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Learn your way around WordPress.com

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By the end of this section, you’ll know how to:

When you become a part of WordPress.com, you’re actually getting two awesome services for the price of none: your blog, plus your Reader, which brings every WordPress.com blog together in one easy-to-search place. Your blog is where your ideas come to life, and your Reader is where you connect with other WordPressers — our community hub. We’ll help you get comfy with both so you get the most out of WordPress.com.

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Don’t fear the Reader

When you log in to WordPress.com, you’ll land in your Reader. It’ll look a little something like this:

Reader

It’s filled with juicy posts just waiting to be read and commented on — the currency of the blogosphere.

We call it “your” Reader on purpose. It’s not just a place to find what we think is worth finding; it’s a place you make your own and tailor around things you love, so every time you log in, you find something new that speaks to you.

There are four main things you’ll do here:

  1. Find great stuff to read.
  2. Catch up with blogs you follow (once you’ve found them).
  3. Check your blog’s statistics obsessively (no shame!).
  4. Post to your blog on the fly.

Let’s take a look at each one, shall we?

Find great stuff to read

You don’t just want to write blog posts and have them sink into the bottomless pit of the internet, you want people to read them. The best way to attract readers is to read and comment on others’ blogs, and the best way to find blogs to read is with the (oh-so-appropriately named) Reader.

If you’re not sure where to start, start with bloggers you know: our friend finder will check out your Google, Facebook, and Twitter contacts and spit out a list of blogs they write on WordPress.com.

Find Friends

You’ll need to authorize WordPress.com to connect with your accounts. We promise to use our powers only for good; you’ll never see posts from us on in your Facebook feed just because you authorized the connection.

Put in your username and password, and give us a few seconds while we find your friends’ blogs. To follow their blogs, just click “follow” next to their photo, and your Reader will collect their new posts for you to browse at your leisure.

(No friends found? Maybe you should give ‘em a nudge.)

When you’re ready for some more exploring, give some of our hand-picked content a try — it’s been verified by Very Official WordPress.com Experts as being certifiably awesome. Freshly Pressed features new posts on a wide variety of topics daily, while our Recommended Blogs make it quick and easy to browse great blogs based on topic:

Recommended Blogs

Pick the topics you’re interested in, and get a selection of sites that (we hope!) are right up your alley.

When you want to truly head into the unknown, use the tags list in the Reader to search for whatever you want. You can add and delete tags at will to create a custom listing — the real beating heart of the Reader (in a good way, not a guilt-ridden Edgar Allan Poe way).

Delete a topic by clicking the “x,” and use the search bar to add new topics. Search for specific subjects, people in the news, recipes, movies, current events, whatever — get creative. Within each topic, the Reader will display a list of all posts from WordPress.com bloggers that have been tagged with that topic, starting with the most recent.

To help you decide what to read, you’ll see an excerpt from the post, along with the title, blog name, and any images in the post. Click the title to be taken directly to the whole post on the individual blog, click the blog’s name to see a list of the blogger’s most recent posts, or just hit Follow to add future posts to your Reader:

Post in Reader

Once you’ve found some blogs you enjoy, use them to find others. Many bloggers keep blogrolls of their favorite reads, and you can visit the blogs of commenters saying interesting things. The blogosphere is interconnected in so many ways, and heading down a new path almost always unearths something worth finding.

You might think you just signed up for WordPress.com to get a blog. Using the Reader gets you so much more — it gets you a community. And being active in the community ultimately benefits your blog, bringing you readers, Likes, and comments (thus making your thrice-daily visit to your stats page much more satisfying).

Action time! Head to your Reader and find three new blogs to follow.

1. Pick one on a topic you talk about on your own blog (And no “I write about my life” cop-outs, please — there are plenty of blogs about people’s lives. Look at topics like “Life” “Musings” or “Reflections” or different life stages like “Childhood” or “Parenting” for starters.)

2. Pick a blog on a topic you love to learn about but don’t write about yourself; use the topics in the Reader to find it.

