WordPress categories can help to 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.
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn about configuring WordPress categories.
Using WordPress Post Categories
Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
Default WordPress post web addresses aren’t very 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 WordPress to display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
The post URL can display like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your categories.
We have created a detailed tutorial on configuring permalinks here: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks
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 boost your site’s optimization for better search results.
The first step, then, is to carefully plan what kind of broad “topics” you will publish on your site. These can be topics related to your niche, your business, or your industry.
We have created a detailed tutorial on planning a website here: How To Plan Your Small Business Website - A Basic Blueprint 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 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 ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.
Let’s say, for example, that you want 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:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Locations
- Commitment Ceremonies
- and so on …
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Pets”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to try and establish your authority in a smaller niche, or a subniche of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see from the above Market > Niche > Subniche 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 monthly searches for each of these keywords …
(Use keyword research to help with 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 keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. trying to dominate 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 increase your business online.
For tutorials on online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: The Website Planning Process Explained - A Money-Saving Guide 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 turn your keywords into WordPress post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Post Categories
Publishing your posts under carefully planned categories helps keep your content organized and easy to find, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site for search engines.
(WordPress allows you to easily organize posts by categories)
To access your WordPress Categories section, in your main menu section of your admin area, click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
(WordPress Post Categories Area)
This section lets you create, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.
How To Add Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category)
To create a new post category in WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example below:
(Categories screen – Add New Category area fields)
- Name – Enter a concise category name here, preferably one that uses 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.
- 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 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.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your site (explained further below).
- Description – Add a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with search engine optimization. WordPress uses the category description you write here for the category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button to add the new category …
(New category added)
Repeat the above process to keep adding new categories …
(Table of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop down menu …
(Add hierarchical categories to WordPress)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)
To create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Enter a new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if required),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
Your new category will instantly become available …
(New post category added)
Learn how to add and edit posts in WordPress here:
Deleting WordPress Post Categories
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts that were 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.
Deleting Categories Individually
To delete categories individually, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing various options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to remove the category from your list …
(Category table menu – Delete)
A window will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)
Deleting Multiple Categories
Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress 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 single category. If you have too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.
Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected when unnecessary categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign categories in posts, see this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts
To bulk delete WordPress categories, click on the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all items on the page.
Next, go through the table and unselect any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
Once you have ticked all the categories to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …
(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu)
Click Apply …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The selected categories will be removed …
How To Edit Categories
To edit a category in WordPress, do the following:
Go to your ‘Categories’ table, locate the category entry that you would like to edit, then hover over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(Edit – Category table)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save the details …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
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 …
(WordPress post category – Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
Important: Modifying the category slug affects the URL of posts assigned to that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links 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.
Categories – Useful Tip
In WordPress, every post must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will assign your post automatically to the default category “Uncategorized” …
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)
Instead of publishing posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more meaningful to your users and better for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)
Change both the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be generally 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 an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site users and search engines)
Now, when posts are published using the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …
(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 SEO-friendly URLs, 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 Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be published under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to your posts …
(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)
Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …
(With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying Post Categories
Posts can be grouped together under categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Categories display in your posts)
Clicking on category links will open an archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display category menus in the sidebar …
(Display a category menu on your blog sidebar)
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 really long category menu …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by selecting the drop menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …
(Use a drop down category menu)
We have created a detailed tutorial about adding sidebar widgets here: Adding WordPress Widgets To Your Sidebar
When visitors select a category from the drop-down menu …
(Select a category from the drop menu)
… An archive page displays posts filed under that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your admin area, go to Post > Categories and locate the category whose Archive Page you would like to see. Hover over the item and click the ‘View’ link …
(View link – Category table)
Let’s take a look at some other features of post categories .
Categories – Sorting Features
Your Table of Categories allows you to sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the triangle icon next to the title …
(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.) …
(Sorting categories in the Categories table)
Categories – Searching Features
You can search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Post Categories – Category Search Feature)
Your Table of Categories can be split into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
You can set how many categories per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …
Edit 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’, ’Count’, etc.). Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options – Categories)
WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count column)
A list of posts assigned to the category will display in your Posts Table…
(Posts grouped by category)
WordPress Post Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter link found below your Categories table …
(Convert categories to tags)
This opens the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
We have written a detailed tutorial about using Tags here: How To Set Up Post Tags
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress has many 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for a membership site) …
(Membership plugins can protect content in specific categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …
(Enhance the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly URLs helps to increase your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
To further improve your results, here are some more tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant 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, catch your visitor’s attention.
So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Accessories You Will Need For Your Winter Camping Adventure“.
Publish Posts Under The Most Relevant Post Category
Every time you add a new article or post, remember to tick the most relevant category box before publishing the post …
(WordPress Post Categories section)
Use A WordPress SEO Plugin
An additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use a WordPress SEO plugin …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories’ SEO)
You can optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Optimize your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up your WordPress post 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 index your pages.
"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