Monthly Archives: July 2013

Stop your blog from commenting on itself (no self ping trackbacks)

link 5359581911_d07f15db17_zDid you WordPress lets you keep track of who is linking to your work?

When someone links to one of your WordPress posts, you’ll get an automatic comment on your post called a trackback. It’s kind of a cool way to see who is linking to your stuff.

(A better way to see who is linking to your site might be to do a Google search using the “link” operator. If you type in Google, you’ll see the webpages that link back to the search engine. Click here for more information about links to your site, including how to use Google Analytics to access referring sites.)

So, what’s the problem?

Well, if you link back to another post on your website, you get an instant comment on that post. This is called a self-ping. It’s funny the first few times, and then it just gets annoying because it clutters up your comments.

You can turn off the self pings with the free No Self Pings WordPress plugin. It hasn’t been updated in a few years, but it still works fine. Still works after all this time for me and these people as well.

Once you install this plugin, all of the comments and trackbacks you get on your site will be from other people. Nice.


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Converting Categories into Tags or other custom taxomonies (home made categories)

custom post typeSearch engines like a well organized site. Heck, people like a well organized site.

When you’re writing on your WordPress website, you can organize your “posts” using categories or tags. (Remember that “pages” don’t have categories or tags. Check out this post for more differences between posts and pages.)

  • Categories let you create a hierarchial list and you get checkboxes to choose an option.
  • Tags do not have any organization and you get a text input box to enter terms.
  • Find our more about the differences between categories and tags.

Sometimes things get messy and you want to reorganize your website. You want to convert posts into pages or you want to convert some of your categories into tags… or, vice-versa.

Recently on one of our websites, we wanted to do some house cleaning. Here are two free WordPress plugins that made our life easier. No messy coding involved.

[stextbox id=”warning”]Warning: It’s a good idea to backup your website before you change multiple posts.[/stextbox]

How to convert posts into pages (or other custom types)

There are two free wordpress plugins to let you change posts into pages (or other custom post types.) Both of these plugins work great to switch existing content between posts and pages or to change them into any new post types that you made. (We used the free Types plugin to create a bunch of new post types.)

Convert Post Types lets you change a whole bunch of pages into posts at one time. We had created a whole bunch of posts about different splash pads and needed an easy way to turn them into a custom post type that we made. Convert Post Types made life pretty easy.


We’ve also used the free Post Type Switcher wordpress plugin in the past. This plugin lets you change the post type one-by-one when you are editing the post directly.

[stextbox id=”warning”]WARNING: Do not use the Post Type Switcher plugin if you are using the Views plugin to create custom views. See Advanced Notes below.[/stextbox]


How to convert categories into tags (or other custom taxonomies)

Term Management Tools is a free plugin that lets you reogranize your categories and tags. This plugin also worked with custom categories and tags (custom taxonomies) that we’ve made.

Click on the post menu and then either categories or tags.


By default, WordPress doesn’t give you a lot of “bulk actions.” Basically, all you can do is delete a whole bunch of categories at once.


The Terms Management Tools plugin lets you do three cool things.

  1. Set Parent: Normally, WordPress lets you set the parent for one of your categories one at a time. With this plugin, you can set the parent for a whole bunch at once.
  2. Merge: You can merge two separate categories or tags into a single category (or tag)
  3. Change Taxonomy: You can move categories into tags or tags into a custom category taxonomy that you’ve made, etc.

change categories

Advanced “Do It Yourself” stuff to know about converting tags into categories

Why did we need this plugin? Right now, we’re using the premium Views plugin on our splash pad website. Originally, we had a bunch of parent-child hierarchial categories.

  • For example, we had region as a parent category, and then a bunch of locations as child categories.
  • Then, we had hours of operations, and then a bunch of different sub categories (i.e. all day, weekends only, etc)

The Views plugin lets you add a pretty cool search engine to your website so that visitors can filter information from your site based on set criteria. For example, if you’re visiting a real-estate website, you might want to find houses in a certain area, with a certain number of rooms and for a certain price.

The problem with having everything in one category is that it shows up as one very long, messy list in your search bar. The other problem is that you can’t find posts that any criteria from one parent set of categories AND any criteria from a second parent set of categories.

When you search using the Views plugin, you can filter the results based on categories and you can choose whether user selected categories within the same taxonomy are filtered by finding posts with “Any of the following” categories, “NOT one of the following” categories, “ALL of the following” categories (or a few other options, including URL variables).

