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Using WordPress Post Categories

WordPress post categories help to make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories also helps search engines to better index your WordPress site.

Learn how to add, edit, and delete categories in WordPress posts in this step-by-step tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Default WordPress post URLs are not 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 SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=269

You can have the post URL display like this:

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

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

For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on configuring permalinks, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

Step 2: Create A List Of Topics

Maintaining 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, first planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.

We have created a detailed tutorial about 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 you believe your visitors, prospects, and clients need to be better educated or informed about. This is important in terms of establishing your business as an online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or valuable content like ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer to others.

Let’s say, for example, that you want 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:

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Headings

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to try and build your authority in a niche, or segment (i.e. subniche) of your market.

Take a look at the example below …

You can see in the above hierarchy 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 “Weddings” market (another category).

When selecting the keywords you would use as a top-level category to publish 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 …

(Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning)

When planning category names, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (like the main keywords used throughout your content), and how you are going to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set a strategic objective that is too big (i.e. aiming to dominate the entire “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 online business areas like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see 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 WP Categories

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

(Organize posts by categories)

To access your WordPress Categories area, in your Dashboard menu, select Posts > Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

(Categories Section)

This section allows you to create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.

Adding Categories

(Categories screen – Add New Category section)

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

(Categories panel – Add New Category area fields)

  1. Name – Enter 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 website.
  2. 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 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.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your site (explained further below).
  4. Description – Write 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 your new category …

(New category added)

Repeat the above process to keep inserting new categories …

(List of categories)

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

(Nested categories)

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

(Creating hierarchical categories in WordPress)

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

(Post Categories box – Add New Category)

If you need to add a new category while creating or editing a post:

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

(Add New Category)

The new category will instantly become available …

(New post category added)

Learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress here:

Deleting Categories

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

You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.

How To Delete Categories Individually

To remove a specific category, hover over the category and click Delete

(Delete link)

A warning message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to stop …

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

How To Delete Multiple WordPress Categories

Let’s say that you import product data into your 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 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, see this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete WordPress Posts

To delete multiple categories, click the main check box in the header row. This will select all items on the page.

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

(Select/Deselect Categories)

Once you have ticked all the category entries to be deleted, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu)

With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the dropdown menu, click the ‘Apply’ button …

(Deleting multiple categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

(’Categories deleted’ message)

How To Edit WordPress Post Categories

To edit a category, do the following:

In your ‘Categories’ section, find the category to be edited, then hover over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

(Category – Edit link)

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

(‘Edit Category’ section)

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

(Quick Edit link – Category)

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

(Category – Quick Edit screen)

Important: Modifying 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 category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.

WordPress Post Categories – Useful 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 automatically to a default category called “Uncategorized” …

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

The default category cannot be deleted.

Having posts attributed 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)

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

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

(Category menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)

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 a little extra SEO boost …

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

Now, when posts are published under the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …

(Use search engine-friendly 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, go here: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

WordPress Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple 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 have multiple categories)

If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below), you can 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 into categories, making it easier for your visitors to find topic-related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

(Categories display on your posts)

Clicking on category links opens an archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display a category menu in the sidebar …

(Categories can display on your WordPress 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 very 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 selecting the drop menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …

(Categories widget – Using a dropdown menu)

If you need help adding sidebar widgets, go here: How To Add And Configure Widgets In The WordPress Sidebar Area

When a visitor selects a category from the list …

(Selecting a category from the drop-down menu)

… An archive page displays all the posts listed for that category …

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll down the Category Table until you locate a category to view. Hover over the category title and click the ‘View’ link …

(View)

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

WordPress Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the little 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, Slug, etc.) …

(Table of categories)

Categories – Search Features

This feature is useful if your site has a large number of categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

(Search Categories Feature)

If your site has lots of categories, WordPress splits these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

(Categories Table – Category Pages)

You can select how many categories to display per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …

(Screen Options)

Type in the number of categories per page to show in the Table of Categories 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’), and click Apply

(Screen Options – Categories)

Post Categories – Grouping Features

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

(Category Table – Post count column)

Posts assigned to the category will display in the Table of Posts

(WordPress Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)

Categories – Tools

Convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter tool found below your Categories table …

(Category to Tag converter tool)

This brings you to the Tools > Import section …

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

If you need help using Post Tags, go here: How To Configure And Use WordPress Tags

Categories – Plugins

WordPress has many great plugins that can help you 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 areas of your site, rearrange the way categories are ordered in menus, lists, and tables, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …

(Membership plugins can help protect content in categories)

Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …

(Plugins can be used to expand the functionality of your Table of Categories)

Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively

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

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

Choose Keyword-Relevant 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 page for search engines, and improves click-through rates.

So, for example, a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Essential Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

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

(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories section)

Use An SEO Plugin

One additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use an SEO plugin  …

(A plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories)

The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …

(Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of 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 pages.

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