business & technology for wedding and lifestyle pros

Google Analytics Advanced Segments


I’m sure most if not all of you know about the awesome tool that is Google Analytics.  It’s free, there are multiple wonderful plugins to integrate it with WordPress (I use Yoast’s plugin), and when used correctly, you can track all kinds of interactions with your website.

Google Analytics Advanced Segments

One of the easy features to implement is the Advanced Segment feature.  Advanced Segments require no updates to the Analytics code on your site, only a little bit of configuration within Google Analytics.  I use Advanced Segments for a variety of things, but one important use is to track how readers from a specific referring source interact with your website.

Creating an Advanced Segment

Let’s say I want to see how readers from Pinterest interact with my website. First, log in to Google Analytics and access your website profile. Click on Add Segment.

Google Analytics Advanced Segment Tutorial

Click the red New Segment button and give your segment a name. We’ll call ours “Pinterest Visits”. Select Traffic Sources. In the Source field, leave the condition as “contains” and in the value field type pinterest.com. Click save.

Tutorial on Google Analytics Advanced Segments

Now, navigate back to your Google Analytics dashboard. Click on the Add Segment button again. Search for pinterest, find your recently added segment, and click apply.

Using Advanced Segments

Your Dashboard will now show you how “All Sessions” and “Pinterest Visits” stack up to each other!

Analyzing Data with Advanced Segments

Now to take it even further, let’s say you sell a product and have a checkout page on your site.  If people successfully check out, they are taken to a “thank you” page.  That thank you page represents your sales conversion page.  With Advanced Segments you can now see how many visitors from Pinterest are converting into sales.

Navigate to Behavior » Site Content » All Pages.  In the search field, type /thank-you/ (or the slug of your order success page) and click the magnifying glass. Voila! Data showing you how many sales conversations you received from Pinterest visitors.

Of course, this is also useful for other page views, such as how many visitors are viewing your contact page, and other referring sources, such as external advertising you might purchase. Coming soon, we will talk about Google Analytics Event Tracking and how to combine Event Tracking with Advanced Segments, which is where the real fun comes in!

So have I inspired you to try out Advanced Segments?  How will you apply them to your site analytics?

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Basics of a WordPress Theme


Now that you have installed WordPress and know how to install WordPress plugins, it’s time to learn the basics of a WordPress theme! Themes hold the files that tell the browser what to display and how it should look.  If you remember from this post, PHP gets turned into HTML and that tells the browser what to display.  In coding language PHP = “get”.  CSS tells the browser how the html you have coded should look.

Basics of WordPress Theme

Photo: © Studio Firma / Stocksy

WordPress comes pre-installed with three themes, including the latest default theme, Twenty Fifteen.  Let’s take a look at the files in the Twenty Fifteen theme and see what they do.  Don’t worry if all of this is very confusing now!

PHP files control what is displayed

index.php – Displays your main blog page.  Includes PHP calls for all of the files that control how your main blog page is displayed.  Includes code for your main blog pagination.

header.php – The header file essentially sets up the page and includes PHP calls to “get” the CSS files for the theme, the blog information and title from your WordPress options, and your header image.  It also calls WordPress itself from your server and includes the opening html for the body of your page.  There can be much more included in here (and we’ll get to that when we talk about more complex coding).

footer.php – “Closes” your page in the browser.  Calls the WordPress footer.  Also typically includes any credits, copyright info, etc that you want to display.

single.php – Displays a single post.  Includes PHP calls for all of the other page elements that you display on a single post type. The post type’s content is called in content-[POST-TYPE].php.

content.php – Displays the content of a WordPress post with the “standard” post format, including its title and body.  The author bio is called in author-bio.php.

author-bio.php – Displays information about the post’s author.  Pulls from the WordPress user information fields.

content-link.php – Displays the content of a WordPress post with a “link” post format, including its title and body.

content-none.php – This file is called when a user performs an action where no results are found, including searches with no results.

page.php – Displays the framework for a WordPress page and includes PHP calls for all of the other page elements that you want to display on that WordPress page.  This file usually looks a lot like single.php, but typically does not include a call to the comments template.  The page content is called in content-page.php.

content-page.php – Displays the content of a WordPress page, including its title and body.

comments.php – Displays and formats the comments for a post.  This file is typically only called from single.php.

archive.php – Displays category, tag, taxonomy, and date archives.  Includes PHP calls for all of the other page elements that you display on your archive page.

