WordPress post categories help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
In this tutorial, you will learn about using WordPress categories.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
Default WordPress post web addresses 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 web address 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.
We have created a detailed tutorial about using permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: Make A List Of 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 boost your site’s optimization for better search engine results.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about and publish on your website. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, or your industry.
For more information about website planning, go here: A Money-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
When creating your list of topics, include areas of your business that you believe 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 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: Choose Relevant Category Topics
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to try and build your authority in a niche, or segment (i.e. subniche) of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see from the above 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 monthly searches for each of the sample keywords …
(Keyword research can help you 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 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. aiming to dominate 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 grow your business online.
For tutorials on strategic online business planning like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide To Website Planning 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 your keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress site.
Step 4: Set Up Your Post Categories
Publishing your WordPress posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides web visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.
(Organize content with categories)
To access your Categories section, log into your WordPress admin section, then go to the navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts Menu – Categories)
This brings you to the ‘Categories’ panel …
This area allows you to create, edit, and delete categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can help to optimize your website for search engines.
How To Add Post Categories
(Categories panel – Add New Category)
To create a new category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example shown below:
(Post Categories screen – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Type a concise 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 specific category. Your 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 automatically 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 site.
- Description – Add a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with SEO. 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 …
Repeat this process to continue inserting new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Hierarchical list of categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop down menu …
(Adding nested categories to WordPress)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories section – Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Enter in your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(Post Categories module – Add New Category)
Your new category will be added to your list …
(New category added)
If you need help creating and editing posts in WordPress, see these tutorials:
How To Remove Post Categories In WordPress
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 WordPress default category (this is covered further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete An Individual Category
To delete single categories, hover over the category and click Delete …
(How to delete categories individually)
A window will appear in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
Deleting Categories In Bulk
Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing many different categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you want to consolidate posts to a single category. If you have 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 by deleting unwanted categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting Posts In WordPress
To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all items .
Next, go through the list and deselect any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
Once you have selected all of the entries you want to delete, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …
(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu)
Next, click Apply …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …
How To Edit Categories
To edit a category in WordPress, do the following:
Go to your ‘Categories’ table, locate the category to be edited, then hover over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Edit the details in the category fields, and click Update to save your new changes …
(‘Edit Category’ screen)
You can also edit information in categories using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(WordPress category – Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit screen)
Changing the category slug will affect the URL of all posts published under 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 – Useful Tip
All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will attribute your post to a default category called “Uncategorized” …
(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 site readers and optimized for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘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” in order to give your site an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your visitors 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 …
(Use SEO-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 SEO-friendly URLs, go here: Configuring WordPress Permalinks
WordPress Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
Posts in WordPress must be published under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …
(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)
Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you 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 can be grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Categories display in your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open a category archive page containing other related content (see below).
You can also list a category menu in your sidebar …
(Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a very long category menu …
(WordPress categories widget)
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by selecting the drop down menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop down menu)
To learn more about adding and configuring sidebar widgets, go here: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In Your Sidebar
When a visitor selects a category from the drop menu …
(Selecting a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays all the posts filed under that category …
(Posts can display in a category archive page)
WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll down the Category Table until you find a category to view. Hover over the item and click the ‘View’ link …
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of WordPress categories .
Post Categories – Sorting Features
The Table of Categories allows you to sort categories by name by clicking on the black 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 sorted according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …
(Table of categories)
Post Categories – Searching Features
This feature is useful if your site has a large number of categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Post Categories – Searching Feature)
Your Categories Table can be split into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
To set how many categories per page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …
Input the number of categories per page you would like to show in the Table of Categories 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.). Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options – Categories)
WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
In the Categories Table, the Count column shows 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 the selected category will display in your Table of Posts…
(Posts grouped by category)
Post Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter feature found below your Categories list …
(Convert categories to tags)
This will open the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
If you need help using Tags, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: How To Configure Post Tags In WordPress
WordPress Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available a number of 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 sections of your site, rearrange the way categories are ordered in menus and list, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can protect content in categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Use plugins to enhance the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
To optimize your site further, here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.
Choosing Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
When planning new content for your site, always try to include the main keyword of your post in the title of your post, preferably at 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 targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Asia – The 7 Most Insane Kayaking Adventures“.
Publish Posts Under The Correct Category
Every time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to select a relevant category box before publishing your post …
(Select 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 …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help improve your categories’ SEO)
The plugin also allows you to 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 WordPress 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 better index your pages.
"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum