Custom fields, are they like made-to-order crop circles?
November 29, 2009 10:13 PM   Subscribe

Wordpress filter: How can I use custom fields and tags to my advantage? Talk to me as if I am a Wordpress novice.

I have two websites using Wordpress as a cms. One is a accommodation website that advertises the property using pages as well as having a blog attached. The second is (will be) an Wordpress e-commerce site using Shopp and a blog to sell unique versions of one type of item.

I want to get the best from Wordpress as my cms. But for the life of me I cannot comprehend the usefulness of custom fields and tags. I've looked at the Wordpress codex but I can't work out how their examples could fit my needs which are, essentially, to rank high on search engines for my product types.

Please smart folk, explain to this lass with brain-fog what custom fields and tags actually do, and how I can improve my sites through their use.
posted by Kerasia to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Custom fields aren't designed to convert search engine users to your customers. They are a built in way of adding extra data to your posts that can be displayed in themes.

You could use custom fields for extra metadata per-post, but given google's take on keywords and descriptions, etc., I am not sure that would even be helpful.

Custom fields are useful for things like: product attributes, special style overrides, background images, any kind of div id that might easily be erased in the editing pane, etc., that aren't readily available via the built in wordpress features such as author, author blurb, categories, tags, excerpt, whatever. Tags are nice for navigating a site, sometimes. You can also display a tag cloud.

If you don't need anything that wordpress and your plugins don't already give you, I wouldn't worry about not using tags/custom fields..
posted by shownomercy at 10:33 PM on November 29, 2009

Custom fields just give you the ability to define something in a consistent way and call that in a template file so you can do something with it. For instance, I just made a blog for a photographer, and he wanted to sometimes have a related mp3 file available for visitors to listen to alongside a picture he posts. So, I made the template check to see if a post has the custom field "mp3" defined and if it is, the template will automatically display an inline mp3 player that plays the file at the url specified in the custom field.

Here's a simpler example. Imagine that you want each post to display your mood when you wrote it if you want to share your mood. So, define a custom field called "mood" as "angry." Then, the template will automatically display "angry" wherever your template calls for the "mood" custom field. For another post, it might display "happy" if that's what you've defined it as.
posted by msbrauer at 11:27 PM on November 29, 2009

2nding that custom fields are not really going to help with your generic search results. Usually these things are used with PHP conditional statements to load different designs or enable extra functionality. Magazine-style themes use tags/categories/fields to display featured posts more prominently than others, for instance. Or one could attach polls to the ends of certain posts with a custom field. They are hooks which provide for design and usability customization. You can use them to give certain pages or posts very snazzy layouts or extra features, but they won't effect the strength of the original content as seen by a search engine. (Unless you're using them to pull in related/auxiliary content which is really way beyond the scope of what tags/categories/fields do.)
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:31 PM on November 29, 2009

I have a booklog, called boeklog, and use the custom fields:

a] for showing the name of the reviewed author, either before or after the name of the book, depending on what the layout demands. On the single page the author's name above the title looks better, in the title index the author's name below the book title does.

b] for showing a picture of the book, next to the first lines of the review, when a visitor either searches for something, or looks in the archives, and categories.

Tags are used to get an alphabetical authors list, and also to group reviews that can't be grouped by placing those books in the same, too broadly defined, category.

Most reviews have a section underneath them with links to related reviews, for which the tags are used for collecting the data, and a custom field with the author's name is used for extra information.
posted by ijsbrand at 1:19 AM on November 30, 2009

A lot of the Wordpress sites I've done have been for "websites", rather than blogs, and I've used Custom Fields to aid in that. For example I'll have a "Parts" field that lists all the parts available for a product, and a "TechSpecs" field for all the tech specs - then I can use those fields when outputting the product page.

As for tags - you might want to look into custom taxonomies. Take a look at this article, for a good brief on how they work, and maybe some ideas will pop in your head on how they'll benefit your sites:

Using Custom Taxonomies to Create a Movie Database
posted by backwards guitar at 6:03 AM on November 30, 2009

Thanks all for your help. This is one of those areas I just have a mental block about. Shownomercy and backwards guitar's explanation broke through the brain fog. Cheers.
posted by Kerasia at 9:22 PM on November 30, 2009

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