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 Configure Categories In WordPressWordPress categories can help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories also helps to keep you content organized and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to add, edit & delete categories in WordPress.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress post URLs aren’t 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 let you display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=8798

The same post URL can look like this:

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

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

To learn more about setting up permalinks, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: List Your Main Topics

Maintaining your 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 search engine results.

The first step, therefore, is to carefully plan what kind of broad “topics” you will publish on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your niche, your products or services, or your industry.

Useful Info

We have created a detailed tutorial on website planning here: How To Plan Your Small Business Website - A Practical Guide For Business Owners

When creating a list of topics, 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 come back again to learn from and/or refer other people to.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to start a website or blog 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
  • Marriage Vows
  • etc.

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Topics

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to focus on trying to establish your authority in a smaller niche, or segment 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 sub niche (i.e. a subcategory) of the “Marriage Celebrant” niche (a category), which itself is a subcategory of the “Weddings” market (another category).

When selecting 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 Google’s estimates for the average number of monthly searches for each of these keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Keyword research for category planning

(Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning)

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 content), and how you are going to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the “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 business online.

If you need help with strategic online business areas like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Practical Guide To Website Planning For 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 categories and add them to your WordPress site.

Step 4: Set Up Your WordPress Post Categories

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

Organize posts with categories

(Organize content using categories)

To access your WordPress Post Categories area, in your Dashboard menu section, select Posts > Categories

Posts Menu - Categories

(Posts Menu – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

Categories Area

(Categories Area)

Here you can create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can optimize your website for search engines.

How To Add Categories

Categories panel - Add New Category section

(WP Post Categories screen – Add New Category area)

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

WordPress Post Categories panel - Add New Category area fields

(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” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a 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 using a lower case version of the category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site.
  4. 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 the category pages “meta” description.

Click Add New Category to add your new category …

New category added

(New category added)

Repeat this process to continue adding new categories …

Categories table

(Table of categories)

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

Create a hierarchical list of post categories

(Create a hierarchical list of post categories)

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

Creating hierarchical categories in WordPress

(Creating nested categories)

You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts  …

WordPress Post Categories box - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Tip

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

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

Post Categories section - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Your new category will become instantly available …

New post category added

(New category added)

To learn how to create or edit a WordPress Post, see these tutorials:

Removing Categories

Important Info

Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts that were assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (this is covered further below).

You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting Single Categories

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 delete the category from your list …

How to delete single categories

(WordPress category table – Delete link)

A window will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to stop …

Click 'OK' to proceed

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

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 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 individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Info

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

To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all items .

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

Select/Deselect Categories

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

Once you have selected all of the items you would like to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu …

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

(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)

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

Deleting multiple categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

Editing Categories

To edit a post category, do the following:

In your ‘Categories’ screen, locate the category item to be edited, then place your mouse over the category name, and click Edit

Edit

(Edit)

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

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ section)

You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you want to edit and click on Quick Edit

Quick Edit link - Category

(Quick Edit link)

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

Category menu - Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit fields)

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 to posts published elsewhere.

For this reason, we 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 Categories – Special 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 to the default category “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' category

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Important

The default category cannot be deleted.

Attributing posts to 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 relevant to your visitors and better for search engines too.

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

Quick Edit

(Category table: 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” to give your site a little extra SEO boost …

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

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

Now, when new posts are 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 above site has been configured to display SEO-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: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Post Categories

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

Posts can have multiple categories

(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify a primary category …

When using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign 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 your 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 category links will open an archive page containing other category-related content (see below).

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

Display categories on your sidebar

(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)

Tip

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

Managing your categories is important

(Categories widget)

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

WordPress categories widget - Using a drop down menu

(Using a drop category menu)

To learn more about adding and configuring sidebar widgets, see this tutorial: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In The Site

When a visitor selects a category from the drop-down list …

Selecting a category from the drop menu

(Selecting a category from the drop-down menu)

… An archive page displays all the posts published for that category …

Posts can display in a category archive page

(Category archive page)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you locate the category to display. Place your mouse over the item and click View

View

(View)

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

Post Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the black triangle icon next to the title …

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 sorted according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …

Categories table - Sorting categories

(Categories table – Sorting categories)

WP Categories – Search Features

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

Search Categories Feature

(Category Search)

If you have lots of categories, you can split these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Table of Categories – Category Pages)

To set how many categories per page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options Tab)

Edit 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’, etc.). Click the ‘Apply’ button to update your changes …

Screen Options Tab - Categories settings

(Screen Options – Categories settings)

WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features

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

Table of Categories - Post count

(Table of Categories – Post count)

Posts assigned to the selected category will display in the Table of Posts

Grouping posts by category

(WP Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)

Post Categories – Tools

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

Category to Tag converter

(Category to Tag converter)

This brings up the Tools > Import screen …

Tools > Import screen - Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

We have created a detailed tutorial about using Tags here: Using Tags

WordPress Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available many great plugins to help you manage and enhance your categories.

For example, you can use plugins to add images to your categories, exclude categories from displaying in certain areas of your site, rearrange the order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in membership sites) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories

(Membership plugins can protect content in categories)

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

Use plugins to enhance the functionality of your Categories Table

(Use plugins to expand the functionality of your Table of Categories)

Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-friendly URLs can help increase your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps 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

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 page for search engines, and improves clickthrough rates.

So, for example, if writing a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Australia – 10 Unforgettable Kayaking Adventures“.

Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Categories

Every time you add a new article or post, remember to select a relevant category box before publishing the post …

Choose a post category to file your post under

(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories module)

Use An SEO Plugin

One more step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use an SEO plugin for WordPress  …

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps improve your categories' SEO

(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps optimize your categories)

You can also optimize categories individually …

Optimize your categories with SEO plugins

(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 and managing your WordPress post 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 Set Up And Use WordPress Categories

***

"Learning WordPress has been a huge stumbling block for me. I've been looking for something that covers absolutely everything but doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thank you so much ... you have just provided me with what I have been looking for! Truly appreciated!" - Tanya

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress 101: How To Use WordPressWordPress 101: How To Use WordPress

Learn how to unlock the power of the WordPress content management system (CMS) using the many powerful features inside your WordPress administration area.

More info: WordPress 101: How To Use WordPress

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress SEOWordPress SEO

In this WordPress SEO training series you will learn how to optimize your WordPress site and how to craft website pages and blog posts that will help you get better search engine rankings and improve your traffic results.

More info: WordPress SEO

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Create Engaging PresentationsHow To Create Engaging Presentations

Learn how to create beautiful and engaging presentations that will help you sell more products and services online.

More info: How To Create Engaging Presentations

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress Traffic & User EngagementWordPress Traffic & User Engagement

Learn how to drive more targeted traffic to your website and discover ways to improve user engagement with your business online.

More info: WordPress Traffic & User Engagement

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Why Your Business Needs WordPressWhy Your Business Needs WordPress

Learn about the unique features, benefits, and advantages of using WordPress to start or grow your business online.

More info: Why Your Business Needs WordPress

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Need a new website or blog in a hurry?

This video course shows you how to quickly install and configure a WordPress website or blog on your own domain name and be up and running in no time!

More info: Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. 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.