WordPress categories help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Adding post categories not only helps to keep your content organized, it also improves both your visitor’s search experience and your search engine rankings.
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to set up categories.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
Default WordPress post URLs are not search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.
Permalinks let you display SEO-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 post categories.
If you need help with permalinks, refer to this tutorial: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks
Step 2: List Your Main Topics
Maintaining 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 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 specific niche, your products or services, and even your industry.
If you need help with planning a website, go here: Planning Your Business Web Site - A Comprehensive Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating a list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients need to be better educated or informed about. This is very important in terms of establishing your website 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 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:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Planning
- Commitment Ceremonies
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Headings
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Pets”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially if 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 of your market.
Take a look at the example 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 “Weddings” market (another category).
When selecting 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 estimates from Google 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 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 a strategic objective that is too big (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 increase your market share online.
For tutorials on strategic online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: The Website Planning Process Explained: A Money-Saving Guide 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 keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress website or blog.
Step 4: Set Up Your Post Categories
Publishing your 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 site content for search engines.
(WordPress allows you to easily organize posts with categories)
To access your Post Categories section, log into your Dashboard and choose Posts > Categories …
(WP Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
(WP Post Categories Panel)
This section lets you add, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can optimize your site for search engines.
How To Add Categories
(Categories panel – Add New Category area)
To add a new category, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example below:
(Categories panel – Add New Category section 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 display in all category-related sections of your site.
- 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 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 your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website.
- Description – Add a brief description of your category 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 to add the new category …
(New post category)
Repeat the above process to keep inserting new 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-down menu …
(Create hierarchical categories)
You can also add new categories when creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories section – Add New Category)
To add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Type your new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if required),
- Click Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
Your new category will instantly become available …
(New post category added)
Learn how to add and edit a WordPress Post here:
How To Remove WordPress Post Categories
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts assigned to the deleted category 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 Single Categories
To remove categories individually, place your mouse over the category you want removed and click the ‘Delete’ link …
(Deleting a single category)
A warning message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
Deleting 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 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 can be useful.
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 post categories, see this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts
To delete multiple categories, click on the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all items .
Next, go through the list and unselect 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 ticked all the category entries to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …
(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu)
Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
How To Edit Post Categories In WordPress
To edit a post category, do this:
Go to your ‘Categories’ section, find the item that needs to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click Edit …
(Edit link – Category)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Make changes to the information in the category fields, and click Update to save your details …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
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 …
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Category menu – Quick Edit fields)
Modifying the category slug will change the URL of posts assigned for 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 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 automatically assign your post to a default category called “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 relevant to your 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 the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be 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 a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to readers and search engines)
Now, when new posts are published under the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …
(SEO improved URLs)
Note: The site used in the example above 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, see this tutorial: Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:
Every post in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to a post …
(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)
Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …
(With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying WordPress Categories
Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for your visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display in your posts)
Clicking on category links opens a category archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list category menus in the sidebar …
(Display categories on your sidebar)
It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a long category menu …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you have many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a drop down menu …
(Categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)
If you need help with adding sidebar widgets, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In The Website
When a visitor selects a category from the list …
(Select a category from the drop menu)
… An archive page displays posts filed for that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you want to view. Hover over the category title and click the ‘View’ link …
(WordPress post category menu – View)
Let’s take a look at some other features of WordPress post categories .
WordPress Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the 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 sorted according to the column you’ve selected (i.e. Name, Slug, 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 you have loads of categories, you can break these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
You can select how many categories to display per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
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 to save your settings …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories)
WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Category posts)
A list of all posts assigned to the category will display in your Posts Table…
(WordPress Table of Posts – Grouping posts by category)
Post Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter function found below your Categories list …
(Category to Tag converter)
This brings up the Tools > Import screen …
(Tools > Import screen – Categories and Tags Converter)
We have written a detailed tutorial on using Tags here: How To Configure And Use Tags In WordPress Posts
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available many great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 be used to protect content in post categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Extend the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Use Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and post URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.
Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles
As you create new content for your site, include the main keyword of your post in 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 on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Survival Accessories You Will Need For Your Winter Camping Adventure“.
Publish Your Posts Under The Correct Category
Every time you add a new article or post to your website or blog, remember to tick a category box before publishing the post …
(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)
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 for WordPress …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories)
You can also optimize categories individually …
(Optimize your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing WordPress post 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.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now