WordPress categories can help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Filing posts under categories also helps to keep you content organized and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure post categories.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
By default, WordPress URLs aren’t very search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress categories, you will first need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.
Permalinks allow WordPress to display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
The same post URL can display like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your post categories.
We have created a detailed tutorial on configuring permalinks here: How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks
Step 2: Create A List Of Topics
Keeping your site’s content organized 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 better search results.
The first step, then, is to carefully plan what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.
We have written a detailed tutorial on website planning here: How To Plan Your Website - A Money-Saving Blueprint For 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 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 want 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 the following:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Tips
- Marriage Vows
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Titles
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Sports”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially if you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on building your authority in a niche, or segment of your main market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
You can see from the above Market > Niche > Sub niche hierarchy 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 file your posts under, it’s a good idea to take into account 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 …
(Google Keyword Planner – Useful keyword research tool for category planning)
When planning your topic categories, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how you are going 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 “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a very 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 online business online strategies like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Money-Saving Guide To Web Site 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 these keywords into post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Your WP Categories
Saving posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized and easy to find, provides site visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.
(Organize your content by categories)
To access your WordPress Categories area, in the Dashboard menu, click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
(Post Categories Area)
Here you can create, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can optimize your website or blog for search engines.
Adding Categories To WordPress
(WP Post Categories panel – Add New Category)
To create a new post category in WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example shown below:
(Post Categories screen – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Enter a concise 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 website.
- Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a specific category. The 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 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 website.
- Description – Write 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 your category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add your new category …
Repeat the above process to keep inserting new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Nested post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop-down menu …
(Creating nested categories in WordPress)
You can also add new categories 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 a new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if required),
- Click Add New Category …
(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)
The new category will instantly become available …
(New category added)
Learn how to add and edit posts in WordPress here:
Removing a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts that were assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the default category (see further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting Categories Individually
To delete single categories, place your mouse over the category you would like to delete and click the ‘Delete’ link …
A warning message will appear in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete WordPress Categories In Bulk
Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing a large number of categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you would like to consolidate 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 by deleting unwanted categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign categories in posts, go to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete A WordPress Post
To delete multiple categories, click the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category entries on the page.
Next, go through the table and untick the box next to categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.
After selecting all the category entries you would like to delete, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …
(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)
Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The selected categories will be removed …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
To edit a WordPress post category, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ table, locate the category entry to be edited, then place your mouse over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(Category table menu – Edit link)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Edit the details in the category fields, and click Update to save your new changes …
(‘Edit Category’ panel)
You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(Quick Edit – WordPress category)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
Changing the category slug changes 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, we strongly recommend investing 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.
Post Category – Special Tip
All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically assign your post to “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ 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 posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your site readers and optimized for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
(Category menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)
Change the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be generally 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 an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your 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 …
(Use search engine-friendly 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”. If you need help setting up search engine-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:
Multiple Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to a post …
(Posts can have multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below), you can specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(If using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying Post Categories
Posts are grouped together by categories, making it easier for your visitors to find related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Display categories in your posts)
Clicking on the category links opens an archive page containing category-related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list category menus in your sidebar …
(Display category menus on your sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on how many categories and posts are published on your site, you can end up with a very long list of categories …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by listing categories using a dropdown menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop menu)
To learn more about adding sidebar widgets, refer to this tutorial: Adding WordPress Widgets To Your Website
When visitors select a category from the drop-down menu …
(Selecting a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays the posts listed under that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and locate the category to see. Hover over the category name and click View …
(View – WordPress category table)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of WordPress post categories .
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by 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 sorted according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Count, etc.) …
(Table of categories – Sorting categories)
WordPress Categories – Searching Features
The search 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 …
(Search Categories Feature)
If your site has many categories, WordPress allows you to break these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
To specify how many categories per page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Enter the number of categories per page to display 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’), and click Apply to update your changes …
(Screen Options – Categories options)
Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count)
All posts assigned to the category will display in the Table of Posts…
(WordPress Table of Posts – Posts grouped by category)
WordPress Post Categories – Tools
You can convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter tool found below your Table of Categories …
(Category to Tag converter)
This opens the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter feature)
For a detailed tutorial on how to use WordPress tags, go here: Using WP Post Tags
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available many great plugins that can help you manage and enhance your categories.
For example, there are plugins that allow you 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 membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can help protect content in categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Extend the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and post URLs can help increase your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
When creating content for your site, always try to include the main keyword of your post in 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, if writing a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 10 Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.
Publish Your Posts Under The Correct Post Category
Every time you add a new article or post, remember to select a relevant category box before publishing your post …
(Choose a category to save your post under)
Use An 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 optimize your categories)
The plugin also lets you 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 WordPress 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.
"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)