Custom Taxonomy

What is Custom Taxonomy in WordPress?

Custom taxonomy in WordPress provides a systematic way to organize and classify content. Derived from the Linnaean taxonomy in biology, this feature in WordPress goes beyond the basic categories and tags, offering a tailored approach for grouping posts, pages, and custom post types.

The concept of taxonomy in WordPress mirrors the biological classification system. In WordPress, a taxonomy classifies posts and pages, similar to how the Linnaean taxonomy classifies living organisms.

WordPress includes the default taxonomies: categories and tags but also empowers users to create their custom taxonomies.

The Role of Custom Taxonomies in Organizing Content

Custom taxonomies cater to the need for more specific and organized content management. For example, a website about literature could benefit from a custom taxonomy named “Genre.”

This taxonomy would enable the site to group content into categories like fiction, non-fiction, mystery, or romance. This organization enhances the user’s ability to navigate and discover content aligned with their interests.

Hierarchical Structure in Custom Taxonomies

Like categories, custom taxonomies can be hierarchical. This structure allows for main topics and subtopics, offering a clear and systematic categorization of content. For instance, under a “Cuisine” taxonomy, you might find Italian, Chinese, and Mexican cuisines, with further divisions like “Pizza” under Italian.

Methods for Creating Custom Taxonomies in WordPress

Creating custom taxonomies in WordPress is achievable through two primary methods: coding and using plugins.

Coding Method

This approach involves adding code to WordPress files. The register_taxonomy() function is used in the functions.php file of a theme or a custom plugin. While this method offers greater control, it requires coding knowledge and careful management. Changing the theme without a plugin could result in losing the custom taxonomy.

Plugin Method

For those with less technical expertise, several plugins simplify the creation of custom taxonomies. Tools like Pods, Custom Post Types UI, and Easy Post Types and Fields provide user-friendly interfaces for this purpose.

Application of Custom Taxonomies in WordPress

After establishing a custom taxonomy, WordPress generates a new meta box for each taxonomy in the post-editing area. This setup resembles the Tags meta box and allows the linking of terms to posts. Additionally, custom taxonomies can mimic the behavior of predefined categories.

Benefits of Using Custom Taxonomies

The primary advantages of custom taxonomies include:

  • Detailed Organization: They offer precise categorization of content.
  • Enhanced Navigation for Users: They improve the site’s navigability, making it easier for users to find related content.
  • SEO Advantages: Properly utilized taxonomies can boost a site’s search engine optimization by offering well-organized and relevant content.

In summary, custom taxonomies serve as a robust tool for content organization and classification in WordPress, enhancing both user experience and SEO potential.

Expanding Custom Taxonomies Beyond Posts and Pages

Custom taxonomies are not limited to default post types like posts and pages; they can be applied to any custom post type in WordPress. When registering a custom taxonomy, you specify the post types it should attach to. This versatility allows for diverse applications across different content types.

Case Example: Custom Taxonomy for Custom Post Types

Consider a custom post type for “Books.” You could create a “Genre” taxonomy specifically for this post type, facilitating the categorization of books by genre. Similarly, a taxonomy can span multiple post types, such as “Genre” applying to both “Books” and “Movies.”

Technical Steps in Registering Custom Taxonomies

To implement a custom taxonomy for a custom post type, the register_taxonomy() function is pivotal. This function requires the taxonomy’s identifier slug, an array of post types it attaches to, and an array of other arguments.

It’s essential to specify if the taxonomy should be exclusive to a custom post type, ensuring its metabox appears only for the relevant content type.

Best Practices for Implementing Custom Taxonomies

Implementing custom taxonomies effectively can significantly enhance the structure and usability of a WordPress site. Here are some best practices:

Keep It Intuitive

When creating custom taxonomies, it’s essential to make them intuitive and easy to understand for users. The names and structure should clearly reflect the content they categorize.

For instance, a taxonomy named “Difficulty Level” for a fitness blog should have easily identifiable levels like Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Consistency is Key

Maintain consistency in how taxonomies are applied. For example, if you’re using a “Genre” taxonomy for a book review site, ensure that each book is categorized in a manner that aligns with the rest of the content. This consistency helps users in navigating your site and search engines in indexing your content effectively.

Avoid Overlap with Tags and Categories

Custom taxonomies should complement, not overlap with, existing categories and tags. Distinguish the purpose of your taxonomies from that of categories and tags to avoid confusion and redundancy in content organization.

Integration with WordPress Themes and Plugins

Custom taxonomies, when created, should seamlessly integrate with your WordPress theme and plugins. This integration ensures a smooth user experience and maximizes the taxonomy’s effectiveness.

Theme Compatibility

Ensure that your WordPress theme supports the display and navigation of custom taxonomies. Some themes have built-in templates for taxonomy archives, which can be customized to fit the look and feel of your site.

Plugins for Enhanced Functionality

Several WordPress plugins can enhance the functionality of your custom taxonomies. For example, plugins that create advanced search and filter options can make it easier for users to find content within specific taxonomies.

Future-Proofing Your Custom Taxonomies

As your website evolves, so too might your content strategy. Future-proofing your custom taxonomies ensures they remain relevant and useful.


Design taxonomies that can grow with your site. This approach means considering future content and how it might fit into your current taxonomy structure.

Regular Review and Adaptation

Periodically review your taxonomies to ensure they still serve your site’s purpose. As your content or audience changes, you may need to modify your taxonomies to stay aligned with your site’s goals.


Custom taxonomies in WordPress offer a sophisticated, flexible way to categorize and manage content. By understanding and utilizing this feature, users can greatly enhance their site’s structure, user experience, and search engine optimization.

Whether through coding or plugins, the creation of custom taxonomies is an essential skill for maximizing the potential of a WordPress site.

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