WordPress Content Filtering Guide

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Often the rules for effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can come into conflict with what you know your readers want. Resolving and balancing out these differences can be a challenge, especially when it comes to ensuring that your website’s content is easy to sort through.

Fortunately, WordPress enables you to filter content before it’s delivered in a user’s browser. This can provide a much better User Experience (UX) for longer articles. What’s more, it can help you effectively use pieces of content that search engines tend to like, but some readers might abandon due to length. 

In this article, we’ll explore WordPress’ built-in content filtering options. We’ll also take a look at some plugins that can help you use content filtering on your website. There’s a lot to sort through, so let’s get started!

Built-In Content Filtering

WordPress does offer some built-in content filtering features. However, in order to really make use of them, you’ll need to understand the relationship between hooks, filters, parameters, and functions in the WordPress codebase. Once you have those concepts down, you’ll be able to investigate some of the more hands-on options for employing content filtering.

1. Post and Page Filtering

There is a somewhat older way to create a front-end filtering feature on your website for users. This provides a drop-down sorting feature for post content, which you can customize. To get started, you’ll need to add a snippet of code to your theme’s index.php file. 

Keep in mind that it’s best to create a child for the theme you plan to use. Since this method requires adding custom code, you’ll want to protect your parent theme files in case anything breaks. 

We tested this approach with WordPress’ default Twenty Twenty theme:

As you can see, you would need to tweak the styling in your Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) file if you want something more aesthetic, but the functionality of this approach works. You can use just about any database information, such as ‘post_date’ or ‘only_thumbnailed’, to create filters for your readers to use. 

2. Functions

There is another filtering function built into the WordPress codebase. It enables you to create filters for information read from the database, before it’s displayed on a web page or an editing screen.

This feature enables developers to incorporate content filtering functionality into their plugins. There is an expansive list of filter hooks available through the WordPress API. These hooks can be used with both the ‘add_filter()’ and ‘the_content()’ functions. This is where understanding the relationships between hooks, filters, and parameters can come in handy. 

When you choose one of these functions, you’ll use hooks and parameters to establish what kind of action you want the call to execute. By using these elements together, you can create a WordPress plugin that will execute the filtering functionality you’re looking for. For example, the ‘the_content()’ function can be combined with ‘apply_filters()’ to call the callback function of any filter hook

In addition, ‘the_content’ filter hook is often used to establish the content parameters for these functions. To avoid confusion, just remember that functions enclose hooks and parameters inside the parentheses.

Content Filtering Plugins

If you’re not ready to dive into developing your own plugin just yet, don’t worry. We’re going to share some useful plugins that already exist, which can help you try out content filtering on your website. 

1. Search & Filter

Search & Filter plugin banner

The Search & Filter plugin is a way to enhance the native, simple search bar functionality WordPress offers. You can add results filtering via radio buttons, checkboxes, drop-down menus, and more. Plus, this plugin is designed with a drag-and-drop editor for easy configuration. 

Additionally, you can organize the search results by just about any parameter available. This includes meta value, post-ID, author, title, date, and so on. You can access most of the features through the free version of the plugin, and full access for one website is only $20 per year

2. Smart Content Filter

Smart Content Filter plugin banner

Smart Content Filter is a premium content filtering plugin for WordPress. It will work with any theme and custom post type. Rather than creating a database-style search and filter experience, Smart Content Filter helps you build an interactive filter that lives on your blog posts.

These come in the form of clickable buttons, which represent the different content filters available for that page or post. For example, if you have a long blog post that lists the best eCommerce themes for WordPress, your readers might get bored halfway through and jump ship before finishing the article or viewing your Call To Action (CTA).

This plugin can help you create custom, interactive filters that can easily move your readers to the content they’re most interested in. A starter license is only $19 for a year of access and support. 

3. FacetWP

FacetWP plugin banner

If you’re looking for a content filtering solution that’s well-suited for eCommerce, FacetWP might be your answer. This is an AJAX-based plugin that loads selections and filter changes quickly, without reloading the whole page. Your customers can find what they’re looking for much faster with these features. 

Additionally, this plugin is ready for integration with WooCommerce, so you can make improvements to your online store’s content filtering capabilities in a snap. One of the only downsides to this plugin is the price tag. It’s a bit more of an investment than some of the other options we’ve looked at.

However, on the Basic plan, you’ll get a $99 license for one to three websites for one year. That includes support and all of FacetWP’s professional add-ons

Get the Results You Want With WP Engine

It’s safe to say that few web users enjoy the ‘hunt and peck’ method of finding what they’re looking for online. Whether it’s a product they want to purchase, entertainment content, or a key piece of information, providing easy search and filter functionality for your content is one way to improve your website’s UX. 

Here at WP Engine, we strive to bring you the best developer resources, so you can build innovative digital experiences for your customers. Check out our WordPress hosting plans, and start improving your website today!

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