10 Things to Know about WordPress Content Organization

WordPress is an awesome tool right out of the box, but for those of us that have been building sites on WP for years, there are some things that we always seem to change, update, or modify (because we what works). Even though WordPress is now a fully qualified CMS (content management system), it’s roots go back to when it was popularized because of it’s blogging capabilities. Because of that, some aspects of content organization still lean torwards those roots – leaving you to figure out how to make things work. Hopefully, these 10 points can help you better understand some options you might not have known about before.

This post is part of the:
100 Things you Need to Know about WordPress Series given by Anthony Montalbano and myself at WordPress Ann Arbor.

1. Update “previous” and “next” post links to standard pagination

At the bottom of most WordPress archive pages (with a list of posts), at the bottom there is a link on the left and/or right with “next” and “previous” post links. We have found over the course of time, that only people that know WordPress know what these links really are. In addition, most users find it really annoying that if they want to go 5 pages back into your archives, that they have to click “previous” 5 different times on 5 different pages.

Installing a plugin such as Lester Chan’s WP-PageNavi will replace those nasty links with Google-like pagination (1,2,3,>>, etc.). Everyone uses Google, everybody knows what those numbers and links mean. Another good plugin to try for this is WP Page Numbers.

Also, to use these plugins read the installation info first, you may be required to actually remove the PHP and HTML code from your theme pages you want pagination on – and replace it with the PHP code snippet for the plugin you use. Also, many themes are already customized to use either of these pugins.

2. Add Breadcrumbs to pages, posts, categories, and tags

Breadcrumbs are the “trail of links” at the top of most web pages telling you how to get back from where you came from (or how to get to main sections in you entered on that page). For instance, if you went to a home page and then clicked on “Widgets” and then the “Red Widgets” page, the breadcrumb of links would say “Home -> Widgets -> Red Widgets”, and you could click to “find your way back” (just like the fairy tale!).

Breadcrumbs were standard navigation features back in the days of static HTML, and now that so many people are using content management systems with themes (like WordPress), some standard usability features (like breadcrumbs) have been left out. Funny – you still see them on most large ecommerce, news,and publishing web sites. Breadcrumbs are also good for SEO, any time that you link to other internal website pages, you build up your internal backlinks.

You might like to try any of the following WordPress breadcrumb plugins:

Breadcrumb NavXT
Yoast Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumb Trail

3. Pages are meant to be “static” (infrequently change), Posts are frequently added

So many people seem to have a mis-conception of that WordPress posts and pages actually are – I thought that it would be good to explain it here. In WordPress “posts” are what’s referred to as “blog posts”, or what appears on the home page (be default), or any archive page (category, tag, date based archives, search results, etc.). Most web sites use posts for frequently changing content.

Pages in WordPress (often referred to as ‘paged pages’ or ‘static pages’) would be your “About” or “Contact” pages – which generally have information that infrequently changes.

4. Pages can have heirarchy (children), Posts cannot

Again, keeping with the last point, it’s helpful to know that pages can have a heirarchy, and posts cannot. You could make a WordPress page called “Services” and then create a new page called “Rentals” and assign “Services” as the parent. You could then create a new page called “Cottages” and another called “Flats” and assign “Rentals” as the parent. Now you have a heirarchy of “Services -> Rentals -> Cottages / Flats”. You can’t do this with posts.

5. Posts can be assigned to tags and categories (and sub-categories), Pages cannot

Posts on the other hand, can be assigned and sorted into both “categories” and “tags”. Categories can have a parent/child relationship, but tags cannot. When you write a post you can assign (or create) new categories, and tags. Generally you should try to use less than 12 categories for all posts you will ever create. Categories are usually high level descriptors. The use of tags, however, is limitless – because they are low-level descriptors.

There are plugins that allow you to assign tags and categories to WP pages, just be aware that if the plugins becomes non-supported in the future (or breaks) – you lose all your tags and categories.

6. Posts can be grouped and sorted (custom post types like blog / products / services)

With WordPress 3.0 we saw the introduction of the ability to build a taxonomy (an ordered list of things) with posts with “custom post types”. Custom posts types are the ability to groups posts in “types”, so you could have blog posts, product posts, services posts, etc. Then you can even assign custom attributes to these posts (far beyond simple tags and categories) for nearly any application.

This is why WordPress is NOW a fully fledged CMS (content management system), because you could build a recipe site, move review site, shopping cart or e-commerce site, or corporate site with ease. Read more at the Official WordPress Post Types Page.

Justin Tadlock wrote one of the first Custom Post Types tutorials back in 2010.

Pro blog design has 2 great custom post type tutorials:
Events List with Custom Post Types and Taxonomies
Make a Template for Taxonomies and Post Type Archives

Also, if wrangling code really isn’t your thing, you can create Custom Post Types using the Custom Post Type UI plugin

7. Organization plugins exist (PageMash, Category Manager, Custom Post Type UI)

There are some great plugins that can help you organize WordPress content. One is the Custom Post Type UI just mentioned.

Pagemash: helps manage pages

CMS Tree Page View: adds a tree of all your pages or customm posts (with drag and drop functionality)

Category Manager: gives you extensive category management capabilities

Table of Contents Creator: does just what it says

Kalin’s PDF Creation Station: Allows you to create PDF docs from any combination of pages and posts

8. Provide relevant content options for visitors (related posts, tags, categories)

When you are writing content for your visitors in your WordPress web site, you want to give them as many options as possible once they read the post to keep them on your web site. One way is by automatically providing “related posts”, and of course there are already great plugins for that:

Effecient Related Posts
Better Related Posts
Related Posts Picker
All Related Posts
Related Posts by Category

Using the previously mentioned tips for learning to edit and modify your own WordPress theme, you can also add/remove/edit the placement of both tags and categories assigned to posts and in post meta by knowing what the functions are that display them in your WP theme PHP code.

the_category function
the_tags function

9. Redundant navigation is good (header / sidebar / footer)

This point is more of a principle than code or a plugin. Many website owners (WordPress or not) put their navigation in just one place. Header, sidebar(s), or footer. Usability studies show that even if the “heatmap” (where people click most) is the top left of every page – they will click on things “where they are at”. The last thing you want to do is clutter your pages up with so much garbage that it’s literally “too busy”. But having some redundant navigation in your header and footer, and sidebar – is a good idea. Pages, recent posts, recent comments, categories, tags, etc.

10. You can schedule, update, and re-publish posts

Even though this feature has been around in WordPress for some time, I still run accross people that don’t know about it (or how it works). Every WordPress post (and page) has a “publish” box in the top right sidebar. Where it says “publish” you can click “edit” beside immediately and get a form where you can change the day, month, and year. So, you could write 3 posts at once, and them schedule them throughout the week.

Another feature this provides is the ability to go back and take old posts and re-publish them by simply (adding content and) updating the date to today! We often “bring things back” from the archive using exactly this method.