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Using WordPress Post Categories

WordPress categories 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.

This tutorial helps you learn about configuring categories.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

By default, post web addresses in WordPress aren’t 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 SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=3491

You can have the post URL display like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/romantic-destinations/top-honeymoon-resorts

If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then do so first before configuring your post categories.

To learn more about setting up and using permalinks, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Step 2: List Your Main Topics

Maintaining your site’s content organized is 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 boost your site’s optimization for better search engine results.

The first step, therefore, is to carefully plan what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your services or products, or your industry.

We have written a detailed tutorial on website planning here: A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating a list of topics, include areas of your business that 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 subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.

Let’s say, for example, that you would like 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:

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Headings

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to establish your authority in a smaller niche, or a sub niche of your market.

Take a look at the illustration 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 “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 Google’s estimates for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of the sample keywords …

(Use keyword research to help with category planning)

When planning your main 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 content), and how to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set too big a 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 microniche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to grow your market share online.

For tutorials on online business planning like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

Once you have mapped out your top-level topics and figured out what your main keywords are, the next step is to turn your keywords into WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Categories

Saving WordPress posts under carefully planned categories that 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.

(Organize posts by categories)

To access your Categories area, go to your Dashboard and select Posts > Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

(Categories Panel)

In this panel, you can create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can optimize your website or blog for search engines.

How To Add Categories

(WP Post Categories panel – Add New Category)

To create a new category, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as shown in the example below:

(Categories screen – Add New Category area 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 the category-related sections of your site.
  2. Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a 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 the category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website.
  4. Description – Write 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 this process to continue inserting new categories …

(Categories table)

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

(Creating a hierarchical list of post categories)

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

(Create hierarchical categories)

You can also add new categories while creating or editing posts  …

(WordPress Post Categories section – Add New Category)

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

  1. Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
  2. Type a new category name (and choose an optional ‘parent’ category),
  3. Click the ‘Add New Category’ button …

(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)

The new category will instantly become available …

(New post category added)

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

How To Delete Categories

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

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting A Single Category

To remove an individual category, place your mouse over the category you want to delete and a menu will display containing various options. Click Delete to delete the category from your list …

(Delete link – Category table menu)

A warning message will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

How To Delete Multiple WordPress Categories

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 one at a time, 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 post categories, go to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete A Post In WordPress

To delete multiple WordPress categories, click the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category entries on the page.

Next, go through the list 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)

Once you have ticked all of the items to be deleted, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …

(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)

With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the drop menu, click Apply

(Deleting multiple categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

(Categories deleted)

How To Edit Categories

To edit a category in WordPress, do this:

In your ‘Categories’ section, find the category that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click Edit

(Edit link – WordPress post category table menu)

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

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

You can also edit information in a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you want to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

(WordPress post category – Quick Edit link)

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

(Quick Edit fields)

Modifying the category slug will affect the URL of posts assigned for that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links 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.

WordPress Category – Useful Tip

In WordPress, every post must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically assign your post to “Uncategorized” …

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

The default category cannot be deleted.

Publishing posts under 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.

Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

(Quick Edit link)

Change the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be generally 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 an extra SEO boost …

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your visitors 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 above site has been configured to display search engine-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. For more details on how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Categories

In WordPress, posts must be published under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …

(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)

Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …

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

Displaying Categories

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

You can display categories on your posts …

(Categories display on your posts)

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

You can also display categories in your sidebar …

(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)

Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a very long category menu …

(Managing your categories is important)

If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by listing categories using a drop-down menu …

(Categories widget – Using a dropdown menu)

If you need help with adding and configuring sidebar widgets, go here: How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In Your Website

When a visitor selects a category from the menu …

(Selecting a category from the dropdown menu)

… An archive page displays all the posts in that category …

(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you locate a category to see. Hover over the item and click View

(View)

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

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the triangle icon …

(Sort categories by 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 selected (i.e. Name, Count, etc.) …

(Sorting categories in the Categories table)

WordPress Categories – Searching Features

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

(Category Search)

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

(Categories Table – Category Pages)

You can set how many categories per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …

(Screen Options Tab)

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’, ‘Count’). Click the ‘Apply’ button …

(Screen Options – Categories options)

Categories – Grouping Features

In the Categories Table, the Count column lists how many posts are assigned to each category. To see these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

(Table of Categories – Post count)

A list of all posts assigned to that category will display in the Posts Table

(Posts grouped by category)

WordPress 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 section …

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

If you need help with Post Tags, go here: How To Set Up And Use Tags In Posts

WordPress Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress has a number of great plugins to help you 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 areas of your site, rearrange the order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …

(Use membership plugins to protect content in categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

(Use plugins to enhance the functionality of your Categories Table)

Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-friendly URLs helps to improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.

To further improve your results, here are some tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.

Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

When creating content for your site, always try to include the main keyword of your post in the post title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, if writing a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.

Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

Every time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to tick a category box before publishing your post …

(Add/Edit WordPress Post - Post Categories)

Use A WordPress SEO Plugin

One 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 can help optimize your categories)

The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …

(Edit Category screen – Optimize your categories with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up and managing WordPress 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 what they are looking for and for search engines  to index your content.

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)