404.php – If someone is searching for something on your site and goes to a permalink that doesn’t exist, they will see this 404 page.  Includes PHP calls for all of the other page elements that you display on your 404 page.

functions.php – A super-important file that you don’t want to edit until you know what you’re doing.  functions.php basically performs like a plugin, and any PHP code in this file will be executed when you call the function from your other template files.

image.php – Displays a single image attachment and includes PHP calls for all of the other page elements that you display on a single image.

search.php – Displays the framework for search results and includes PHP calls for all of the other page elements that you want to display on the search results.  Typically looks quite a bit like archive.php.  The search results content is called in content-search.php.

content-search.php – Displays the content of a WordPress post when it appears in search results, including its title and body.

sidebar.php – Displays the sidebar widgets that you have defined; if no widgets are defined, displays a default sidebar.

back-compat.php – Contains functions to help with the theme running on WordPress versions before 4.1.

customizer.php – Contains the functionality that allows for customizations to the Twenty Fifteen theme (under Appearance » Customize).

custom-header.php – Contains the functionality that allows for a custom header in the Twenty Fifteen theme (under Appearance » Header).

CSS files control how things look

style.css – a theme’s stylesheet is where the CSS for a theme is held.  Themes can have one or many stylesheets.  CSS is pretty complicated, so for right now know that each little section of CSS is called a selector, and selectors control how whatever is inside them is displayed.

rtl.css – If you are publishing in a language that reads right to left, this stylesheet will be used.

English, please?

Let’s look at an example and maybe this will start to make more sense.  Remember single.php?  It’s the file that displays your single post page.  We’ll use a common single.php format, with the content on the left and sidebar on the right.

single.php is going to start by doing a PHP call for header.php. Remember, the header.php has already called in all of your stylesheets and WordPress itself.

<?php get_header(); ?>

Each section of your page is styled using CSS selectors inside either <div> or <span> tags.  Think of a <div> tag as a section of your page and a <span> tag as a portion of a section.  Div tags (“divs”) can either be IDs (noted with a #) or classes (noted with a .).  IDs are meant to be used once on a page, while classes are intended for items to used multiple times. Divs are opened with <div> and closed with </div>.  The header.php file probably had several divs to display your header image, menu bar, etc.  In single.php the main content area of your page is also enclosed in a div tag.  Let’s call it “primary”.  When you include a div or span tag in your php file, WordPress will look in your stylesheet for the div or span tag name and display the results using the CSS selectors assigned to that tag.  Because we are calling a single post, the class of this primary div will be “content-area”.  We’ll also tell the browser that this is the main content area.

<div id="primary" class="content-area">
     <main id="main" class="site-main" role="main">

The template is then going to ask the WordPress database for the data from the post itself. This portion is referred to as “starting the loop”.

<?php while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>

Once it knows what the post is, the theme calls the appropriate content template file for the post’s format.

<?php get_template_part( 'content', get_post_format() ); ?>

If the post has no post format (let’s say it’s just a standard blog post), it will look to the file content.php. content.php lets the browser know that this is an article, with both header and content sections.  The WordPress function the_title(); calls the post title and the WordPress function the_content(); calls the post content.  To simplify:

<article>
     <header class="entry-header">
          <?php the_title(); ?>
     </header>

     <div class="entry-content">
          <?php the_content(); ?>
     </div>
</article>

That’s pretty much it for content.php. Once content.php has finished its display, we return to single.php.  single.php would next typically include a call to your comments.php file.

<?php comments_template(); ?>

Now we’ve “looped” through a complete post, so we’ll tell WordPress we are done.

<?php endwhile; ?>
</main>
</div><!-- closes .content-area #primary -->

Lastly, we’ll call the sidebar and the footer.  Remember, the footer closes the page, so after the footer is called, single.php has done its job.

<?php get_sidebar(); ?>
<?php get_footer(); ?>

This is a lot to wrap your arms around, I know!  But I hope it’s starting to make some sense, because we’re going to be talking a lot more about themes as we start to edit each of the theme files, make new theme files, and add in awesome new functionality!

