WordPress taxonomies are built-in categorization tools for organizing WordPress posts. The two taxonomies that every WordPress site will come standard with are categories and tags. With categories, you can group your posts by topic or subject (e.g., website, SEO, and PPC for a marketing agency), and with tags, you can group posts by specific details (e.g., sale items for an ecommerce site’s product listings).
Since taxonomies are used for categorization and organizational purposes, you can also think of taxonomies like digital index cards. These then give websites a way to categorize, sort, and filter content so that users can have a good web experience.
The Main Types of WordPress Taxonomies
WordPress comes standard with the following two types of taxonomies: categories and tags. Each of these are used to group content, but do so differently. Categories are used to group posts hierarchically by broad topic (e.g., news, sports, classifieds for a news outlet), whereas tags are non-hierarchical by specific details (e.g., recipes for a food blog).
Here are the two types of taxonomies and how they’re used:
What Are Categories?
Categories in WordPress are hierarchical categorizations of posts by broad topic or subject area. In other words, categories serve as the foundational way to group content on your site and separate content by topic or subject matter. One major difference between categories and tags is that you can only assign one category to a post, whereas you can assign multiple tags to a post. You therefore need to be sure to create categories that effectively break out your topic areas.
For example, a New England interior design blog might have categories such as kitchen, dining, bedroom, bath, and outdoors, whereas a multinational interior design blog might use categories by design style (e.g., modern, traditional, minimalist, Scandinavian, Japanese).
What Are Tags?
WordPress tags are non-hierarchical categorization or posts by specific details. Tags are more granular, and can be applied to multiple categories. Following the New England interior design example above, this blog could use tags such as budget, luxury, custom, most-loved, Kohler, Viking, and GE. For example, one post from the kitchen category might be tagged with luxury, most-loved, and Viking.
What’s the Difference Between Categories vs Tags?
One helpful way to think about tags vs categories is by thinking of categories like sections of a department store (e.g., electronics, household, clothing) and tags as the details within those sections or departments, whether that’s specific brands, products, or general features (e.g., new, sale, or best-seller). Some tags, such as sale, can be used across all sections, whereas others, such as jackets, will only be used within one section (or category).
For example, a food blog about expat life in Puerto Rico might have categories like lifestyle, things to do, and food. Recipes could be a tag so that some of the food posts are categorized by, say, recipes and restaurant reviews. On the other hand, a very similar blog on Puerto Rican cuisine might have recipes as a category and use tags like breakfast or dinner.
Knowing the difference between categories and tags is crucial to setting your site up with the right foundation can save you a lot of time. Because taxonomies are instrumental in grouping your post content, it directly impacts your site’s user experience (UX). Learn more about UX design and how you can implement a few simple principles to drastically improve your site.
Did you know? If you are using a premium WordPress theme, you will most likely see additional taxonomies available. These can save you a lot of time and even money when used appropriately, so be sure to review your theme for their proper use.
How to Add Custom Taxonomies in WordPress
In some cases, the standard categories and tags are not enough. For example, an online store would need product categories and not just post categories, and a real estate site would need additional taxonomies for listings. In those cases, you can create custom taxonomies. The easiest way to do this is through a plugin or a premium theme that comes with the custom taxonomies that you need built in.
Option 1: Use a Premium Theme
Your first stop should be to consider premium themes. By choosing a high-quality theme that is designed for your industry and your business website needs, you’ll save yourself a lot of time—and it will be a good investment. For example, a real estate WordPress theme may come with additional taxonomies, such as listing type (e.g., for sale, for rent) or property type (e.g., single family, condo, townhouse, manufactured, or land).
For help finding the right theme, take a look at the best WordPress themes for business.
Option 2: Use a Plugin
Not in the market for a new theme? Then opt for a plugin to add custom taxonomies.
Plugins can add custom taxonomies in two ways. First, you can use a plugin that adds the taxonomies you’re looking for. WooCommerce, for example, will provide product listings that you can add taxonomies to. If there are no plugins that come with the custom taxonomies you’re looking for, then you can use a plugin that enables you to add custom taxonomies, such as Custom Post Type UI.
In some instances, you might need a custom taxonomy if a theme or plugin simply won’t cut it. If you find yourself in this position, consider outsourcing the job to a web developer. You can hire a developer for cheaper than you might think with sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Where do I go in the WordPress dashboard to change taxonomies?
To add or customize taxonomies, start by logging into your WordPress admin account. From there, navigate to “Posts” from the left-hand menu. In doing so, a menu will appear, which will include “Categories” and Tags.” Choose either categories or tags to change your taxonomies. Learn more about using the WordPress dashboard.
How do you add images to taxonomies in WordPress?
You can assign images or icons to taxonomies in WordPress, which will then display within your posts and search results. To add icons, simply log into the WordPress dashboard > Posts > Categories > Edit. From the edit screen, add your desired icon to the category. If what you really want is to use images and not icons, and you’re not seeing this as an option, you can add them by installing a plugin, such as Taxonomy Images.
If you have any trouble doing this, get the help you need for as little as $5 from a Fiverr Pro.
How do you gate content in WordPress?
The easiest way to gate content is to use a premium theme that comes with the ability to gate content and sell membership packages. If you’re already using a theme and you don’t want to change it, you can also gate content by installing a membership plugin, such as Simple Membership or Contact Form 7 Gated Content. No matter which you choose, you will need to change user roles so that only certain users can access the gated content.
There’s a lot to building a WordPress website, and though taxonomies may sound like a minor detail, taxonomies provide the structural foundation of websites—and particularly for blogs. Use taxonomies strategically to group posts and organize your website.