Using WordPress Post Categories

Learn what categories are, how to use categories to improve your content navigation and SEO, and how to add, edit, and delete WordPress categories …

Configuring CategoriesWordPress post categories help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Adding categories to your site not only helps to keep your content organized, it also improves both your visitor’s search experience and your search engine rankings.

Learn how to add, edit, and delete categories in WordPress in this tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Default WordPress post web addresses aren’t 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:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=819

You can have the post URL display like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/travel-destinations/five-best-honeymoon-destinations

If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your categories.

To learn more about setting up and using permalinks, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Step 2: Make A List Of Your Main Topics

Keeping content organized is very important, as this will not only make it easier for your visitors to find the information they’re searching for, but can also help to significantly boost your site’s optimization for improved SEO.

The first step, then, is to carefully work out what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about and publishing on your website. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, or your industry.

Info

We have created a detailed tutorial on website planning here: How To Plan Your Business Web Site: A Money-Saving Guide 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 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 want to start a website or blog 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 Locations
  • Marriage Vows
  • etc.

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Headings

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to try and build your authority in a smaller niche, or subset of your main market.

Take a look at the illustration below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see from the above Market > Niche > Subniche 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 take into account 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 the above keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Useful keyword research for category planning

(Use keyword research tools to help with 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 main keywords used throughout your site), and how you are going to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. aiming 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 grow your market share online.

If you need help with strategic online business areas like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide To Web Site 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 Your Post Categories

Publishing WordPress posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides site visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your web pages for search engines.

WordPress allows you to easily organize your posts with categories

(WordPress allows you to easily organize content using categories)

To access your WordPress Categories area, in the main menu of your administration area, choose Posts > Categories

Posts - Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …

Categories Panel

(WordPress Post Categories Area)

Here you can add, edit, and delete categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can improve your site’s SEO.

How To Add Post Categories

Post Categories screen - Add New Category area

(WP Post Categories panel – Add New Category)

To create a new category in WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example shown below:

Categories screen - Add New Category fields

(Categories screen – Add New Category fields)

  1. Name – Type 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 category-related sections of your site.
  2. Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a category. The slug can be different than 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 automatically create one for you using a lower case version of the category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website (explained further below).
  4. Description – Write a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with SEO. WordPress uses the category description you write here for the category pages “meta” description.

Click the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add the new category …

New category

(New category)

Repeat the above process to continue adding new categories …

Table of categories

(Categories list)

You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …

Hierarchical list of post categories

(Hierarchical list of post categories)

To create nested categories, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ pulldown menu …

Creating nested categories

(Create hierarchical categories in WordPress)

You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts  …

WordPress Post Categories feature - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Tip

To add a new category while creating or editing a post:

  1. Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
  2. Type your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
  3. Click on Add New Category

Post Categories section - Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories section – Add New Category)

Your new category will be added to your list …

New category added

(New post category added)

To learn how to create and edit a WordPress Post, see the tutorials below:

How To Delete WordPress Categories

Useful Information

Removing a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the default category (this is covered further below).

You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.

How To Delete An Individual Category

To remove single categories, hover over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click Delete to delete the category from your list …

Delete - Category

(Delete link – WordPress post category table menu)

A window will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to abort …

Click 'OK' to delete the category

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

Deleting WordPress 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 would like to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If there are too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Note

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected when categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, refer to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete A Post

To delete multiple categories, click on the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category items .

Next, go through the table and unselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.

Selecting/Deselecting Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

Once you have selected all of the category entries you would like to delete, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …

Select the 'Delete' option from the 'Bulk Actions' drop menu

(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu)

Click the ‘Apply’ button …

Bulk deleting categories

(Bulk deleting categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

Categories deleted

(’Categories deleted’ message)

Editing Post Categories In WordPress

To edit a post category, do this:

In your ‘Categories’ table, find the category that you would like to edit, then place your mouse over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

Category table - Edit link

(WordPress category table menu – Edit)

This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save your changes …

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ section)

You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit

Quick Edit

(WordPress post category table – Quick Edit)

Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …

Quick Edit screen

(Category menu – Quick Edit fields)

Useful Info

Changing the category slug will affect the URL of all posts assigned to 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 site is established.

Post Categories – Special Tip

In WordPress, all posts must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will assign your post to the default category “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' category

(’Uncategorized’ post category)

Info

The default category cannot be deleted.

Assigning posts to 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

(Publishing posts under the ‘uncategorized’ category is not recommended)

Instead of publishing unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more meaningful to your site visitors and optimized for search engines too.

Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit

Category Table: Uncategorized - Quick Edit Link

(Category table menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)

Change both 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 readers and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site readers and search engines)

Now, when 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

(SEO improved URLs)

Note: The above site has been configured to display search engine-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. To learn how to set up search engine-friendly URLs, go here: How To Change WordPress Permalinks

WordPress Categories – Additional Information

Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:

Multiple Categories

Every post in WordPress must be published under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to your posts …

WordPress posts can have multiple categories

(Posts can have multiple categories)

Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …

If using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category

(With multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)

Displaying Post Categories

Posts can be grouped together under categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Categories display in your posts)

Clicking on the category links will open a category archive page containing related content (see below).

You can also display category menus in your sidebar …

Display categories on your blog sidebar

(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)

Useful Information

Managing your categories is important. Depending on how many posts and categories are published on your site, you can end up with a really long category list …

Managing your categories is important

(WordPress categories widget)

If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by listing categories using a drop menu …

Use a dropdown category menu

(Categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)

For a detailed tutorial on adding sidebar widgets, go here: Configuring Widgets On The WordPress Sidebar

When a visitor selects a category from the menu …

Select a category from the drop menu

(Select a category from the dropdown menu)

… An archive page displays the posts in that category …

Category archive page

(Category archive page)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your admin area, go to Post > Categories and select a category to view. Place your mouse over the category name and click the ‘View’ link …

View link - Category

(View)

Let’s take a look at some other features of categories worth knowing about.

Post Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort categories by name by clicking on the triangle icon …

Sort categories by name

(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 chosen (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …

Sorting categories in the Categories table

(Table of categories)

WP Categories – Search Features

You can search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Search Categories

(Category Search)

Your Categories Table can be split into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Category Pages)

To select how many categories to display per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options Tab)

Input 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’). Click the ‘Apply’ button to save your settings …

Screen Options - Categories options

(Screen Options Tab – Categories)

Categories – Grouping Features

In the Category screen, the Count column lists the number of posts assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

Category screen - Post count

(Table of Categories – Post count column)

Posts assigned to the category will display in your Posts Table

Posts grouped by category - Posts Table

(Posts Table – Grouping posts by category)

WordPress Post 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 link

(Convert categories to tags)

This will take you to the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

To learn more about Post Tags, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Configure And Use Tags In WP Posts

Categories – Plugins

WordPress has a number of great plugins that can help manage and enhance your 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 in a membership site) …

Membership plugins can protect content in post categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories)

Certain plugins will add new fields to your Table of Categories …

Use plugins to enhance the functionality of your Table of Categories

(Plugins can extend the functionality of your Categories Table)

Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-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 Relevant Keywords For Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the your title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Europe – 10 Memorable Kayaking Adventures“.

Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

Every time you add a new article or post to your website or blog, remember to select the correct category box before publishing your post …

Select a post category to file your post under

(Add/Edit WordPress Post - 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  …

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories' SEO

(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories’ SEO)

The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins

(Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up and managing WordPress post categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your website organized, easier to manage, and make it easier for your site visitors to find what they are looking for and for search engines  to better index your content.

How To Set Up And Use Categories In WP Posts

***

"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.