WordPress categories can help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories not only helps to keep your content organized, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.
This step-by-step tutorial helps you learn about configuring categories in WP posts.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
Out of the box, WordPress URLs are not 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 WordPress to display search engine 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 do so now before configuring your categories.
We have created a detailed tutorial about permalinks here: How To Set Up WordPress Permalinks
Step 2: List Your Topics
Maintaining 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 search engines to better index your content.
The first step, therefore, is to work out what kind of broad “topics” you will write about and publish on your site. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your business, or your industry.
To learn more about 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 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 “authority” that online visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or valuable content like ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.
For example, let’s say 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:
- 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 establishing your authority in a niche, or sub niche of your market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
You can see in the above hierarchy that “Marriage Celebrant Course” is a subniche (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 publish 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 above keywords …
(Use keyword research tools to help with category planning)
When planning your category topics, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the main keywords used throughout your content), and how to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the 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 market share online.
For tutorials on online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Cost-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 into WordPress post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Your Categories
Saving WordPress posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps to 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 content using categories)
To access your Post Categories area, in your Dashboard, select Posts > Categories …
(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)
This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …
Here you can create, edit, and remove categories, including inserting category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.
How To Add Post Categories
(WP Post Categories panel – Add New Category)
To create a new category, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example below:
(Categories screen – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Type 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 category-related sections of your site.
- Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a 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 automatically create one for you using a lower case version of your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your website (explained further below).
- Description – Write a brief description of your category here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with search engine optimization. Your category description will be used for your category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button to add your new category …
(New post category)
Repeat the above process to continue creating new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Create nested post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ pulldown menu …
(Adding hierarchical categories to WordPress)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Enter in your new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(Add New Category)
The new category will instantly become available …
(New category added)
If you need help creating and editing a Post in WordPress, see the tutorials below:
How To Delete Categories
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts that were assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the default category (this is covered further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete A Single Category
To delete categories individually, hover over the category you want to delete and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to remove the category from your list …
(Delete – WordPress post category)
A message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)
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 want to consolidate posts to a single category. 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 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, go to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts In WordPress
To delete multiple categories, click on the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category items .
Next, go through the table and unselect 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 categories you want to delete, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu …
(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)
Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Bulk delete 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, locate the category item to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(Edit – WordPress category table)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Edit the category fields, and click Update to save the changes …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(Category – Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Category menu – Quick Edit screen)
Modifying the category slug changes the URL of all 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 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.
WordPress Categories – Special 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 to “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ post category)
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 meaningful to your visitors and optimize it better for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
(Category menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)
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” in order to give your site an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your visitors and search engines)
Now, when new posts get published using 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 search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks
WordPress Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of categories:
Multiple Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to a post …
(Posts can be published under 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)
Posts are grouped together by categories, making it easier for your visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Display categories on your posts)
Clicking on category links opens an archive page containing related content (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list category menus in the sidebar …
(Display category menus on your blog 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 category menu …
(WordPress categories widget)
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 …
(Using a drop-down category menu)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets, go here: How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In Your Sidebar
When a visitor selects a category from the menu …
(Select a category from the dropdown menu)
… An archive page displays all the posts listed under that category …
(Category archive page)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select a category to see. Hover over the item and click View …
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of WordPress categories worth knowing about.
Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort categories by name by hovering near the column title and clicking on the little triangle icon …
(Sort categories by 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, Count, etc.) …
(Categories table – Sorting categories)
Categories – Searching Features
To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Categories Table – Searching Feature)
If you have loads of categories, WordPress divides these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …
You can set how many categories per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
Type in 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’, ’Count’, etc.), and click Apply …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)
Categories – Grouping Features
In the Table of Categories, the Count column displays 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 all posts assigned to that category will display in your Table of Posts…
(Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)
WordPress Categories – Tools
Convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter feature found below your list of Categories …
(Convert categories to tags)
This takes you to the Tools > Import section …
(Tools > Import screen – Categories and Tags Converter tool)
We have written a detailed tutorial on Post Tags here: How To Set Up Post Tags In WordPress
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress has a number of great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Extend the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Using Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-friendly URLs can help increase your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some more tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your your title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.
So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel company targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Asia – 3 Insane Kayaking Adventures“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Every time you add a new article or post, remember to select the most relevant category box before publishing the post …
(Select a post category to file 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 can help improve your categories’ SEO)
You can also optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing 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 exactly what they are looking for and for search engines to index your pages.
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