WordPress categories can help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories not only helps to keep your content organized, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
Learn how to set up categories in WordPress posts in this step-by-step tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
By default, post URLs in WordPress are not search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress 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 post categories.
To learn more about permalinks, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main Topics
Maintaining your content organized is very 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 significantly boost your site’s optimization for improved search engine results.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, or your industry.
We have written a detailed tutorial about website planning here: How To Plan Your Website - A Cost-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating a 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 very important in terms of establishing your website as an online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.
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
- and so on …
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is very difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to focus on trying to build your authority in a niche, or a subset of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see from the above 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 choosing 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 Google’s estimates for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of the above keywords …
(Use keyword research tools to help plan your categories)
When planning category titles, 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 to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. trying to dominate 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.
If you need help with strategic online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Cost-Saving Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to convert your keywords into post categories.
Step 4: Set Up WordPress Post Categories
Saving your WordPress posts under carefully planned categories helps to keep your content organized and easy to find, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site for search engines.
(WordPress lets you easily organize your posts with categories)
To access your WordPress Categories section, log into your WordPress site, then go to your navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
Here you can add, edit, and delete categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can optimize your site for search engines.
How To Add Post Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category section)
To add a new post category to WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example shown below:
(WordPress Post Categories panel – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Enter 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” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a specific category. Your 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 your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website (explained further below).
- Description – Add a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with search engine optimization. WordPress uses the category description you write here for the category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button to add your new category …
(New category added)
Repeat the above process to keep adding new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop down menu …
(Create hierarchical post categories)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories section – Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Enter a new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(WordPress 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 the tutorials below:
Removing WordPress Categories
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (this is covered further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting Single Categories
To remove categories individually, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to remove the category from your list …
(How to delete single categories)
A warning message will pop up 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 a large number of categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you want to consolidate posts to a single category. If you have 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 when unwanted categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, refer to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post In WordPress
To delete multiple WordPress categories, click the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category 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 selected all the items to be deleted, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …
(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)
With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the pulldown menu, click Apply …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The selected categories will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
How To Edit Post Categories
To edit a WordPress category, do the following:
Go to your ‘Categories’ section, locate the category entry that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click Edit …
(Edit – Category table menu)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Edit the details in the category fields, and click Update to save your new changes …
(‘Edit Category’ screen)
You can also edit information in 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 link)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Category menu – Quick Edit screen)
Modifying the category slug affects the URL of posts published under that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links pointing to posts published elsewhere.
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 posts and pages have already been indexed in the search engines.
WordPress Category – Special Tip
All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will attribute your post to a default category called “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ WordPress 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 posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more meaningful to your readers and better for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
(Quick Edit link)
Change both the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be 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” in order to give your site an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your readers and search engines)
Now, when posts are 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 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: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …
(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(If using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying WordPress Post Categories
Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Display categories on your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open a category archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display category menus in the sidebar …
(Display category menus on your sidebar)
It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on how many posts and categories are published on your site, you can end up with a really long list of categories …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by listing categories using a drop-down menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)
To learn more about adding sidebar widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In Your Blog
When a visitor selects a category from the menu …
(Select a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays all the posts in that category …
(Posts can display in a category archive page)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and select the category to view. Place your mouse over the category title and click View …
Let’s take a look at some other features of WordPress post categories worth knowing about.
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
Your Categories Table lets you sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the triangle icon …
(Sort by category name)
You can also sort categories using the other columns in the Category Table. Your categories will be rearranged according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Count, etc.) …
(Categories table – Sorting categories)
Categories – Search Features
Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
If your site has a lot of categories, you can split these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
You can specify how many categories per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
Enter the number of categories per page you would like to display in the Categories > Pagination > Number of items per page: field. Note: you can also hide some or all of the columns (e.g. ‘Description’, ‘Slug’, etc.), and click the ‘Apply’ button to save your changes …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)
Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count column)
A list of posts assigned to the category will display in the Posts Table…
(Grouping posts by category)
WordPress Post Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter function found below your Categories table …
(Category to Tag converter)
This will open the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter tool)
If you need help using Post Tags, go here: Configuring And Using Tags In WordPress
Categories – Plugins
WordPress has many great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can protect content in post categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Extend the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)
Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-friendly URLs can help increase your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
To optimize your site further, here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Post Titles
In your content strategy, try to include the main keyword of your post in the title of your post, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.
So, for example, a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In America – 5 Unforgettable Kayaking Locations“.
Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Each time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to tick a category box before publishing the post …
(Select a post category to save your post under)
Use A WordPress SEO Plugin
One additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use a WordPress SEO plugin …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO can help improve your categories’ SEO)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up your WordPress post categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your 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 index your content.
"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group