I've had a number of authors recently point out how "non-techie" they are and how they wish someone would explain things in a way they could understand.
By the end of this article you'll never confuse a theme and a plugin again, you'll never have to wonder whether your content should go on a page or a post, and you'll know what your techie friends are talking about when they mention SEO backlinks.
So if all that sounded like Greek to you, read on.
When it comes to websites, you want to think of yours like your house. It's your home on the internet. It contains everything you own.
Visitors can see what sort of person you are, what you like and what you, do simply by seeing it.
If you like exercising, chances are you'll have either some exercise equipment around or something like a bike, skis, a tennis racket or maybe even some scuba gear. If you like to read, chances are you'll have several bookcases and a lot of books, or a kindle placed somewhere you can easily pick up multiple times a day. If you're religious, you'll probably have some religious pictures on the walls, and so on.
It doesn't take a detective to get a good idea of your life and what you do and stand for. Any visitor you allowed to simply walk through your house (without opening any cupboards and draws) would have a pretty good idea of your life.
At a high level, this is what your website does for your business. It gives your visitors a pretty good idea of what you do and what you stand for, just by having a look around.
If you're using WordPress, which we recommend, then one of the first things you'll need is a theme. So what's that?
Your "theme" is the look of your site. So going back to your house, it's the paint you used on the walls, the color of your furniture, whether you have drapes or blinds and so on.
Some sites / houses look more stylish than others - ie they had an interior designer instead of simply going to the store and picking the paint and furnishing themselves - and that's the difference having a quality paid theme or custom developed theme can make to your website, instead of a free one, or simply creating it yourself from scratch.
Something else you'll want for your website are plugins - again another item that usually causes that blank look followed by, "A what?"
Your "plugins" are simply extra functionality for your site.
Back to your house again. It does a pretty good job of keeping the rain off your head and cooling you down when it's 100F outside, or heating you up when it's -20F outside. But then Black Friday comes around and you just want more... There's nothing to do, you're bored and it's time to fix that... Queue plugins.
They are what give you the ability to do extra things.
For instance, if you plug in a stereo, you can listen to music. Of course, after a while, that gets boring, so you get a TV and plug that in too, so you can watch movies.
You want to talk to your friends, so you buy a landline phone and plug that in, hey presto you have the ability to communicate and chat. Then your friends want to have a party and ask if you're free. Are you? Well you'd know if you'd got a calendar and put it up, so off you go to the shops again.
The trouble is there is a limit to the amount of plugins you can have. If you start plugging in extension cables to each of the sockets in your house and using all the slots in them to plug in your TV, your toaster, your oven, your fridge etc etc. Pretty soon you're going to overload your electrics and potentially burn your house down.
Every single item you plug in takes a bit of electricity and limits what else you can plug in and still stay safe, right?
Well it's the same with your website. Every plugin you add takes up a little bit of bandwidth and there's a finite number of plugins you can add before you overload it and break your site.
Some plugins use more than others, just like a hair dryer uses less than your fridge, so it's not an exact number of plugins, it depends on which plugins you're using.
The other things is some plugins will conflict with others. Say for example you're sitting in your living room watching the TV. If someone else turns the stereo on full, you'll stop being able to hear the TV, so it stops fulfilling its function of entertaining you. If you crank the TV up to drown out the music, then the stereo has stopped fulfilling its function of entertaining the other person. It's one or the other.
Your Home Page
Another term you'll hear around websites is the Home Page. "The what?"
Your "home page" is like the front of your house.
Does it have curb appeal? Is there an obvious doorbell so a visitor can reach you easily? Is there a simple path to the front door or might someone get distracted along the way and end up elsewhere (like standing there looking at an amazing fountain or flower bed, then realizing they’re late for another appointment so they leave).
Your home page needs to appeal to your visitor and give them an obvious path to follow that gets them to sign up to your list, aka 'enter the front door'.
That's the purpose it needs to fulfil. It's nice that you can show people how beautifully you garden and how much you care for your house by removing all the trash, but the ultimate goal is to get your visitor to ring that doorbell and come in - after all lunch will get cold if they stand around outside!
Pages vs Posts
A question I hear a LOT is, "Should I put this content on a page or a post?"
There's a very simple answer to that, and again we'll have a look at the house. Your "pages" are the static information about your house, like the rooms. Yes occasionally you do a renovation, but you don't gain or lose a room very easily or often. Each room also has an obvious function – bedroom, bathroom etc. If you wanted to go to sleep, you wouldn't go to the kitchen for example.
On your site, your pages are going to contain that information that gets looked at all the time. Things like your contact info or your 'about me' info.
You also want to use a page for things like telling people about your book. Your book description isn't going to change, nor is your cover or details of who your book is for. So all of that goes on a page.
Your "posts" on the other hand are for information that is relevant now, but might not been later on.
It's your daily life – what goes on in your house and what you did today for instance. If you want people to interact with you, they do so on your posts. It's like someone coming to visit and chat (ie they a "commented").
Yes your posts last as long online as your pages, but usually people only see the latest ones. So if you're talking about a book release and write a post about it, chances are people won't be looking at that 2 months from now because the information isn't relevant anymore. Whereas new visitors will still be looking at your About page and the information will still be relevant.
Visitors need to be able to find your house. Otherwise it would get pretty lonely. This is where SEO comes in. You can think of it as the street signs, that say 'this way'.
You want other sites out there to point towards your site, which is what is called a "backlink".
Let's say someone wants to find your house, cause you're having an awesome party, but they don't know exactly where it is. They do, however, know where Joe's house is since he lives in the same town and told them about the party to begin with. So they ask Joe for directions to your place. Those directions are like a backlink. They point them from somewhere they know to somewhere (Joe's house) to somewhere they want to go (your house).
The more people who can point others towards your house for the party, the more visitors you're likely to get coming along. It's the same with websites, the more backlinks you have, the more traffic you're likely to get.
As with either though, if Joe doesn't have any friends, he won't be sending anyone to your party. If the website you have a backlink on doesn't get any traffic, you won't be getting a visitors from it.
You've probably heard that you have to know your keywords, both for your books and for your website as they help people find them. But how do they?
Keywords are simply things like the name of your town or road. They're words or short phrases (eg Main Street) that someone can use if they pull over to ask a passer-by where your house is, or what they type into their sat-nav.
You wouldn't expect to pull over and say, "Hey, where's Karen's house?" If they even knew a Karen, chances are it wouldn't be me.
However, if you pulled over and said, "Hey, how do I get to Tuttle?" then provided you were in Sarasota people could point you in the right direction.
The more specific your keywords, the more likely you are to get people coming to the right place.
Hopefully you've got a much better grasp now of websites. At the start of this article I said you'd never confuse a theme and a plugin again. You won't, right?
Will you be confused about whether your content should go on a page or a post? I hope not.
And the next time one of your techie friends mentions SEO backlinks, you can nod sagely and know what they're talking about.