Here's one long post to get us most of the way through the rest of the class...
After this post you will have almost everything needed to finish the semester. I'll write about search engine optimization next week and give you a short quiz on that topic. But the majority of your time this week should be spent working on your Wordpress assignment and getting your website ready to show off to the world.
Today I am going to introduce you to Wordpress widgets and plugins. Then you are going to install a few plugins (there are three that are required for the class).
You'll find Wordpress widgets under the appearance menu in your Wordpress dashboard (here's a video on how they work):
Depending on your theme, you might have as few as one available widget area and as many as 10 or more. Generally, we use widgets to add items to the right rail of your website. Many themes also let you use widgets to populate the footer of the website.
You'll see widgets that add a calendar of posts, an RSS feed, a tag cloud and much more. Just drag one from the center area to the right column to add them to your site. The one you will use most often is probably the "text" widget, which lets you simply add text (including HTML code). This is what you would use to add something like a Twitter widget to your site.
There are also some plugins (more about plugins below) that will give you more widget options. One I really like is Simple Social Icons, which lets you easily link to social bookmarking sites from a widget.
Sometimes your theme will have theme-specific widgets that work best with that theme. Go ahead and play around with widgets until you get a good understanding of what they do, and what they do with your specific theme.
Plugins are, in my opinion, the greatest thing about Wordpress. If you come across a cool feature on someone else's website, the odds are there is a plugin available that will let you add the same feature to your own site. It's like having a team of developers working for you!
Read this step-by-step guide to how to install Plugins.
For this class, you are required to install two plugins:
1. Google Analytics - Google analytics lets you track info on visitors to your site. The first step is to create a Google Analytics account at google.com/analytics. Then, in the Google Analytics dashboard, click on "Add website profile" and proceed to create a new profile for your website. This should be fairly self-explanatory.
Then go to your Wordpress dashboard to install and activate the Google Analytics by MonsterInsights plugin. Go through the process to attach your analytics account to the plugin and you should be all set. To make sure everything was set up correctly, view the source code on your site and search for the word "analytics." If it's there, you did it correctly. Also go to your analytics dashboard at google.com/analytics and then click on Realtime and then Overview to make sure you're seeing traffic show up when you visit your site.
Note: When you install some plugins, they will add an admin area to the left column of your wordpress dashboard, most likely under the settings tab. Here's an example showing plugins I use on my site:
2. Yoast SEO: Install and activate this plugin for now. We'll use it later when we discuss search engine optimization (SEO).
Once you have the two required plugins installed, you can look for more plugins that may bring value to your website.
Google analytics paper
Once you have Google Analytics installed, you should share links to your website via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, or anything that will get people to view your site. For your Google Analytics paper, you're going to have to look at your stats at google.com/analytics and talk about what you are seeing (where do your readers come from, how many pages do they view, did more people come from Twitter than Facebook, do people from Iowa view more pages than people from Nebraska). I mainly want to see that you can look through your analytics, see trends, and draw some conclusions from the data. The paper should be 1-2 pages, single-spaces with screengrabs from Google Analytics that support what you are writing. See the full assignment here.
Share a link on Facebook
Remember that you need to post at least twice to the class Facebook group. This would be a good time to share links to a theme you like or a plugin you found valuable. That will satisfy the Facebook participation requirement and help out your classmates at the same time.
As usual, please ask if you have questions. I oversimplified some things in this post, so I am happy to help make sure you fully understand everything.