10 Ways To Improve Your Home Page (or Any Page or Post)

WordPress gives you all the tools you need to market your club on the web and an anchor for your outreach by other means, including email and social media.

What the software will not do is tell your story for you. The words, the image, and the creative message have to come from you.

Club website with a strong home page image

New sites on the Toastmost.org service (the easiest way to get up and running with WordPress for Toastmasters) come with a sort of prefab home page that includes boilerplate content from Toastmasters International. That is intended as a starting point, but you should replace most of it with — or at least the introduction — with your own story.

What follows are tips about what content to include, along with how-to instructions for WordPress.

To be clear, I am not saying you need to use all these techniques on every page of your website. In fact, be careful about overloading your web pages with too many types of content or making them too long. It’s better to break the content for more pages and posts, keeping each one short, simple, and focused.

1. Tell a Compelling Story

Toastmasters teaches that storytelling makes any speech more compelling. Your club website needs to tell the story of your club. More importantly, you want to help website visitors see how they can be part of the story of your club.

Include “you” language, rather than just talking about how “we are so wonderful.” The “we” and “us” statements should be in service of what you, the future member will benefit from: “Visit, and you will enjoy a warm welcome. Join us as a member, and you will develop public speaking and leadership skills by learning from our experienced members.”

By all means, share your bragging rights (“Last year, our VP of Education won the district Humorous Speech championship …”) but look for opportunities to help the prospective member identify with them (“… and she had no public speaking experience prior to joining our club.”)

Tell the truth, but tell the best version of your story. Tell it with words, images, and video.

2. Include Varied Content

Getting the words right is important, but break up the text of your post with other elements: headings, lists, images, and video. Even a simple blog post should include an image to complement the text. Your home page should include at least one good image and possibly a video.

Make your page too long and complex, and website visitors may get overwhelmed and leave. Or they may get impatient waiting for your content to download. Google also penalizes slow downloading pages in search results.

So use a variety of content types throughout your site, but don’t try to cram them all into the same page. Use them judiciously, to the extent they support the story you’re trying to tell.

3. Know Your WordPress Blocks

I discuss the specifics for different content types below, but first the basic concepts.

The WordPress editor organizes content into blocks representing different content types. The default block is the paragraph. When you create a new post, enter the title, and hit ENTER, and start typing in the main content area of the editor, you are creating paragraph blocks.

To add other types of blocks, click the + button (appears both at the top of the page and in the left hand margin when you add a blank line).

Insert block button

Clicking that button allows you to pick from the list of all available blocks. You can narrow down the list using a search function built into the editor. For example, if you enter “image” into the insert blocks tool, you find not only the basic “image” block but also the “gallery” block and other variations.

Part of the point of the different blocks includes controls specific to that content format. The blocks for agenda roles and content used in the WordPress for Toastmasters agenda editor take advantage of this same concept. For example, the blocks for paragraph and heading include some of the same text controls (bold, italic, and link), but the heading block lets you choose the heading level. Similarly, an image block would let you size the image and add a caption.

Paragraph block controls
Heading block controls

Some blocks, including paragraph and heading, include a transform button, which will be the first button on the formatting bar. Hover your mouse over it to see the options you can choose from. For example, if you typed in a paragraph but now want to display it as a heading or the first item in a list click the appropriate Transform To: choice.

Transform a block

Shortcut for adding blocks: If you know the name of the block type you want to add, enter the “/” character at the beginning of a line and start typing the name. After you’ve entered the first few letters, you should see an option to choose a block type. Click the one you want.

“Slash command” technique for adding blocks.

4. Add Interesting Images

As a rule, every page or post you add to your site should include at least one image. Make it a good one. Images catch the eye, and when a page or post is shared on social media the social networks typically display the first image that occurs on the page will appear along with the headline as a preview of your content (as explained below, it’s also possible to specify what image should be displayed).

Avoid boring images. A group photo of club members may or may not be a good choice. Do the club members look happy? Inviting? Would it be better to show a club member in action, making a dramatic gesture in mid-speech?

Pick engaging, fun images. Maybe something unusual. When my home club began meeting at an ice skating rink, I arranged to get a picture of our president standing behind a lectern we had dragged out on the ice — with a Zamboni driving by in the background. We used that for some social media promotions about being the “coolest” club in town.

How-To Add Images

Image block
  1. Add an Image block. See above for how to add a block.
  2. Click Upload to upload an image from your computer or Media Library to pick a previously uploaded image. More rarely, you may use Insert from URL to add the address of an image hosted on another site.
  3. Click directly below the image to add a caption. A caption adds context, such as the names of the people in a photo.
  4. Check the Image Settings in the sidebar displayed to the right of the content editing area. If it’s not displayed, you can click on the gear icon to reveal it.

