How to use WordPress Taxonomies

A taxonomy is a way of classifying data. Typically a taxonomy will have a set of characteristics that is unique to it. First of all let us explain what taxonomies are and why they are so much important.

What is a Taxonomy in WordPress?

To be obvious, if a taxonomy had the same characteristics as another data type, it wouldn’t be a different taxonomy! So that’s why we said taxonomy will have a set of characteristics that is unique to it.

By default, WordPress comes with 3 taxonomies, post tag, categories, link categories.  Example of those characteristics follow:

  • Post Tag: acts like a label, attached to a post.
  • Category: acts like a “bucket” in which we put posts, are often hierarchical. Posts can live in multiple categories.
  • Link Category: acts like a label, attached to a link.


Each tag or category you create is a “term” within that taxonomy. For example, if you create a category “Web Tutorials” (in our site about tutorials), “Web Tutorials” becomes a term within the category taxonomy. Now, there are different types of web tutorials so this is where our custom taxonomies come in. If we created a custom taxonomy “Languages”, then we could add “JavaScript” which becomes a term in the “Languages” taxonomy. So we are classifying our Web Tutorials by “Languages.”

This will be much easier if we take a entertainment website. In there we can create Movies, Songs, Books… categories. For Movies, then there will be custom taxonomies as Genre, Actors, Actresses, Directors. For Genre the terms will be Action, Romance, Drama, Horror… That means we are classifying our movies by “Genre.”



In a nutshell, we use custom taxonomies to make it easier to organize our content. While you could attach an appropriate tag or set of tags to a post you aren’t really separating things out as much as you could. By separating things out in a more granular way, and giving our selves a way to classify data, we have more opportunity to display content and create relationships in various and logical ways.

To begin with, we’re likely to have our highest order of organization as our categories. Let’s assume we have Web Tutorials, Computer Science Tutorials, Programming Tutorials, Math Tutorials… as our categories. If we think about the characteristics of Web Tutorials, then assume we have created custom taxonomies that relate to Web Tutorials: Languages, Content Management Systems, Tools and Frameworks.

I can now enter terms into my “Languages” taxonomy such as “JavaScript” or “HTML” or “CSS” or “XML” (which of course become terms in the Languages taxonomy).

Why this is Important?

We can now create a list of Web Tutorials in the “JavaScript” Language as well as display the Language of a web tutorial on the web tutorial’s individual page (which also serves as a link to all web tutorials classified as “JavaScript”). If we had just used tags, there would be a lot of other stuff to filter through and display, not just “JavaScript” next to the “Language:” label which corresponds to the “Language ” taxonomy. (Make sense?).

For clarity, if we just used tags how would we show what “Language” it’s in without showing all of the other tags associated with the web tutorials? We couldn’t (effectively) since the “JavaScript” would be just one of many tags associated with the web tutorial and we would have no way of distinguishing “Language” from “Tools” since they would all be classified as “tags.” Get it?

Put everything in order always and always use Taxonomies.


Written by Sandeep Likhar

Sandeep Likhar is from India, where he is a blogger, eBook designer, and founder of LetsDnD. He has 6 years of experience in the industry as a Digital Publishing Expert and eBook Converter, providing services to authors, publishers, and distributors worldwide. He is proficient in converting books into various formats, such as HTML, epub, mobi, word, PDF, including all major online platforms like iTunes, Kobo, Kindle, CreateSpace, B&N, Smashwords, and more.

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