Understanding the Settings: Reading
Basically, if you are able set your Settings correctly from the beginning, it will help you understand and run your blog much more effectively and efficiently.
There are elements in WordPress.com blogs that aren't in WordPress.org blogs, and vice versa, so it looks like I'll have to do an appendix to this series especially for self-hosted blogs so that they don't feel left out!
Right, let's get cracking! As before, go to your Dashboard (click on the Settings: General link above to find out how), find the Settings link in the left hand sidebar and select 'Reading':
Now things are starting to get interesting!
Where do you want your blog posts to show?
A blog normally shows all its latest posts listed on its front page. Or, if you like, when you type in the blog's web-address or URL, the first page you see shows a list of the most recent the posts on it.
And at the moment this blog is set so that this happens. But here is where you can change this.
Some blogs have proper front pages (like here on Beginner Bloggers) and the blog listings are found on another page which can be located via the navigation bar. This is the start of turning your blog into a website.
If you want to do this, then you need to select the "A static page" option:
This is what this blog does. But you need to have created in advance the page you want to perform as your front page, and another page that will hold your posts. Otherwise it won't work properly.
I have explained this in how to create a homepage.
How to present your posts
Here you can choose how many posts you want to show up on your post listings page. They usually present as the most recent at the top, pushing later posts down the page.
Syndication is a mechanism that allows readers to view your posts elsewhere other than on your blog. In this case, you can control how many of your most recent posts can be displayed at one time.
You have the option to either show your posts in full on your post listings page, or to abbreviate them as a summary.
There is lots of advice going round about whether it's a good idea to show your posts in full, or to choose the summary option. Many of my posts have infographics, which benefit from showing them in full, but some SEO geeks say it's better for your blog to have your listings summarised as shown below:
Interestingly, when I changed my WordPress.com blog over to the Summary option, nothing happened! Perhaps I needed to write another post to activate the change. Anyhow, have a play and see which one you prefer.
Now, with this automated summary thing, WordPress will choose when it stops the abbreviated section of your post, and this can be both amusing or annoying.
But – you can regulate how this happens using the read more tag which you can insert into your posts.
Who do you want reading your blog?
Some bloggers are worried about who reads their posts. If this is the case, then I suggest you choose the third option and make your blog private. Only you and your best friends will be able to read your posts.
There is an option to make selected posts private, which I will be covering in another How To post later.
However, the majority of us are very keen to get lots of readers. And to get the search engines to index our blog so our posts have a chance of being presented as a result of a search request.
WordPress.com offers two options here to satisfy everybody's views about search engines, but as they state in their note, you can't tell Google what to do - it has its own agenda. Have a think about how visible you want your blog to be, and who you want reading your posts.
Offering some more reading suggestions
WordPress.com offers you this great facility that shows visual links to relevant and related posts your readers might be interested in underneath each post.
This is a great way of reducing your 'bounces', which is a stats term referring to when a reader arrives and leaves your blog within a short amount of time, and without reading more posts or visiting any other pages in your blog. Usually only techie people or those who are into statistics bother about their bounce rates, but you should encourage your readers to read as many more posts as you can.
The ticked options are something you can play with, according to the layout presented by your theme. In this case, with everything ticked, my WordPress.com blog's related post offerings look like this:
Which does look dull because I don't use enough pictures in my posts. This Beginner Bloggers website offers something much more jolly:
And that's because I've bothered with the images that go with each post. In WordPress.org most themes offer a facility to ensure these applications show the most appropriate image – and I will explore this in another How To post later.
To infinity and beyond!
Another little add-on tucked into this page: here's the option that allows your post listing page to keep bringing up more old posts whenever you scroll down to the bottom. It's a nice alternative to the 'More posts' link or button that would appear after the first 10 posts or whatever.
How your post is viewed elsewhere
Here's a throw-back from when Google Reader existed! I mentioned Syndication above. This is part of the process of 'feeding' posts to other places, allowing them to be viewed in other places other than your blog.
I wouldn't worry about this here. It only allows certain features of your blog post to be revealed when it is shown in a Feed Reader.
How to regulate your blog's followers
WordPress.com are very keen for you to get lots of followers to your blog, so they offer facilities to encourage new readers to view your new posts on the WordPress Reader.
There are widgets available that also encourage your readers to follow your blog, which I will describe later in one of my widget how-to posts.
Here you can rewrite the default introductions WordPress have created for you for your followers, if you can be bothered!
And, as usual, you should not ignore this at the bottom of the page:
if you made any changes.
The next post in this Settings series will be exploring the Discussion page, which is all about comments.