Image Options on the Sidebar

Image Settings sidebar
  • In the Alt Text (Alternative Text) box, type a description of the image. This helps search engines, as well as web tools for the blind, understand the content of the image.
  • Choose whether to display the full size image or a smaller version of it.

Image Button Bar

A couple of additional options, for changing the image alignment, and adding a link, are displayed on a formatting button bar that appears when you hover your mouse over an image.

  • Change Alignment: The image button bar screen shot is an example of an image aligned to the right (with text wrapping around it). The image has also been reduced to the Medium size option (control in the sidebar).
  • Add a Link: You can enter any web address — for example, to link from the logo of a sponsor to the sponsor’s website. Alternatively, you can add a link to the image itself, allowing people to click to see or download the full size image. Or you can link to the the attachment page, which will display the image by itself within your website layout.

Other Ways of Adding Images

WordPress also offers built in Gallery and Slideshow blocks for adding multiple images.

In addition, you can embed images from services like Instagram and Flickr (see the section on embedding social media content, below).

5. Add Video

Video is a natural club marketing tool. Now that every smartphone includes a powerful video camera, any Toastmaster can be a movie maker. Capture video of enough speeches and Table Topics, and before long you will get one worth sharing (with the permission of the speaker).

Share the video of member winning contest speeches, particularly at the area, division, district, or higher levels as a powerful testament to the talent that exists within your club. Share video testimonials of existing members about the club experience.

See How to Routinely Record and Share Toastmasters Speech Videos and Video for Speakers and Presenters: Replay from a Workshop on Creating, Editing and Sharing Video.

How to Add Video

It is possible to upload video directly into WordPress, just as you would upload an image. You do that with the Video block.

However, I generally recommend uploading your video to YouTube or Facebook and then embed that service’s video player in your web page. Those services are better at handling the uploads of very large video files and optimizing them for display on the web.

You can do the same thing with several other video publishing services (for example, Vimeo), but I’ll offer details on these two examples.

How to Add a YouTube Video

Do one of the following:

  • Add the YouTube block. Paste the public link to your video into the text box labeled Enter URL to embed here. Click the Embed button.
  • Paste the public link to your YouTube video onto a blank line. WordPress will automatically embed the video player. This is the shortcut I typically use.
YouTube block

A preview of the video should appear within the editor. You can add a caption just as you would for an image.

How to Add a Facebook Video

Do one of the following:

  • Add the Facebook block. Paste in the web address for the video and click Embed.
  • Paste the web address for the video on a blank line. WordPress will recognize that you’re trying to embed a video.

As of this writing, WordPress does not display a preview for Facebook videos within the editor — just a placeholder where the video will appear. However, when you publish or preview the post, it should appear on your public website.

Click below the Facebook URL placeholder displayed in the editor to add a caption for the video.

Caution for YouTube and Facebook

Make sure the content you embed is publicly accessible.

On YouTube, you can embed content that is designated Public or Unlisted (does not appear in YouTube search results) but not Private.

Any Facebook content you post should be shared as Public (not only visible to you and your friends).

6. Embed Social Media Content

Another special effect to consider is embedding social media content: public Facebook posts or Twitter tweets. This can be a way of quoting from famous social media feeds, or displaying a testimonial about your club that originally appeared on social media. Or it could be an image originally shared on Instagram.

The procedure is the essentially the same as for embedding a video:

  • Use one of the blocks provided for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other services. Paste in the web address and click Embed.
  • Paste the web address of the social media post on a blank line, and WordPress will infer that you’re trying to embed that content.

See the full list of services for which WordPress supports embedded content at https://wordpress.org/support/article/embeds/

7. Break Up Text with Headings

Long posts and pages (like this one) should include headings, or subheadings, to organize your text and allow readers to scan and skip ahead to the parts they are most interested in.

Google and other search engines also analyze your headings and subheadings to understand the structured and emphasis of your content. Well organized content is likely to rank higher in search results and be displayed with more meaningful content previews.

How to Add a Heading

  1. Do one of the following:
  • Add a Heading block
  • Use the Transform option of a paragraph block to turn it into as Heading block.
  1. Choose the heading level. H1 is normally reserved for the top headline of your page or post. H2 is a major heading, while H3, H4 might be subhead levels within an H2 topic.

Example: How to Add a Heading is an H3 subhead under the “Break Up Text with Headings” H2 heading.

8. Use Lists Where Appropriate

This article uses a number of lists in the text, in addition to the numbered subheads. As a rule, numbered lists make sense for procedures that should be performed in a specific order. Bullet lists are appropriate for presenting a list of points or options that are not inherently sequential.

