WordPress post categories can help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Adding categories not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
Learn how to configure categories in WordPress posts in this tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
Default WordPress post URLs aren’t very 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 your WordPress site to display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
The same post URL can look like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then do so now before configuring your post categories.
If you need help with configuring permalinks, see this step-by-step tutorial: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: List Your 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 significantly boost your site’s optimization for improved search engine results.
The first step, then, is to plan what kind of broad “topics” you will be publishing on your site. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, your industry, etc.
If you need help planning a website, go here: A Comprehensive Guide To Website Planning 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 very important in terms of establishing your web site as an “authority” that online visitors will want to come back again to learn from and/or refer other people to.
For example, let’s say 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 the following:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Planning
- Marriage Vows
- and so on …
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Topics
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Sports”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially if you’re just getting started. It’s better to try and establish your authority in a niche, or segment of your main market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
You can see in the above 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 “Weddings” market (another category).
When selecting 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 Google’s estimates for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of the sample keywords …
(Use keyword research tools to help 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 main keywords used throughout your site), and how you are going to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set a goal 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 very narrow niche or sub-niche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to increase your market share online.
For tutorials on strategic online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying 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 keywords into WordPress post categories.
Step 4: Set Up WordPress Categories
Publishing your WordPress posts under carefully planned categories helps keep your content organized and easy to find, provides web visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site content for search engines.
(WordPress lets you easily organize content using categories)
To access your WordPress Categories area, log into your WordPress dashboard, then go to your navigation menu and choose Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
This area lets you create, edit, and remove categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.
How To Add Categories
(WordPress Post Categories panel – Add New Category)
To create a new post category in WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as described below:
(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Use a short 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 then display in all 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 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 using a lower case version of your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website.
- Description – Add 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 Add New Category when done to add the new category …
(New post category added)
Repeat the above process to keep inserting new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Create nested post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ pulldown menu …
(Add nested post categories)
You can also add new categories when creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
To add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Type a new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
The new category will become instantly available …
(New category added)
Learn how to add and edit WordPress posts here:
How To Delete Categories
Removing a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, any 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.
Deleting Categories Individually
To remove categories individually, hover over the category you would like to delete and a menu will display containing various options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to delete the category from your list …
(WordPress post category table – Delete)
A message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete WordPress Categories In Bulk
Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing a large number of categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you would like to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. 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 may be affected when categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, refer to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete WordPress Posts
To bulk delete WordPress categories, click on the main check box in the header row. This will select all category items .
Next, go through the table and untick the box next to any 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 entries you would like to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …
(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)
Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
Editing WordPress Post Categories
To edit a WordPress post category, do this:
Go to your ‘Categories’ table, locate the category item that needs to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
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 a category using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you want to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(WordPress category table menu – Quick Edit)
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Category menu – Quick Edit fields)
Important: Modifying the category slug affects the URL of posts published under that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links pointing to posts published elsewhere.
For this reason, we recommend investing 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.
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 assign your post automatically to the default category “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ WordPress post category)
The default category cannot be deleted.
Publishing posts under 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 unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your site readers and optimized for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)
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” to give your site an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to visitors and search engines)
Now, when posts get published under 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 above site has been configured to display SEO-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. If you need help setting up search engine-friendly URLs, go here: How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Categories
Posts in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to your posts …
(Posts can have multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(With multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Posts are grouped together into 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 category links will open a category archive page containing other related content (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display categories in your sidebar …
(Display a category menu on your blog sidebar)
It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on the number of categories and posts published on your site, you can end up with a really long category menu …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you have many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by selecting the dropdown menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …
(Categories widget – Using a drop menu)
For more information about adding sidebar widgets, go here: How To Add Widgets To WordPress
When visitors select a category from the drop-down list …
(Select a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays the posts in that category …
(Category archive page)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you find the category whose Archive Page you would like to see. Place your mouse over the category name and click the ‘View’ link …
(WordPress category – View)
Let’s take a look at some other features of post categories worth knowing about.
Post Categories – Sorting Features
Your Table of Categories lets you sort categories by name by clicking on the black 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 selected (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …
(Sort categories in the Categories table)
Post 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 Table of Categories can be split into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Categories Table – Category Pages)
You can select how many categories per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Input the number of categories per page you would like to display 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’, etc.). Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories)
WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
In the Table of Categories, the Count column displays the number of posts assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Category posts)
All posts assigned to that category will display in your Table of Posts…
(Posts grouped by category – WordPress Posts Table)
WordPress Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter feature found below your Categories table …
(Category to Tag converter)
This will open the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter feature)
If you need help using Tags, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Using Tags In WordPress
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available many great plugins that can help you 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 are ordered in tables, lists, and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for a membership site) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Use plugins to expand the functionality of your Table of Categories)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly URLs helps to increase 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 from using categories.
Choosing Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the post title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.
So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Europe – The 3 Most Unforgettable Kayaking Adventures“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Categories
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to select a relevant category box before publishing the post …
(WordPress Post Categories module)
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 …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories’ SEO)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up and managing your WordPress post 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 what they are looking for and for search engines to better index your content.
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