WordPress post categories help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Adding post categories not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s search experience and your search engine rankings.
Learn about configuring categories in WordPress in this tutorial.
Table of Contents
- Using WordPress Post Categories
- Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
- Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main Topics
- Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
- Step 4: Set Up Categories
- Adding Categories
- Removing Categories
- Editing Categories In WordPress
- Post Categories – Useful Tip
- Post Categories – Additional Information
- Categories – Useful Tips
- Categories – Sorting Features
- Categories – Search Features
- WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
- WordPress Categories – Tools
- WordPress Post Categories – Plugins
- Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively
Using WordPress Post Categories
Default WordPress post URLs 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 let you display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
The same post URL can display like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so first before configuring your categories.
If you need help with permalinks, refer to this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main Topics
Keeping your site’s 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 boost your site’s optimization for better search engine results.
We recommend, therefore, first 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 products or services, and even your industry.
For more information about planning a website, go here: A Money-Saving Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical 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 subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer to others.
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 the following:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Planning
- Marriage Vows
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on building your authority in a niche, or segment of your market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see from the above Market > Niche > Sub niche hierarchy 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 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 Google’s estimates for the average number of monthly searches for each of these keywords …
(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 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 entire “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a very narrow niche or sub-niche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to increase your market share online.
For tutorials on strategic online business online strategies like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: How To Plan Your Business Website - A Practical 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 keywords into post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Categories
Publishing WordPress posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides site 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 Post Categories section, log into the WP admin section and select Posts > Categories …
(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)
This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …
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.
(WP Post Categories screen – Add New Category)
To add a new category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as described below:
(Categories panel – Add New Category area fields)
- Name – Type 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 then 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 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 automatically create one for you using a lower case version of your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your website (explained further below).
- Description – Add a brief description of your category 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 your category pages “meta” description.
Click Add New Category to add the new category …
(New post category added)
Repeat this process to continue creating new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating nested post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ pulldown menu …
(Creating hierarchical categories in WordPress)
You can also add new categories while creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
To create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Enter a new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
The new category will be added to your list …
(New category added)
Learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress here:
Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (this is covered further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete Single Categories
To remove single categories, place your mouse over the category you want to delete and click Delete …
A window will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
Deleting Categories In Bulk
Let’s say that you import product data into your 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 fewer number of categories. If there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.
Important: Make sure that any posts that may 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, go to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts In WordPress
To bulk delete WordPress categories, click on the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category items .
Next, go through the list and untick the box next to categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.
After selecting all of the entries to be deleted, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …
(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu)
Next, click Apply …
(Bulk deleting categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
Editing Categories In WordPress
To edit a post category in WordPress, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ table, find the item that needs editing, then hover over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
(Category – Edit)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save your new details …
(‘Edit Category’ screen)
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 …
(WordPress category – Quick Edit)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
Important: Changing the category slug affects the URL of all posts published under 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.
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 attribute your post automatically to the default category “Uncategorized” …
(Post 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 optimized for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
(Category menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)
Change the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be generally 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” in order to give your site an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your readers and search engines)
Now, when new posts are published using the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …
(Use search engine-friendly URLs)
Note: The site used in the example above 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, see this tutorial: Setting Up WordPress Permalinks
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some 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 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)
Displaying Post Categories
Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for your visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Display categories in your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open a category archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
You can also display categories in your sidebar …
(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)
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 menu …
(WordPress 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 …
(Using a drop-down category menu)
If you need help adding and configuring sidebar widgets, see this tutorial: Using WordPress Widgets
When a visitor selects a category from the menu …
(Select a category from the drop menu)
… An archive page displays all posts filed for that category …
(Posts can display in a category archive page)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages from your admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you locate the category to view. Place your mouse over the item and click the ‘View’ link …
Let’s take a look at some other features of categories worth knowing about.
Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort categories by name by clicking on the triangle icon next to the title …
(Sort by category 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.) …
(Categories table – Sorting categories)
Categories – Search Features
This feature is useful if you have many categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
Your Categories Table can be split into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
To select how many categories to display per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Edit the number of categories per page to show in the Category Table 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’), and click Apply to update your changes …
(Screen Options – Categories)
WordPress Post 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 item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count column)
A list of all posts assigned to the selected category will display in your Table of Posts…
(Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)
WordPress Categories – Tools
Convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter function found below your Categories list …
(Convert categories to tags)
This will open the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
For more information about Post Tags, go here: Configuring Tags
WordPress Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available a number of 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 areas of your site, rearrange the way categories are ordered in lists, tables, and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in a membership site) …
(Membership plugins can protect content in specific categories)
Certain plugins will add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Expand the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)
Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and post URLs helps to improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some more tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your the title of your post, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.
So, for example, if writing a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking Adventures – The 3 Most Insane Kayaking Adventures“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Categories
Every time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to tick a category box before publishing the post …
(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)
Use An SEO Plugin
One additional step you can take to maximize the SEO benefit of using categories is to use a WordPress SEO plugin …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps improve your categories’ SEO)
You can optimize categories individually …
(Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up your WordPress categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your site organized, easier to manage, and make it easier for your site visitors to find exactly what they are looking for and for search engines to better index your content.