've gathered highly trusted plugins that work very well to cover a variety of functionality in the following list.

Already Installed Plugins


JetPack is a collection of great functionality to enhance your WordPress site. It is installed and activated by default. In order to set it up, do the following:

  1. connect it by going to the WordPress admin control panel, then "Plugins" and clicking the "Jetpack" button under " Jetpack by WordPress.com" in the table of plugins.
  2. on the next screen, click the "Connect Jetpack" button
  3. the next screen is a wordpress.com prompt where you need to create an account for wordpress.com, or if you already have one, you can use the sign in link near the bottom
  4. once you create an account and login, on the next screen you need to click the "Approve" button to connect this account to your WordPress website
  5. choose your desired level of service next, where free is great for most users
  6. after it completes, you will be taken back to your website and you choose to either "activate recommended features" or "skip this step", I always skip it and check the settings manually which we will do next
  7. on the admin control panel, click "Jetpack", and then "Settings"
  8. you should go through each of the tabs at the top to see what features you want on or off for your site, here are things that I do on mine:
  9. under "Sharing" tab, I disable "Automatically share your posts to social networks"
  10. under "Sharing" tab, I disable "Add sharing buttons to your posts" since I use Thrive Themes which takes care of that functionality
  11. under "Discussion", I enable "Let readers use WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts to comment" to allow comments
  12. under "Discussion", I disable "Enable pop-up business cards over commenters’ Gravatars"
  13. under "Discussion", I disable "Show a "follow blog" option in the comment form" since I use an autoresponder and opt-in forms for my mail lists
  14. under "Traffic", I disable "Generate XML sitemaps" since our Yoast SEO plugin does a better job for that

Akismet is an anti-spam plugin for WordPress. It is installed by default. Here's what you need to do to get it set up:

  1. activate it by going to the admin control panel, then "Plugins" and clicking the "Activate" link under "Akismet Anti-Spam" in the table of plugins.
  2. next, on the same plugins page, click "Settings" under "Akismet Anti-Spam"
  3. on the next screen, click the "Get your API key" button
  4. on the akismet.com website that opens, click on the "Get an Akismet API key" button
  5. if you just followed the steps above for the Jetpack setup, then you might still be logged into your wordpress.com account that you created during those steps and if so, it will ask you to approve the connection between Akismet on your site and your wordpress.com account
  6. click the "Approve" button if you are logged in with your preferred wordpress.com account, or login with the correct one, and then approve the connection
  7. you will have different plan pricing choices, if you are just starting a website and its non commercial, you can pick the name your price "Basic" plan, and on the following screen slide the price slider down to $0.
  8. enter in the requested information as required, and then click the button to proceed
  9. you will then see a popup that is telling you that you are adding a site, click on the "Activate this site" link
  10. next, you will be taken back to your website and the API key should be entered for you on the Akismet page
SG Optimizer​

SG Optimizer is a tool from SiteGround that is installed and activated by default. It offers a lot of different functionality for cache options, https protocol, and php configuration. There are no setting changes needed here, other than what is covered in other sections.

Hello Dolly​

Hello Dolly is installed and activated by default. It simply posts a message at the top right of the control panel screen for admin users. It doesn't provide anything useful, so I always either delete or deactivate it.

Additional Install Plugins

In order to install additional plugins, in your WordPress admin panel, on the left side tool bar, go to Plugins, and then "Add New".

On the next screen, use the "search plugins" text box at the top right to find the following plugins. For each one that you search and find, click the "Install Now" button next to the name of the plugin, and then click "Activate" to enable it.

Wordfence Security​

Wordfence is one of the best security plugins you can get for WordPress.

When you activate this plugin, a popup box will appear where you can put in your email address in order to receive alerts from the plugin about your website security. It's recommended that you put in your email and then click the "Get Alerted" button.

As your site gets bigger, you might run into a timeout problem between Wordfence and SiteGround. You can fix the problem ahead of time right now by doing the following:

  1. go to the WordPress admin control panel, then "Wordfence" and then "Options"
  2. search for "Maximum execution time for each scan stage"
  3. set the text box to 30
  4. then click the "Save Options" button at the bottom

It's a good idea to turn on automatic updates for Wordfence. Here's how:

  1. on the WordPress admin control panel, go to "Wordfence" and then "Options"
  2. under "Basic Options", scroll down and check the box next to "Update Wordfence automatically when a new version is released?"
  3. scroll down and click the "Save Options" button

Because SiteGround security is great, Wordfence has an issue turning on its advanced firewall (due to limited variable access). The Wordfence advanced firewall gives you the best protection for your website, so it's recommended that you follow these steps to enable it.

CAUTION: In case something goes wrong, you need to backup your website, and save a copy to your local computer.

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is one of the best plugins for search engine optimization (SEO). It allows you to change things like the page title tag and meta description that appears in the search engine results for your website. The plugin also does a great job for XML sitemaps, and offers a great file editor for changing your robots.txt and .htaccess files. There is a lot more functionality as well.

