Archive for June, 2016

Two New Blogging U. Courses Available On Demand

Ready to dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of your WordPress.com site? We’ve got two new Blogging U. courses on demand to help you do just that.

Build a Business Site

Build a Business Site is a brand-new, ten-day course that helps you plan, build, and promote your business website. We’ll help you define your site’s raison d’être and plan content, choose the theme that fits your brand, and examine whether blogging can help boost your business. Along the way, we’ll cover specifics like pages and menus, domain mapping, widgets, using social networks to promote your site, and SEO.

Intermediate Customization

This ten-day course takes you in-depth into the free customization options available to all WordPress.com members. Find and understand your theme’s details. Delve into how headers and titles are displayed, and create a totally unique custom header. Coordinate your background, get comfortable with widgets — including custom widgets and widget visibility — and learn basic HTML for even finer control over how your content displays.

Not what you need right now? There are five other courses available as well:

Ready to start? Head to the course that interests you, and click the “Start course” button!

FAQs

What is Blogging U?

Blogging U. is a collection of self-guided courses to help you get the most out of your WordPress.com site. Courses give you a daily assignment or writing prompt, along with the technical help you need to complete the task and insider advice from both our editors and the wider blogging community; each course has a handy resource page collecting everything in one place for you to refer back to whenever you’d like. Publish new posts using the course’s tag — don’t worry, we’ll tell you how! — and you’ll be able to connect with others working through the same course for support, feedback, and friendship.

How do I start a course?

Visit the page for the course you’re interested in and click the “Start” button — that’s it! If you’re logged in to WordPress.com, you’ll receive an introductory email right away, and your first assignment a few minutes later. If you’re not logged in, we’ll prompt you to do so, and then you’re off and running.

What if I want to stop?

No problem — every email you’ll receive includes an unsubscribe link at the bottom. Click it, and the course stops.

This won’t affect any of your other WordPress.com emails, like notifications. And if you want to give the course another try, you can restart it.

How many courses can I take? Can I take them more than once?

As many as you’d like, as many times as you’d like. We recommend taking one course at a time, but you’re free to take multiple courses simultaneously.

What if I need assistance during the course?

Every assignment includes expert advice from our staff as well as links to resources and to our support folks. We also encourage you to use the tag for your course when publishing posts, and to browse that tag in the Reader to find and connect with other bloggers.

What if I don’t blog on WordPress.com?

All general assignments (publishing posts, customizing your blog, leaving comments, etc.) are applicable to any blog, anywhere. However, you’ll need to have a WordPress.com account to register for a Blogging U. course, and any specific how-to guidance we offer will be specific to WordPress.com.

How much does each course cost?

Nothing. Blogging U. courses have always been free, and still are.

Ready to register? Head to the Blogging U. home page to get started!

Filed under: Better Blogging, Customization, WordPress.com
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Let DTLA Custom personalize your leather accessories

DTLAcustom

DTLA Custom is a luxury leather arthouse creating one-of-a-kind art for your leather goods. The team behind DTLA Custom is comprised of fashion forward individuals with over 10 years of experience in fashion, art, and manufacturing. They pride themselves in personalized customer service and excellent craftsmanship that will turn your leather accessories into fabulous individualized pieces. Let me just say that I love, love, love the idea of taking my designer bags and transforming them into something that’s unique and a reflection of my style and personality. Check out some of my favorite DTLA Custom designs below.

DTLA Custom designs

DTLA

DTLA Custom designs

Isn’t it amazing how a little color and artwork can totally change an otherwise boring designer bag?! Check out the entire DTLA Custom gallery {here} for more inspiration. Next, go in your closet, pick out a few bags that haven’t been carried in forever and brainstorm on a design {here} so you can have your very own custom handbag!

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Field Notes: Grow Leadership Academy 2016

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do in the community. This week, we share our experience at the Grow Leadership Academy.

On May 24th and 26th, Hugh Lashbrooke (WP community manager), Gareth Allison (WooCommerce marketing designer), and Job Thomas (WooCommerce education lead) visited Athlone, near Cape Town, South Africa to teach a module in the Grow Leadership Academy.

