This post is from the Introduction to Blogging with WordPress series.
When you login to WordPress, you’ll notice an incredible amount of power at your fingertips … seriously, it makes me feel like some kind of magical word wizard every time. And you know what? I like feeling like a magical word wizard.
You’ll find an overview of all your content, including posts, pages, and comments, an overview of your incoming links, plugins, stats and even the option to create a post right then and there. The user interface is one of those that actually makes you to interact with WordPress even more.
This is the WordPress dashboard … this is love
This is the home of the blogger using WordPress.
It might be a difficult to grasp how this can be love for a blogger if you’re not currently blogging on WordPress, so I’d like to show you a few screenshots of the dashboard so you can see for yourself.
By default, there are two columns (thought you can alter this), but I’m going to show you each individually so you can see the detail. The screenshot below is that of the left column, which provides the most information about your blog of the two columns.
This section gives you a quick view of all your content. As you can see, you have the immediate option to jump to your posts, pages, categories, tags and comments.
You’ll also find theme information, WordPress version information, and even how may spam comments were caught by Akismet (we’ll talk about what this is later).
If you’re interested in reading the most recent comments submitted to your blog, you can do so in this section. On top of that, you can also use this area to reply to comments and continue the discussion.
This portion of the WordPress dashboard gives you a look at some of the most recent incoming links, which is a great way to track what others are writing about you, your blog, or your content. Discover what you can do with the incoming links section of the WordPress dashboard.
If you’re doing it right, you’re not going to please everyone. Other publishers aren’t going to agree with you all the time, and that’s a good thing because if we keep our egos in check and keep an open mind, we can all learn from each other and take steps forward as professionals together … even if we’re competing for readers or whatever. Having the capability to track why others are linking to you, as opposed to those merely mentioning you, will give the chance to extend the discussion off your blog and onto another. This will help build a positive brand for you and your blog, even if the content pointing to you was in negative light. By staying on top of your incoming links, reading the material another publisher took the time to write and publish about you, you’re going to be viewed as a publisher that cares.
The beautiful thing about this tool is it’s built right into the WordPress dashboard, so it becomes a natural part of your blogging when using WordPress to publish.
Link building and search engine optimization
In addition to listening to what other publishers are saying about you or your content and continuing the discussion off your blog, you can use this tool to track your link building strategies and gauge whether or not you’re effectively building links back to your blog. Now, there are certainly more robust tools for this type or data tracking, but again, it’s nice because it’s built right into WordPress.
How it works … and how you probably broke it
This tools tracks uses the rss feed of your blog to track the incoming links, so you’ll need to be sure to update this using the “configure” link if you’ve decided to manage your rss feeds through Feedburner (recommended).
If you are using Feedburner (or any other rss management tool), you simply need to grab the current rss feed you’re using and paste it into the “configure” option. To find your current feed, simply select one of your rss links on your blog. This should take you to your feed if you’ve created the link properly, at which point you just need to copy the url in the address bar of your browser.
Another option is to visit Feedburner and select “edit my rss feed” … this will bring you to a page where you can edit your feed — all you want to do is find out what the actual url of your feed is. It should start with “http://feeds2.feedburner.com/” and end with the name of your feed at the end in most cases.
If you don’t update it, you’ll get an error and this awesome little tool will be broken :( … so keep it updated! We’ll talk about other tools for tracking links later on in a more advanced series of posts about blogging.
This is a pretty cool area of the WordPress dashboard because it shows you the most popular and newest plugin available at any given point. To be honest, I don’t use this portion of the dashboard that much, because it’s a cold discovery. By that, I mean I’m not discovering the plugin through a friend’s or trusted source’s recommendation or experience.
That said, I still like how easy it is to discover the newest and most popular from within the WP dashboard.
This portion of the dashboard is incredibly helpful to the new blogger, because it provides insight to the two most important stats you need to know to move forward with your blog with an informed insight.
Like everything WordPress, it’s beautiful.
This particular stat reveals the most popular content on your blog, which can be a helpful insight regarding what you might consider focusing on with your future content. For example, if visitors are frequenting a tutorial about creating an awesome desktop sea-monkey aquarium, you might consider writing more about that.
It’s up to you … you might want to provide your readers with more helpful content, you might want to build traffic so you can monetize effectively, you might want to build your reputation as the sea-monkey blogger, or you might want to attract more subscribers.
Whatever the reason, this stat will provide you with the insight regarding your content, which is your bread and butter as a blogger … as a publisher.
This portion of the dashboard also provides you with what visitors are searching for online just before arriving on your blog, which is helpful because it reveals what you’re ranking for in search engines. This all relates to search engines optimization, which we’ll explore later, but ultimately provides you the insight to see how people arrive to your blog, which can help you understand why they’re visiting your blog. After all, the days of starting a blog to start a blog have long since passed … the more you know about your readers, the smarter you are as a blogger … and the smarter you are, the more likely you are to thrive.
Whereas the left column provides a lot of information directly related to your blog, the right column is more focused on helping you publish quickly, discover WordPress news, and stay on top of the latest news from the WordPress developer community.
Let’s take a look …
This is one of the most powerful aspects of the WordPress dashboard, as it enables you to actually publish a quick post right then and there. Like a lot of awesome features, this is built right into the dash, making it one of the most powerful dashboards available to bloggers.
I don’t use this feature as often as I’d like, but I’m looking forward to doing so over at CreativeBlogger because I’ve started creating shorter form posts that don’t require a lot of attention or time to develop.
This is great for those publishing quick thoughts, reflections, pieces of news, updates, and other bite-sized content. The quick press option enables you the option to create a post complete with a title, body, tags, and even media. However, you’re not able to format the text of the post from this area, which is important when writing long form content and driving your reader’s attention to various portions f the page.
If you’re like me, you start a lot of posts … and publish only a portion of them.
This feature in the WordPress dashboard will help keep those posts you’ve yet to publish in front of you, which is often a helpful reminder that you have work to do. This is probably one of the most powerful tools helping bloggers avoid writer’s block, because even if you’re feeling a low of creativity or you’re drawing a blank on what to post, you have access to an overview of your most recent drafts, which should help you snap back into productive blogger mode.
This is a tool I need to work with on a more regular basis, because I don’t like drafts to stack up.
WordPress development blog
When you first install WordPress, whether it’s independently or through a one-click provided by your web host, you’ll find this feature included in the dashboard to help you stay on top of the latest from the community of WordPress developers. In a way, it’s their way of being completely transparent and keeping you updated.
That said, you can alter this section to pull the latest news from other sources if you’d like. For example, if you write about sea monkeys and want to pull the latest content from your favorite sea life blog into this section, you can! All you have to do is update the rss feed — just as you did with your incoming links customization.
Other WordPress news
Though the content in this section varies from that found in the development blog section of your WordPress dashboard, this two sections are identical in function. Customize this section just as you might customize the feed of the section mentioned above, and pull two different feeds into your dashboard. So if you wanted to pull the latest content from FuelYourBlogging and CreativeBlogger, you would need to select the “configure” link (appears only when you hover over the section), and enter the appropriate feeds, as follows:
Just copy and paste one url per section!
This is a great way to pull in content from around the web to inspire your own blog as well … as we’ve discovered over the years through the social networks and publishing platforms, content inspires content. The more you consume, the more you’re likely to produce.
Having trouble with the dashboard?
I’m interested in hearing how — or even if — you use your WordPress dashboard to manage your own blog. Post your questions in the comments section below and I’ll try to help you through it. Also, this is just a basic overview of the dashboard, there’s a lot more you can do (we’ll cover it later), but I’m looking for ideas on what to cover, so please please please let me know!