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How to Search and Replace Text in WordPress

wordpress search and replace

Although you might work hard to make sure all of your content in WordPress is golden, sometimes you need to make changes. Perhaps you decide that a specific word works better than the original. Regardless of why, it may be important to know how to change things using WordPress search and replace features.

Why Would You Need to Search and Replace Text?

Search and replace does more than help you correct spelling errors in words and names. It can help you change the entire face of your website. Here are some of the more common reasons why features like this are important to know.

Changing Names of People, Places and Things

What if you wanted to make mass changes to your content to reflect specific names? This could include certain individuals, geographic locations or perhaps you simply wanted to fix mistakes in spelling.

A common occurrence is when you want to change the URLs of links that are available on your site. Maybe you want to link to a different source material than what you used in the past?

Changing Keywords

Many people will often change keywords to reflect new SEO strategies. However, this practice isn’t without problems. You’ll need to be certain that your new keyword fits naturally within the text of all those posts and pages.

General Typos

Fixing typos may be one of the most prominent uses for search and replace. Perhaps you used a term for the past year and realize you have been using it incorrectly. Replacing that term with a more viable option can definitely tighten your content.

Fixing Special Characters

Sometimes a new plugin or theme can affect special characters in your text. You may see something like, “’” in place of a subscript or other symbol. Using the WordPress search and replace feature can help correct all of those by giving you the option to input the correct character.

The following could save you a great deal of time rather than sifting through each post one by one.

Find and Replace Text in a Single Post

Replacing text within a single post is relatively simple. While experts may use DQL queries to find data, it’s not entirely necessary. In fact, here are two of the easiest ways you can do this without modifying a bunch of settings.

Using TinyMCE Advanced

TinyMCE

The TinyMCE Advanced plugin can give your text editor in WordPress a shot of power. It offers an extensive collection of tools that can be placed directly into your visual text editor in WordPress. Here is how it’s done:

  1. Search and install the TinyMCE Advanced plugin from your “Plugins” control in WordPress.
  2. Got to “Settings” and click on “TinyMCE Advanced.”
  3. Here, you will see a series of task bars and several “unused buttons” underneath. Simply drag the icon that looks like a pair of binoculars onto the task bar.
  4. Click on the blue “Save Changes” button on the top right.
  5. Go to your post or page and use the visual editor.

Now, clicking that icon for “find and replace” will allow you to scan through the entire article almost instantly.

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

find bar

While the visual editor and TinyMCE may have a lot of improvements, many people prefer the quick and easy keyboard shortcut. The following works in most web browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Coincidentally, it will also work in a variety of other text editing programs.

  1. Press and hold the control key of your keyboard. This should be labeled as “Ctrl.”
  2. While holding the control key down, press “F.”
  3. This opens a “Find” text bar that you can type into near the top right of your browser.
  4. Type the word you want to find and the browser will do the rest.

In most popular browsers, the “find” tool works in real time. This means it will almost instantly search the page for every instance of the word as you’re typing it. It’s a great way to find errors such as using “its” instead of “it’s.” In Google Chrome, you’ll even see a series of yellow dashes in the scroll on the right showing you where those words are.

Find and Replace Text in Multiple Posts

search and replace

What if you want to search and replace your entire site for specific words or links? Although this has a few more steps, it’s almost as easy as using the find command mentioned above.

Step 1: Backup the database.

Step 2: Find and install the Better Search Replace plugin. There are a few similar plugins available, but this is one of the easiest to use.

Step 3: Go to “Tools” and click on “Better Search Replace.”

tools

Step 4: Here is where you can conduct the search and replace. Note that you have a lot of tables you can select. If you want to search in more than one location, hold the control key down when clicking with the mouse on those tables. This will highlight every location selected.

Step 5: If you’re searching your posts, you want to select the “wp_posts” table. Depending on how much content you have on the website, this may be the largest table in the list.

wp_posts

Step 6: Once you have your search and replace text ready and table selected, click on “Run Search/Replace” on the bottom.

NOTE: If you leave the box checked for “Run as a dry run?,” changes won’t be made and you can see the results before committing. This is probably the better option as it gives you more direct control over what gets changed or not.

The Importance of Database Backups

When you alter anything in your database, it’s always wise to backup the contents. In the event something goes wrong, you’ll be able to restore your content and information.

For example, what if you decide that your changes don’t really work for the website? Instead of trying to undo everything manually, a simple restore may be all that’s needed. Here are a few plugins that may help keep your content safe and secure.

Backup & Restore WPBackItUp

WPbackitup

WPBackItUp is a nice tool to have as it requires no intensive settings to use. With a single click from the WordPress dashboard, you can save your data and files to a Zip file that can be later imported. However, the one-click simple restore function only works in the premium version.

UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin

UpdraftPlus  is an exceptionally useful plugin for those who use Cloud-based storage apps. This plugin can save your files to Dropbox, Rackspace Cloud File, Google Drive and many other popular formats. The premium version can assist in migrations as well as using encryption methods for added security.

blogVault Real-time Backup

blog vault

Another good tool to use is blogVault. This plugin works in real-time with the option to create daily automatic backups. It works with Dropbox and records a 30-day history of your files. One of this plugins more endearing features is the ability to encrypt and secure the backup itself.

Using WordPress search and replace tools can save you a lot of time and aggravation. From typos to links, you can easily scan through your documents and make necessary changes. This is just one of the features that makes WordPress such an ideal tool for website design.

What kinds of text do you wish you could replace quickly? How often do you come across keywords that would better suit your website?

Author: Kaumil Patel

Kaumil Patel is the Chief Operating Officer of GreenGeeks and has over 13 years of experience in the web hosting industry working for and owning web hosting companies. Kaumil’s expertise is in marketing, business development, operations, acquisitions and mergers.

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Comments

  1. Kaumil,

    On the plugin page, according to your screen capture, and also when I try it, there is a message saying that the plugin is incompatble with my version of WordPress.

    I do not see why!

    Any ideas?

    1. Hi Richard,

      At the time of creating the screen shot, the Plugin version was not compatible with the version of WordPress we were running. Sometimes this occurs when a new update happens and the plugin author hasn’t had a chance to make the update. If you look now however, it is compatible.

  2. None of these can search and replace on multiple PAGES

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