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 …

Using Post Categories In WordPressWordPress categories 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 tutorial, you will learn about adding, editing & deleting categories in WP posts.

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 post categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.

Permalinks allow your WordPress site to display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=3648

You can have the post URL display like this:

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

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

If you need help with setting up and using permalinks, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Step 2: List Your Topics

Keeping 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 search engines to better index your content.

The first step, then, is to carefully plan what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your business, or your industry.

Info

We have written a detailed tutorial on website planning here: The Web Site Planning Process Explained - A Useful Guide For Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, remember to 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 website as an “authority” that online visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer to others.

For example, let’s say 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 the following:

  • Marriage Celebrant FAQs
  • Marriage Celebrant Services
  • Wedding Tips
  • Marriage Vows
  • and so on …

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Business”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when 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 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 larger “Weddings” market (another category).

When deciding on 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 estimates from Google for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of these keywords …

Keyword research can help you with category planning

(Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning)

When planning category topics, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you can control (like the keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how you are going to use these elements to try to 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 very narrow niche or microniche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to increase your market share online.

If you need help with strategic online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: Planning Your Business Website: A Useful Primer For Business Owners

After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to turn these keywords into post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Your WP Post Categories

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

Organize posts using categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize your posts with categories)

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

Posts - Categories

(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ panel …

Categories Screen

(Categories Section)

Here you can create, edit, and delete categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.

How To Add Categories To WordPress

WP Post Categories panel - Add New Category area

(WP Post Categories screen – Add New Category area)

To create a new post category in WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example below:

Post Categories panel - Add New Category section 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 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 category. Your slug can be different from 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 category hierarchies on your website (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 the ‘Add New Category’ button to add the new category …

New post category added

(New category)

Repeat this process to continue adding new categories …

List of categories

(List of categories)

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

Hierarchical list of post 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 …

Add nested categories to WordPress

(Add hierarchical categories to WordPress)

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

Post Categories section - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Useful Tip

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

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

Add New Category

(Post Categories module – Add New Category)

The new category will become instantly available …

New post category added

(New category added)

Learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress here:

How To Delete Post Categories

Important Info

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

Deleting Single Categories

To delete a specific category, place your mouse over the category and click Delete

How to delete a single category

(Deleting an individual category)

A message will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to abort …

Click 'OK' to proceed

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

How To Delete Multiple WordPress 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 would like 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.

Warning

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected by deleting categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, visit this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete A Post

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

Next, go through the table and untick the box next to 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

(Select/Deselect Categories)

After selecting all the entries you would like to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu …

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

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

Click the ‘Apply’ button …

Deleting multiple categories

(Bulk deleting categories)

The selected categories will be deleted …

Categories deleted

(’Categories deleted’ message)

How To Edit Post Categories

To edit a WordPress post category, do the following:

Go to your ‘Categories’ section, find the category item to be edited, then place your mouse over the category name, and click Edit

Edit

(WordPress category – Edit link)

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

'Edit Category' section

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

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

(Quick Edit)

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

Category - Quick Edit fields

(Category menu – Quick Edit fields)

Useful Information

Changing the category slug will affect 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, it’s best to invest 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 assign your post to the default category “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' category

(Category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Useful Info

The default category cannot be deleted.

Publishing posts under 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 posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your site readers and better for search engines too.

Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit

Category Table Menu: Uncategorized - 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 readers and search engines

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

Now, when posts are published under 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 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: Configuring WordPress Permalinks

WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple Categories

In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to your posts …

WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories

(Posts can be published under multiple categories)

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

With multiple 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 visitors to find related content.

You can display categories on your posts …

Categories display on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

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

You can also show category menus in the sidebar …

Categories can display on your blog sidebar

(Display categories on your blog sidebar)

Important Info

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

WordPress categories widget

(Managing your categories is important)

If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a drop menu …

Use a drop-down category menu

(Categories widget – Using a drop menu)

If you need help adding sidebar widgets, go here: Using Widgets In WordPress

When a visitor selects a category from the list …

Selecting a category from the dropdown menu

(Select a category from the drop-down menu)

… An archive page displays 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 admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll down the Category Table until you locate a category to display. Place your mouse over the category name and click the ‘View’ link …

View link

(View)

Let’s take a look at some other useful features of post 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 by category 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 selected (i.e. Name, Count, etc.) …

Table of categories

(Table of categories)

WordPress Categories – Search Features

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

Table of Categories - Searching Feature

(Search Categories)

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

Table of Categories - Category Pages

(Categories Table – Category Pages)

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

Screen Options

(Screen Options Tab)

Input the number of categories per page you would like to display in the Category Table 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 settings when done …

Screen Options - Categories

(Screen Options – Categories)

Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

Categories Table - Category posts

(Category Table – Post count)

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

Posts grouped by category - WordPress Posts Table

(Grouping posts by category – WP Posts Table)

WordPress 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

(Convert categories to tags)

This brings you to the Tools > Import section …

Tools > Import screen - Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

We have written a detailed tutorial on Tags here: How To Configure And Use Tags

WordPress Categories – Plugins

WordPress has many great plugins that can help you 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …

Membership plugins can help protect content in specific categories

(Membership plugins can protect content in categories)

Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …

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

(Expand the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Using WordPress 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.

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

Choose Relevant Keywords For Post Titles

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

So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 10 Survival Tools You Will Need For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Categories

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

Select a post category to file your post under

(Post Categories section)

Use An SEO Plugin

An additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use an SEO plugin  …

A plugin like Yoast SEO helps improve your categories' SEO

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

You can also optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Optimize your categories with SEO plugins

(Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up 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 content.

Adding, Editing & Deleting Post Categories In WordPress

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Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.