Are you getting the most out of Custom Taxonomies? Or are you doing it the hard way? Does this sound like the WordPress sites your own or work on:
- Every site redesign requires a lot of data entry to get the content back on the site.
- Your SEO rank deteriorates, despite hours of meticulous keyword linking with Custom Metadata.
- The bounce rate is high even though your site has lots of valuable content and a lot of visitors.
- Clients drag their feet when it comes to producing and publishing more content. And when they do publish, they ‘get it wrong’ and fill the Custom Metadata with errors.
- Site visitors have trouble navigating to find the information they want.
If you said ‘yes’ to any of the above, that’s the sign that you aren’t getting enough out of Custom Taxonomies. And you should learn when to chose them over Custom Meta.
If you’ve used WordPress for any amount of time you’re rolling your eyes. You already know what Custom Taxonomies are. Everyone has heard that they are ways to create your own versions of Categories or Tags. You’ve even heard of the analogy to Linnean Taxonomies from biology. You might haven even come across this definition from the codex:
a “taxonomy” is a grouping mechanism for some posts (or links or custom post types).
But these definitions miss the biggest point of Custom Taxonomies in WordPress. None of them strike at the heart of why they are so useful. What the business purpose of including Custom Taxonomies actually is.
In short, we need to do a better job at describing what Custom Taxonomies are and why they are so powerful.
Besides this poor press, Custom Taxonomies also have a UI issue. It’s not easy to create Custom Taxonomies on the fly while adding content. It’s very easy to add terms to these taxonomies. But, adding the taxonomy itself requires some preliminary setup. As a result, a lot of page builders never cue users with adding them.
In contrast, Custom Metadata is easy to create on the fly. As a result, it works great with page builders like Visual Composer and Divi. Every page builder supports Custom Metadata since the UI is right on the post content creation page.
As a result, a lot of web designers end up using Custom Metadata for everything. Even for data that’s designed for custom taxonomies, not for metadata. This is what causes the problems we talked about above.
So let’s break things down so that you can really get familiar with knowing what Custom Taxonomies and metadata are. When you should use one or the other. And easy code free ways to include Custom taxonomies in the sites you build next.
Metadata in a nutshell
Custom Metadata is a linear way to connect posts and associated data points. It creates one-to-one connections between data points and posts.
In the codex, Custom metadata is described with an example of ‘mood’ field in a blog.
In an e-commerce site, I would use custom Metadata for product’s unique ID. This makes sense because two products shouldn’t ever share an ID. The ID should only exist for one product.
On an affiliate site, I’d have a ‘coupon’ metadata field for products that I’m advocating. This is because each coupon will have a one to one connection with each product that I’m blogging about.
But, I’ll run into problems if I use Custom Metadata for many-to-many connections
For example, suppose I built an e-commerce site that sells sports t-shirts. The t-shirts the site sells are divided into women’s or men’s shirts.
I could set up a Shirts post type. Then I could add the gender in as a custom meta field. This would work fine until some products are added with the gender spelled out (ex: ‘Women’s’) and then other locations are added with the states abbreviated (ex: ‘W’). One entry even skips the apostrophe (‘Womens’) because someone was rushing.
Soon after a few hundred T-shirts are added, the client will be coming to me asking why half their shirts for women aren’t showing up when they search ‘Women’s’. Then I’m going to have a pretty big nightmare on my hands. I’m guaranteed to spend my week combing through all of their T-shirt posts, finding and fixing these errors.
Why did this happen? Because the data point ‘Gender’ doesn’t have a one-to-one relationship with locations. It’s a many-to-many relationship. Many of the T-shirts are women’s shirts. This isn’t where we should be using Custom Meta Data.
Custom Taxonomies to the rescue
Use Custom Taxonomies for data you want to search with.
Use custom meta when you want to use WordPress’ inbuilt ability to display groups of posts.
So, the site will end up with something like this:
For t-shirts for women specifically it will look like this:
The benefit? Users can now easily see all the t-shirts for one gender with one URL. Another benefit is that I can include a filter search for the posts easily with a custom menu widget in the sidebar. A third benefit is something which astute readers have already guessed at great SEO cred.