WordPress categories can help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Adding post categories not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
This step-by-step tutorial helps you learn about adding, editing, and deleting categories in posts.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
By default, post URLs in WordPress aren’t very 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 let you display search engine 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 yet configured your permalinks, then do so now before configuring your categories.
If you need help with configuring permalinks, go here: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Step 2: Create A List Of Topics
Maintaining your site’s content organized at all times is 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. These can be topics related to your niche, your business, your industry, etc.
We have written a detailed tutorial about website planning here: A Comprehensive Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
When creating your 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 business as an “authority” that online 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 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 the following:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Planning
- Commitment Ceremonies
- and so on …
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Headings
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on establishing your authority in a niche, or a segment (i.e. subniche) of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see in the above Market > Niche > Sub niche 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 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 online searches performed each month for each of these keywords …
(Keyword research - a useful tool 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 main keywords used throughout your content), and how to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. dominating the entire online “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.
If you need help with strategic online business planning like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to turn your keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress site.
Step 4: Set Up Your Categories
Publishing your posts under carefully planned categories helps keep your content organized, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.
(WordPress allows you to easily organize content with categories)
To access your Categories section, log into your WordPress dashboard, then go to the admin navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
(Post Categories Panel)
This section lets you create, edit, and remove categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can optimize your website or blog for search engines.
Adding Post Categories To WordPress
(Categories panel – Add New Category section)
To add a new category, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example below:
(Categories panel – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Type 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 the category-related sections of your site.
- 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 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 (explained further below).
- 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 your category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add your new category …
(New post category added)
Repeat the above process to continue creating new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Hierarchical list of post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop menu …
(Create hierarchical post categories in WordPress)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories feature – Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Enter your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if required),
- Click Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
The new category will instantly become available …
(New post category added)
Learn how to add and edit a WordPress Post here:
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts that were assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the default category (this is covered further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting A Single Category
To remove a single category, hover over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click Delete to remove the category from your list …
(How to delete categories individually)
A warning message will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)
Deleting Multiple WordPress 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 existing categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.
Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected by deleting unnecessary categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post In WordPress
To bulk delete categories, click on the main check box 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. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
After selecting all of the items to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu …
(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu)
Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Bulk deleting categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be removed …
Editing WordPress Post Categories
To edit a WordPress category, do this:
Go to your ‘Categories’ section, find the item to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click Edit …
(WordPress category – Edit link)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Make changes to the information in the category fields, and click Update to save the changes …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you want to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category table menu – Quick Edit)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit screen)
Changing the category slug affects the URL of all posts assigned for 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 – 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 to “Uncategorized” …
(WordPress post category – ‘Uncategorized’)
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 posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more meaningful to your visitors and optimize it better for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
(Category table: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)
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” to give your site an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to readers and search engines)
Now, when new posts get 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 search engine-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. To learn how to set up SEO-friendly URLs on your site, go here: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Categories
In WordPress, posts must be published under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …
(Posts can be published under multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify a primary category …
(When using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Posts are grouped together by categories, making it easier for your visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open a category archive page containing other related content (see below).
You can also display a category menu in the sidebar …
(Display a category menu on your blog sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of categories and posts published on your site, you can end up with a really long category menu …
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by selecting the drop menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …
(Use a drop down category menu)
We have created a detailed tutorial about adding sidebar widgets here: How To Add WordPress Widgets To Your Site
When visitors select a category from the menu …
(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)
… An archive page displays all posts listed for that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and locate the category to see. Hover over the item and click the ‘View’ link …
(WordPress category menu – View link)
Let’s take a look at some other features of categories worth knowing about.
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
The Table of Categories allows you to sort categories by name by clicking on the triangle icon …
(Sort categories by 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, Slug, etc.) …
WordPress Categories – Search Features
The search feature is useful if your site has 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 divided into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Categories Table – Category Pages)
To set how many categories to display per page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
Edit the number of categories per page to display in the Table of Categories 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’, ‘Count’). Click the ‘Apply’ button to save your changes …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories)
Post Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Category screen – Post count)
All posts assigned to that category will display in the Table of Posts…
(Grouping posts by category)
WordPress Categories – Tools
You can convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter feature found below your Categories list …
(Convert categories to tags)
This brings you to the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
We have created a detailed tutorial on using Tags here: Configuring WordPress Post Tags
WordPress Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress has many great plugins to help you manage and enhance your 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Plugins can expand the functionality of your Table of Categories)
Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
To optimize your site further, here are some tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your 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 ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In America – 10 Remote Kayaking Locations“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Each time you add a new article or post to your site, remember to tick the most relevant category box before publishing your post …
(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)
Use An SEO Plugin
One additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use a WordPress SEO plugin …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps optimize your categories)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing your WordPress post categories correctly. Following these simple steps will help keep your site 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.
"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group