Welcome to our advanced (slightly) course on using WordPress, WordPress 201.
WordPress 201 is specifically geared toward bloggers who are using WordPress’s free hosting service. Some of the information will apply to self-hosted and premium WordPress accounts, but beware there will also be differences.
All this month, I’ll be providing step-by-step introductions to a few of the various options available to WordPress bloggers. There are a lot more than can be discussed in four posts, so please let me know if I don’t hit on the topic you’re most interested in. I’m planning to launch a new series on technical advice, so there will be opportunities for further discussion.
WordPress 201 begins with links. Specifically, why you should have them and how you can add them to your blog.
What Are Links?
A link is a connection from one blog or website to another. It can be a simple word or phrase, like “click here” or “click this link”. It can also be a title or sentence. This type of link appears in the post or article itself.
The link I’m discussing in this article is the link that appears outside the post. For this blog, the links are in the sidebar to the right. Scroll down about halfway and you’ll see a section called Our Other Blogs. The items that appear under that heading are the links. If you click on those links, you will be taken to one of our other blogs.
Why Bother with Links?
Why should you be concerned about linking to external websites and blogs?
- High quality external links from your blog boosts your rating on search engines
- Relevant external links is a fast and easy way to provide additional content for your readers
- It keeps your blog from becoming an island in the vast ocean of social media.
- External links can stimulate improved traffic
Adding links and getting them to appear on your blog is a two-part process. First you have to add new links, then you have to add a widget to tell the template where and how they should appear.
Because those two parts are so closely related, I’m going to cover them both in this post. Part I is about adding links to your blog and Part II will tell you how to get them to show up for your readers.
Part I: Adding New Links
Sign into your account and navigate to the dashboard.
From the menu on the left, hover over “Links.” A new menu will appear. Click on “Add New” (red arrow).
You will land on this page.
The screen shot below shows boxes for the name of the new link, the web address of the new link, and the description of the new link. Fill in each box.
Name: This is usually the name of the blog. For example, with my author blog, the name is Carrie Lynn Lewis, Author.
Web Address: Also known as the URL. This is the information that appears in the navigation window for whatever website you’re looking at. In this screen shot, it’s marked by the red arrow. This is the information to put into the Web Address box for the new link. I recommend highlighting the address as shown in the navigation bar, copying it (control-C), then pasting it into the web address box (control-V). That’s the easiest and best way to get an accurate link address.
Description: This is a description of the web site. If a blog or web site has a tagline, that’s what I use. If there is no tagline, I use whatever I typed into the box for the name. You can also leave this box blank if you wish.
Step 4: Categories
WordPress has two default categories.
- Blogroll – specifically for blogs
- Default – links in this category come with WordPress. They will show up on your blog under the “Meta” heading.
You can add additional categories, as is shown in the screen shot below. Simply click on “+Add New Category”, type the category name into the box that will appear, and save it. You can add as many categories as you wish.
You do not have to add any.
Target: This determines the type of page the link will open into when a reader clicks on the link. Each is self-explanatory. My personal preference is the first one. That means that every link opens in a new page and the original page remains open. That allows readers to review additional pages without leaving your page.
Step 5: Link Relationship
In this section, you can identify the relationship of the link to you or to your blog. Select as many as are relevant.
The default settings are shown.
Step 6: Advanced
This section allows you to make advanced selections if you want to include an image, an RSS (really simple syndication) feed or other notes to the new link. I have never found a need for this category and leave it blank. This is the default setting.
Step 7: Save
The final option is to keep the link private. If you want the link to be private, which makes it accessible only to you, check the box in the screen shot below.
When you finish, click the blue “Add link” button and you’re finished. The link is saved.
You will land on the “Links” page, where all of your links are listed. Some links are included with WordPress. They are listed as “Default” in the category column.
Part II: Setting Up The Links Widget
A widget is a section of content you can put into specified areas on your blog. Usually as sidebars or in the footer. You can have as many or as few widgets as you wish. WordPress comes with a number of default widgets that can be dragged and dropped into a widget area.
Here’s how to install a widget for your links.
From the dashboard, selected “Appearance” and click on “Widgets” in the drop down menu (red arrow).
Step 2: Select a Widget
You will land on the “Widgets” page. The list of available widgets is on the left. The list of available widget areas is on the right. I’m using the Hemingway Rewritten template and it comes with four possible widget areas. The sidebar and three footer areas. Your template may look different.
There is a widget for links. Scroll down the page until you find it (green arrow).
Click on the Links widget and drag it to the widget area where you want it to appear. It will open automatically, giving you the opportunity to set it up however you want it to appear. The default is shown in this screen shot.
You can opt to show all the links in this single widget or you can choose the links you want to show by clicking on the “All Links” box (red arrow). A drop down menu will appear that shows you all the link categories you’ve set up. Choose the one you want to appear. The default is “All Links”.
You can also choose how the links appear on the blog page by clicking on the “Sort by” box (green arrow). The choices are “Link Title” (arranged alphabetically), “Link Rating” (arranged by popularity), “Link ID,” and “Random.” The default is “Link title.”
In the check boxes below, you can select the items you want readers to see. The default is shown above.
When you have the link widget set up the way you want it, click the blue “Save” button and your widget is live.
The screen shot below shows how I have my links widget set up.
This screen shot shows how the widget above looks to my readers.
The screen shot below shows all of my links to other blogs. Notice that there are two groups: “Other Blogs You Might Like” and “My Other Blogs.” Each one is a separate widget.
Whenever I set up or change widgets (which I do frequently), I have a page on my blog open in another tab or window. I do this so I can see the changes as I make them without having to close and re-open either page. After each change I make to the widget, I click on the window that shows the blog page and refresh it. That shows me how the changes look and I can decide at once whether or not I like it.
A few well chosen links will add value to your blog. Just make sure the links are links your readers will find helpful, entertaining, or uplifting. Choose carefully and practice restraint. Remember, a long list of links is about as helpful to most readers as no links at all!