3. Pick one blog that you found by clicking on a blogroll or blog commenter.

Catch up and manage blogs you follow

You don’t have hours to spend each day trolling the depths of topics in the Reader, unless you’re willing to give up sleep. Luckily, the Reader is happy to be on the job 24 hours a day, collecting new posts from your favorite bloggers so you can catch up on your beauty sleep and wake up to your new reading refreshed. You can even have it pull in posts from non-WordPress.com blogs (like Tumblr or Blogger) to get your complete bloggy fix in one spot.

You probably picked some blogs to follow while you were first registering (yay!). Once you’re registered and exploring the community, there are a few different ways to follow blogs you love:

From the Reader: Click “follow” next to any blog post in the Reader.

Follow button

From an individual blog: Click “follow” in the toolbar at the top of any blog. (You can also use this to unfollow a blog at any time.)

Follow in Admin

From your “Blogs I Follow” panel: “Blogs I Follow” is where we corral all the posts from folks you follow. Clicking Edit lets you add non-WordPress.com blogs. Just insert the address of the blog and click — you guessed it! — Follow.

followrumpus

Now, when you visit the “Blogs I Follow” tab in the Reader, you’ll be able to see all the new posts from people you’re following, starting with the most recently published. Scroll through the list to see what everyone’s been up to, and click through to what looks most intriguing.

There’s no need to be stingy with your follows. If a blog looks interesting, add it to your Reader; you can’t max it out, so the only limit is the quantity of new posts you can read before your eyes cross. If you end up not enjoying a site, just unfollow. As with topics, you can follow and unfollow at will — your Reader is a constantly-updated, living reflection of your interests.

When you follow a blog, you can also decide how you want to get new posts — just via “Blogs I Follow,” or by instant, daily, or monthly email. You might choose the instant email option for blogs your particularly love, to make absolutely sure you don’t miss a post, or the daily email to collect all the content from a blog that posts multiple times a day. If you’re committed to inbox zero, you might opt for no email at all.

To change or update your email delivery settings globally, head to your Manage Delivery Settings page and choose your settings. These will apply to every blog you follow. (You can also choose to block every email from WordPress.com here, but we hope you don’t!)

emaildelsettings

If you want to change your settings for a specific blog, you can do that too. Head back to “Blogs I Follow” and click Edit to access the complete list of blogs you’re following. Click Edit again next to a particular blog’s title to update the settings for that blog only.

speedbirdemailsettings

Check your stats

Your stats page is where you go to feel either justified as a stunningly successful blogger, or depressed that no one finds your posts worth reading.

Kidding! Well, sort of. We know bloggers do often feel like their blogs live and die by their statistics, but really, we provide this information to help you make decisions about your blog. If the posts tagged “baking” on your food blog get more attention than any other, your readers might appreciate more posts about bread. If your music blog gets a lot of Australian visitors, maybe you could try a post focused on music local to them. Stats are there to give you data to analyze and learn from.

In Get Connected we’ll go into more detail about how to use your stats to improve your blogging; for now, we’ll just worry about understanding the kinds of data you’ll see.

To access your stats, just click the “Stats” tab on the top toolbar in your Reader:

stats

You can also access them by clicking on the chart in your toolbar (we call it a Sparkline):

sparkline

The chart consists of 48 bars representing the last 48 hours of page views for the current blog — the gray lines are nighttime.

The first thing you’ll see is a bar graph with dark and light blue lines:

statschart

At the top of the chart, you can choose what time period it covers — days, weeks, or months. Day view is great for seeing the impact of specific posts or changes you’ve made, while week and month view are useful for checking out trends and growth over time. Since you’re just getting started, go with the Day view.

The two units of traffic measurement are views and unique visitors; the light blue bars represent views, and the darker blue represents unique visitors. A view is counted every time anyone loads (or reloads) a page, while a unique visitor is counted whenever a user visits your blog for the first time. If your mom visited your blog twice today and clicked on three pages, she would represent three views and one unique visitor.

