WordPress post 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.
This tutorial helps you learn how to set up & use categories in WordPress.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring 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 post URL look like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then we recommend doing so first before configuring your categories.
If you need help with permalinks, see this step-by-step tutorial: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: List Your Main Topics
Keeping 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 searching for, but can also help search engines to better index your content.
We recommend, therefore, first planning 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.
To learn more about website planning, see this tutorial: A Basic Guide To Website Planning For Business Owners
When creating your 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 come back again to learn from and/or refer to others.
Let’s say, for example, 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:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Tips
- Commitment Ceremonies
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Headings
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s better to try and establish your authority in a niche, or a subniche of your market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see in the above 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 publish 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 online searches performed each month for each of the sample keywords …
(Google Keyword Planner – Keyword research tool for category planning)
When planning your 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 you are going to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. trying to dominate the entire 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 business online.
For tutorials on online business planning like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: How To Plan Your Website - A Comprehensive Blueprint For Business Owners
After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to convert these into post categories.
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, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site content for search engines.
(Organize content with categories)
To access your WordPress Categories section, log into your WordPress dashboard, then go to the admin navigation menu and select Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
This section allows you to create, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to optimize your website or blog for search engines.
Adding Post Categories
(Categories panel – Add New Category area)
To add a new category to WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as shown in the example below:
(Post Categories panel – 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 then 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 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 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 – Add a brief description of your category 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 the ‘Add New Category’ button to add your new category …
Repeat this process to continue adding new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Nested post categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop menu …
(Add nested categories to WordPress)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories box – Add New Category)
If you need to add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Enter in your new category name (and choose an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click on Add New Category …
(WordPress Post Categories section – Add New Category)
The new category will become instantly available …
(New post category added)
Learn how to add and edit posts in WordPress here:
Deleting Post Categories In WordPress
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, any 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.
Deleting Single Categories
To delete a single category, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to delete the category from your list …
(Deleting a single category)
A message will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete 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 reduce the number of 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 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 Post
To bulk delete WordPress categories, click on the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category entries on the page.
Next, go through the table and deselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.
Once you have ticked all the items you would like to delete, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …
(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)
With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the drop down menu, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Bulk delete categories)
The selected categories will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
To edit a category in WordPress, do the following:
Go to your ‘Categories’ screen, find the category that you would like to edit, then place your mouse over the category title, and click Edit …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Make changes 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. Place your mouse over the category title you want to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Quick Edit – WordPress post category menu)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit screen)
Modifying the category slug changes the URL of all posts assigned to that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links pointing 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 Categories – Useful Tip
In WordPress, every post must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will attribute your post automatically to the default category “Uncategorized” …
(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)
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 unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your site readers and better for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Quick Edit link)
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” to give your site a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site users and search engines)
Now, when posts get published under 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”. If you need help setting up search engine-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:
In WordPress, posts must be published under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …
(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 categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying Post 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 the category links opens an archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list categories in the sidebar …
(Categories can display 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 …
(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-down menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop menu)
If you need help with adding sidebar widgets, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Adding WordPress Widgets To Your Website
When a visitor selects a category from the list …
(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)
… An archive page displays all posts in that category …
(Posts can display in a category archive page)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your admin area, go to Post > Categories and locate the category to view. Hover over the category name and click View …
(WordPress category – View link)
Let’s take a look at some other features of WordPress categories .
WordPress Categories – Sorting Features
The Table of Categories lets you 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 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.) …
(Table of categories – Sorting categories)
WordPress Categories – Searching Features
To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
If you have a lot of categories, WordPress allows you to split these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
To specify how many categories to display per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Edit the number of categories per page to show in the Category Table 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’, etc.). Click the ‘Apply’ button to update your changes …
(Screen Options – Categories options)
Post Categories – Grouping Features
In the Category screen, the Count column shows how many posts are assigned to each category. To see these posts, click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count)
A list of posts assigned to the selected category will display in the Posts Table…
(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 list of Categories …
(Convert categories to tags)
This will take you to the Tools > Import screen …
(Tools > Import section – Categories and Tags Converter)
If you need help using Tags, go here: How To Configure And Use Tags In WordPress
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress has many great plugins that can help 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 lists, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in membership sites) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Use WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and post URLs can help increase 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 categories.
Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your your post title, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves click through rates.
So, for example, a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Tools Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.
Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Categories
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to select a relevant category box before publishing your post …
(Post Categories section)
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 improve your categories’ SEO)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up and managing WordPress post categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your website 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 content.
"Your training is the best in the world! It is simple, yet detailed, direct, understandable, memorable, and complete." Andrea Adams, FinancialJourney.org