Once installed and activated, here are the recommended actions for this plugin:

  1. Go to the WordPress admin control panel, then "SEO" and then "Dashboard", then click the "Features" tab, and enable the "Advanced settings pages".
  2. Now scroll down and click the "Save changes" button. This will enable the file editor tool, as well as many other options in Yoast SEO.
  3. Confirm that your XML sitemap is working by going to your website and adding "sitemap_index.xml" to the end of the address (for example: https://www.empoweredowl.com/sitemap_index.xml).


A great way to add functionality to your sidebar and footers on your site is with widgets. You can set up a new widget by going to "Appearance", then "Widgets", and then customizing what you want.

You literally drag and drop the available widgets on the left side into the main boxes for sidebar and footer on the right side. Then you can adjust the settings for each of those boxes on the right side under your sidebar and footers.

Pages versus Posts​

There are two ways to create content on your WordPress website: pages and posts.

Pages are intended as more of a standalone content item. Whereas posts are intended to be part of a group of content. In fact, posts allow you to use "categories" and also "tags" to help group your content by subject. Posts are the right choice for content if you want to be able to automatically sort them throughout your site using the "Blog" feature of WordPress, or by using categories or tags.

Note: I personally use pages for my landing pages, as well as my website policies (like Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, etc). I use posts for all of my article content.

Keep in mind that until you start adding posts and pages with images to your brand new site, it won't look "good". However, once you have some content with images, it will start looking like a normal website.


It's possible to make any post or page private if you need to restrict access to some of your content.

Password Protected

You can also set individual posts or pages to password protected.


A big part of WordPress is being able to have a custom sidebar on your website. However, as most websites have used them a lot in the past 10 years, many people have become immune to them and don't click items on them much any more.

It turns out that you can easily remove the sidebar if you want to. Check out the tutorial on how to remove the sidebar if that is something that you want to do for your site.

Home Page

Your website home page is going to be the most visited spot on your website. That's why it's important that you make it look great and work well for the goals that you have for your website.

Check out the tutorial on how to change the home page for WordPress if you want to customize yours.


The WordPress editor is where you create the content for your posts and pages.

You can access the editor on the edit post or edit page interfaces. There is a "Visual" or "Text" tab on the upper right side of the editor where you can either see the what the content will actually look like or the HTML, respectively.

The WordPress editor can be a little frustrating to use at times. That's why I use Thrive Architect, which is an interface where you can make your article look exactly the way you want it to, in a fraction of the time, and without the frustration. It's called a "what you see is what you get" editor.


WordPress categories are a very useful way of combining posts on your website into meaningful groups that are related to each other.

One great feature is that you can show all of the most recent posts in a particular category by using the WordPress link structure that is already built in. For example, https://www.empoweredowl.com/category/business/ would list all of the posts in your "business" category.

You can also add categories to your menus, which creates a link to the structure mentioned above so that it will list all of the most recent articles published in that category.

Once you create a category, you can add any post to that category by checking the box on the edit page for that post on the right side of the screen. The easy way to add categories is through the post edit screen as well, by clicking "Add New Category".


Tags in WordPress are intended to be for much more specific topics than categories. You can tag any post with specific keywords. You can also add a group of tags on your sidebar or footer by using the "Tag Cloud" in Widgets (in your admin panel sidebar, click "Appearance", then "Widgets"). To add a tag to a post, you have to edit the post, and then scroll down and on the right side, under the "Tags" section, you can add your tag.


The WordPress media is where all of the uploaded files for your website are contained. You can access it by going to your admin control panel, and clicking "Media".

You can add new images or other files by clicking the "Add New" button next to "Media Library". You can also delete, or edit the title, caption, alt text, and description of your images by clicking on them in the Media screen.

Speed Upgrades

How fast your pages load is important for the user experience on your website. In fact, the average person will bounce away from your website if your pages don't load in under 3 seconds.

That's why it's important that you make sure that your load speed is top notch. Check out our guide on how to implement the top WordPress speed upgrades.

Headers & Footers

Sometimes, you might want to install additional capability on your site. For example, many people use the Facebook pixel to track visitors to their website for re-targeting ads.

For features like this, you need to know how to insert scripts in your headers and footers to get these working.

You can also edit the footer so that you have a custom copyright statement, links to your site's policies, as well as any other information that you want to put at the bottom of your website.


Gravatar is an image service that works well with WordPress. Whenever you create a new user account for your website, if you also go create a Gravatar account using the same email address, then the profile image you upload to Gravatar will appear on any WordPress site where you use that same email address. For your website, you can modify the settings of this capability in your "Discussion" settings, under the "Avatars" section.

Two ways this is handy:

for authors on your website, where it will show a profile image for them if they create an account on Gravatar and upload an image with the same email address as their user account on your website

if someone comments on your website (if you are using the WordPress built-in comment system), and they use an email address for their comment that has a Gravatar account associated with it, the commenter avatar will automatically show up

Yoast SEO Capability​

If you haven't already installed the Yoast SEO plugin, you should. It offers a lot of great functionality for search engine optimization and other basic capabilities.

Once you get Yoast SEO set up, you can use it to take advantage of better SEO practices. The Yoast SEO plugin lets you edit the title tag and meta description (what appears in search engine results) for each post or page. You can use this capability by editing any post or page and scrolling down and clicking on the "Edit snippet" button, then changing the title and meta description.