Scroll down the stats page a bit, and you’ll get to two columns of data. Let’s start on the left, with Views by Country:

viewsbycountry

Views by country shows you where you visitors came from today. Click on “Summaries,” to see your views by country by week, month, quarter, or all time. Once you’ve been blogging for a little while, take a look at the quarter or all time data — you might be surprised that you’ve had two visitors from Bahrain, and a few dozen from Peru (unless you’re from Bahrain or Peru, in which case it’s probably not that big a deal).

Beneath that, you’ll find “Referrers.”

referrers

This is traffic that comes from links to your blog on other websites. If you post a link to your blog on Facebook, you might see several people referred by facebook.com; if another blogger adds you to their blogroll, they’ll appear as a referrer.

Under that is Search Engine Terms, also known as “the Comedy Club of Your Stats Page” — these are are words or phrases that people Googled (or Yahoo-ed, or Bing-ed) to find your site. Don’t be surprised to see a motley collection of terms here (these are stats from The Daily Post, which is apparently the go-to for both blogging and love advice):

comedy

Last up in this column is Totals, Followers, and Shares. You’ll find information about both your blog and its readers here: you can see how many posts you’ve published and the number of tags and categories you’ve used, as well as how many followers you’ve accumulated. If you’re using Publicize to promote your posts to Facebook and/or Twitter, we’ll note those numbers as well. You can also see how many times your posts have been shared, and the number of spam comments blocked (get ready: it’s gonna be a higher number than you expect).

Okay, scroll back up, and let’s tackle the right column. First up, Top Posts and Pages:

toppostspages

Top Posts and Pages lets you see what’s most popular today, and clicking “Summaries” will also bring you to historical data — a fast way to see what resonates most with your readers.

Next is “Clicks,” which shows how many times readers have clicked links to other sites included in your posts or pages. (Linking to places where readers can find more information is a great way to supplement your posts and add a few stitches to the fabric of the blogosphere.)

clicks

Finally, we’ve got tags and categories, so you can see which of the topics you’ve written about has gotten the best reception, as well as Top Commenters and posts with the most comments.

You should see yourself on the list of top commenters if you’re being a good host and responding to your readers, but you’ll also see who your die-hard fans are (or, at least which of you family members is the most opinionated).

There you go: your stats page. We know that in the beginning, you’re going to check this page a lot — that’s okay, we all do. But if you can avoid getting too caught up in a numbers game (“Yesterday I had 89 readers, but today I only had 27! What did I do wrong? Is something broken?”), you’ll find that your stats are a really useful tool in refining and tailoring your blog.

Post to your blog on the fly

The last useful Reader function is the ability to quickly post directly from the Reader, without going to your dashboard (coming next). We’d recommend using your dashboard for longer, more involved posts, but for times when you’re browsing the Reader and have a sudden thought (especially if you just want to get it down before it flits away, and hang on to it for later) or want to respond quickly to another blog, posting from the Reader is the perfect way to publish something without wrecking your flow.

Up in the right-hand corner, next to your Gravatar, you’ll see an orange and white star and a little pencil icon next to the words “New Post.” I’ll let you guess which one to use.

newpost

(Clicking the star will show you your most recent notifications — that is, all the Likes and comments on your posts.)

To help streamline the experience, we’ll ask you what you want to post: text, images, video, a quote, or link.

postchoice

Pick your poison, and a post editing box will pop up right in the Reader. You can write and publish, or save your idea as a draft to come back to and flesh out later.

For the nitty-gritty on all those little icons in the post editing box, which we call the Visual Editor, as well as more step-by-step deails on posting from the Reader, pop over to Get Published.

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Master your dashboard

The second major piece of your WordPress.com experience is your blog (or blogs), which is probably why you ended up here in the first place. The dashboard is your blog’s mission control center.

