WordPress categories can help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories also helps search engines to better index your WordPress site.
Learn how to set up categories in WordPress in this step-by-step tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
By default, WordPress post URLs 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 let you display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
You can have the post URL look like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then do so now before configuring your post categories.
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on configuring and using permalinks, go here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: Create A List Of Topics
Maintaining 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, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will publish on your website. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.
We have written a detailed tutorial about website planning here: A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For 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 very important in terms of establishing your web site as an online authority that visitors will want to come back repeatedly to and/or refer other people to.
Let’s say, for example, 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 Planning
- Marriage Vows
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on building your authority in a smaller 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 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 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 monthly searches for each of the above keywords …
(Google Keyword Planner – Useful keyword research for category planning)
When planning your 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 to a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the entire “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a narrow niche or microniche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to grow your business online.
If you need help with strategic online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: The Web Site Planning Process: A Basic Blueprint 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 convert your keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress site.
Step 4: Set Up Post Categories
Saving posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site for search engines.
(WordPress lets you easily organize posts with categories)
To access your Categories section, in your WordPress Dashboard, choose Posts > Categories …
(Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
This area lets you create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.
Adding WordPress Post Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category area)
To add a new post category to WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as described below:
(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category area 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 category-related sections of your website.
- Slug – The “slug” are 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.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your website.
- Description – Add a brief category description 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 post 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 …
(Create a hierarchical list of categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop-down menu …
(Create nested categories in WordPress)
You can also add new categories while creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories feature – Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Enter in your new category name (and choose an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
The new category will become instantly available …
(New category added)
Learn how to add and edit WordPress posts here:
Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts that were assigned to deleted categories 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 Single Categories
To delete single categories, place your mouse over the category and click Delete …
(Deleting single categories)
A message will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to abort …
(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. product manufacturers), and you would like to consolidate posts to a fewer number of categories. If there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.
Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected by deleting unwanted categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, go to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A WordPress Post
To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category items on the page.
Next, go through the table and unselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
After ticking all of the entries to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …
(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu)
Click Apply …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The selected categories will be deleted …
To edit a category in WordPress, do the following:
Go to your ‘Categories’ panel, find the item that you would like to edit, then hover over the category title, and click Edit …
(Edit – Category table)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Edit the category fields, and click Update to save the details …
(‘Edit Category’ screen)
You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse 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 Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit screen)
Changing the category slug will change 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, 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.
WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tip
All posts must be assigned to a category in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will assign your post automatically to “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 posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your site readers and optimize it better for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
Change 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 a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site users and search engines)
Now, when new 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 search engine-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. If you need help setting up SEO-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks
WordPress Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be published under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …
(Posts can be published under multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(With multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying WordPress Categories
Posts can be grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open an archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
You can also show a category menu in the sidebar …
(Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on how many categories and posts are published on your site, you can end up with a long category list …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you have many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a dropdown menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop menu)
If you need help with adding sidebar widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Add Widgets To Your Blog Sidebar
When a visitor selects a category from the dropdown list …
(Select a category from the dropdown menu)
… An archive page displays the posts in that category …
(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)
WordPress Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you want to see. Place your mouse over the category name and click the ‘View’ link …
Let’s take a look at some other features of categories .
WordPress Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort categories by name by clicking on the triangle icon next to the title …
(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.) …
(Sort categories in the Categories table)
Categories – Searching Features
Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
If you have loads of categories, WordPress divides these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
To select how many categories per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
Input the number of categories per page you would like to display in the Category Table 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’, etc.), and click Apply to update your settings …
(Screen Options – Categories settings)
WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
In the Category Table, the Count column displays the number of posts assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count)
A list of all posts assigned to that category will display in your 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 …
(Convert categories to tags)
This brings you to the Tools > Import screen …
(Tools > Import screen – Categories and Tags Converter feature)
To learn more about using Tags, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Configure And Use Post Tags
Categories – Plugins
WordPress has a number of great plugins to manage and enhance your post 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 help protect content in categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Enhance the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)
Step 5 – Use WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search-friendly URLs helps to improve 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 tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your the title of your post, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves clickthrough rates.
So, for example, if writing a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Essential Survival Tools Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.
Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Categories
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to tick the correct category box before publishing your post …
(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)
Use An 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 optimize your categories)
The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up and managing your WordPress categories correctly. Following these simple steps will help keep your WordPress 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 better 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