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Did you know that it’s possible to search through all of your post content, find certain words, and then replace them? It seems like it should be easy, but there’s nothing that allows you to do this by default in WordPress and it can be hard to find the answer to a question you don’t know how to phrase.
The most common reason to do this, in my experience, is to replace broken links, be them to yourself, another, or an affiliate: you’ve linked to a particular page dozens of times and now you need to update all of those links! Another reason would just be to update a certain phrase or product name. Maybe you rebranded and now you need to change all instances of “My Hometown Shoppe” to “My Global Emporium.”
Worst case scenario, you have to go into every post and manually update the link or phrase that requires replacement. The more posts and links you have, the more daunting that sounds… who has the time to manually update every single post on their site?
Instead, let’s discuss the quick, automated method of replacing content. A plugin, like Search Regex, provides you with a graphic user interface (GUI) to find and replace content within your database. In the simplest form, you type in the phrase you want to find, then the one it should be replaced with. With this plugin, you can see the results, preview the replacement, and then save the changes – all in separate stages.
Always do a trial run first that only searches or previews the content, so you can check through the results and make sure the expected result is output. Because you cannot undo this, you want to have a recent backup of your database on hand and be careful not to make a mistake. Don’t let the scare you, though, this powerful tool can save you a lot of time – we just want to be prepared for mistakes, because they happen. 🙂
Ready to get more serious? The plugin I mention in this article supports regular expressions, which allow you to search for more than an exact match to your phrase – you can search for exact matches to what are essentially multiple phrases.
In the example above, I’m updating post links from before I changed my permalink structure (which now excludes dates). Notice that I’m removing ALL dates from my links, not just the one link I searched for. I don’t have to search for /2014/01/16/ and then /2014/01/17/ and then… you get the idea. I can make complicated replacements all in one go. Even if writing the regular expression takes you a good chunk of time, you’re likely to save more time because you didn’t edit every post one-by-one.
I’m not going to get into writing regular expressions, but I will share a resource I liked when I didn’t know anything about regular expressions: RegExr. This allowed me to learn about regular expressions and practice my own. I’ll also note that while RegExr doesn’t require it, this plugin needs you to wrap your regular expression in a delimiter (in my example, I’m using “/”).
Good luck with your search and replace mission. Let me know if this article gets you moving in the right direction and share your experience!