Getting there

First things first: how do you get to your dashboard? There are a few ways:

If you’re not already logged in to WordPress.com, you can go straight to your dashboard and bypass the Reader by entering:

http://yourblognamehere.wordpress.com/wp-admin

in your browser’s address bar. You’ll be asked for your login information, and will then be whisked directly to your dashboard.

If you’re already hanging out in the Reader — all the cool kids do — click “My Blogs” to access a listing of all the blogs you own or administer. Under the blog’s name, you’ll see “Blog admin.” Click it.

Voilà: dashboard.

You’ll also see your Gravatar in the upper right hand corner of the Reader. If you hover over it, a drop-down menu will appear and the first item will be the name of your primary blog. Click it to go directly to the dashboard.

Success! You’re in the brains of the operation. In your dashboard, you can do everything from publishing a post to changing the whole layout of your blog to buying your own domain name. It might look like a whole lotta options at first, but you’ll soon come to find which tabs you use most and what happens where. Don’t be afraid to explore all the tabs — you can’t break WordPress.com, and anything you do can be undone if you don’t like it.

The home page

The dashboard is an at-a-glance overview of what’s happening with your blog. You can catch up on news, view your draft posts, see who’s linking to you, check out basic stats, quickly put out a no-frills post, or moderate and respond to your latest comments. You can see how much storage space any photos or videos you’ve uploaded are using, and can check out what’s popular across all of WordPress.com. It’s a quick-and-dirty blog in a nutshell.

You can pretty much click on anything on this page to get more detail — click “Posts” to access a list of everything you’ve written, or the title of a draft to start working on it again. Click a commenter’s name to head over to their blog.

You’ll also see a menu running down the left side of the screen:

menu

These options let you get into the nuts and bolts of your blog. Wait, take a deep breath — we told you WordPress.com was going to be simple, and now you’re looking at a ton of options. Don’t worry! You don’t need to know everything at once, it’s all simple to use, and remember: you can’t break it, and you can always undo.

Menu options: the important ones

For the time being, most of the good stuff you’ll want is under Posts, Pages, Comments, Appearance, and Settings. You can publish your content in a beautiful, customized layout using only those tabs. As you settled in and become a Power WordPress.com User (TM!), you can explore the rest; there are detailed support documents explaining how to use every function that you can check out as you go. (We’ll also review those quickly in the next section.)

Even though it comes lower down in the dashboard, let’s start with Appearance so you can get your site looking good before you tell the world about it. Click it — go ahead, we’ll wait — and you’ll get these options:

appearancemenu

This is Command Central for how your blog looks. You can pick a new theme, choose the widgets you want to use and configure them, create a custom menu or upload a custom header, and more.

If you’re ready to explore theme options, head over to Get Personality; if you want to learn about widgets and other customization options, jump to Get Configured. (If you’re not sure what a theme, widget, or custom header are, visit the glossary.)

At the bottom of the menu is the scrappy but powerful Settings tab, which offers these options. Here, you’ll do everything from decide how you want the time stamp on your post to look, to connect your blog to your Facebook account for easy cross-posting. We’ll explore some of the possibilities in Get Configured, but you should take a few minutes to poke around this section.

settingsmenu

One of the key things you can do in Settings is update your blog’s title and tagline. Your blog’s address will always be the one you initially registered. Your title and tagline — what appears in the header of the site itself — can be anything you want. Your address may be myawesomeblog.wordpress.com, but your blog’s title can be My Awesome BlogJim’s Awesome BlogJim’s Awesome Blog About Widgets, or even Jim’s Widget-o-Rama. The same is true for your tagline. Every WordPress.com site comes with a basic tagline, like, “This WordPress.com site is the Bee’s Knees.” You can change that to anything you’d like, or delete it altogether. Head to Settings >> General to make the change.

Now for the Big Two: Posts and Pages. You came here to publish, right? There is where it’s done.

postsmenu

pagesmenu

Use these menu options to start a new post or page, and or access all your published content and drafts. In fact, this bit is so central to your blogging experience that there’s a whole section of this guide on it — visit Get Published.

