WordPress categories help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories not only helps to keep your content organized, it also improves both your visitor’s search experience and your search engine rankings.
Learn how to configure categories in this step-by-step tutorial.
- Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
- Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main Topics
- Step 3: Select Relevant Category Topics
- Step 4: Set Up Your Categories
- Adding Post Categories To WordPress
- How To Delete Categories
- Editing Post Categories
- WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tip
- Categories – Additional Information
- Categories – Useful Tips
- WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
- WP Post Categories – Searching Features
- WordPress Categories – Grouping Features
- WordPress Post Categories – Tools
- Post Categories – Plugins
- Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Default WordPress post URLs aren’t very 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 let you display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
The post URL can display like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then do so now before configuring your post categories.
To learn more about configuring permalinks, see this step-by-step tutorial: Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks
Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main Topics
Keeping content organized is very 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 engine results.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about and publish on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, and even your industry.
If you need help website planning, go here: A Cost-Saving Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating a 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 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 to others.
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:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Locations
- Commitment Ceremonies
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Topics
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially if you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on building your authority in a niche, or a sub niche of your main market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
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 larger “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 estimates from Google for the average number of monthly searches for each of these keywords …
(Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning)
When planning your main topic categories, 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 content), 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 “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 increase your business online.
If you need help with strategic online business online strategies like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: Planning Your Small Business Website - A Basic Blueprint 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 categories and add them to your WordPress site.
Step 4: Set Up Your Categories
Publishing your WordPress posts under carefully planned categories helps keep your content organized, provides site visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.
(WordPress lets you easily organize content by categories)
To access your Post Categories area, in your Dashboard, click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
(WordPress Post Categories Panel)
This area allows you to create, edit, and remove categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can optimize your website for search engines.
Adding Post Categories To WordPress
(Post Categories screen – Add New Category area)
To create a new category in WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example below:
(Categories panel – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Enter a short 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.
- Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a specific 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 automatically using a lower case version of the category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site (explained further below).
- Description – Write 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 the ‘Add New Category’ button to add your new category …
(New post category)
Repeat the above process to continue adding new categories …
(Table of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Create a hierarchical list of post categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ dropdown menu …
(Create hierarchical categories in WordPress)
You can also add new categories when creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories module – Add New Category)
If you need to add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Enter your new category name (and choose an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(Add New Category)
Your new category will be added to your list …
(New post category added)
Learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress here:
How To Delete Categories
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 categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting Categories Individually
To delete an individual category, hover over the category and click the ‘Delete’ link …
(Deleting single categories)
A warning message will appear in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)
How To Delete Multiple WordPress Categories
Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing a large number of categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you want to consolidate 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 removed 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 WordPress Posts
To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category items on the page.
Next, go through the list and unselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
After selecting all of the categories you would like to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …
(Select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu)
With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the drop down menu, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Bulk deleting categories)
The selected categories will be removed …
Editing Post Categories
To edit a WordPress post category, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ section, locate the item that you would like to edit, then hover over the category title, and click Edit …
(Edit – Category table menu)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Make changes to the information in the category fields, and click Update to save the details …
(‘Edit Category’ panel)
You can also edit information in a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Quick Edit – WordPress post category)
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
Modifying the category slug changes 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, we recommend investing time into planning your categories before publishing content, and avoid changing the post category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your posts and pages have already been indexed in the search engines.
WordPress Post Categories – Useful 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 a default category called “Uncategorized” …
(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)
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)
Instead of publishing unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your readers and optimize it better for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘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” to give your site an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to users 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)
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”. If you need help setting up SEO-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
Every post in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to a post …
(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)
Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(If using multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying Post Categories
Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for your visitors to find related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on category links will open an archive page containing category-related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list categories in your sidebar …
(Categories can display on your sidebar)
It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on how many categories and posts are published on your site, you can end up with a very long category list …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by selecting the dropdown menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop menu)
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on adding sidebar widgets, go here: How To Add And Configure Widgets In The WordPress Blog Sidebar
When visitors select a category from the drop-down list …
(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)
… An archive page displays all posts filed under that category …
(Posts can display in a category archive page)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll down the Category Table until you find the category whose Archive Page you want to display. Hover over the category title and click View …
Let’s take a look at some other features of categories .
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
Your Table of Categories lets you sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the triangle icon …
(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 selected (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …
(Sorting categories in the Categories table)
WP Post Categories – Searching Features
Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Table of Categories – Category Search Feature)
If your site has loads of categories, WordPress splits these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
To select how many categories per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Type in the number of categories per page you would like to display in the Table of Categories 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’, etc.), and click Apply …
(Screen Options – Categories)
WordPress Categories – Grouping Features
In the Table of Categories, the Count column lists how many posts are assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count)
A list of posts assigned to the selected category will display in the Table of Posts…
(Posts grouped by category)
WordPress Post Categories – Tools
You can convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter function found below your Categories table …
(Convert categories to tags)
This brings you to the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter feature)
If you need help using Post Tags, see this tutorial: Configuring Tags In WordPress
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available a number of great plugins to manage and enhance your 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 way categories are ordered in menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can be used to protect content in specific categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Extend the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-friendly URLs helps to 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 tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the post title, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, and improves click-through rates.
So, for example, a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel company targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 10 Essential Survival Tools You Will Need For Your Winter Camping Trip“.
Publish Posts Under The Most Relevant Post Category
Every time you add a new article or post to your website or blog, remember to tick a category box before publishing your post …
(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)
Use A WordPress SEO Plugin
One 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 helps to optimize your categories)
The plugin also allows you to 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 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 index your content.
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