WordPress categories can help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help to organize your content and allow search engines to better index your WordPress site.
Learn how to configure and use categories in WordPress posts in this tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
Out of the box, WordPress post URLs aren’t very search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of post categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.
Permalinks let you display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
The same post URL can look like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your categories.
If you need help with setting up and using permalinks, refer to this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Step 2: List Your Topics
Keeping your content organized at all times 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 search engines to better index your content.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your business, your industry, etc.
To learn more about website planning, go here: The Website Planning Process Explained - A Money-Saving Primer For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating your list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that you believe your visitors, prospects, and clients need to be better educated or informed about. This is 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.
For example, let’s say that you would like 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
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Names
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Sports”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to build your authority in a smaller niche, or a subset of your market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
You can see from the above Market > Niche > Sub niche hierarchy that “Marriage Celebrant Course” is a subniche (i.e. a subcategory) of the “Marriage Celebrant” niche (a category), which itself is a subcategory of the larger “Weddings” market (another category).
When selecting the keywords you would use as a top-level category to file your posts under, it’s a good idea to consider factors like “market competition.”
For example, the screenshot below shows estimates from Google for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of these keywords …
(Google Keyword Planner – Useful keyword research for category planning)
When planning your topic categories, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how you are going to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the online “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a very narrow niche or microniche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to grow your business online.
If you need help with strategic online business areas like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: A Practical Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to turn these keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress site.
Step 4: Set Up Post Categories
Saving WordPress posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site content for search engines.
(Organize your content by categories)
To access your Post Categories area, go to your WP administration area and click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
Here you can add, edit, and remove categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can improve your site’s SEO.
Adding Post Categories To WordPress
(Post Categories panel – Add New Category area)
To add a new post category to WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as shown in the example below:
(Categories screen – Add New Category section fields)
- Name – Type a short category name here, preferably one that uses 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 specific category. Your slug can be different than the 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 your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your website (explained further below).
- Description – Add a brief description of your category here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with SEO. WordPress uses the category description you write here for your category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add the new category …
Repeat this process to keep inserting new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating nested post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ dropdown menu …
(Creating nested post categories in WordPress)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories module – 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 a new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click Add New Category …
(Post Categories feature – Add New Category)
Your new category will be added to your list …
(New category added)
To learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress, see these step-by-step tutorials:
Removing a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the default category (this is covered further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting A Single Category
To delete categories individually, place your mouse over the category and click the ‘Delete’ link …
(Deleting single categories)
A message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete Categories In Bulk
Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing many different categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you want to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.
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 how to reassign categories in posts, go to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting Posts
To bulk delete WordPress categories, click the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all items on the page.
Next, go through the list and deselect any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
Once you have ticked all of the items you would like to delete, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …
(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu)
Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
Editing Categories In WordPress
To edit a post category in WordPress, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ section, locate the item that needs to be edited, then place your mouse over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(Edit link – Category table menu)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Edit the category fields, and click Update to save the changes …
(‘Edit Category’ screen)
You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Quick Edit – Category table)
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Category table menu – Quick Edit fields)
Important: Changing the category slug changes the URL of posts published under 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 post category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your posts and pages have been indexed in the search engines.
Post Category – Special Tip
All posts must be assigned to a category in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically assign your post to the default category “Uncategorized” …
(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)
The default category cannot be deleted.
Having posts attributed to a category named ‘Uncategorized’ 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 optimize it better for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
Change the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be generally relevant to the overall 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 an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site readers and search engines)
Now, when new posts get published using the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …
(SEO improved URLs)
Note: The site used in the example above has been configured to display search engine-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. If you need help setting up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Changing WordPress Permalinks
WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:
Multiple Post Categories
In WordPress, posts 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 (see further below), you can specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(When using multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying WordPress Categories
Posts can be grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Display categories on your posts)
Clicking on category links will open a category archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list category menus in your sidebar …
(Display categories on your WordPress sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of categories and posts published on your site, you can end up with a long category list …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a dropdown menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop down menu)
If you need help with adding sidebar widgets, go here: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In Your Blog
When visitors select a category from the list …
(Select a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays the posts in that category …
(Category archive page)
WordPress Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category to see. Hover over the item and click View …
(View link – WordPress post category)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of WordPress categories .
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
The Table of Categories allows you to sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the black 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 selected (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …
(Table of categories – Sorting categories)
Categories – Search Features
To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Table of Categories – Searching Feature)
Your Categories Table can be divided into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Categories Table – Category Pages)
You can set how many categories to display per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
Type in the number of categories per page you would like to show 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’, etc.). Click the ‘Apply’ button to update your settings …
(Screen Options – Categories options)
Categories – Grouping Features
In the Category screen, the Count column displays how many posts are assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count)
A list of all posts assigned to the selected category will display in your Posts Table…
(Grouping posts by category – Table of Posts)
WordPress Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter feature found below your Categories list …
(Category to Tag converter)
This brings up the Tools > Import section …
(Tools > Import section – Categories and Tags Converter)
We have written a detailed tutorial on using Tags here: Using WP Post Tags
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress has a number of great plugins that can help you manage and enhance the usefulness of post categories.
For example, there are plugins that allow you to add images to your categories, exclude categories from displaying in certain sections of your site, rearrange the way categories appear in menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for a membership site) …
(Membership plugins can help protect content in post categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-friendly URLs helps to improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some more tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the your post title, 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 focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Europe – The 10 Most Wild Kayaking Destinations“.
Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to tick the correct category box before publishing the post …
(Choose a post category to save your post under)
Use An SEO Plugin
An additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use an SEO plugin …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories’ SEO)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up your WordPress post categories correctly. Following 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 pages.
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