WordPress categories 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 search experience and your search engine rankings.
This tutorial helps you learn how to set up categories in posts.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
Default WordPress post web addresses aren’t search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of post categories, you will first need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.
Permalinks allow WordPress to display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
You can have the same post URL display like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then we recommend doing so first before configuring your post categories.
For help setting up and using permalinks, go here: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Step 2: List Your 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.
We recommend, therefore, first planning what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about and publishing on your website. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your services or products, or your industry.
If you need help with website planning, go here: A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
When creating your list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients should be better educated or informed about. This is very important in terms of establishing your business as an online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.
Let’s say, for example, that you would like 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 Tips
- Commitment Ceremonies
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Business”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on building your authority in a smaller niche, or micro niche of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see in the above hierarchy 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 larger “Weddings” market (another category).
When selecting 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 estimates from Google for the average number of monthly searches for each of the sample keywords …
(Google Keyword Planner – Keyword research for category planning)
When planning your category topics, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you can control (like the main keywords used throughout your site), and how you are going to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set a strategic objective that is too big (i.e. aiming to dominate the entire “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a narrow niche or sub-niche, 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 areas like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Practical Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring 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 Your WordPress Categories
Saving WordPress posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized and easy to find, provides your visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.
(Organize posts by categories)
To access your Categories area, log into your WordPress admin section, then go to your navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
(WordPress Post Categories Area)
Here you can add, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can optimize your website or blog for search engines.
How To Add Post Categories
(WordPress Post Categories panel – Add New Category)
To create a new post category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example below:
(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category 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 category. The 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 the category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories 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 SEO. WordPress uses the category description you write here for the category pages “meta” description.
Click Add New Category when done to add your new category …
(New post category added)
Repeat this process to continue creating new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Create a hierarchical list of post categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ dropdown menu …
(Add nested categories)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
If you need to add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Type in your new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if required),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
The new category will be added to your list …
(New category added)
Learn how to add and edit posts in WordPress here:
How To Remove Post Categories In WordPress
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts that were assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (see further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete Single Categories
To remove single categories, hover over the category you would like removed and click the ‘Delete’ link …
(WordPress category table menu – Delete link)
A window will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete 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 consolidate posts to a single category. If there are 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 will be affected when unnecessary categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting Posts
To delete multiple categories, click on the main check box in the header row. This will select all category listings .
Next, go through the list and untick the box next to 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 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)
Next, click Apply …
(Bulk deleting categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be removed …
How To Edit Categories
To edit a post category, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ section, locate the category that needs to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(Edit – Category table)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save the changes …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Quick Edit – Category table menu)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
Important: Modifying the category slug will affect the URL of all posts assigned for 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 – Useful Tip
In WordPress, all posts must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically attribute your post to “Uncategorized” …
The default category cannot be deleted.
Publishing posts under 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 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 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” to give your site a little extra SEO boost …
(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 …
(Use SEO-friendly 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 search engine-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: How To Change WordPress Permalinks
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
Every post in WordPress must be published under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …
(WordPress posts can have 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 Categories
Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open a category archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
You can also display categories in your sidebar …
(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of categories and posts published on your site, you can end up with a very long category menu …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a drop menu …
(Using a dropdown category menu)
If you need help adding and configuring sidebar widgets, refer to this tutorial: How To Use Widgets In WordPress
When a visitor selects a category from the list …
(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)
… An archive page displays the posts in that category …
(Posts can display in a category archive page)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and select a category to display. Hover over the category title and click the ‘View’ link …
Let’s take a look at some other features of WordPress categories .
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) 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 rearranged according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …
(Sort categories in the Categories table)
Categories – Search Features
You can search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Search Categories Feature)
Your Categories Table can be split into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
(Categories Table – Category Pages)
You can specify how many categories you would like displayed per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Type in the number of categories per page to display in the Table of Categories 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’, ‘Count’). Click the ‘Apply’ button to update your settings …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories)
WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
In the Categories Table, the Count column lists the number of posts assigned to each category. To see these posts, click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Category screen – Count column)
Posts assigned to the selected category will display in your Posts Table…
(WP Posts Table – Grouping posts by category)
WordPress Categories – Tools
You can convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter feature found below your Table of Categories …
(Convert categories to tags)
This will open the Tools > Import section …
(Tools > Import screen – Categories and Tags Converter)
To learn more about WordPress tags, see this tutorial: How To Configure And Use Post Tags
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available many great plugins to help 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 (useful for membership sites) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Use plugins to expand the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.
Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles
In your content strategy, include the main keyword of your post in 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, an article on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Asia – The 5 Most Insane Kayaking Locations“.
Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Every time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to tick a relevant category box before publishing your post …
(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 an SEO plugin for WordPress …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories)
You can 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 your WordPress categories correctly. 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.
"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum