WordPress categories can help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
Learn about adding, editing, and deleting post categories in WordPress in this step-by-step tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
By default, post web addresses in WordPress are not search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of post categories, you will first need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.
Permalinks allow WordPress to display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
The same post URL can look like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then do so first before configuring your post categories.
We have created a detailed tutorial on setting up permalinks here: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Step 2: List Your Main Topics
Keeping your content organized is important, as this will not only make it easier for your visitors to find the information they’re looking for, but can also help to boost your site’s optimization for improved search results.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about and publish on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your business, and even your industry.
If you need help with planning a website, see this step-by-step tutorial: A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
When creating your list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients need to be better educated or informed about. This is very important in terms of establishing your site as an online authority that visitors will want to come back repeatedly to and/or refer to others.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to start a website to promote your marriage celebrant business. After a little brainstorming, some of the broad topics (i.e. categories) you may expect to see on an authoritative wedding celebrant’s site could include:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Planning
- Commitment Ceremonies
- and so on …
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Topics
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just getting started. It’s better to try and establish your authority in a niche, or a segment of your market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see from the above that “Marriage Celebrant Course” is a sub niche (i.e. a subcategory) of the “Marriage Celebrant” niche (a category), which itself is a subcategory of the larger “Weddings” market (another category).
When deciding on the keywords you would use as a top-level category to file your posts under, it’s a good idea to take into account factors like “market competition.”
For example, the screenshot below shows estimates from Google for the average number of monthly searches for each of the sample keywords …
(Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning)
When planning your topic categories, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you can control (like the keywords that will be used throughout your content), and how you are going to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the entire online “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a very narrow niche or sub-niche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to increase your business online.
For tutorials on online business areas like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: A Practical Guide To Website Planning For Business Owners
After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to convert these into categories and add them to your WordPress site.
Step 4: Set Up Your Post Categories
Saving posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized and easy to find, provides site visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site for search engines.
(WordPress lets you easily organize your posts using categories)
To access your Post Categories area, go to your WP Dashboard and click on Posts > Categories …
(WP Posts Menu – Categories)
This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …
Here you can create, edit, and remove categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can optimize your website or blog for search engines.
How To Add Post Categories To WordPress
(WP Post Categories screen – Add New Category section)
To add a new post category to WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as shown below:
(Categories screen – Add New Category area fields)
- Name – Use a short category name here, preferably using your main keyword (e.g. if you have a “Travel” related blog, you could have categories like “Travel Tips”, “Travel Destinations”, etc …). Your category names will then display in all the category-related sections of your website.
- Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a category. The slug can be different from your category name. Note: Keep all words lower case and make sure they only contain letters, number and hyphens (i.e. no spaces between words). If you don’t enter a slug into this field, WordPress will create one for you automatically using a lower case version of the category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your site.
- Description – Write a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with search engine optimization. Your category description will be used for your category pages “meta” description.
Click Add New Category to add your new category …
(New category added)
Repeat the above process to keep inserting new categories …
(Table of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Hierarchical list of categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop down menu …
(Adding hierarchical post categories to WordPress)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Type your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(Add New Category)
Your new category will instantly become available …
(New post category added)
Learn how to create and edit WordPress posts here:
Deleting Post Categories
Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts that were assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (see further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting An Individual Category
To delete a specific category, place your mouse over the category you want removed and a menu will display containing various options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to delete the category from your list …
(Category table menu – Delete)
A window will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete Multiple Categories
Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing a large number of categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you want to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a fewer number of categories. If there are too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.
Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected by deleting categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, go to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts
To bulk delete categories, click on the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category listings on the page.
Next, go through the list and deselect any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.
Once you have selected all of the items you would like to delete, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu …
(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)
With ‘Delete’ selected in the drop menu, click Apply …
(Bulk delete categories)
The selected categories will be deleted …
How To Edit WordPress Post Categories
To edit a WordPress category, do the following:
In your ‘Categories’ screen, locate the item that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(WordPress post category table – Edit)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save your new changes …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(Quick Edit – Category table menu)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
Modifying the category slug will change the URL of posts assigned for that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links pointing to posts that have already been indexed by search engines.
For this reason, it’s best to invest time into planning your categories before publishing content, and avoid changing the category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.
Categories – Useful Tip
All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will assign your post to a default category called “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ post category)
The default category cannot be deleted.
Publishing posts under the ‘Uncategorized’ category not only creates unattractive URLs, but URLs that are not very effective in terms of helping your site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization)…
(Publishing posts under the ‘uncategorized’ category is not recommended)
Instead of publishing unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your visitors and better for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
(Category table: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)
Change both the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be relevant to the main topic of your site. For example, in the example below the site is about travel, so you could change the “Uncategorized” category to “Travel Tips” to give your site a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site users and search engines)
Now, when new posts are published using the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …
(Use SEO-friendly URLs)
Note: The site used in the example above has been configured to display SEO-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. To learn how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
Every post in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to a post …
(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify a primary category …
(If using multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying Post Categories
Posts are grouped together under categories, making it easier for your visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display in your posts)
Clicking on the category links opens a category archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list categories in the sidebar …
(Display category menus on your sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a really long category menu …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you have many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by selecting the drop menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …
(Categories widget – Using a drop menu)
For a detailed tutorial on adding sidebar widgets, go here: Using Widgets In WordPress
When a visitor selects a category from the menu …
(Select a category from the drop down menu)
… An archive page displays posts in that category …
(Category archive page)
Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WP dashboard, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you locate a category to view. Place your mouse over the item and click the ‘View’ link …
(WordPress category – View)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of post categories .
Post Categories – Sorting Features
Your Categories Table lets you sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the triangle icon next to the title …
(Sort categories by name)
You can also sort categories using the other columns in the Category Table. Your categories will be sorted according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …
(Sorting categories in the table of categories)
WP Categories – Search Features
This feature is useful if your site has many categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
If your site has loads of categories, WordPress splits these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
You can specify how many categories you want displayed per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …
Edit the number of categories per page to display in the Categories > Pagination > Number of items per page: field. If you want, you can also hide some or all of the columns (e.g. ‘Description’, ’Slug’, ‘Count’), and click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories options)
Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Categories screen – Post count column)
Posts assigned to that category will display in the Table of Posts…
(Posts Table – Grouping posts by category)
Post Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter function found below your Table of Categories …
(Category to Tag converter)
This will take you to the Tools > Import screen …
(Tools > Import section – Categories and Tags Converter tool)
If you need help with WordPress post tags, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Add, Edit, And Delete Tags
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available a number of great plugins to manage and enhance your categories.
For example, you can use plugins to add images to your categories, exclude categories from displaying in certain areas of your site, rearrange the order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can protect content in specific categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Use plugins to expand the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search-friendly URLs can help increase your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your the title of your post, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves click through rates.
So, for example, an article on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.
Publish Your WordPress Posts Under The Most Relevant Post Category
Each time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to select a relevant category box before publishing the post …
(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories box)
Use An SEO Plugin
One more step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use an SEO plugin for WordPress …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps improve your categories’ SEO)
You can optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up WordPress post categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your WordPress site organized, easier to manage, and make it easier for your site visitors to find exactly what they are looking for and for search engines to better index your content.
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