Finally, you’ll want to have a look at the Comments menu:

commentswindow

If you’re being a Good Citizen of the Blogosphere — visiting others, commenting on what they have to say, linking to blogs you love — it’s only a matter of time before your site starts getting comments of its own. This is where you manage them. Approve or trash comments, edit them, and check out your spam.

We’ve covered all the critical bits for getting started. Not so bad, right? Right. Feel free to head to Get Personality, Get Configured, or Get Published to start customizing and updating your blog, or read on for a once-over on the rest of the dashboard menu.

Menu options: the less important but still really cool ones

Media, Links, and Users: these are like the bottles in the second row of your spice cabinet. They’re nice to have around and you need them once in a while, but  they’re not quite as central as the salt and pepper. They’re like the paprika of the dashboard.

Media is a catch-all term for files you’ve uploaded to WordPress.com, like photos and videos. Click on media to search through all the files you’ve uploaded, or to upload new ones:

medialibrary

Find a picture, see what post it’s in, and make basic changes like cropping and resizing. Use the upload option to upload all 134 of your pictures from that trip to Prague at once so they’ll be at the ready for your post. For more on working with media, hit up Get Flashy.

The Links tab is where you’ll build and manage your blogroll, if you’d like to have one:

links

Add links to the sites you love, WordPress.com or not — they don’t even have to be blogs. If you’ve got lots of sites to share on different topics, you can give them categories to help readers decide what they want to check out. When you’ve got a bunch of sites listed, use the Links widget to turn them into a blogroll. (More on widgets in Get Configured.)

Last but not least, the Users menu is where you’ll update your own profile and give others permission to publish or administer your blog:

users

If you’d like to have a guest post something or want your best friend to be able to log in to proofread your posts, you’ll create those permissions here. Invite people to join, and manage the level of access they have to your blog. Update your password under Personal Settings, and fill in the details of your profile (which will also appear with your Gravatar under My Profile).

The remnants: Store, Feedbacks, and Tools

Finally, we’ve got the Store, Feedbacks, and Tools tabs:

  • Store is where you’ll go if you want to purchase an upgrade, like a custom domain name or increased storage space for photos and videos. (Learn more about upgrades.)
  • Feedbacks are where you’ll find all the polls you’ve created, if any. (Learn more about polls.)
  • Tools is notable for being the home of the importing and exporting tools — useful if you’re bringing posts over from a blog on another platform, like Blogger, or if you want to export your content. You can also delete you blog here (but we hope you don’t!).

You can find more detail on all these tabs in our support documents.

Action time!  You’re still new, so we’ll go easy on you. To make sure you’re comfortable using your dashboard, click on four different tabs, and update a setting in each of them. We don’t even care which ones — we just want to get you clicking with confidence.

And that’s it! You’re a dashboard professional now; go forth and publish.

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Have dual citizenship

The Reader and your dashboard are both key to squeezing every last drop of goodness out of WordPress.com; even if it seems like only one or the other will be useful to you, we encourage you to get to know them both and learn to move fluidly between them. To wrap up the tour, here are the intersections where you can pass easily from one world to the next:

From the Reader

When you’re in the Reader, the blue toolbar running across the top will deliver you to your dashboard post-haste:

toolbar

Click “My Blogs” for a complete list of your blogs, and select a blog to visit, or hover over your Gravatar; selecting your blog name in the drop-down menu takes you right into its dashboard.

From your dashboard

From your dashboard, getting back to the Reader is a snap. See the “W” in the upper left-hand corner of the screen? Hover over it to activate the drop-down menu, and head right to your main Reader page or a secondary page like your stats or Freshly Pressed.

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Our tour of WordPress.com is now complete; please exit the trolley on the right, and be sure to take all your belongings with you. Now that you know your way around, let’s get your site set up just the way you want it, starting with picking the perfect theme. It’s time to Get Personality.

Header image based on “Untitled” by Robbie Sproule, CC-BY-2.0

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