Any questions so far?

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How To Install WordPress Plugins


Now that you’ve installed WordPress, it’s time to perk up the plain vanilla functionality by learning how to install WordPress plugins!

How to Install WordPress Plugins

What’s a Plugin?

For those of you who are just getting to know WordPress, a plugin is a piece of code that you install and activate. Plugins can be complex or simple, and they either add functionality to WordPress or change existing WordPress behavior.  Some plugins have settings that you change based upon how you want them to perform.  Some have CSS files (remember CSS?) that style their results.  Others require you to edit something in your theme.

The WordPress site has a comprehensive list of every plugin available.  From here, you can search for the functionality you’re looking for and see reviews of the plugins, number of downloads, installation notes, etc.  Chances are, if you want to do it, there is a plugin for it.

We’ll start by installing a plugin that saves some real estate on your WordPress dashboard, the Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu plugin.  By default, the WordPress dashboard menu is on your left.

WordPress Default Dashboard

When you install and activate Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu, the menu moves to the top, eliminating the need for lots of vertical scrolling.

WordPress Dashboard with Ozh Admin Plugin

There are two ways to install a plugin, through your WordPress dashboard, or through FTP.

How to install a plugin through your WordPress dashboard
  1. Navigate to Plugins » Add New
  2. In the search field, type in the plugin you want to install, in this case we’ll search for “Ozh Admin”
  3. When the search results appear, locate the plugin and click “Install Now”
  4. Click “Activate Plugin”

If you have a zipped file of your plugin, you can also install it through the WordPress dashboard.

  1. Navigate to Plugins » Add New
  2. Click “Upload Plugin”
  3. Choose your zipped file.
  4. Click “Install Now”
  5. Click “Activate Plugin”
How to install a plugin using FTP

By now, you know that I love FTP and use the Core FTP client (if you need a refresher on FTP, read this post).  To install a plugin using FTP:

  1. Download the plugin that you want to install from the WordPress plugin repository
  2. Unzip it to a folder on your computer
  3. Sign into Core FTP, or your chosen tool
  4. Navigate to www.yoursite.com/wp-content/plugins
  5. FTP the plugin folder from your computer to your server
  6. In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Plugins » Installed Plugins » Inactive and activate your new plugin

Warning. Plugins are addictive!  However, too many plugins can slow down your site dramatically, so as amazing as they are, be judicious with their use. Coming soon, an article with my must-have plugins. Which are your favorites?

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Installing WordPress


For the vast majority of you, installing WordPress will be an incredibly simple exercise.  Most hosting companies offer a one-click install package, such as Fantastico or Softaculus.  So mosey on along to your hosting provider’s interface and tell it to install WordPress already!  If your hosting provider does not have a one-click install, you will need to download the latest WordPress package and follow these instructions for installation.

How to Install WordPress

As you might remember from this post, WordPress needs a MySQL database to run.  You will need to define a database name for your MySQL database, a table prefix (usually wp_), a URL to install WordPress to, and a MySQL database username and password that WordPress will use to connect. A one-click installer may select the database username and password for you, so don’t worry if this isn’t one of the options available.  You may also get the option of selecting an admin username and password.  If so, take advantage, as “admin” is the most common username tried by hackers.

So, for example, if you are want people to visit your blog at www.mycookingsite.com/blog you might choose:

Database name = mycookingblog
Database prefix = wp_
URL to install WordPress = www.mycookingsite.com/blog
DB username (if asked) = your FTP username
DB password (if asked) = 0987fed654cba321
Admin Username (if given the option to select one) = johndoe
Admin Password (if given the option to select one) = 123abc456def7890

Take careful note of your username and password.  I recommend choosing a 16-character randomly generated password (something more secure than the one above, obviously!).  The database username and password are stored in a WordPress file called wp-config.php that will be automatically created for you by your installer.  Any time you change your password (which you should do relatively often, for security purposes), you will want to update wp-config.php.

If you are using a one-click installer, you will receive an email from your hosting provider once WordPress is successfully installed on your server.  Go ahead and go to WordPress and log in.

The login location for My Cooking Site would be: www.mycookingsite.com/blog/wp-admin

Username = admin OR your johndoe
Password = given in your installation email OR 123abc456def7890

Welcome to WordPress!

