WordPress categories can help to 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 about adding, editing & deleting categories in WordPress in this tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
Default WordPress post web addresses are not very 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:
You can have the post URL display like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then do so first before configuring your categories.
To learn more about permalinks, refer to this tutorial: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks
Step 2: Create A List Of Topics
Keeping 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 search engines to better index your content.
The first step, then, is to carefully plan what kind of broad “topics” you will be publishing on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.
If you need help with website planning, go here: The Website Planning Process Explained: A Practical Primer For Business Owners
When creating a list of topics, remember to 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 business as an “authority” that online visitors will want to come back repeatedly to and/or refer to others.
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 Planning
- Commitment Ceremonies
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s better to try and build your authority in a niche, or a segment of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
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 Google’s estimates for the average number of monthly searches for each of the above keywords …
(Use keyword research tools to help with category planning)
When planning your category titles, it’s important to spend time thinking 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 goal that is too big (i.e. trying 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 market share online.
For tutorials on online business areas like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: How To Plan Your Business Web Site: A Basic Primer 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 these keywords into post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Your Post Categories
Saving posts under carefully planned categories helps to keep your content organized, provides site visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your web pages for search engines.
(Organize posts with categories)
To access your WordPress Categories section, in the Dashboard menu, click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
(Post Categories Screen)
In this section, you can create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can optimize your website for search engines.
Adding Post Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category)
To add a new category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as shown in the example below:
(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category fields)
- 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 website.
- Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a category. The 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 automatically create one for you 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 (explained further below).
- Description – Add 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 your new category …
(New post category)
Repeat this process to continue adding new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop-down menu …
(Add hierarchical categories to WordPress)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories module – Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Enter in your new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Post Categories box – Add New Category)
Your new category will become instantly available …
(New category added)
Learn how to add and edit WordPress posts here:
How To Remove Categories
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 default category (see further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete Single Categories
To delete categories individually, place your mouse over the category you would like to delete and click the ‘Delete’ link …
(WordPress category menu – Delete)
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 abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)
How To Delete 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 want to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.
Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected when categories are removed have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign categories in posts, go to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting WordPress Posts
To delete multiple 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 untick the box next to any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.
Once you have ticked all the items you would like to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …
(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)
Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Bulk delete categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be removed …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
To edit a category in WordPress, do this:
Go to your ‘Categories’ section, locate the item to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click Edit …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Edit the category fields, and click Update to save your details …
(‘Edit Category’ panel)
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 table menu – Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit screen)
Modifying the category slug affects the URL of all 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, we recommend investing time into planning your categories before publishing content, and avoid changing the category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your posts and pages have already been indexed in the search engines.
WordPress Post Categories – Special Tip
All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically assign your post to the default category “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ WordPress category)
The default category cannot be deleted.
Attributing posts to 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 meaningful to your visitors 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 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” in order to give your site a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to readers 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 …
(Use search engine-friendly 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”. If you need help setting up search engine-friendly URLs, go here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to your posts …
(Posts can be published under multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify a primary category …
(When using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying WordPress Post Categories
Posts can be grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Display categories on your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open a category archive page containing related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display category menus in the sidebar …
(Categories can display on your sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on how many posts and categories 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 drop-down menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)
We have written a detailed tutorial on adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: How To Add WordPress Widgets To Your Blog
When a visitor selects a category from the drop list …
(Selecting a category from the dropdown menu)
… An archive page displays all posts in that category …
(Posts can display in a category archive page)
WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select a category to view. Place your mouse over the item and click View …
Let’s take a look at some other features of post categories .
WordPress Categories – Sorting Features
The Table of Categories lets you 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.) …
(Categories table – Sorting categories)
WordPress Categories – Searching Features
The search 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 …
Your Categories Table can be split into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
To specify how many categories to display per page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …
Enter 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’, ’Count’, etc.), and click Apply …
(Screen Options – Categories settings)
WordPress Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count column)
A list of all the posts assigned to the selected category will display in your Table of Posts…
(Posts grouped by category)
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 feature)
This brings you to the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
To learn more about Post Tags, refer to this tutorial: Configuring WP Post Tags
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress has a number of great plugins to manage and enhance your 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 lists, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in membership sites) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Plugins can be used to enhance the functionality of your Table of Categories)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
To optimize your site further, here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.
Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles
As you create new content for your site, include the main keyword of your post in your post title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.
So, for example, an article on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Europe – The 10 Most Wild Kayaking Adventures“.
Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to tick a category box before publishing the post …
(WordPress Post Categories feature)
Use A WordPress SEO Plugin
An additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use a WordPress SEO plugin …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories’ SEO)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Optimize your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up 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 pages.
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