Using WordPress Post Categories

Learn what categories are, how to use categories to improve your content navigation and SEO, and how to add, edit, and delete WordPress categories.

How To Add, Edit & Delete Categories In WP PostsWordPress categories can help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories also helps to keep you content organized and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.

This tutorial helps you learn how to add, edit, and delete categories in posts.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress post URLs aren’t really search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress categories, you will 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:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=2394

The same post URL can look like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/romantic-destinations/seven-best-honeymoon-destinations

If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your post categories.

We have written a detailed tutorial about setting up and using permalinks here: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Step 2: Make A List Of Your Main Topics

Maintaining 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 boost your site’s optimization for improved search engine results.

We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your business, and even your industry.

Important Info

If you need help planning a website, go here: A Comprehensive 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 site as an online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.

For example, let’s say that you would like 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
  • etc.

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Headings

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially if you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on building your authority in a smaller niche, or a micro niche of your main market.

Take a look at the example below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

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 larger “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 …

Use keyword research to help plan your categories

(Google Keyword Planner – Useful keyword research tool for 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 content), and how you are going to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set too big a 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 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 areas like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: A Practical 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 turn these into WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Your WP Categories

Publishing WordPress posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides site visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your web pages for search engines.

Organize your posts using categories

(Organize content by categories)

To access your Categories section, log into your WordPress dashboard, then go to the admin navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories

Posts Menu - Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

Post Categories Screen

(Categories Screen)

In this panel, you can create, edit, and remove categories, including inserting category descriptions and other information that can optimize your website or blog for search engines.

Adding Post Categories

Categories panel - Add New Category area

(Post Categories screen – Add New Category)

To create a new category in WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as shown below:

Categories screen - Add New Category fields

(WP Post Categories panel – Add New Category fields)

  1. Name – Type 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 the category-related sections of your site.
  2. Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a specific category. The 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 your category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your website.
  4. 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 your category pages “meta” description.

Click Add New Category when done to add your new category …

New post category

(New post category)

Repeat the above process to keep inserting new categories …

Table of categories

(Categories list)

You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …

Nested post categories

(Create a hierarchical list of categories)

To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop menu …

Adding nested categories to WordPress

(Creating hierarchical categories in WordPress)

You can also add new categories when creating or editing posts  …

Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories section – Add New Category)

Practical Tip

To create a new category while creating or editing a post:

  1. Click on +Add New Category,
  2. Enter in your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
  3. Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …

WordPress Post Categories feature - Add New Category

(Post Categories module – Add New Category)

Your new category will instantly become available …

New category added

(New category added)

Learn how to add and edit WordPress posts here:

How To Delete WordPress Categories

Important

Deleting 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.

Deleting Single Categories

To delete categories individually, hover over the category and click the ‘Delete’ link …

Delete link

(Deleting an individual category)

A window will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to stop …

Click 'OK' to proceed

(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 existing categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If there are too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.

Useful Information

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 how to reassign categories in posts, refer to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting WordPress Posts

To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main check box in the header row. This will select all category entries .

Next, go through the list and deselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.

Selecting/Deselecting Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

After ticking all the entries to be deleted, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

Select the 'Delete' option from the 'Bulk Actions' drop menu

(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)

Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …

Deleting multiple categories

(Bulk deleting categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

Editing Categories

To edit a WordPress post category, do this:

In your ‘Categories’ table, locate the category that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click Edit

Edit link - Category table

(Edit link)

This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Edit the category fields, and click Update to save the details …

'Edit Category' panel

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

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 link

(Quick Edit)

Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …

Category menu - Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit screen)

Disclaimer

Important: 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 published elsewhere.

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 site is established.

WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tip

All posts must be assigned to a category in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will assign your post automatically to the default category “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' category

(’Uncategorized’ category)

Info

The default category cannot be deleted.

Having posts attributed to 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

(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 users and optimized for search engines too.

Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit

Quick Edit

(Category table: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)

Change both 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” to give your site an extra SEO boost …

Change 'Uncategorized' category to something more meaningful to your visitors and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site visitors and search engines)

Now, when new posts are published using the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …

Use SEO-friendly URLs

(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”. For more details on how to set up SEO-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: Changing WordPress Permalinks

Post Categories – Additional Information

Let’s take a look at some additional features of categories:

Multiple 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 be published under multiple categories

(Posts can have multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …

If using multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category

(With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)

Displaying WordPress Post Categories

Posts are grouped together under categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

Clicking on the category links will open an archive page containing related posts (see below).

You can also show categories in your sidebar …

Categories can display on your sidebar

(Display category menus on your sidebar)

Important

Managing your categories is important. Depending on how many posts and categories are published on your site, you can end up with a very long list of categories …

WordPress categories widget

(Managing your categories is important)

If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by selecting the dropdown menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …

Using a drop category menu

(Using a drop category menu)

We have created a detailed tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: Adding And Configuring Widgets On The WordPress Sidebar

When visitors select a category from the drop-down menu …

Select a category from the drop menu

(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)

… An archive page displays all the posts listed for that category …

Category archive page

(Posts can display in category archive pages)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you would like to display. Hover over the category title and click View

View link

(View – WordPress category table)

Let’s take a look at some other features of WordPress post categories .

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

The Categories Table allows you to sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the black triangle icon …

Sort categories by name

(Sort by category name)

You can also sort categories using the other columns in the Category Table. Your categories will be rearranged according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …

Table of categories

(Table of categories – Sorting categories)

WP Post Categories – Searching Features

Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Categories Table - Searching Feature

(Category Search)

Your Categories Table can be divided into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Categories Table – Category Pages)

To set how many categories per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options)

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 Apply to update your changes when done …

Screen Options Tab - Categories

(Screen Options Tab – Categories)

Categories – Grouping Features

In the Category screen, the Count column displays the number of posts assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

Table of Categories - Post count column

(Table of Categories – Category posts)

Posts assigned to that category will display in the Table of Posts

WordPress Posts Table - Grouping posts by category

(Posts grouped by category)

Categories – Tools

To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter feature found below your list of Categories …

Category to Tag converter

(Category to Tag converter)

This takes you to the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter feature

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

To learn more about using Tags, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Using Post Tags In WordPress

Categories – Plugins

WordPress has many great plugins that can help manage and enhance your post 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 way categories appear in lists and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for a membership site) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …

Plugins can be used to enhance the functionality of your Categories Table

(Extend the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly URLs helps to 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 when using categories.

Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the post title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel company targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Essential Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

Every time you add a new article or post, remember to tick the most relevant category box before publishing the post …

WordPress Post Categories box

(Post Categories feature)

Use An SEO Plugin

An 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

(A plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories)

You can optimize categories individually …

Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins

(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 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 better index your pages.

How To Configure Categories

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