WordPress post categories help to make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories also helps to organize your content and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.
Learn how to set up & use post categories in WordPress in this step-by-step tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
By default, WordPress URLs aren’t 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 same post URL look like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then do so now before configuring your post categories.
To learn more about permalinks, refer to this tutorial: Configuring WordPress Permalinks
Step 2: List Your Topics
Maintaining 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 engine results.
The first step, then, is to carefully plan what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.
If you need help with website planning, go here: The Website Planning Process - A Money-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating your 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 important in terms of establishing your web site as an online authority that visitors will want to come back repeatedly to and/or refer to others.
For example, let’s say 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 the following:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Locations
- Commitment Ceremonies
- and so on …
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Names
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is extremely difficult, 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 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 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 file your posts under, it’s a good idea to consider factors like “market competition.”
For example, the screenshot below shows estimates from Google for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of the sample keywords …
(Use keyword research to help plan your categories)
When planning your 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 gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. trying to dominate the 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 increase your market share online.
If you need help with strategic online business online strategies like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to turn these keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress site.
Step 4: Set Up Categories
Publishing posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site content for search engines.
(WordPress lets you easily organize content using categories)
To access your WordPress Categories area, log into your WordPress site, then go to the admin navigation menu and choose Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
(Post Categories Area)
In this area, you can create, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can optimize your website or blog for search engines.
How To Add Post Categories To WordPress
(Post Categories panel – Add New Category)
To create a new category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example below:
(Post Categories screen – Add New Category section fields)
- Name – Enter 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 then display in all the category-related sections of your site.
- Slug – The “slug” are 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 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 website (explained further below).
- Description – Write a brief category description 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 the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add the new category …
(New category added)
Repeat this process to continue creating new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Create a hierarchical list of post categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop-down menu …
(Add hierarchical post categories to WordPress)
You can also add new categories while creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
To create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Enter your new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Post Categories box – Add New Category)
The new category will instantly become available …
(New category added)
To learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress, see the tutorials below:
Deleting Categories In WordPress
Removing a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (this is covered further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting Categories Individually
To delete a specific category, hover over the category you would like to delete and click Delete …
A warning message will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
Deleting Multiple Categories
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 fewer number of categories. 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 when unnecessary categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, go to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A WordPress Post
To bulk delete categories, click the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category items 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 check box next to the item.
Once you have ticked all the items you would like to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …
(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)
Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
To edit a post category in WordPress, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ section, find the category entry that you would like to edit, then place your mouse over the category title, and click Edit …
(WordPress category menu – Edit)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Make changes to the information in the category fields, and click Update to save the 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 …
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Category table – Quick Edit screen)
Important: Modifying the category slug will change the URL of all posts published under that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links pointing to posts published elsewhere.
For this reason, we strongly recommend investing time into planning your categories before publishing content, and avoid changing the category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.
WordPress Post 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 “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 readers and optimized for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
Change both 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 a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site visitors and search engines)
Now, when 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 SEO-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. If you need help setting up SEO-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of categories:
Multiple Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be published under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …
(Posts can have multiple categories)
Note that 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 can be grouped together under categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open a category archive page containing related content (see below).
You can also list categories in your sidebar …
(Display categories on your blog sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a really long category menu …
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a dropdown menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a dropdown menu)
If you need help adding and configuring sidebar widgets, refer to this tutorial: How To Add Widgets To Your WordPress Blog Sidebar Area
When visitors select a category from the drop down list …
(Select a category from the drop menu)
… An archive page displays all posts listed under that category …
(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)
WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category to view. Place your mouse over the category title and click View …
(WordPress post category – View)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of post categories .
Post Categories – Sorting Features
The Categories Table allows you to sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the little triangle icon …
(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 selected (i.e. Name, Count, etc.) …
Categories – Searching Features
Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Categories Table – Search Feature)
If you have many categories, WordPress breaks these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
You can select how many categories 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 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’, ’Slug’, ‘Count’). Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options – Categories options)
Post Categories – Grouping Features
In the Table of Categories, the Count column lists the number of posts assigned to each category. To see these posts, click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Category screen – Category posts)
A list of all posts assigned to that category will display in the Posts Table…
(Posts grouped by category – WP Table of Posts)
WordPress 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 take you to the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
For a detailed tutorial about WordPress post tags, go here: How To Set Up And Use Tags In WordPress
Post 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 areas of your site, rearrange the way categories appear in lists, tables, and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for membership sites) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Expand the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Use WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and post URLs helps to increase your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some more tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
As you create new content for your site, 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 targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 10 Essential Survival Tools You Will Need For Your Winter Camping Adventure“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Every time you add a new article or post to your site, remember to select a category box before publishing your post …
(Choose a post category to save your post under)
Use A WordPress SEO Plugin
One additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use an SEO plugin …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps optimize your categories)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up 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.
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