WordPress’s Word Problem: What Are Posts Anyway?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

WordPress began its life as a blogging platform. That means the terminology it started with is rooted in the blogosphere. As WordPress has developed and grown into a CMS, a lot of that early terminology has hung on. Which mean some of that terminology can get very confusing.

Posts in WordPress can mean a couple things. First, posts (purposely all lowercase) could be considered any entry (row) in the wp_posts table. That’s really any type of content that gets put into WordPress. Posts, Pages, Custom Post types. Those entries are all stored in the wp_posts table and can be considered posts.

Up and Running has the best explanation of this I’ve yet come across. It suggests thinking of each entry as a post of a certain type. For example, creating a Post in the main navigation of the Dashboard would be making a post of type Post. Notice the purposeful capitalization of the post type. In the previous example “Post”. In this sense you would also have a post of type Page. If you create a custom post type for Reviews, an entry there would be a post of type Review.

It is a useful way of thinking about posts vs Posts and how WordPress stores data. If you’re still confused, and I don’t blame you, check out Up and Running.

Now let’s dig into what makes up a post of type Post.

A default WordPress post of type Post consists of the title, the permalink, the content, categories, tags, featured image, and post formats. You’ll see these fields on your first WordPress post.

The Title

The title is easy enough. It is your post’s title. Plain and simple. No tricks to this one. Set your title and WordPress automagically will set your permalink to a web-safe version. But don’t worry you can still edit it.

The Permalink

This is your post’s address on the web. The URL a visitor will see in their browser when they visit your site. If you would like you can spruce up the format a bit through Settings > Permalinks in the Dashboard’s main navigation.

The Content

This is the meat of your post. Anything entered inside the TinyMCE WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor becomes part of the_content. I’ve written the_content like that for good reason. That’s the function name you use within your theme to pull in this data.

It is also the filter themes and plugins will use to add items before or after the_content. Those sharing plugins that allow for social sharing buttons to be added before or after your post? Those are hooking into the_content filter to prepend or append content as needed. One of the many things that makes WordPress so flexible.

Categories & Tags

Categories and Tags are known as Taxonomies within WordPress. While the term may seem commonplace to seasoned WordPress vets it isn’t that common among the average user. So what is a taxonomy?

“Taxonomy is one of those words that most people never hear or use. Basically, a taxonomy is a way to group things together.” – WordPress Codex

Essentially this is how we can structure and group data together within WordPress. It allows for us to create archives of our posts related to certain key terms. Which can be either a Category or a Tag.

Categories are a hierarchical taxonomy. Meaning they can have parent and child relationships. For example, you could create a Movie Category that has sub-categories such as Review or Preview. Categories are typically more broad than Tags. As a general practice it’s best to limit to 1 or 2 categories for a post.

Tags are non-hierarchical. They’re more free-form. Using our Movie example above a tag could be the actors in the film. Say you’re writing a review of Point Break, you could use the Tags Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, or 90s Surfer Bank Heists. Ok that last one may be a bit too specific, but you get the point. They tend to be more freeform than Categories.

One note about Tags: They aren’t going to give your post significant Search Engine Optimization (SEO) juice. For the same reason Google has lessened the value of meta keywords in the past, which is you can just make up whatever you want there. Instead of trying to use terms for the Google Bot, focus on using terms that are best going to improve the user experience. That will help your site more in the long run.

Post Formats

The last item we’ll cover with our posts is Post Formats. Post Format is actually another taxonomy, like Categories and Tags, that can be used for presenting content to the user. They allow theme developers to create custom layouts for the different post formats available within a theme.

While WordPress supports the aside, gallery, link, image, quote, status, video, audio, and chat formats a theme may not make use of them. In this case a good theme developer would remove those options. But that isn’t always the case.

Put all of that together and you have yourself your first WordPress post.

A Note on Custom Post Types and Custom Taxonomies

What makes WordPress great is its ability to expand. One such area for that is Custom Post Types. These allow for further content organization by allowing a means for creating entirely different sets of data. Want to create a Portfolio section separate from your blog? A post type of Portfolio could be an extremely useful tool for building that.

Custom Taxonomies then allow for the creation of new Taxonomies that can be tied to one or many post types. This allows for the data structure of WordPress sites to get very complex, but also very useful for managing content.

Pin It on Pinterest