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 And Use CategoriesWordPress post categories help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories also helps search engines to better index your WordPress site.

Learn about configuring post categories in WordPress in this tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

Default WordPress post web addresses aren’t search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress 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:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=5739

The same post URL can look like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/travel-destinations/top-honeymoon-destinations

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

If you need help with configuring and using permalinks, refer to this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Step 2: List Your Topics

Keeping your site’s content organized at all times 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 improved search results.

The first step, then, is to carefully work out what kind of broad “topics” you will be publishing on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.

Tip

To learn more about website planning, see this step-by-step tutorial: Planning Your Small Business Website: A Money-Saving Blueprint For Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, include areas of your business that you believe your visitors, prospects, and clients should be better educated or informed about. This is very important in terms of establishing your site as an online authority that 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 website 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
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • etc.

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Titles

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on establishing your authority in a niche, or a sub niche of your main market.

Take a look at the example below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see from 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 “Weddings” market (another category).

When deciding on 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 tool for category planning

(Use keyword research tools to help plan your categories)

When planning your category topics, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the keywords that will be 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. trying to dominate the 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 business online.

If you need help with strategic online business planning like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: The Website Planning Process Explained: A Money-Saving Primer 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 into WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Your WordPress Categories

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

Organize posts with categories

(Organize content using categories)

To access your Categories area, log into your WordPress dashboard, then go to the navigation menu and choose Posts > Categories

Posts Menu - Categories

(Posts Menu – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

WP Post Categories Panel

(Post Categories Section)

In this area, you can create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can improve your site’s SEO.

Adding Post Categories

WP Post Categories panel - Add New Category area

(Categories panel – Add New Category)

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

Categories screen - Add New Category fields

(Post Categories panel – Add New Category 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 the 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 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 your category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website (explained further below).
  4. Description – Add 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 the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add the new category …

New category

(New category added)

Repeat the above process to keep creating new categories …

List of categories

(Categories list)

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

Nested categories

(Hierarchical list of post categories)

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

Creating nested post categories in WordPress

(Create nested categories)

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

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Useful Tip

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

  1. Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
  2. Enter a new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
  3. Click Add New Category

Post Categories feature - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

The new category will become instantly available …

New post category added

(New post category added)

To learn how to create and edit WordPress posts, see the tutorials below:

How To Remove Categories In WordPress

Important Info

Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, 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.

How To Delete Categories Individually

To delete a single category, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing various options. Click Delete to remove the category from your list …

Delete - WordPress category

(How to delete a single category)

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

Click 'OK' to delete the category

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

Deleting Multiple Categories

Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing many different categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you want to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported 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 comes in handy.

Useful Information

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 post categories, visit this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts

To delete multiple categories, click on the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category items on the page.

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

Select/Deselect Categories

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

After ticking all the entries you would like to delete, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …

Select 'Delete' from the 'Bulk Actions' pulldown menu

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

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

Deleting multiple categories

(Bulk delete categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …

Categories deleted

(’Categories deleted’ message)

How To Edit Post Categories In WordPress

To edit a WordPress post category, do this:

Go to your ‘Categories’ panel, locate the category entry that needs editing, then hover over the category name, and click Edit

Edit

(WordPress post category menu – Edit)

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

'Edit Category' panel

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

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

Quick Edit link

(Quick Edit link)

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

Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit fields)

Info

Modifying the category slug will change the URL of all posts assigned to 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 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

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

'Uncategorized' category

(WordPress 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 visitors and optimize it better for search engines too.

Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

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 a little extra SEO boost …

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

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to site readers 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 …

Use SEO-friendly 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”. To learn how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Categories

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

Posts can be published under multiple categories

(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …

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

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

Displaying Post Categories

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

You can display categories on your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Display categories in your posts)

Clicking on the category links will open an archive page containing other related posts (see below).

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list a category menu in the sidebar …

Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar

(Categories can display on your sidebar)

Tip

Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a very long category menu …

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 drop-down menu …

Categories widget - Using a dropdown menu

(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)

We have written a detailed tutorial on adding sidebar widgets here: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In The Site

When a visitor selects a category from the dropdown menu …

Selecting a category from the drop menu

(Selecting a category from the dropdown menu)

… An archive page displays all posts published under 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 in your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and locate a category to display. Place your mouse over the item and click View

View link - Category table menu

(WordPress category table menu – View)

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

Post Categories – Sorting Features

Your Table of Categories allows you to sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the black triangle icon …

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

Table of categories - Sorting categories

(Sorting categories in the Categories table)

WP Post Categories – Searching Features

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

Category Search

(Search Categories Feature)

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

Categories Table - Category Pages

(Categories Table – Category Pages)

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

Screen Options Tab

(Screen Options)

Enter the number of categories per page to display in the Categories > Pagination > Number of items per page: field. Note: you can also hide some or all of the columns (e.g. ‘Description’, ’Slug’, ‘Count’). Click Apply to update your settings when done …

Screen Options - Categories options

(Screen Options Tab – Categories options)

WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features

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

Table of Categories - Post count

(Categories screen – Post count)

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

Grouping posts by category

(Posts grouped by category)

WordPress Post Categories – Tools

To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter feature found below your Table of Categories …

Category to Tag converter link

(Category to Tag converter function)

This brings you to the Tools > Import section …

Tools > Import screen - Categories and Tags Converter tool

(Categories and Tags Converter feature)

To learn more about using Tags, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: How To Set Up And Use Post Tags In WordPress

Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available many great plugins that can 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 way categories appear in lists, tables, and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in a membership site) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in categories

(Membership plugins can help protect content in categories)

Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …

Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Table of Categories

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

Step 5 – Use WordPress Post Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-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 tips for getting the most benefit when using categories.

Choose Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the title of your post, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, an article on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.

Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

Every time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to tick a category box before publishing your post …

Choose a post category to save your post under

(Choose a post 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 an SEO plugin for WordPress  …

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help improve your categories' SEO

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

The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins

(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 pages.

Configuring Categories In WP Posts

***

"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum

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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.