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What Are Custom Taxonomies In WordPress?

When a WordPress site is growing in size, it will require more organization. This is done through the use of taxonomies, which is a fancy word for categories and tags. Using taxonomies makes it easier for your site visitors to find exactly the content they need because it is presented in a way that makes sense. In this article, I will give an overview on WordPress taxonomy, best practices and how to use custom taxonomies to enhance niche websites.

Standard Taxonomies

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Every new installation of WordPress has the standard taxonomies of categories and tags. There used to be a third, called link categories, but this function has been largely replaced by the custom menu feature. Why are categories and tags important? They are vital to visitor experience and can literally make or break your site.

  • Categories are the specific channels that organize the overall topic of your blog. For example, a blog about current television shows will have categories that contain show names and broadcast networks. A category can also be set as a “parent,” meaning sub-categories can be created underneath it. Sub-categories for television shows could include actor names and past seasons.
  • Tags are words that add specific meaning to a blog post. Unlike Instagram and Tumblr, you should use tags sparingly and always in relation to the content, category and sub-category you have written about. The best way to use tags is by making them the same as your targeted keywords for the post.

In the next section, I will explain how to use custom WordPress taxonomies.

Custom Taxonomies

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Once you understand how to use categories and tags, it is easy to become obsessed with the feature. This is a good thing because your site can never be too accessible for visitors. The ability to create custom taxonomies was introduced in WordPress version 2.3 a few years ago. Why was this feature added? While WordPress began as a blogging platform, it has since evolved into a robust content management system that is used for portfolios, business websites and more. Blogging has become a less important aspect, but the need to organize different types of content remains a top priority.

Custom taxonomies are often used with custom post types. A custom post type is just like a post or a page, but it is added manually either by you or through the use of a plugin. If you want to build a portfolio site, or one that features many photos of products or reviews of services, you will need to use custom post types. The categories and tags you create specifically for those post types are custom taxonomies. It should be noted that custom taxonomies are not limited to custom post types. They can also be used with standard pages and posts.

While you can use the official codex instructions to manually create custom taxonomies, it is easier to simply use free taxonomy plugins that can be installed through the WordPress dashboard.

The WordPress taxonomy feature is one of the reasons why the platform is so flexible and powerful, allowing you to build any type of site you need. Have you created custom taxonomies in WordPress? Share your experiences in the comments.

Author: Alex G.

Updated on March 6, 2017

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