WordPress post categories help make finding information 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 about adding, editing, and deleting categories in posts in this step-by-step tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
By default, post URLs in WordPress are not really search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.
Permalinks allow your WordPress site to display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
You can have the same post URL look like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then we recommend doing so first before configuring your post categories.
We have written a detailed tutorial about setting up and using permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: Make A List Of Topics
Keeping your site’s 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 significantly boost your site’s optimization for better search engine results.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will publish on your website. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.
We have written a detailed tutorial about website planning here: Planning Your Business Web Site: A Basic Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating your list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients should 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 other people to.
For example, let’s say that you want to start a site 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 the following:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Tips
- Commitment Ceremonies
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Names
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Business”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially if you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to build your authority in a niche, or a segment of your main market.
Take a look at the illustration 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 choosing 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 Google’s estimates for the average number of monthly searches for each of the sample keywords …
(Google Keyword Planner – Keyword research tool for category planning)
When planning your main topic categories, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the “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 market share online.
If you need help with strategic online business online strategies like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: The Website Planning Process: A Basic Blueprint 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 Your Categories
Publishing WordPress posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized, provides web visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.
(WordPress allows you to easily organize content by categories)
To access your WordPress Categories section, log into your Dashboard and choose Posts > Categories …
(Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
In this screen, you can create, edit, and remove categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can help to optimize your site for search engines.
How To Add Post Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category area)
To add a new post category to WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example shown below:
(Post Categories screen – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Type a concise 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 display in all the category-related sections of your site.
- Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a 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 automatically create one for you using a lower case version of your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your site.
- Description – Add a brief description of your category here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with search engine optimization. Your category description will be used for the category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button to add the new category …
(New category added)
Repeat the above process to keep creating new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating nested post categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ pulldown menu …
(Adding hierarchical categories to WordPress)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories module – Add New Category)
If you need to add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Enter a new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
Your new category will instantly become available …
(New category added)
To learn how to create and edit WordPress posts, see the tutorials below:
Removing 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 (see further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete Single Categories
To remove categories individually, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click Delete to remove the category from your list …
(Category table menu – Delete)
A window will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete Multiple Categories
Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing many different categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you want to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.
Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected when unnecessary categories are removed have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, see this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts
To bulk delete WordPress categories, click the main check box in the header row. This will select all category items on the page.
Next, go through the table and untick the box next to categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
Once you have selected all of the items to be deleted, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …
(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)
Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Bulk delete categories)
The selected categories will be removed …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
Editing Categories In WordPress
To edit a post category, do the following:
Go to your ‘Categories’ section, locate the item to be edited, then hover over the category name, and click Edit …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Make changes to the information in the category fields, and click Update to save the details …
(‘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 on Quick Edit …
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
Changing the category slug will change the URL of posts assigned to 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, we strongly recommend investing 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.
Post Category – Useful Tip
All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically assign your post to “Uncategorized” …
(Category – ‘Uncategorized’)
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 optimized for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category table menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)
Change 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” 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 get published under the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …
(SEO improved URLs)
Note: The above site has been configured to display SEO-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, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
Every post in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to your posts …
(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)
Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …
(If using multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Posts are grouped together under 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 the category links opens an archive page containing related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list categories in the sidebar …
(Categories can display on your sidebar)
It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on how many categories and posts are published on your site, you can end up with a really long category list …
If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a dropdown menu …
(Using a drop-down category menu)
If you need help adding and configuring sidebar widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Add WordPress Widgets To The Site
When visitors select a category from the drop-down list …
(Select a category from the drop down menu)
… An archive page displays all the posts listed for that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category to display. Hover over the category title and click View …
Let’s take a look at some other features of post categories worth knowing about.
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort categories by name by clicking on the triangle icon next to the title …
(Sort by category 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.) …
Post Categories – Search Features
To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Search Categories Feature)
If you have lots of categories, WordPress allows you to break these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
(Categories Table – Category Pages)
To specify how many categories per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Type in the number of categories per page you would like 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 Apply to save your settings …
(Screen Options – Categories options)
Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count)
A list of all the posts assigned to that category will display in your Posts Table…
(WP Table of Posts – Grouping posts by category)
WordPress Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter function found below your Table of Categories …
(Convert categories to tags)
This will open the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
To learn more about WordPress tags, refer to this tutorial: How To Set Up Tags In WordPress Posts
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress has many great plugins that can help you manage and enhance the usefulness of post categories.
For example, you can use plugins to add images to your categories, exclude categories from displaying in certain sections of your site, rearrange the way categories are ordered in lists, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Enhance the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly URLs helps to increase your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
To optimize your site further, here are some more tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
In your content strategy, include the main keyword of your post in the post title, preferably at 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 “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Every time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to select the correct category box before publishing the post …
(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)
Use A WordPress SEO Plugin
An additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use an SEO plugin for WordPress …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories’ SEO)
You can even 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 WordPress post categories correctly. Following these simple steps will help keep your website 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.
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