WordPress post categories help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help search engines to better index your WordPress site.
Learn how to set up WordPress categories in this tutorial.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
Default WordPress post web addresses are not very 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 let you display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
The same post URL can look like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your categories.
If you need help with setting up permalinks, go here: 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 looking for, but can also help to significantly boost your site’s optimization for better SEO.
We recommend, therefore, first planning what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about and publishing on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.
To learn more about planning a website, go here: The Web Site Planning Process: 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 website as an “authority” that online visitors will want to come back again to learn from and/or refer to others.
Let’s say, for example, that you would like 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 Planning
- Marriage Vows
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Headings
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Sports”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially if you’re just getting started. It’s better to try and establish your authority in a smaller niche, or micro niche of your market.
Take a look at the example 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 larger “Weddings” market (another category).
When choosing 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 estimates from Google for the average number of monthly searches for each of these keywords …
(Use keyword research tools to help with category planning)
When planning your category names, 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 gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. dominating the online “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a 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 planning like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: Planning A Web Site - A Basic Blueprint 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 into categories and add them to your WordPress website or blog.
Step 4: Set Up Your Categories
Publishing your posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized, provides your visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site content for search engines.
(Organize posts using categories)
To access your Post Categories section, in the Dashboard, select Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
This area allows you to add, edit, and delete categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.
How To Add Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category section)
To create a new post category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example shown below:
(WP Post Categories screen – Add New Category 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 then display in all category-related sections of your website.
- Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a category. The slug can be different than 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 automatically using a lower case version of the category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site.
- Description – Add a brief description of your category here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with SEO. Your category description will be used for the category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button to add your new category …
(New post category)
Repeat this process to continue creating new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating a hierarchical list of post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop down menu …
(Create hierarchical categories in WordPress)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories feature – Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Type in your new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if required),
- Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(Post Categories section – Add New Category)
The new category will be added to your list …
(New post category added)
Learn how to create and edit WordPress posts here:
How To Delete Post Categories
Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts that were assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the default category (see further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting Single Categories
To remove categories individually, hover over the category you would like removed and click Delete …
(Delete – WordPress post category menu)
A warning message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)
How To Delete Multiple Categories
Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing a large number of categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you would like to consolidate 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 can be useful.
Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected when categories are removed have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, visit this tutorial: Editing And Deleting Posts
To bulk delete WordPress categories, click on the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category entries .
Next, go through the list and unselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
After selecting all the entries to be deleted, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …
(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)
With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the drop down menu, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The selected categories will be removed …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
How To Edit Categories In WordPress
To edit a WordPress category, do the following:
In your ‘Categories’ panel, find the category item that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save your changes …
(‘Edit Category’ panel)
You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(Quick Edit – Category table menu)
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Category table menu – Quick Edit fields)
Important: Changing the category slug will change the URL of 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, 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
In WordPress, all posts must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will 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 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 the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)
Change 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 new posts get 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”. For more details on how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post 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 …
(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify a primary category …
(With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Posts are grouped together into 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 will open a category archive page containing category-related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list categories in the sidebar …
(Display category menus on your sidebar)
It’s important to manage your categories. 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 reduce space on your sidebar by listing categories using a drop-down menu …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop menu)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on adding sidebar widgets, go here: Adding And Configuring Widgets On The WordPress Sidebar
When visitors select a category from the list …
(Select a category from the drop down menu)
… An archive page displays posts listed under that category …
(Category archive page)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you locate the category to see. Place your mouse over the item and click the ‘View’ link …
(View link – WordPress category table menu)
Let’s take a look at some other features of WordPress categories worth knowing about.
Post Categories – Sorting Features
Your Categories Table allows you to sort categories by name by hovering near the column title and clicking on the black triangle icon …
(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.) …
(Sorting categories in the Categories table)
Categories – Search Features
To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
Your Categories Table can be split into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
(Categories Table – Category Pages)
You can set how many categories per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
Input the number of categories per page you would like to show 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’), and click Apply …
(Screen Options – Categories)
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 …
(Categories Table – Count column)
Posts assigned to that category will display in the Table of Posts…
(Posts grouped by category – WP Table of Posts)
Categories – Tools
You can convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter function found below your Categories table …
(Convert categories to tags)
This will open the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
For a detailed tutorial on how to use Post Tags, go here: Configuring And Using Tags
Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available many great plugins that can help manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 are ordered in lists, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …
(Membership plugins can help protect content in specific categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Plugins can expand the functionality of your Table of Categories)
Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search-friendly URLs can help increase your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
To further improve your results, here are some tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.
Choosing Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your the title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves click-through rates.
So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 3 Essential Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.
Publish Posts Under The Most Relevant Post Category
Each time you add a new article or post to your site, remember to tick the most relevant category box before publishing the post …
(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories section)
Use An 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 helps optimize your categories)
You can optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Optimize your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up your WordPress post categories correctly. Following these simple steps will help keep your WordPress 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 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)