There are a few things that you will want to do immediately.

Delete the “admin” user. If your installer did not give you the option of selecting a custom admin user, you’ll want to:

  1. Navigate to Users » Add User.  Create a new user for yourself.  Make sure that author name is the one that you want to be visible inside WordPress.  Give that new user the role of Administrator.  Make sure that you choose a password that is secure and different from your database password.  Again, I recommend a 16-character randomly generated password.
  2. Log out of admin and in with your new username.
  3. Navigate to Users » Add User.  Delete the admin user.  Hackers target blogs that are easy to get into, and the first username that they will try is ‘admin’.  Make yourself less susceptible by deleting the user.

Adjust your basic settings.

  1. Navigate to Settings » General.  Update all of the fields.  Be sure that the “Anyone can register” box is unchecked.
  2. Navigate to Settings » Reading.  Select the box that says: “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”.  We’ll uncheck this box once your blog is styled and ready for the world to see!
  3. Navigate to Settings » Permalinks.  Choose either “Post Name”, “Day and Name” or “Month and Name”.  Leaving the default is bad for SEO (search engine optimization purposes).  A post URL of www.mycookingsite.com/blog/?p=123 means nothing to Google; a post URL of www.mycookingsite.com/blog/2010/01/brownie-recipe is much more descriptive!

Remove WordPress default content.

  1. Navigate to Comments and delete the initial comment that WordPress creates.
  2. Navigate to Posts and delete the “Hello world!” post.
  3. Navigate to Pages and delete “Sample Page”.
  4. Navigate to Plugins and delete the “Hello Dolly” plugin (unless you really love the song Hello Dolly!).

Voila – you have WordPress!  The next post in this series will be all about plugins!

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Debits and Credits


As small business owners, even if you aren’t going to handle your own accounting, it’s important to understand the basics of your finances so that you can determine how your business is performing.  Let’s start with some accounting language and terminology.

Accounting Basics Debits and Credits

Photo: © kazoka / Shutterstock

Your accounting records are kept in what is called the general ledger. The general ledger is made up of several ledger accounts (also known as accounts or G/L accounts).  Each ledger account is populated by journal entries.  Each journal entry must balance to zero.

A journal entry is created for every transaction in your business, and each account is either debited (abbr: DR) or credited (abbr: CR).

Each ledger account is classified into one of five account types: Assets, Liabilities, Equities, Revenues, or Expenses.  These account types all have natural balances that are debits or credits. The total of all of your G/L accounts must balance to zero.

The natural balances of each account type are:

Assets: Debit
Liabilities: Credit
Equities: Credit
Revenues: Credit
Expenses: Debit

Debits are not Additions and Credits are not Subtractions

Don’t think of debits and credits as additions and subtractions.  Simply think of debits and credits as increases and decreases to the natural balance of an account.

A debit will always be a positive number.  A credit will always be a negative number.  Negative numbers are generally presented in parentheses.  The total of the debits and credits in a journal entry will always balance to zero.  This insures that you have recorded all aspects of the transaction appropriately.

Confused yet?  Let’s do some examples from our everyday lives.

Example 1: Buying groceries

You go to Whole Foods and spend entirely too much money on baked goods (oh wait, is that just me?).  You pay cash.

Debit Groceries Expense 100
Credit Cash (100)

Grocery expenses are increasing, because a debit increases the natural balance of an expense account, and cash is decreasing, because a credit decreases the natural balance of an asset account.

Example 2: Financing a home

You find your dream home and go to the bank for a loan. The home costs $150,000 and you pay a $20,000 cash down payment.

Debit Real Estate 150,000
Credit Payable to Bank (130,000)
Credit Cash (20,000)

You are increasing an asset, your real estate account, by $150,000. But you now have a liability to the bank for $130,000 (remember, credits increase liabilities) and your cash balance decreased by $20,000.

Example 3: A customer pays you for an order

You sold someone a book for $20, they paid with cash.

Debit Cash 20
Credit Revenue (20)

Assets, with a natural debit balance, and revenues, with a natural credit balance, are both increasing in this transaction.

So what do you think—are debits and credits starting to make sense? Next up in this series, we’re going to chat about financial statements (excited yet?).

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