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.

Configuring & Using Categories In WordPressWordPress post categories help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help to keep you content organized and allow search engines to better index your WordPress site.

Learn about configuring categories in posts in this tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

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

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

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=7981

The same post URL can display like this:

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

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

We have created a detailed tutorial about configuring permalinks here: How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: List Your Topics

Maintaining content organized is very 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 SEO.

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

Important Info

For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about planning a website, go here: A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical 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 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 valuable content like ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer to others.

For example, let’s say that you want 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 Tips
  • Marriage Vows
  • etc.

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Topics

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Business”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially if you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to build your authority in a niche, or a segment (i.e. subniche) of your main 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 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 above keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Useful keyword research for category planning

(Google Keyword Planner – Keyword research tool for category planning)

When planning your category titles, 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 site), and how you are going to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set a strategic objective that is too big (i.e. dominating 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 market share online.

For tutorials on strategic online business planning like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: Planning Your Small Business Website: A Useful Guide 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 keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress website or blog.

Step 4: Set Up Your Categories

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

WordPress lets you easily organize posts using categories

(WordPress allows you to easily organize content using categories)

To access your WordPress Post Categories section, in the main menu of your WP admin, choose Posts > Categories

WP Posts Menu - Categories

(Posts Menu – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

Post Categories Panel

(WP Post Categories Area)

In this section, you can create, edit, and remove categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can optimize your site for search engines.

Adding Post Categories

Post Categories screen - Add New Category

(Post Categories panel – Add New Category area)

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

Categories panel - Add New Category fields

(Post Categories screen – Add New Category section 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 category-related sections of your website.
  2. Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a specific category. Your 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 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.
  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 the category pages “meta” description.

Click Add New Category to add your new category …

New post category

(New post category added)

Repeat the above process to keep creating new categories …

Categories table

(Categories table)

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

Nested post categories

(Nested categories)

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

Create hierarchical post categories in WordPress

(Add hierarchical post categories)

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

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Useful Tip

If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:

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

Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories feature – Add New Category)

The new category will be added to your list …

New post category added

(New category added)

If you need help creating or editing posts in WordPress, see the tutorials below:

How To Delete WordPress Post Categories

Useful Info

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.

How To Delete Categories Individually

To remove single categories, 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

(Delete link)

A window will appear in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …

Click 'OK' to proceed

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

How To Delete 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 reduce the number of existing categories by assigning your imported posts to a fewer number of categories. If there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Disclaimer

Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected by deleting unnecessary categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting Posts

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

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

Select/Deselect Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

Once you have ticked all the category entries to be deleted, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

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

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

With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the drop down menu, click Apply

Bulk delete categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

'Categories deleted' message

(Categories deleted)

How To Edit WordPress Post Categories

To edit a WordPress category, do the following:

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

WordPress post category menu - Edit link

(Edit link – Category)

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

'Edit Category' section

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

You can also edit information in a category 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

(WordPress post category menu – Quick Edit)

Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …

Category menu - Quick Edit screen

(Quick Edit screen)

Disclaimer

Important: Changing the category slug affects 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 that have already been indexed by search engines.

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.

Post Category – Special Tip

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

WordPress category - 'Uncategorized'

(Category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Useful Info

The default category cannot be deleted.

Having posts assigned to 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

(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 optimized for search engines too.

Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

Quick Edit Link

(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” to give your site an extra SEO boost …

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

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

Now, when 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

(SEO improved URLs)

Note: The above site 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, go here: Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple Post Categories

Posts in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to your posts …

WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories

(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)

If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below), you can specify a primary category …

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

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

Displaying WordPress Categories

Posts can be grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.

You can display categories on your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Display categories in your posts)

Clicking on category links opens a category archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).

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

Display category menus on your WordPress sidebar

(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)

Info

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

Managing your categories is important

(Categories widget)

If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by selecting the drop down menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …

Use a drop down category menu

(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop menu)

If you need help with adding and configuring sidebar widgets, refer to this tutorial: Adding Widgets To The WordPress Sidebar

When a visitor selects a category from the drop menu …

Selecting a category from the drop menu

(Selecting a category from the drop menu)

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

Category archive page

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you want to see. Hover over the item and click View

View - Category table menu

(WordPress post category menu – View link)

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

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

Your Table of Categories allows you to sort categories by name by hovering near the column title and clicking on the little triangle icon …

Sort by category name

(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, Description, etc.) …

Table of categories

(Categories table – Sorting categories)

Categories – Searching Features

This feature is useful if your site has a large number of categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Search Categories Feature

(Search Categories)

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

Category Pages

(Category Pages)

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

Screen Options Tab

(Screen Options Tab)

Input the number of categories per page 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.). Click the ‘Apply’ button to update your settings …

Screen Options Tab - Categories

(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)

WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

Category screen - Post count

(Categories screen – Count column)

A list of posts assigned to that category will display in the Posts Table

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 link found below your list of Categories …

Category to Tag converter link

(Convert categories to tags)

This takes you to the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

We have written a detailed tutorial about WordPress post tags here: How To Configure And Use Tags In Posts

Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available a number of great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 appear in menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …

Membership plugins can protect content in specific post categories

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

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

Extend the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins

(Plugins can enhance the functionality of your Categories Table)

Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively

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

To improve your results further, here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.

Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

In your content strategy, try to include the main keyword of your post in the title, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, if writing a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Tools Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Your WordPress Posts Under The Correct Category

Every 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 WordPress Post - Post Categories

(Select a category to save your post under)

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  …

A plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories

(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps to optimize your categories)

You can even optimize categories individually …

Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins

(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 categories correctly. 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 content.

Add, Edit & Delete Post Categories In WordPress

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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 tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.