Add a Bullet List

Do one of the following:

  • Add the List block. A bullet list is the default. Begin typing your list of bullet points.
  • Add an * followed by a space on a blank line. WordPress interprets that as you starting a bullet list.
  • Highlight one or more paragraphs you want to turn into a list. Use the Transform option and pick List.

When you are done adding bullet points, hit ENTER twice to go back to paragraph editing mode.

Add a Numbered List

The procedure is similar to the one outlined above. To make it a numbered list, rather than a bullet list, do one of the following:

  • Use the button bar that appears when you hover your mouse over the list block to switch from bullet list to numbered list.
  • On a blank line, enter “1.” (including the period), followed by a space. WordPress interprets that as a signal that you’re starting a numbered list.
List formatting buttons

Indenting List Items

You can increase and decrease the indenting of individual list items to create more elaborate outlines of posts.

9. Link To Other Resources

You can add links to text within paragraphs, headlines, and captions. You can also add links to your images (as discussed in the section on images).

Good websites link to other good websites, making the web as a whole a richer place. Adding appropriate links can help your search engine optimization by showing the connection between your website and related websites with greater authority (like the connection between your club and Toastmasters International). Add links that will be helpful to readers. For example, a blog post on effective use of PowerPoint might link to other tutorials and resources such as books on the topic.

The trade off is that readers may click on links that lead away from your website. When marketers create “landing pages” to promote a specific offer, they typically place them on a page that includes few if any links that might take a visitor away from the form the marketer wants them to fill out. A blog post or event post for a club open house probably should minimize the use of links that might distract from your purpose of convincing a website visitor to become an in-person visitor.

On the other hand, one of the most powerful ways of building engagement with a website visitor is by presenting links to other relevant content on your own website.

At the same time, don’t be too greedy about keeping visitors on your website. If you make a strong enough impression, they will come back. You can also use the “Open in New Tab” technique explained below so that even as they follow the link, your website will remain open in the browser.

How to Add a Link

  1. Highlight the word or phrase you wish to add a link to and click the chain link icon.
  2. Type or paste in the link. Hit ENTER or click the Apply button.
Adding a Link

Alternative for Adding Internal Links

  1. Begin typing the title (or key words from the title) of a page or post from your site.
  2. WordPress searches the content on your site, displaying possible matches in a drop-down list.
  3. Click the one you want, and the link address will be added automatically.

Open in New Tab

The Open in New Tab option is displayed and hidden using the up and down arrows at the end of the link entry / link editing control. Toggle this option on or off, depending on whether you want the link to open in a separate browser tab.

Open in New Tab

Editing or Removing a Link

Once you have added a link, you can select the linked content and click on the pencil icon to edit it.

To remove a link, select the linked content and click on the broken chain (Unlink) icon.

Keyboard Shortcut

Another way of adding a link is to select a word or phrase, and click CTRL-K (Windows) or Command-K (Mac). This has the same effect as clicking the chain link icon. This has the advantage of being a shortcut that WordPress has in common with Microsoft Word and other software.

10. Optimize for Search and Social Media

Search engine optimization and social media integration are huge topics in their own right, but there are a many optional WordPress plugins that will help you achieve the basics.

The two I recommend are:

  • Jetpack, a bundle of optional features from the makers of the WordPress software (and the operators of WordPress.com). Jetpack offers a number of features to help speed up and secure your website. In addition, you can turn on an option for displaying social sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook and other social sites. You want to make it as easy as possible for website visitors to share your content.
  • Yoast SEO, one of the most popular search engine optimization plugins. Yoast also includes features for optimizing how your content is seen on social media. It will show you a preview of how your content will be displayed in search results and social media. You can alter that default presentation to include a different image, headline, or text snippet than each service would use by default.
The Yoast SEO preview of how this page will show up on search or social.

Note that Jetpack and Yoast SEO are both offered as free plugins, but with an upgrade path to paid enhancements. Particularly for a volunteer, nonprofit website, my advice is to see what you can do with the free versions before you even think about paying for extra bells and whistles.

Put These Lessons to Work

There is a lot more to learn, but these tips should get you started.

Calibrate the effort you put into things like search and social optimization with the goal you are trying to achieve. Search professionals working for commercial clients will obsess over achieving a fraction of a percentage point improvement in the click through rate for an online promotion. You don’t have to measure up to that level; just do your best to create a strong web presence for your club.

Write me with questions at david@wp4toastmasters.com.

* This software is offered "for Toastmasters" but not is provided by or endorsed by Toastmasters International. The use of Toastmasters brand assets (with proper disclaimers) in website designs has been reviewed by the Toastmasters International brand compliance team.