How To Make Your Content, And Your Business, Stand Out
There’s a WordPress feature you can use to make your site truly unique. It’s been around for a while — since version 3.0 — but not too many users take advantage of it. I’m talking about custom post types.
“Post types” is a core feature of WordPress, which comes with these post types already built in:
- Navigation menu
You’re already familiar with post and page. Attachment contains information about a file, like an image or audio file, that you’ve uploaded into the Media Library. Revision starts as a draft of a post, and once a post is published, remains as a sub-file under that post. Navigation menu holds information about, you guessed it, a navigation item.
Then there are the custom post types, which you create yourself.
Why Use Custom Post Types?
Use custom post types when you want to:
- Display something a little differently (or even a lot differently) from a regular post or page
- Include information in a specific format (like a product listing or a movie review)
- Organize specific content in ways you can’t with only tags and categories
You’re already familiar with two very popular types of custom post types, though you may not realize it. Do you have a special plugin for showing testimonials on your site, or products in an e-commerce plugin? Guess what… they’re using custom post types.
A few other uses for custom post types include:
- Book lists
- Customer Support
- Classified ads
- News items
How to Create a Custom Post Type
If you’re comfortable coding in PHP, you can code your custom post types. Otherwise, there are plugins that do the job. Before you use them, though, you should understand a bit about what goes into creating a custom post type.
At its most basic, the plugin will create the custom post type. Probably, though, you want one that will take the next step, and also add it to the WordPress Dashboard menu.
Out of the box, the Dashboard menu looks like this:
Once you’ve created custom post types and added them, it will look more like this:
This screenshot comes from a site using the Divi theme. The top part includes the WordPress standard menu items, but below that, I’ve outlined the custom post types in red. Divi includes the Projects post type, and I added Speeches, Testimonials, and News Items.
If you’re using a plugin to create your custom post type, it will ask you for the following information. Note that the wording may be slightly different from one plugin to another:
- Custom Post Name – singular and plural
- Slug – this will be used in the permalink for that content. For example, if you’re creating a custom post type for movie reviews, you might choose movie as the slug. The URL for your review of a recent Disney release would look something like this:
- Description – this is optional
- Icon – you can use the WordPress default, or choose from icons available from WordPress
- Labels – these are the admin labels, for example, Add New. Most of the time you can leave them alone.
- Visibility – this controls who can see the post in the back end and the front end. Public makes it visible, Hidden hides it
- Menu position – tells WordPress where to place it on the Dashboard menu. The more helpful plugins make it easy by asking where you want it placed in relation to the existing post types
- “At a glance” – when selected, this will add information about your custom post types to the At a Glance widget on the Dashboard home screen
- Taxonomies – default taxonomies include tags and categories. You can create your own custom taxonomies as well. For example, if you’re writing movie reviews, you might add a “ratings” taxonomy.
- Custom fields – in addition, you can create custom fields. Your movie reviews would likely include a ratings field, as well as fields for genre, actors, and director.
- Custom post properties – these determine what’s included in the editing screen for that post type.
- Title – input field to create title
- Editor – input box for content
- Comments – lets you turn comments on or off
- Trackbacks – lets you turn trackbacks/pingbacks on or off
- Revisions – allows revisions
- Author – lets you specify content author
- Excerpt – lets you create a custom excerpt
- Thumbnail – lets you upload a thumbnail/featured image
- Custom fields – input area for custom fields
- Page attributes – lets you indicate whether there’s a parent (only if you’ve selected “true” for menu order and hierarchical)
- Post formats – lets you add post formats
- Options (may be labeled “Advanced Options”) – includes a number of advanced settings. If unsure, leave the default settings.
How to See Your Custom Post Types
You’ve spent some time setting up a custom post type and creating content for it — now how do you see it on your site?
There are several ways.
By default, WordPress will show your custom content on an archive page. To get there, type your site’s URL plus the slug you created for the custom post type, like this:
This will show a list of each of the posts of that type, similar to a blog page.
You can create a menu navigation link to it by selecting Custom Links from Appearance / Menus.
You can include your custom post types on your blog page by adding some code to the functions.php file. We don’t recommend altering the file, but instead, create a child theme and make the changes there.
Create a Template
Again, this will require some coding and we recommend doing it in a child theme.
There may be some variation in how create the template, especially if you’re using a theme framework like Genesis. For many themes, it’s fairly simple.
For example, the file single.php provides the template for a single post. Copy single.php and rename it to something like single-movie.php where “movie” is the name of your custom post type. Make desired changes, and save it.
Custom Post Type Plugins
Here are some popular, free plugins for creating custom post types, as well as custom fields and custom taxonomies.
With over 300,000 active installs, this plugin has a 4.6-star rating (out of 5). It’s well reviewed and highly regarded. However, it does not add your custom post type to the dashboard menu, so if you’re new to all this, you may want to choose another plugin that handles that for you.
This plugin is installed on over 200,000 sites, and also has a 4.6-star rating. When I tried it initially, it would not save any settings — the wheel just spun and spun and spun. I installed it on a different site and it worked perfectly, so there may have been a conflict with another plugin on the first site. (Or they might have fixed a bug before I tried it on the second site.)
This is an excellent choice if you’re comfortable doing some programming, or shelling out some money. The free version doesn’t help you create archive pages, or style your custom posts. For that you need the “complete” package, at $149/year with a $74 annual renewal, or $299 for lifetime access. You can use either package on an unlimited number of sites.
Pods has a more user-friendly interface, and boasts 40,000 active installs with a 4.9-star rating.
This plugin is a bit newer, with only 10,000 active installs. It’s rated at 4.8 stars, though, and I installed and used it with no issues. They also offer a Pro version which adds custom templates without coding, and front-end posting, for $139/year.
Another relative newcomer, it’s been well reviewed. It has 6,000 active installs and a 4.5-star rating.
Custom post types can extend the functionality of WordPress in ways that are limited only by your imagination and your coding ability. However, they’re not the answer for everyone.
One of the downsides is that all your custom work is tied to your theme. If you’ve created custom post types with code and you change themes, you lose all your custom work. If you create them with a plugin, you’ll still have your custom post types (although you’ll have to recreate any special styling).
If you’re a solopreneur without IT training, consider the time-and-effort cost. Custom post types are an excellent option for many WordPress sites, but you may be more productive finding individual plugins for those special types of posts.
And to make sure you’re getting the most out of your WordPress site and online business, sign up for a free trial of SBI! For WP, where you’ll have access to technical and business training, keyword research tools, and a tremendous community of like-minded solopreneurs!