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.

How To Configure Categories In PostsWordPress post categories can help to make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Adding categories not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.

In this tutorial, you will learn about adding, editing & deleting WordPress categories.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

By default, WordPress URLs aren’t search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress categories, you will first need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.

Permalinks let you display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=7067

You can have the same post URL look like this:

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

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

To learn more about configuring and using permalinks, go here: Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: List Your Topics

Maintaining content organized is very 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.

The first step, therefore, is to plan what kind of broad “topics” you will publish on your site. These can be topics related to your niche, your business, and even your industry.

Important

If you need help with website planning, go here: Planning Your Website: A Comprehensive Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that you believe your visitors, prospects, and clients should be better educated or informed about. This is very important in terms of establishing your site as an “authority” that online visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or valuable content like 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 the following:

  • Marriage Celebrant FAQs
  • Marriage Celebrant Services
  • Wedding Tips
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • etc.

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Headings

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on trying to establish your authority in a niche, or segment 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 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 choosing the keywords you would use as a top-level category to file your posts under, it’s a good idea to consider 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 sample keywords …

Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning

(Keyword research can help you with category planning)

When planning your main topic categories, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (like the keywords that will be used throughout your content), and how you are going to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. aiming to dominate the “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 increase your business online.

For tutorials on online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For 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 post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Categories

Publishing WordPress posts under carefully planned categories helps keep your content organized, provides site visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site content for search engines.

Organize posts using categories

(Organize content using categories)

To access your Categories area, log into your admin section and select Posts > Categories

Posts - Categories

(WP Posts Menu – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

Categories Section

(Categories Section)

This section lets you create, edit, and delete categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can help to optimize your site for search engines.

How To Add Categories To WordPress

Categories panel - Add New Category

(Categories panel – Add New Category section)

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

WP Post Categories panel - Add New Category area fields

(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category 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 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 specific category. Your slug can be different from 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.
  4. Description – Write 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 your category pages “meta” description.

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

New post category added

(New category added)

Repeat the above process to keep creating new categories …

Categories table

(List of categories)

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

Hierarchical list of categories

(Hierarchical list of post categories)

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

Adding nested categories

(Creating hierarchical categories in WordPress)

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

Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories feature – Add New Category)

Useful Tip

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

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

Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)

Your new category will become instantly available …

New post category added

(New category added)

To learn how to create or edit WordPress posts, see the tutorials below:

How To Delete Categories

Useful Information

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

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting Single Categories

To delete categories individually, place your mouse over the category you would like to delete and click Delete

Category table - Delete

(Deleting single categories)

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

Click 'OK' to proceed

(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 consolidate posts to a single category. If there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Info

Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected by deleting unwanted categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A WordPress Post

To bulk delete WordPress categories, click on the main check box 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. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.

Select/Deselect Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

Once you have ticked all the items you would like to delete, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

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

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

Click the ‘Apply’ button …

Deleting multiple categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

'Categories deleted' message

(’Categories deleted’ message)

How To Edit Post Categories

To edit a category in WordPress, do the following:

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

WordPress post category table menu - Edit

(Edit link – WordPress category table)

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

'Edit Category' section

(‘Edit Category’ section)

You can also edit information in categories using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you want to edit and click on Quick Edit

Category table - Quick Edit

(Quick Edit – WordPress post category menu)

Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …

Quick Edit screen

(Category menu – Quick Edit screen)

Note

Changing the category slug changes 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 already been indexed in the search engines.

WordPress Category – Special 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 to “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' post category

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Info

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

(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 users and optimize it better for search engines too.

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

Quick Edit Link

(Category menu: Uncategorized – 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 a little extra SEO boost …

Change 'Uncategorized' category to something more meaningful to visitors and search engines

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

Now, when new 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

(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”. To learn how to set up SEO-friendly URLs, go here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple Post Categories

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

Posts can be published under multiple categories

(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)

If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below), 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

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

Displaying WordPress Post Categories

Posts are grouped together by categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.

You can display categories on your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Display categories in your posts)

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

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also show category menus in your sidebar …

Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar

(Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar)

Info

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 long category list …

Categories widget

(Categories widget)

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

Categories widget - Using a drop down menu

(Using a drop-down category menu)

If you need help with adding and configuring sidebar widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Use Widgets In WordPress

When a visitor selects a category from the dropdown menu …

Select a category from the drop-down menu

(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)

… An archive page displays posts in that category …

Posts can display in a category archive page

(Category archive page)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and select the category to see. Place your mouse over the item and click View

View - WordPress category table

(WordPress category menu – View)

Let’s take a look at some other features of post categories .

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

The Categories Table lets you sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the black triangle icon …

Sort categories by name

(Sort categories by 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, Description, etc.) …

Sort categories in the table of categories

(Sort categories in the Categories table)

Categories – Search Features

This feature is useful if you have 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 …

Category Search

(Category Search)

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

Table of Categories - Category Pages

(Category Pages)

You can set how many categories you would like displayed per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …

Screen Options Tab

(Screen Options)

Enter the number of categories per page 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’, etc.), and click the ‘Apply’ button to update your settings …

Screen Options - Categories settings

(Screen Options Tab – Categories)

WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features

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

Table of Categories - Post count

(Category screen – Post count)

All posts assigned to the category will display in your Posts Table

Table of Posts - Posts grouped by category

(Table of Posts – Grouping posts by category)

Categories – Tools

To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter feature found below your list of Categories …

Category to Tag converter link

(Convert categories to tags)

This opens the Tools > Import section …

Tools > Import section - Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

We have written a detailed tutorial on how to use WordPress post tags here: How To Set Up And Use WordPress Tags

WordPress Categories – Plugins

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

Membership plugins can be used to protect content in specific categories

(Membership plugins can protect content in post categories)

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

Plugins can extend the functionality of your Categories Table

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

Step 5 – Use Post Categories Effectively

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

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

Choose Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the post title, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves clickthrough rates.

So, for example, a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 3 Survival Tools Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Posts Under The Correct Category

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

Select a post category to file your post under

(Add/Edit WordPress Post - 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  …

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories

(A plugin like Yoast SEO can help improve your categories’ SEO)

The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins

(Edit Category screen – Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing 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 what they are looking for and for search engines  to better index your pages.

Configuring And Using Post Categories In WordPress

***

"Your training is the best in the world! It is simple, yet detailed, direct, understandable, memorable, and complete." Andrea Adams, FinancialJourney.org