Using WordPress Post Categories

Learn what categories are, how to use categories to improve your content navigation and SEO, and how to add, edit, and delete WordPress categories.

How To Set Up And Use Categories In PostsWordPress post categories 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.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to add, edit & delete WordPress categories.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

Default WordPress post URLs are not search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of post categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.

Permalinks allow your WordPress site to display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=9574

You can have the same post URL look like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/romantic-destinations/9-best-honeymoon-resorts

If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your categories.

We have written a detailed tutorial about permalinks here: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main Topics

Keeping 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 to boost your site’s optimization for improved SEO.

We recommend, therefore, first planning what kind of broad “topics” you will publish on your site. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your business, your industry, etc.

Tip

We have created a detailed tutorial on website planning here: How To Plan Your Business Website - A Money-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical 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 important in terms of establishing your web site as an online authority that visitors will want to come back again to learn from and/or refer to others.

For example, let’s say that you want 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
  • Marriage Vows
  • etc.

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Headings

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to try and establish your authority in a smaller niche, or micro niche of your main market.

Take a look at the example below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see from the above Market > Niche > Subniche 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 larger “Weddings” market (another category).

When deciding on 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 monthly searches for each of these keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Useful keyword research tool for category planning

(Google Keyword Planner – Useful keyword research tool for category planning)

When planning your main topic categories, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the main keywords used throughout your site), and how to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating 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 market share online.

If you need help with online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: Planning A Website - A Useful Guide For Business Owners

After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to turn these keywords into post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Your Categories

Saving your posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides your visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.

Organize content with categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize your posts with categories)

To access your Post Categories section, log into the WordPress Dashboard and choose Posts > Categories

Posts - Categories

(Posts Menu – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ panel …

Categories Panel

(Post Categories Panel)

Here you can add, edit, and delete categories, including inserting category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.

How To Add WordPress Categories

Categories screen - Add New Category

(Categories panel – Add New Category)

To add a new category, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example below:

WordPress Post Categories screen - Add New Category fields

(Categories screen – Add New Category fields)

  1. 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.
  2. Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a category. The slug can be different than 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.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your site.
  4. Description – Write a brief description of your category 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 the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add the new category …

New post category

(New post category)

Repeat this process to continue inserting new categories …

Table of categories

(Table of categories)

You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …

Creating nested post categories

(Hierarchical list of post categories)

To create a nested category, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop-down menu …

Create nested categories

(Add hierarchical categories to WordPress)

You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts  …

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Useful Tip

If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:

  1. Click on +Add New Category,
  2. Enter your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if required),
  3. Click the ‘Add New Category’ button …

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

The new category will instantly become available …

New post category added

(New post category added)

If you need help creating and editing a Post in WordPress, see these tutorials:

Removing Categories

Important

Deleting a category does not delete 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 remove a specific category, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing various options. Click Delete to delete the category from your list …

How to delete an individual category

(Category table menu – Delete)

A message will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to stop …

Click 'OK' to proceed

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

How To Delete Multiple WordPress Categories

Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing many different 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 can be useful.

Disclaimer

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected by deleting categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, refer to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post

To delete multiple categories, click the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all items on the page.

Next, go through the table and unselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.

Selecting/Deselecting Categories

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

After selecting all the category entries you want to delete, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …

Choose the 'Delete' option from the 'Bulk Actions' dropdown menu

(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)

Click the ‘Apply’ button …

Deleting multiple categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

Editing Categories In WordPress

To edit a WordPress post category, do the following:

Go to your ‘Categories’ screen, find the item that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click Edit

Edit

(Category table menu – Edit)

This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Edit the category fields, and click Update to save your new details …

'Edit Category' panel

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you want to edit and click on Quick Edit

WordPress post category table menu - Quick Edit

(Quick Edit – Category table)

Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …

Category menu - Quick Edit fields

(Category table – Quick Edit screen)

Important

Modifying 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 site is established.

WordPress Category – Special 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 a default category called “Uncategorized” …

WordPress post category - 'Uncategorized'

(Category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Info

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

(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 better for search engines too.

Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit

Category Table Menu: Uncategorized - Quick Edit

(Category table menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)

Change 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” in order to give your site an extra SEO boost …

Change 'Uncategorized' category to something more meaningful to your site visitors and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to site visitors and search engines)

Now, when posts get published using the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …

Use SEO-friendly URLs

(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”. For more details on how to set up search engine-friendly URLs, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Categories – Additional Information

Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:

Multiple WordPress Categories

Every post in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …

Posts can be published under multiple categories

(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you 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

(With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)

Displaying Categories

Posts can be grouped together under categories, making it easier for your visitors to find topic-related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Display categories in your posts)

Clicking on category links will open an archive page containing related content (see below).

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display a category menu in the sidebar …

Display category menus on your WordPress sidebar

(Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar)

Useful Information

It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on how many categories and posts are published on your site, you can end up with a very long list of categories …

Managing your categories is important

(WordPress categories widget)

If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by selecting the drop-down menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …

Using a drop category menu

(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop down menu)

We have created a detailed tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: How To Add And Configure Widgets In Your WordPress Blog Sidebar

When a visitor selects a category from the list …

Select a category from the drop menu

(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)

… An archive page displays posts filed for that category …

Category archive page

(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)

WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and select a category to see. Hover over the item and click the ‘View’ link …

View link

(View – Category table menu)

Let’s take a look at some other useful features of categories .

Categories – Sorting Features

The Categories Table lets you sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the triangle icon …

Sort categories by name

(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.) …

Categories table - Sorting categories

(Table of categories)

Categories – Search Features

Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Category Search

(Post Categories – Category Search Feature)

Your Table of Categories can be divided into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Category Pages)

To specify how many categories per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …

Screen Options

(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’, ’Count’, etc.), and click the ‘Apply’ button to update your settings …

Screen Options - Categories

(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)

Categories – Grouping Features

In the Category screen, 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 Table - Post count

(Table of Categories – Category posts)

A list of posts assigned to that category will display in your Table of Posts

Grouping posts by category

(WP Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)

Post Categories – Tools

To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter tool found below your Table of Categories …

Category to Tag converter tool

(Convert categories to tags)

This brings up the Tools > Import screen …

Tools > Import section - Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

If you need help with Post Tags, go here: Configuring WordPress Tags

WordPress Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available a number of great plugins to help you 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 a membership site) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in specific categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Categories Table

(Plugins can enhance the functionality of your Table of Categories)

Step 5 – Using Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search-friendly URLs helps to improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.

Here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.

Choosing Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

In your content strategy, try to 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, a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Accessories You Will Need For Your Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Posts Under The Correct Post Category

Each time you add a new article or post to your website or blog, remember to select the most relevant category box before publishing the post …

Add/Edit WordPress Post - Post Categories

(Choose a category to save your post under)

Use An SEO Plugin

One more 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 improve your categories' SEO

(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps improve your categories’ SEO)

The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Optimize your categories with SEO plugins

(Edit Category screen – Optimize your categories with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up and managing WordPress categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your 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 content.

Add, Edit & Delete Categories In Posts

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)