WordPress categories help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Adding post 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 how to configure WordPress categories.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
Out of the box, WordPress post URLs aren’t 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 let you display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
The post URL can look like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so first before configuring your post categories.
We have created a detailed tutorial on permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main 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 searching for, but can also help search engines to better index your content.
The first step, therefore, is to carefully work out what kind of broad “topics” you will be publishing on your website. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.
If you need help with website planning, go here: Planning Your Web Site: A Practical Blueprint For Business Owners
When creating a list of topics, remember to 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 site as an “authority” that online 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 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 the following:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Planning
- Commitment Ceremonies
- and so on …
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Headings
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s better to try and establish your authority in a smaller niche, or a micro niche of your market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
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 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 online searches performed each month for each of the above keywords …
(Google Keyword Planner – Useful keyword research for 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 and gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. trying to dominate the online “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.
For tutorials on online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Basic 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 these into WordPress post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Your Categories
Publishing posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site for search engines.
(WordPress lets you easily organize your posts by categories)
To access your WordPress Categories section, in your main menu section of your WordPress admin, click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
In this screen, you can add, edit, and remove categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to optimize your website for search engines.
How To Add Categories To WordPress
(WordPress Post Categories panel – Add New Category area)
To create a new post category in WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as shown in the example below:
(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category section fields)
- Name – Type a short category name here, preferably one that uses 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 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. 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 using a lower case version of your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website (explained further below).
- Description – Write a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with search engine optimization. WordPress uses the category description you write here for your category pages “meta” description.
Click Add New Category to add your new category …
(New post category added)
Repeat this process to keep inserting new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating nested categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ pulldown menu …
(Adding nested post categories)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories section – Add New Category)
To add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Type your new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)
Your new category will be added to your list …
(New post category added)
To learn how to create or edit a Post in WordPress, see these tutorials:
Removing a category does not delete the 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 categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete Categories Individually
To delete single categories, hover over the category you would like to delete and a menu will display containing various options. Click Delete to delete the category from your list …
(Delete link – WordPress category)
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)
Deleting Multiple Categories
Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing a large number of categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you would like to reduce the number of existing categories by assigning your imported 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 when unnecessary categories are removed 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 bulk delete categories, click on the main check box in the header row. This will select all category items .
Next, go through the list and unselect 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 of the items you would like to delete, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu …
(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu)
Click Apply …
(Bulk delete categories)
The selected categories will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
How To Edit Post Categories In WordPress
To edit a category in WordPress, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ screen, find the category item to be edited, then hover over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save your details …
(‘Edit Category’ screen)
You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(WordPress post category menu – Quick Edit)
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Category – Quick Edit fields)
Changing the category slug changes the URL of all posts assigned to 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, we recommend investing time into planning your categories before publishing content, and avoid changing the post category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.
Post Categories – Useful Tip
In WordPress, every post must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically attribute your post to the default category “Uncategorized” …
(WordPress post category – ‘Uncategorized’)
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 readers and optimize it better for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category table: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)
Change both 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 site visitors 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 SEO-friendly URLs)
Note: The above site has been configured to display search engine-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. To learn how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
WordPress Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of post categories:
Multiple Post Categories
Every post in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …
(Posts can be published under multiple categories)
Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …
(With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying WordPress Post Categories
Posts can be grouped together by categories, making it easier for your visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Display categories on your posts)
Clicking on the category links opens an archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list a category menu in the sidebar …
(Display a category menu on your WordPress sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. 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 have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by listing categories using a drop menu …
(Use a drop-down category menu)
We have created a detailed tutorial on adding sidebar widgets here: Using WordPress Widgets
When visitors select a category from the menu …
(Select a category from the drop 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 from your admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll down the Category Table until you find a category to view. Place your mouse over the item and click the ‘View’ link …
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of WordPress categories worth knowing about.
Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort categories by name by clicking on the little 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.) …
Categories – Search 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 loads of categories, WordPress divides these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Categories Table – Category Pages)
You can set how many categories per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Input the number of categories per page 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’, ‘Count’). Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)
Categories – Grouping Features
In the Table of Categories, the Count column lists the number of posts assigned to each category. To see these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Categories screen – Count column)
A list of posts assigned to that category will display in your Table of Posts…
(Grouping posts by category)
WordPress Post Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter function found below your Table of Categories …
(Convert categories to tags)
This will open the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter feature)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about Tags, go here: Adding, Editing, And Deleting Tags
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress has many great plugins to help 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 for membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can be used to protect content in post categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Use plugins to enhance the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some more tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.
Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the title of your post, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, and improves click-through rates.
So, for example, if writing a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 10 Essential Survival Tools Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.
Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Categories
Each time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to select the most relevant category box before publishing your post …
(Select a category to save your post under)
Use A WordPress SEO Plugin
One more 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 lets you optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up 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 content.
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