WordPress categories can help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Filing posts under categories also helps to organize your content and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.
Learn about adding, editing & deleting WordPress categories in this tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your 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 allow your WordPress site to display SEO-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 configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your post categories.
We have created a detailed tutorial on configuring permalinks here: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: Create A List Of Topics
Keeping your site’s 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.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about and publishing on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, or your industry.
We have written a detailed tutorial about website planning here: The Website Planning Process Explained - A Basic Guide For Business Owners
When creating a list of topics, include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients need to be better educated or informed about. This is very important in terms of establishing your business as an “authority” that online visitors will want to come back repeatedly to and/or refer other people to.
For example, let’s say 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
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is very difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to try and build your authority in a smaller niche, or a subniche of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see in the above Market > Niche > Subniche 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 “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 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 can help you with category planning)
When planning your main topic categories, 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 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 business online.
For tutorials on strategic online business areas like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: The Website Planning Process Explained - A Money-Saving Guide 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 convert these into post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Your Post Categories
Saving your WordPress 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 content by categories)
To access your WordPress Categories section, log into your WordPress site, then go to the navigation menu and select Posts > Categories …
(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
In this panel, you can create, edit, and delete categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.
Adding Post Categories To WordPress
(Post Categories panel – Add New Category)
To add a new category, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example below:
(Categories screen – Add New Category area fields)
- Name – Type a concise 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 the category-related sections of your website.
- Slug – The “slug” are 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 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.
- 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 your category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add the new category …
Repeat the above process to keep adding new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Hierarchical list of post categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ dropdown menu …
(Adding nested categories to WordPress)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories box – 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 select a ‘parent’ category if required),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Post Categories module – Add New Category)
The new category will instantly become available …
(New post category added)
If you need help creating and editing WordPress posts, see the tutorials below:
How To Remove Post Categories
Removing a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts that were assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (see further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting Single Categories
To remove categories individually, hover over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click Delete to delete the category from your list …
(How to delete single categories)
A window will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete Multiple Categories
Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing a large number of categories (e.g. product manufacturers), 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 individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.
Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected when unwanted categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, refer to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete A Post In WordPress
To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main check box in the header row. This will select all category items .
Next, go through the table and deselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.
After selecting all the items you want to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …
(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu)
Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Bulk delete categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …
Editing WordPress Categories
To edit a WordPress post category, do this:
Go to your ‘Categories’ screen, locate the category to be edited, then place your mouse over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(WordPress post category menu – Edit)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Edit the details in the category fields, and click Update to save the changes …
(‘Edit Category’ panel)
You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Quick Edit link – WordPress post category menu)
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Category menu – Quick Edit fields)
Changing the category slug will affect the URL of posts published under 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 category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.
WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tip
All posts must be assigned to a category in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically assign your post to a default category called “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ post category)
The default category cannot be deleted.
Having posts assigned 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 posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your visitors and optimized for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)
Change both the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be 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 your 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 …
(SEO improved 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: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Post 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)
Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …
(If using multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying Post Categories
Posts can be grouped together under categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on the category links opens a category archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).
You can also display a category menu in your sidebar …
(Display a category menu on your blog sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on how many categories and posts are published on your site, you can end up with a really long category list …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a drop down menu …
(Using a drop-down category menu)
We have created a detailed tutorial on adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: Adding And Configuring Widgets On Your Sidebar
When a visitor selects a category from the drop menu …
(Select a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays all the posts filed for that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WP dashboard, go to Post > Categories and locate the category whose Archive Page you would like to view. Place your mouse over the category name and click the ‘View’ link …
(View link – WordPress category table menu)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of post categories .
WordPress Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and 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, Slug, etc.) …
(Sorting categories in the Categories table)
WP Categories – Search Features
To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Search Categories Feature)
If you have a lot of categories, WordPress divides these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
To set how many categories per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Edit the number of categories per page to show in the Category Table 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.). Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories options)
Categories – Grouping Features
In the Table of Categories, the Count column shows how many posts are assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Categories Table – Post count)
A list of posts assigned to that category will display in your Table of Posts…
(Grouping posts by category – WordPress Table of Posts)
Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter tool found below your Categories list …
(Category to Tag converter tool)
This opens the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
We have created a detailed tutorial on using Post Tags here: Using Tags In Posts
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available many great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 in membership sites) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Extend the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Use WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and post URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
To improve your results further, here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit when using categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For 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 page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.
So, for example, a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Essential Survival Tools Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to tick a category box before publishing your post …
(Choose a post category to file your post under)
Use An SEO Plugin
One 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 …
(Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up your WordPress categories correctly. Following these simple steps will help keep your website 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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