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 PostsWordPress post categories help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help search engines to better index your WordPress site.

Learn how to configure and use WordPress categories in this tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Default WordPress post URLs are not search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.

Permalinks allow WordPress to display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=1534

You can have the same post URL display like this:

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

If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then do so first before configuring your categories.

For a detailed tutorial on using permalinks, go here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Step 2: Make A List Of Your Main Topics

Keeping 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 improved search engine results.

The first step, then, is to plan what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about. These can be topics related to your niche, your products or services, your industry, etc.

Idea

We have created a detailed tutorial on website planning here: The Web Site Planning Process Explained: A Money-Saving Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, remember to 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 web site as an “authority” that online 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 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 Tips
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • and so on …

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Headings

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Pets”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially if you’re just getting started. It’s better to focus on building your authority in a smaller niche, or a subniche of your market.

Take a look at the illustration below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see from the above 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 take into account 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 these keywords …

Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning

(Use keyword research to help plan your categories)

When planning your topic categories, 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 and gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. dominating the entire online “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a 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 strategic online business online strategies like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide To Web Site Planning 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 keywords into WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up WP Post Categories

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

Organize your content by categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize posts with categories)

To access your WordPress Categories section, log into your WordPress site, then go to your navigation menu and select Posts > Categories

WP Posts Menu - Categories

(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ panel …

Post Categories Screen

(Categories Area)

This section lets you create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can improve your website’s SEO.

How To Add Post Categories

Categories screen - Add New Category

(Categories screen – Add New Category)

To add a new category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example below:

Categories panel - Add New Category fields

(Post Categories screen – Add New Category area fields)

  1. 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 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 than 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 automatically using a lower case version of the category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your site (explained further below).
  4. Description – Write a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with SEO. Your category description will be used for your category pages “meta” description.

Click Add New Category to add your new category …

New post category added

(New category added)

Repeat this process to keep adding new categories …

List of categories

(List of categories)

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

Creating nested categories

(Creating a hierarchical list of categories)

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

Adding nested categories to WordPress

(Add nested post categories to WordPress)

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

Post Categories feature - Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories box – Add New Category)

Tip

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

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

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

The new category will instantly become available …

New category added

(New post category added)

Learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress here:

How To Delete Categories

Important Info

Removing a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (see further below).

You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting Single Categories

To delete single categories, hover over the category you would like removed and click the ‘Delete’ link …

Delete link

(Delete link)

A warning message 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 delete the category)

Deleting Multiple Categories

Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing many different categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you want to consolidate posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.

Info

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected when categories are removed have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post In WordPress

To bulk delete WordPress categories, click the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all 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.

Select/Deselect Categories

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

Once you have selected all the items to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …

Choose the 'Delete' option from the 'Bulk Actions' dropdown menu

(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu)

With ‘Delete’ selected in the pulldown menu, click the ‘Apply’ button …

Deleting multiple categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

'Categories deleted' message

(Categories deleted)

Editing Post Categories

To edit a category, do the following:

In your ‘Categories’ table, find the category item to be edited, then hover over the category name, and click Edit

Edit - WordPress category menu

(Edit link – WordPress post category)

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

'Edit Category' section

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

You can also edit information in categories using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit

WordPress category table menu - Quick Edit link

(Quick Edit link)

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

Category table - Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit fields)

Info

Changing the category slug will change the URL of posts assigned for that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links pointing to posts published elsewhere.

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 site is established.

Post Category – Useful Tip

In WordPress, all posts 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” …

'Uncategorized' category

(WordPress post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Important Info

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

(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 site users and optimized for search engines too.

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

Quick Edit Link

(Category table: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)

Change both 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 site readers and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site readers 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 search engine-friendly URLs

(Use search engine-friendly URLs)

Note: The site used in the example above 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 SEO-friendly URLs, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO With SEO-Friendly URLs

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Categories

Every post in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to a post …

WordPress posts can have multiple categories

(Posts can have multiple categories)

Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …

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

(If using 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 topic-related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

Clicking on the category links opens a category archive page containing related content (see below).

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list categories in your sidebar …

Display category menus on your blog sidebar

(Display category menus on your WordPress sidebar)

Important Info

It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a really long list of categories …

Managing your categories is important

(Managing your categories is important)

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 drop-down menu

(Using a dropdown category menu)

If you need help with adding and configuring sidebar widgets, see this tutorial: How To Use Widgets

When visitors select a category from the list …

Selecting a category from the drop-down menu

(Select a category from the drop menu)

… An archive page displays all the posts in that category …

Posts can display in a category archive page

(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)

WordPress Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and locate a category to display. Hover over the item and click the ‘View’ link …

View link - WordPress category table

(Category table – View link)

Let’s take a look at some other useful features of post categories worth knowing about.

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the little triangle icon next to the title …

Sort categories by name

(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, Description, etc.) …

Categories table

(Categories table – Sorting categories)

Categories – Searching Features

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

Search Categories

(Category Search)

Your Table of Categories can be divided into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Category Pages)

You can set how many categories per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options Tab)

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’, ’Slug’, ‘Count’). Click Apply to update your changes when done …

Screen Options Tab - Categories options

(Screen Options – Categories settings)

WordPress Categories – Grouping Features

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

Table of Categories - Count column

(Category Table – Category posts)

Posts assigned to that category will display in the Posts Table

Posts grouped by category - Table of Posts

(Table of Posts – Grouping posts by category)

Post Categories – Tools

You can convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter function found below your Table of Categories …

Convert categories to tags

(Category to Tag converter)

This brings you to the Tools > Import screen …

Categories and Tags Converter tool

(Categories and Tags Converter)

If you need help using Tags, see this tutorial: How To Add, Edit, And Delete Tags In Posts

Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available a number of great plugins to help 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 sections of your site, rearrange the order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in a membership site) …

Membership plugins can be used to protect content in specific post categories

(Membership plugins can help protect content in post categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

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

(Extend the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)

Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.

Here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.

Choose Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your the title of your post, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, and improves click-through rates.

So, for example, an article on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Europe – 3 Wild Kayaking Locations“.

Publish Posts Under The Right Post Category

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

Choose a category to file your post under

(Select a category to file your post under)

Use An 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 can help optimize your categories

(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories’ SEO)

You can even optimize categories individually …

Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins

(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 categories correctly. Following these simple steps will help keep your website organized, easier to manage, and make it easier for your site visitors to find what they are looking for and for search engines  to better index your pages.

How To Configure WordPress Categories

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.