The Grow Leadership Academy was initiated in 2011 by WooThemes, RLabs, Silulo, Webgrowth, and the GivenGain Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa. The Academy trains high school graduates in challenging environments to help them enter a difficult job market.

Growing the Grow Academy

In less than five years, over 550 youth have graduated. Graduates have made over 500 job applications and started close to 40 businesses.

Starting with a one-week “bootcamp” in 2011, the program currently takes place three days per week — for an entire semester! Students learn about leadership skills, entrepreneurship, design, technology, community development, project management, and social innovation. The sessions mix in-class instruction and practical work mirroring real-life situations.

Whole lot of WordPress

During the first modules, the students helped locals by setting up projects to support the community. We helped them make websites for those projects which will be showcased on the Entrepreneurship Pitch Day on July 1st, 2016, at the Vangate Youth Café. During three-hour sessions, we taught the students how to set up a business website on WordPress.com, including setting goals, making accounts, creating content, designing, and connecting to social media. Check out three of the student sites: Green Patch, Take it Outside, and Transcycle.

Though it was a lot to take in for some students who had never worked with WordPress before, they did an amazing job and made some very nice basic websites. We encouraged them to continue to play around and make their websites their own personalized online homes.

All three of us loved getting involved with this great initiative. Helping young and eager people discover the magic of building websites and publishing online is inspiring. The students’ fresh enthusiasm reminded us of the great opportunities WordPress has given us. It’s a privilege to share our knowledge with the next generation. In doing that, we can contribute to the hope Grow Leadership Academy gives youth in overcoming a challenging job market and achieving their dreams! Publishing online empowers students, allowing them to voice their world views, and even assist those in need in their local community.

Our slides of the session and the sample website we created can be found at growwp.org.

Below are some pictures taken by the in-house photographer of Grow Leadership Academy, Hendrik Louw. Thanks to Rabia AdamsonCyril Mphanga, and Nathaniel Dicks for their help! (Rabia, Cyril, and Nathaniel are all Grow Academy grads employed with RLabs. Huzzah!)

Hugh introducing WordPress.com
Student brainstorming on goal of her website
Job talking about homepage design
Student brainstorming on goal of her website
Facilitator Nathaniel helping out
Students working hard on their websites
Students working hard on their websites
Gareth teaching WordPress.com basics
Student spreading WordPress love
Facilitator Cyril assisting a student
Job helping student
Students enjoying their WordPress sunglasses
Filed under: Community, Events, International
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Make the Most of Our New SEO Settings Panel

WordPress.com has always taken care of your site’s search engine optimization (SEO) behind the scenes. Whether you have a free site or paid plan, we index your posts and pages so that the Googles and Bings of the world can easily find them. Many of you, however, have requested more hands-on control over your site’s SEO — so we’re thrilled to introduce a new SEO settings panel to your dashboard.

When it comes to attracting viewers via search engines, nothing beats publishing high-quality posts on a regular basis. But there are also a number of technical settings that can have an impact, and our new panel gives you easy access to and control over these settings.

When you’re working on your site in the WordPress.com dashboard (access it by going to My Sites in the top-left corner of the screen), head to the Settings page and you’ll see a new SEO section.

This section contains three items: Front Page Meta Description, Site Verification Services, and XML Sitemap. Read on to learn how they can help with your site’s visibility.

Front Page Meta Description

For the first time on WordPress.com, you now have the ability to edit the meta description that search engines detect for the front page of your site. Previously, we used the site’s tagline as the front page meta description.

Meta descriptions are a general overview of the contents of your site. Search engines sometimes use this information to display a description of the site for specific searches, so adding one allows you to craft a message that emphasizes your site’s content and purpose.

Still not quite sure what a meta description does? Here’s an example of how it works on our blogging-resources site, The Daily Post:

Text entered into the Front Page Meta Description box.

A Google search result showing the meta description.

As for the rest of your pages and posts, meta descriptions are pulled from the excerpt field.

Site Verification Tools

WordPress.com comes with built-in stats that give you ample information about your traffic. If you’d like even more stats, some search engines and social networks offer additional “webmaster tools” that may complement the data you see here.

