WordPress categories can help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help to organize your content and allow search engines to better index your WordPress site.
Learn about configuring categories in WP posts in this tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
Default WordPress post URLs aren’t search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of 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 same post URL display like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your post categories.
To learn more about configuring and using permalinks, see this step-by-step tutorial: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks
Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main 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 searching for, but can also help to significantly boost your site’s optimization for better search engine results.
We recommend, therefore, first planning what kind of broad “topics” you will be publishing on your website. These can be topics related to your niche, your products or services, or your industry.
If you need help website planning, go here: The Web Site Planning Process Explained: A Comprehensive Guide For Business Owners
When creating a 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 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 to others.
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:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Locations
- Commitment Ceremonies
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Titles
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on trying to establish your authority in a smaller niche, or sub niche of your main 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 larger “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 …
(Google Keyword Planner – Keyword research for category planning)
When planning your topic categories, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (like the keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the online “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 grow your market share online.
For tutorials on online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: How To Plan Your Website - A Useful Blueprint For Non-Technical 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 Post Categories
Saving WordPress posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your web pages for search engines.
(Organize content using categories)
To access your WordPress Categories area, log into your WordPress dashboard, then go to your navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …
(Post Categories Section)
In this section, you can create, edit, and remove categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can improve your site’s SEO.
Adding Post Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category)
To add a new category to WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as described below:
(WP Post Categories screen – Add New Category section fields)
- Name – Enter a short 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 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 category hierarchies 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. Your category description will be used for the category pages “meta” description.
Click Add New Category when done to add your new category …
Repeat this process to keep inserting new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating nested categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop down menu …
(Creating 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 +Add New Category,
- Type a new category name (and choose an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
Your new category will become instantly available …
(New post category added)
Learn how to create and edit a Post in WordPress here:
How To Delete Categories
Removing a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts 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.
Deleting Single Categories
To remove an individual category, place your mouse over the category and click Delete …
(How to delete an individual category)
A warning message will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
Deleting Categories In Bulk
Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing many different categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you want to reduce the number of existing 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 will be affected when unnecessary categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, go to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts
To delete multiple categories, click the main check box in the header row. This will select all category entries .
Next, go through the table and untick the box next to any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
Once you have ticked all of the categories to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …
(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu)
Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The selected categories will be removed …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
How To Edit Categories
To edit a WordPress category, do the following:
Go to your ‘Categories’ screen, find the category that needs to be edited, then place your mouse over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(Category table – Edit)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Edit the details in the category fields, and click Update to save your new changes …
(‘Edit Category’ panel)
You can also edit information in a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you want to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Quick Edit link)
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 that have already been indexed by search engines.
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 been indexed in the search engines.
WordPress Categories – Special Tip
All posts must be assigned to a category in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will assign your post automatically to a default category called “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ post category)
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 users and better for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category table: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)
Change 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 visitors and search engines)
Now, when new 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 above site 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 WordPress Permalinks
WordPress Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Categories
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to a post …
(WordPress 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 by categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open an archive page containing category-related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also show categories in the sidebar …
(Categories can display on your sidebar)
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 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 listing categories using a drop menu …
(Use a drop down category menu)
If you need help with adding sidebar widgets, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Adding Widgets To The WordPress Sidebar
When a visitor selects a category from the list …
(Selecting a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays all the posts in that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you find the category to see. Hover over the item and click View …
(WordPress category – View link)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of post categories worth knowing about.
Categories – Sorting Features
Your Categories Table allows you to sort categories by name 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, Count, etc.) …
(Table of categories)
Categories – Search Features
You can search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
If your site has a lot of categories, you can break these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
You can specify how many categories per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Type in the number of categories per page you would like 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’, ’Slug’, ‘Count’). Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories)
WordPress Categories – Grouping Features
In the Category screen, the Count column shows the number of posts assigned to each category. To see these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Categories screen – Count column)
Posts assigned to the selected category will display in the Posts Table…
(Grouping posts by category – WordPress Table of Posts)
Post Categories – Tools
You can convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter feature found below your Categories table …
(Convert categories to tags)
This will open the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on using WordPress post tags, go here: Configuring And Using Tags In WordPress
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress has many 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can help protect content in specific post categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Plugins can be used to extend the functionality of your Table of Categories)
Step 5 – Using Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some more tips for getting the most benefit when using categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Your 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 post for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.
So, for example, an article on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Essential Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.
Publish Posts Under The Most Relevant Post Category
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to select the correct category box before publishing your post …
(WordPress Post Categories module)
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 …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to optimize your categories)
You can also optimize categories individually …
(Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing your 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 index your pages.
"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com