There’s a little known feature in WordPress that you’ve probably seen, just never noticed. But with a little work, the ability the schedule WordPress posts can make your website appear much more active without much effort on your part.
Why Schedule WordPress Posts?
Let’s start with this one. Why wouldn’t you just always hit post when you’re done? Why would you schedule it for later?
For the first reason, let’s look at this post. It’s in a category called “Tuesday Tips.” It wouldn’t make much sense if this post came out on a Friday. Before I hit the Publish button I’m going to change the publish date to next Tuesday.
Or, maybe you’re a night owl and like writing at 3am.
Day job during the week? It might work better for you to write a few blog posts on Saturday afternoon and have them scheduled out over the next week.
Finally give in and decide to take a vacation? By scheduling you can write up a handful of posts and have them drip out while you’re gone so that your blog doesn’t appear inactive.
And there’s probably a dozen more reasons. There’s pretty much not a bad answer to the why question. It’s your blog and your reasons.
How to Schedule Posts
Let’s take a look at one of the meta boxes that you’re familiar with, but with a link you may not have noticed. This is the Publish meta box on the WordPress post editing page. Notice the line “Publish Immediately” with the Edit link.
If you click the Edit link it will change the dialog to look like the following.
There’s a series of text fields that pop up and let you pick exactly when you want to schedule the post. It’s not quite as user friendly a way to pick a date as you’re probably used to, but it works.
Pick your date and time and click on the Ok button and the Publish button changes to a Schedule button.
And now your post is scheduled.
… sort of …
Scheduling in WordPress isn’t exact though. For the example above, the post probably won’t get published exactly at 9:35am on Dec 28, 2016. WordPress, by default, uses something called WP-Cron to handle scheduling and it’s dependent on page views. So rather than the example above getting posted at exactly 9:35am, it will get published on the first page view after 9:35am.
Most of the time that would only be a couple of minutes. But if you do have a very lightly visited site it may be a bit longer than you’re expecting.
What about Plugins?
So that’s all well and good, but once you get past a few scheduled posts it gets tough to keep track of what you have scheduled. That’s where a couple of plugins come in really handy.
The first one that I’ve used is one called Automatic Post Scheduler, and it does exactly what you would expect.
When activated Automatic Post Scheduler adds an option to the WordPress settings that allows you to specify a minimum and maximum amount of time between posts. It also adds a checkbox to the publish meta box.
If you leave it checked then the plugin will take care of scheduling. If you clear the checkbox it will let you either schedule yourself or publish immediately.
But that’s a little haphazard for me. If you really want to schedule WordPress posts, you’ll probably want to take a look at called WordPress Editorial Calendar.
Once activated, the WordPress Editorial Calendar adds a Calendar link under each post type.
Clicking on that link takes you to a calendar where you can see where all of your posts are scheduled. Since this particular site doesn’t have a very busy calendar though, I’m going to show a screen shot from another site.
This particular site has posts scheduled to go out once or twice a day, and uses both of the plugins we’re talking about to keep everything scheduled out.
What I find the best feature of the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin is not the calendar itself, but the unscheduled posts column. The way I write posts for this site is to keep everything as a draft until it’s done. Then, instead of clicking the Publish button I’ll go into the Editorial Calendar and drag the post from the unscheduled drafts area to the day I want it published, usually fixing the time along the way.
What about Social?
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+; what about those?
Once I’ve scheduled a post I’ll also go to a site called Buffer and schedule it to go out on our various social accounts shortly after it’s published here.
There’s plugins for that as well. I just haven’t had time to look into them yet. Maybe for another Tuesday Tips post.