WordPress post categories help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
This tutorial helps you learn about using post categories.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
By default, post URLs in WordPress aren’t 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 search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
You can have the post URL display like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then we recommend doing so first before configuring your categories.
We have written a detailed tutorial on permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: Make 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.
The first step, then, is to carefully work out what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your niche, your products or services, or your industry.
To learn more about website planning, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: How To Plan A Website: A Basic Guide 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 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 to others.
For example, let’s say that you want to start a website or blog 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:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Locations
- Marriage Vows
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Titles
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Pets”, 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 subniche of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see from the above 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 “Weddings” market (another category).
When deciding on 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 these keywords …
(Use keyword research to help with category planning)
When planning category titles, it’s important to spend time thinking 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 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 business online.
For tutorials on strategic online business areas like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: Planning Your Small Business Website - A Money-Saving Guide 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 categories and add them to your WordPress website or blog.
Step 4: Set Up Categories
Saving your posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site 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 by categories)
To access your WordPress Post Categories section, in your admin area, click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
(Post Categories Area)
This panel lets you create, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.
Adding Post Categories To WordPress
(Post Categories panel – Add New Category section)
To create a new category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as shown below:
(Post Categories screen – Add New Category area fields)
- Name – Use 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.
- Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a specific category. The 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 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. Your category description will be used for the category pages “meta” description.
Click Add New Category when done to add the new category …
(New post category added)
Repeat this process to keep inserting new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ pulldown menu …
(Creating nested categories)
You can also add new categories when creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories box – 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 a new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(Post Categories section – Add New Category)
The new category will become instantly available …
(New post category added)
Learn how to create and edit a WordPress Post here:
Deleting WordPress Post Categories
Removing a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (see further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete Categories Individually
To delete categories individually, hover over the category and a menu will display containing various options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to remove the category from your list …
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 delete the category)
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 consolidate posts to a fewer number of categories. If there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.
Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected by deleting unnecessary categories 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 A WordPress Post
To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main check box in the header row. This will select all category entries .
Next, go through the list 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 category items to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …
(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu)
With ‘Delete’ selected in the drop menu, click Apply …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be removed …
How To Edit Categories
To edit a WordPress category, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ panel, find the item that needs editing, then hover over the category name, and click Edit …
(Edit link – Category)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Make changes to the information in the category fields, and click Update to save your changes …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you would like to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit screen)
Changing the category slug affects the URL of posts assigned to that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links to posts published elsewhere.
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.
Post Categories – Special 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 to a default category called “Uncategorized” …
(Category – ‘Uncategorized’)
The default category cannot be deleted.
Assigning posts 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 visitors and better for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
Change the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be 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” in order to give your site a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to site users 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 SEO-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. To learn how to set up SEO-friendly URLs on your site, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs
WordPress Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the 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 be published under multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(When using multiple post 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 topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display in your posts)
Clicking on the category links opens a category archive page containing category-related content (see below).
You can also list categories in your sidebar …
(Categories can display on your blog 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 long list of categories …
(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 …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)
We have written a detailed tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: How To Add Widgets To The WordPress Blog Sidebar
When a visitor selects a category from the drop down menu …
(Select a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays posts in that category …
(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)
WordPress Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and locate the category to view. Place your mouse over the item and click View …
(View – Category table)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of WordPress post categories .
WordPress Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort categories by name by clicking on the triangle icon next to the title …
(Sort by category 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 chosen (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …
(Table of categories – Sorting categories)
Categories – Searching Features
Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Search Categories Feature)
If you have a lot of categories, WordPress lets you split these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
You can specify how many categories you would like displayed per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Type in the number of categories per page you would like to show 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.). Click Apply to update your settings when done …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories)
Post Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Categories screen – Post count)
A list of posts assigned to the category will display in the Posts Table…
(Posts grouped by category)
Post Categories – Tools
Convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter feature found below your Categories table …
(Category to Tag converter)
This will open the Tools > Import screen …
(Tools > Import section – Categories and Tags Converter)
We have created a detailed tutorial on how to use Post Tags here: Using Tags In WordPress
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for membership sites) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Table of Categories)
Step 5 – Use Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and post URLs helps to improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit when using categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Post Titles
As you create new content for your site, try to include the main keyword of your post in 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 for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In America – 3 Remote Kayaking Locations“.
Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Each time you add a new article or post to your website or blog, remember to tick a relevant category box before publishing your post …
(Choose a post category to save your post under)
Use A WordPress 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 helps optimize your categories)
You can optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing your WordPress categories correctly. Following 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 better index your content.
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