WordPress categories can help to make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Filing posts under categories also helps to keep you content organized and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.
Learn about adding, editing & deleting categories in WordPress in this step-by-step tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
By default, WordPress post URLs 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 let you display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
The same post URL can display like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then do so first before configuring your categories.
To learn more about setting up and using permalinks, see this tutorial: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks
Step 2: Make A List Of Your Main Topics
Maintaining 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 to significantly boost your site’s optimization for better SEO.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about. These can be topics related to your niche, your products or services, your industry, etc.
If you need help with planning a website, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: A Money-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating your list of topics, 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 website as an online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or valuable content like ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.
For example, let’s say that you would like to start a website 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
- Commitment Ceremonies
- and so on …
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Business”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to focus on building your authority in a niche, or a subset of your market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
You can see from the above 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 file 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 monthly searches for each of the above keywords …
(Keyword research can help you with category planning)
When planning your main topic categories, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. aiming to dominate the 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 increase your business online.
For tutorials on strategic online business planning like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: The Website Planning Process Explained - A Basic Blueprint 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 turn these keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress site.
Step 4: Set Up Your Categories
Publishing WordPress posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized, provides web visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your web pages for search engines.
(Organize content using categories)
To access your Post Categories section, log into the Dashboard and select Posts > Categories …
(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
(Post Categories Section)
This panel lets you create, edit, and remove categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.
How To Add WordPress Post Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category)
To create a new post category in WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as shown below:
(WP Post Categories panel – Add New Category area fields)
- Name – Enter 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 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 site.
- 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 the category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add your new category …
(New post category)
Repeat the above process to keep adding new categories …
(Table of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating nested post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ pulldown menu …
(Creating nested categories)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories feature – 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 your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(Add New Category)
The new category will be added to your list …
(New category added)
To learn how to create or edit WordPress posts, see the tutorials below:
Deleting Categories In WordPress
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, 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 Categories Individually
To delete single categories, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to remove the category from your list …
(Deleting single categories)
A message will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
Deleting Categories In Bulk
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 want to consolidate posts to a fewer number of categories. If you have too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.
Important: Make sure that any posts that may 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: Editing And Deleting Posts In WordPress
To delete multiple categories, click the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category listings on the page.
Next, go through the list and deselect any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
After selecting all of the category entries to be deleted, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …
(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu)
Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The selected categories will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
How To Edit Categories
To edit a category, do the following:
In your ‘Categories’ table, locate the item that needs editing, then place your mouse over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(Edit – WordPress category table)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Make changes to the information in the category fields, and click Update to save your details …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
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 …
(WordPress post category menu – Quick Edit)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
Changing the category slug will affect 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 category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.
Post Category – Useful 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 automatically to “Uncategorized” …
(WordPress post category – ‘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 site readers and better for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category menu: Uncategorized – 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” in order to give your site an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your 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 …
(Use search engine-friendly URLs)
Note: The site used in the example above 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 search engine-friendly URLs on your site, go here: Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:
Multiple Post Categories
Posts in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to a post …
(Posts can have multiple categories)
Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Display categories in your posts)
Clicking on the category links opens an archive page containing category-related content (see below).
You can also display a category menu in the sidebar …
(Categories can display 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 long category list …
(WordPress categories widget)
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 dropdown menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a dropdown menu)
We have written a detailed tutorial about adding sidebar widgets here: How To Use Widgets In WordPress
When visitors select a category from the drop menu …
(Select a category from the drop down menu)
… An archive page displays posts in that category …
(Category archive page)
WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you want to see. Hover over the category title and click View …
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of categories worth knowing about.
Categories – Sorting Features
The Table of Categories allows you to 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, Count, etc.) …
(Categories table – Sorting categories)
Post Categories – Search Features
The search feature is useful if you have many categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
Your Table of Categories can be split into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
To select how many categories you would like displayed per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Enter the number of categories per page you would like to show 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’, etc.), and click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories)
WordPress Post 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 – Post count column)
All posts assigned to that category will display in the Posts Table…
(Table of Posts – Grouping posts by category)
Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter link found below your Table of Categories …
(Category to Tag converter feature)
This brings you to the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
We have written a detailed tutorial about WordPress post tags here: How To Set Up And Use WordPress Post Tags
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress has a number of great plugins to 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 way categories are ordered in lists and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can be used to protect content in specific categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some more tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the title of your post, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves click through rates.
So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Australia – 5 Insane Kayaking Locations“.
Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Every time you add a new article or post, remember to select the most relevant category box before publishing the 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 …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps optimize your categories)
The plugin also allows you to 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 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.
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