We’ve made it easier for you to verify your site with several services (for detailed instructions on site verification, read our step-by-step instructions). All you need to do is copy the HTML verification tag from any of the platforms listed below, and paste it into the corresponding field:

New Site Verification Tools showing the different Webmaster Tools settings.

Site Verification Tools

We currently support the following services:

XML Sitemap

XML Sitemap Link

Your site has always had an XML sitemap, but now you’re never more than a couple of seconds away from finding it!

Sitemaps are special-format pages that let search engines know what pages exist on your site and where to locate them. After you’ve verified your site using Google, Bing, or Yandex’s webmaster tools, you can submit your sitemap to those services so that search engines can easily find all the pages on your site.

Going through this step may help search engines index your site more quickly, as well as establish your authorship of original content in case your posts get syndicated or shared elsewhere on the web later on. Once you’ve added your sitemap, some of these services (including Google and Bing) will also be able to provide you with more information on your site’s performance.

Take Charge

With access to more SEO settings than ever, you have the ability to take charge of your site’s search engine success. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO on WordPress.com, visit our previous articles on the topic at The Daily Post, or check out some of the most frequently asked SEO questions.

Filed under: Dashboard, Features, New Features, Stats, WordPress.com
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Field Notes: SupConf 2016

Automatticians, the people who build WordPress.com, participate in events and projects around the world every day. Periodically, they report back on the exciting things they do in the community.

Last week I attended the first ever SupConf, held at Automattic headquarters in San Francisco, California. I attended the event with Mindy Postoff. Simon Ouderkirk and Jeremey DuVall gave talks. Andrea Badgley, Andrew Spittle, and Diana Potter helped organize the event, and Joe Boydston volunteered. We’re all Happiness Engineers. Happiness Engineers unite!

SupConf came out of the Support Driven community as a conference for people passionate about support as a career. Being an introvert I was worried about stepping out of my shell. I wanted to make the most of the experience and take advantage of being surrounded by fellow support professionals.

As it turns out it was easy to do.

Support professionals are dedicated to helping others. They’re empathetic communicators who made it easy to have conversations. This meant it was easy to have conversations with everyone there. The structure of the event encouraged interaction: after each speaker we, the audience, discussed questions related to the presentation. This worked so well, that at one point I looked up from the small group I was in to see that many people had left for a break. We were still involved with our conversation and there were some other groups still going as well.

Photo credit Ben Macaskill

In photo: Simon, Aubrey, Amanda (behind Aubrey), and Sandy. Photo credit: Ben Macaskill.

Talks were organized by theme, with three talks in each theme. For example, Jeremey spoke on improving team performance with his talk, “Hi. I hate your product.” Simon spoke on working with data in his presentation, “Use the data you’ve got.” After a series was complete we broke into smaller groups where we could ask questions of the speaker and others. This worked very well and allowed me to have many great conversations with new people without feeling awkward or uncomfortable.

only day one, but I think this may be the most useful conference I've ever attended. support people thinking deeply about support. #supconf

— m miratrix (@mpmiratrix) May 23, 2016

In all the conversations I had or overheard the feeling was the same:

The way it was designed, participants really got the opportunity to learn so much, not just from the speakers but from fellow attendees as well. — Mindy Postoff

Automattic, and my fellow Happiness Engineers, see support as a critical role. So important in fact that everyone in the company, no matter their role, does a one-week support rotation each year. This includes our CEO! However, that isn’t the case in all companies. Sometimes there is a stigma attached to customer support: it’s perceived as an entry level position, or a job that requires little skill. The community and conference did a wonderful job to bring together people from many different companies who want to make support a role you can build into a career. The speakers gave us ideas and advice which we can take back to become better at our craft, and the confidence to work at making the role of support be seen as a career choice like any other.

"A career in support is a lifetime of service, a way to help pple deeply use your product"- @andrewspittle #supconf pic.twitter.com/Izh1kPzglq

— Denise Twum (@awurama) May 24, 2016

If you are passionate about support but missed out on SupConf, I strongly encourage you to check out the Support Driven community. I know I’m going to be more active there now. There is talk of another SupConf, which I very much look forward to. Also know that there are many great companies out there where you can build a career in support, including Automattic. If this sounds like something you are interested in doing, we’re hiring!

Filed under: Community, Events
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