Hey WordPress, What's on the Menu?
Every WordPress site needs two menus, a header menu and a footer menu. This is oversimplifying a bit, but it's a good place to start.
So the first thing to do is check your template.
Some templates only allow one menu. If you've got one of those, dump it. Get one that allows you to build both a header and a footer menu.
Your menus will mainly link to pages, but can also link to posts, categories and custom links, which we'll explore further on in this article.
How to Get Started.
The first place to start, if you haven't already done so, is to build the pages that your menu items will link to.
A typical header menu might look like:
HOME | BLOG | PRODUCTS | FREE STUFF | FAQ | ABOUT | CONTACT
It's a good idea to keep your header menu compact enough to fit on one line on a typical computer screen (your template should adjust it intelligently for a smartphone screen).
Note that you can change what's displayed as the the menu item from the default page name. I use this facility to display my header menu items in upper case (just a personal preference). So my About page is named About but I display it on the menu as ABOUT.
The typical footer menu will contain links to the pages that Google likes to see on every website, such as
and so on.
Creating the Pages
The Home Page
Let's look at the home page first.
Your home page can be set to a specific page or you can elect to display your blog roll.
You set this up in Appearance >> Customize >> Home Page Settings. See the accompanying image.
There are plugins that will generate some or all of the necessary footer pages.
Assuming your template allows more than one menu, in your WordPress back office menu, click on Appearances >> Menus.
If you select Your Latest Posts, you don't have to do anything else. Your home page, that shows up when anyone goes directly to your site, will display your blog posts in descending chronological order (i.e., latest first). This can be a great option for someone starting out, as it makes your site look interesting right from the start, changes every time you publish a new blog post and showcases them prominently.
But as you develop your brand, you may want to develop a static home page that tells your visitors what you are all about and builds trust. One of the best ways to do that is with a video. Also, the word "static" doesn't mean that you can't change it. For example, on one of my websites, I feature a Product of the Week on my Home page, directly under the video. It is accompanied by a countdown timer and is, of course, changed weekly.
Other Header Menu Pages
The other pages to go on your header menu will obviously depend on your website, but I suggest they should include:
Blog. This should display your blogroll as a matrix, 2 or 3 across, with each blog post identified by its featured image and optionally an excerpt. Clicking on any one takes the user to the actual blog post. This is useful whichever way your Homepage Settings are set up. How this is achieved will be governed by your template and/or your editor.
About. This is your About Me. It can be a page or a blog post. I prefer a page but some prefer a blog as you can invite comments. It should include a photo and be interesting. Perhaps a summary of your journey to get here, without being an autobiography. People like to know who they are dealing with and a good About page will consolidate trust in your brand.
Contact. This is your Contact Me page or post. You should give your visitors a way to contact you without buying anything or subscribing to your list. Again, this is a trust thing. If your template or editor doesn't provide contact forms, there are plugins that do. Just search for WordPress contact forms. The minimum information you need to collect is Name (or just First Name), Email Address and Comment. And, of course, you need to nominate your own email address for the information to be sent to. You should always respond to these as soon as you see them. Don't be afraid of negative comments. Treat them as a learning experience and always respond politely.
Products. Everyone is selling products, even if they are "just" affiliate links. It's a great idea to have a menu hierarchy here so that when your visitor hovers on Products, it creates a dropdown of Categories and when they hover on a Category they are interested in, they see a dropdown of products in that Category. Clicking on the product takes them to either the vendor page for the product, with your affiliate link embedded or (better) your landing page for the product. This is done via the menu type Custom Links, which are explained further on in this article.
Footer Menu Pages
You can find plugins that will generate them for you. This is safer than finding them on other sites and copying them as they will be protected by copyright.
Creating the Menus
Now that you've got your pages created, it's time to create the menus that you'll add them to.
Go to Appearance >> Menus and click on Create a New Menu.
Give your new menu a name. Keeping things simple, I always use Header Menu for the header menu and Footer Menu for the footer menu. Not rocket science, is it?
You'll see two columns, one headed Add Menu Items and the other Menu Structure. Pages will be selected by default. Click the View All tab in the first column.
Building your menu is easy.
Just click on the check box against each page or post that you want and then click Add to Menu.
They will then appear in the menu under Menu Structure. They may not be in the order you want, but you can drag and drop them to where you want. As you do so, take note of the horizontal position. If a page or post is indented under another, it will become a sub-menu item. You can drag horizontally to achieve this (or get rid of it if you didn't mean to).
Scroll down to the bottom and, for a header menu, set the Display Location to Primary.
For a footer menu, set the Display Location to Footer or, if this option isn't available, leave it blank. This depends on your template. As mentioned at the start, some templates only allow one menu. If you've got one of those, dump it. Get one that allows you to build both a header and a footer menu.
How to Create a Placeholder Menu Item with a Sub-Menu
Let's say you have pages for 10 products. You don't want 10 menu items on your home page.
You want one menu item called Products which when hovered shows a drop-down with the 10 products, which are clickable. But you don't want a Products page. That would be one more page to update every time you added a new product or edited an existing one.
This sounds tricky, but is really easy to do.
You use the menu item called Custom Links.
As shown in the image, enter anything as the URL and the word you want to appear as the menu item, such as Products.
Then click the Add to Menu button.
In the Menu structure, you will see the new item Products. Click and drag it to where you want it to appear in the hierarchy.
Click the drop down arrow to its right, and delete anything you put in the URL. Click the up arrow to close the drop down.
Then simply select the pages you want to appear under Products, add them to the menu and then drag and drop them to be indented under Products.
Save the menu and you're done!
These are examples of header and footer menus as built in the Appearance >> Menus WordPress back end and the resultant menus on the website. Again, the actual display is governed by your template.
Editing the Header Menu
The Displayed Header Menu
Editing the Footer Menu
The Displayed Footer Menu
If you found this information useful or if you have any questions about this process, please leave me a comment below.
You can also pick up my free book The 4 Things You Must Know (to make money while you sleep).