Today I’m searching for a solution to my WordPress tags dilemma by trying to find a plugin that will let me keep my existing surname tags and create new more relevant tags for posts about topics other than my own family. I’m not sure yet what the solution will be but join me as I look at the available options. Before I begin the search, let me describe how my dilemma developed.
History of Out of My Tree Genealogy
Out of My Tree Genealogy first launched on WordPress.com in 2006 with a post about the coroner’s inquest into my great-grandfather’s death. My blog started out as a way to document my own genealogical journey and this post is pretty typical of my earliest efforts. With that in mind, the tags I set up were all the surnames in my family because that made it easy for family and even distant cousins to find posts about our shared relatives.
But over the last ten years, my blog has grown into something more than just a way to document my research. I now write about all sorts of topics related to genealogy including social history, technology, methodology, as well as reviews of websites, software, gadgets and more. My surname tag structure no longer makes sense since it is no longer relevant to many of my blog posts. And yet, I find myself clinging to my outdated tags because I like having a Surname ‘Tag Cloud” featured on my home page. I need a solution that will let me keep my surnames segregated in their own cloud while still letting me use tags on my other posts and I’m on the hunt to find a plugin for WordPress tags or custom taxonomies to do the job.
What is a Taxonomy?
WordPress defines a taxonomy as a way to ‘group things together’ and the basic way we group things in WordPress is by using categories and tags. Categories are a way of sorting your posts into various topics and are often used in the menu to help readers navigate your website. They tend to be pre-defined and very broad in scope. On Out of My Tree Genealogy, the parent categories are shown on the menu at the top of the screen and underneath them are the sub-categories. For example, this post is in the WordPress sub-category which is a child of the Technology category. Tags are similar to categories but they are less structured, have a narrower scope. Each post will normally have numerous tags. Tags not only help readers find other similar posts, but they also help Google figure out what your post is about.
After doing some preliminary searching, it would seem as though I have two options. I can install a plugin that will let me group tags or I can create a custom taxonomy for surnames, freeing up the standard tags to be used on all posts. Grouping my tags would let me create appropriate tags for each of my categories and group them in much the same way that I’m able to create child categories under parent categories. A custom taxonomy would let me create a new taxonomy called Surnames that would be separate and distinct from the standard tag structure.
Tag Group Plugins
When I search the WordPress plugin repository for tag groups, I find only a few choices. It seems as though many of the users of these plugins are utilizing them for multi-language tags.
The Tag Group plugin has 1000 active installs, was last updated 4 months ago, and has 4.8 out of 5 stars. It does just what the name implies. Tags (or categories or custom taxonomies) can be grouped and the individual tag groups can be displayed in a tabbed tag cloud widget.
The Xili-Tidy-Tags plugin also has 1000 active installs, was last updated 2 months ago, and has 4.5 out of 5 stars. It too allows grouping of tags and provides an option of assigning a group of tags to a category and displaying the appropriate tag group cloud on the category archive page which seems like an interesting option.
Custom Taxonomies Plugins
There are many options in my search for custom taxonomies and quite a few of these have upwards of 10,000 installs. It would appear that many people are using custom taxonomies on their WordPress websites.
Pods – Custom Content Types and Fields
The Pods plugin has over 30,000 installs, was last updated a month ago and has 4.9 out of 5 stars. The video on the plugin home page describes everything that this plugin does and I have to say that I am absolutely overwhelmed with it’s capabilities. Not only will it let me create the custom taxonomy for Surname, but my mind is reeling with uses for the custom post type option. I’m envisioning an ‘Ancestor’ profile post type or a ‘Place’ post type for example. This plugin is awesome, although certainly overkill for my purposes at the moment!
WCK – Custom Fields and Custom Post Types Creator
The WCK plugin has of 10,000 installs, was last updated 4 days ago and has 4.8 out of 5 stars. This plugin also lets you create all types of custom fields and post types but doesn’t seem nearly as friendly as Pods, requiring more coding knowledge.
And the winner is…
Creating my new custom taxonomy was more complicated than I thought although after 30 minutes of false starts and confusion, I found this tutorial which would have really helped. Once I had my new taxonomy created and displaying correctly, I had to move my existing tags to it so I temporarily installed the Taxonomy Switcher plugin and moved all tags to the new surname taxonomy and adjusted my surname tag cloud widget to display only the surname taxonomy tags.
Now that my standard tag list is empty (they are all now in the Surname custom taxonomy I just created) I’ve added some new tags to this post to test things out. This Pod plugin is definitely very powerful and my head is buzzing with ideas. The developers have created a YouTube series so that’s probably a good place to start. Stay tuned for more about this plugin!