Unfortunately, with splash pad regions and hours of operations in the same category taxonomy, there didn’t seem to be a way to find splash pads from multiple geographic regions but only under certain hours of operation.

A user might want to find splashpads in region A or region B, but only those that are open 24 hours a day. If you set the Views Parametric search controls to filter “any of the following” categories, then you might get a splash pad that was open 24 hours a day, but not in region A or B.

Long story short, we used the free Types Custom Fields and Custom Post Types Management plugin to create custom categories (like Splashpad Hours of Operation.) We used the Terms Management Tools plugin to split up our parent hierarchial categories into separate taxonomies, and now we can make the search bar prettier AND have our search engine find splashpads from any of the user selected regions AND any of the user selected times.

[stextbox id=”warning”]post-type-switcher-views-errorWarning: Do not use the Post Type Switcher plugin if you are creating custom views with the Views plugin. There is a known issue on the wp-types forum where saving custom views suddenly became posts instead of views. (Unfortunately, you need to be members in order to see this forum post from March 28, 2013.)

My concern would be if this post accidentally got emailed out to subscribers. Jetpack only emails out new posts when they are first published. We made this mistake and created a few Views posts accidentally, but I didn’t see anything show up in my email. Still, it’s not a very comforting glitch and hopefully the compatibility issue gets fixed in a future wp-types update.[/stextbox]

Organizing your posts and pages

So you want to write stuff on your wordpress website. Well, you generally have two options. You can write stuff as a “post” or as a “page”

add new post

What’s the difference? Not much.

The front page of a wordpress website (blog) is basically a timeline of all of your recent posts. When you write something new, it shows up on the front page and everything else gets pushed back.

  • When you write something as a “post”, it shows up on the front page of your website.
  • When you write something as a “page”, it doesn’t.

Here are a few more differences:

A post

1. Every time you write a post, it shows up on the front page of your website.

  • Assuming, of course, that you haven’t set up your home page to show a specific landing page.

2. If people have an email subscription to your website, then the moment you publish a post, they will also receive that post via email.

  • This is great if you run a class website and you want parents and students to receive an “email newsletter” everytime you update the class site.
  • If people follow your blog using a RSS reader, then the moment you publish a “post”, it will show up in the reader RSS feed as well.

3. You can organize posts into categories and tags.

  • Posts will show up on the front page of your website, but your visitors might want to see everything you’ve written about a specific topic. That’s where categories and tags come in.
  • If your visitors click on a category or tag, they can see all of the other posts in that category or tag.
  • Categories can be put into a hierarchical order. (For example, archways are a type of water play structure)
  • Tags can not be nested into subcategories .

categories tags

A page

1. When you write a page, it doesn’t automatically show up on the front page of your website.

  • I find students and new website users get frustrated when they publish a page and can’t find it. It’s there, but you’ll need to add a link to it somewhere on your website so that visitors can find the page.
  • Most people add a link to their page in the navigation menu. Just click on “Menus” (under Appearance)menu
  • And then add your specific page to the menu.add to menu
  • You can also add a “widget” to your sidebar that shows a list of pages. Just click on “Widgets” (under Appearance)
  • And then click and drag the “Pages” widget to your sidebar.pages widgets

2. When you publish a “page” it won’t send out an email to viewers who have signed up for your newsletter.

  • You may not want everything you put on your website to get sent to visitors. For example, your “about” page should be written as a “page” and not a “post”
  • Pages do not show up in your blog’s feed.

3. You can organize your pages by setting “parent” pages.

  • You can create subpages. When your pages get listed (like in your sidebar), they will show your subpages indented under the parent page.subpages

Advanced “Do It Yourself” stuff to know about Pages and Posts

  1. Posts and Pages don’t exist as physical files on your server. You can’t download them using a FTP client. Instead, all of the post and page information lives in your database. (So when you back up your website, make sure you’re backing up your database as well.)
  2. It’s easy to switch between posts and pages (and even custom post types) if you install the free Post Type Switcher plugin from the WordPress Plugin Directory.
  3. You can set custom fields for both pages and posts. Custom fields let you add data to posts and then you can use that information in different ways. For example, on the Ottawa Splash Pads site, the number of ground sprinklers (and other water play structures) are set in custom fields so we can make all of the different splash pash pages look the same. (You can display the custom field data in the theme directly.)
  4. Your WordPress theme may let you use custom templates for both pages and posts. The Thesis framework lets you use a custom template so that you can change the look of a specific post or page. (For example, you might not want a sidebar on your sales landing page so that it looks different from the rest of your blog.)
    thesis custom template