Most users don’t get to spend that much time digging into the WordPress back-end or tinkering with databases. If you fall into that category, you may be doing yourself a disservice by not getting to know how databases work, since they can enable you to improve your site’s performance and tighten its security.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to get to know the basics of WordPress databases. Once you understand how they work and how to make your way around them, you’ll be able to troubleshoot your site more efficiently and even reduce loading times (which is always a plus).
In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the benefits of understanding WordPress databases. Furthermore, we’ll teach you how to access yours and what its most important tables and fields are. Let’s do this!
How Does Understanding the WordPress Database Help Me?
From simpler troubleshooting to useful speed optimizations, a simple understanding of the WordPress database can go a long way. Let’s discuss three reasons why.
1. Easier Troubleshooting
Understanding how WordPress databases work and how to interact with them will enable you to gather information quickly by using queries. Then, you can put this data to good use, especially for troubleshooting purposes. This is particularly important since some of WordPress’ most common bugs are database-related.
For example, CREATE command denied to user is an error that can pop up due to inadequate user permissions. If you know how to access your database, you’ll be able to change permission levels on the fly. A lot of users are intimidated by the idea of interacting with their databases manually, but the risk of damaging your site is minimal if you know what you’re looking for, and if you take the precaution of backing yours up from time to time (it never hurts to play it safe!).
2. Faster Loading Times
Page loading times are critical to a good user experience. If your site isn’t loading quickly enough, visitors might leave before even taking a look around. Needless to say, this is not a desirable outcome, and it can impact your bottom line.
Fortunately, knowing how to navigate and modify your database tables will enable you to implement simple performance enhancement tweaks. There are also a few plugins that can take care of these types of optimizations for you, like WP-Optimize:
This handy little plugin will help you keep your database running in top shape by getting rid of unnecessary data, setting up scheduled check-ups, showing you usage statistics, and even backing it up, just to be on the safe side of things.
In short, WP-Optimize takes care of all the hard work for you, but to really appreciate it, you’ll still need to know how your database is structured, and how to navigate it.
3. Streamlined Plugin Development
Understanding how WordPress stores information within the database can be incredibly useful if you have an interest in plugin development. Most plugins require access to this data in one way or another, which means you need to know where to find it, and how to retrieve it.
To put it simply, if you don’t know how to make your way around the WordPress database, you’re going to have a much harder time putting together even the simplest of plugins.
How Do I Navigate the WordPress Database?
To navigate your WordPress database, you’ll need to access it using a graphic interface such as phpMyAdmin.
This open-source tool interfaces with MySQL and MariaDB databases quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, phpMyAdmin comes pre-installed on most web hosting control panels (such as cPanel), and you can also set it up manually if necessary.
You can use phpMyAdmin to create, drop, alter, delete, import, and export database tables. This time around we’ll be focusing only on navigation, so you might want to check out additional resources if you’re looking for advanced instructions on how to manipulate your database using phpMyAdmin.
What Do I Need to Know About the WordPress Database?
Before we take a look at the tables and fields that make up each WordPress database, we need to introduce you to the concept of “hosts.” Furthermore, it’s important to note that you should always back up your site in full (including your database) before you go poking around the WordPress back end – if you’re not sure how to do it, check out this full guide to using the UpdraftPlus plugin.
What Is a Database Host?
Your database host refers to the specific location of your – you guessed it – database. In most cases, your database host will be set as localhost, which means that it’s stored in the same location as your site, although this may vary depending on your hosting provider.
Knowing your database hostname is important, since the question may come up occasionally, and entering the wrong value might lead to a connection error. You can find out what yours is by accessing your hosting control panel and using a graphical user interface, such as the previously mentioned phpMyAdmin.
What Are Database Tables?
Tables can be thought of as sections or partitions within each database. They are made up of columns, with lines of information stored in rows.
When it comes to WordPress, each database includes 11 tables by default. Despite following the same structure, the content of these tables will, of course, vary depending on the particulars of your site. Let’s get to know each of them and what they do:
- wp_commentmeta: Comments made on WordPress posts, pages, etc. are comprised of information known as metadata, which is stored here.
- wp_comments: The actual comments made on your WordPress site can be found within this table.
- wp_links: This table contains information about the WordPress Links functionality. This feature is now considered obsolete, so you needn’t pay too much attention to it.
- wp_options: Values for the different options available through WordPress’s Settings panel are stored within this table.
- wp_postmeta: Just as with comments, the posts on your site include metadata, which can be found here.
- wp_posts: This is a big one. A big part of your WordPress data happens to be post-related, and this is where it gets stored. It also houses all data related to pages and navigational menus.
- wp_terms: A lot of organizational elements can be found within this table, including tags and categories.
- wp_terms_relationships: Categories and tags are used to define WordPress post and link associations. These associations are housed within the wp_terms_relationships table.
- wp_term_taxonomy: The wp_term_taxonomy table describes the classification (or taxonomy) for all the entries within the wp_terms table.
- wp_usermeta: Metadata for all WordPress installation users is stored here.
- wp_users: As its name reveals, this table contains all the information related to the users of your website.
Furthermore, each of those eleven tables contain their own columns. Let’s take wp_users for example. This table contains the following columns: ID, user_login, user_pass, user_nicename, user_email, user_url, user_registered, user_activation_key, user_status, and display_name. Each column houses a different subset of critical information, and you can use queries to find exactly what you’re looking for.
It’s entirely possible to use WordPress for years without taking a peek behind the curtain and getting to know what databases are or how they work. However, if you take the time to learn how they’re structured, and how to make your way around them, you’ll be rewarded with several benefits (such enhanced security and performance).
If you’re willing to take a look behind the curtain and get to know your WordPress database, these are the steps you’ll need to follow:
- Use a graphical interface tool like phpMyAdmin to access your database.
- Find out what your database host name is.
- Get to know the default WordPress database tables and their most important fields.
Do you have any questions about WordPress databases? Ask away in the comments section below!
Image Credits: Pixabay.