WordPress post categories 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.
Learn about configuring and using WordPress categories in this step-by-step tutorial.
- Using WordPress Post Categories
- Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
- Step 2: Make A List Of Topics
- Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles
- Step 4: Set Up Categories
- Adding WordPress Post Categories
- Removing Categories
- How To Edit Post Categories
- Post Category – Useful Tip
- Categories – Additional Information
- Post Categories – Useful Tips
- WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
- WP Categories – Searching Features
- WordPress Categories – Grouping Features
- Categories – Tools
- WordPress Post Categories – Plugins
- Step 5 – Using Categories Effectively
Using WordPress Post Categories
Default WordPress post URLs are not search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.
Permalinks let you display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
The same post URL can look like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then do so first before configuring your post categories.
For more information about setting up permalinks, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks
Step 2: Make A List Of Topics
Maintaining your 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 search engines to better index your content.
We recommend, therefore, first planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, your industry, etc.
We have written a detailed tutorial about website planning here: A Practical Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating your 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 very important in terms of establishing your website as an online authority that visitors will want to come back repeatedly to and/or refer to others.
For example, let’s say that you want to start a site 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
- Marriage Vows
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Sports”, etc…) is very difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to establish your authority in a smaller niche, or segment (i.e. subniche) of your main market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
You can see from the above Market > Niche > Subniche 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 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 the above keywords …
(Use keyword research to help plan your categories)
When planning category topics, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you can control (like the main keywords used throughout your content), and how to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set a goal that is too big (i.e. dominating 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 sub-niche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to grow your business online.
For tutorials on strategic online business areas like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide To Web Site Planning 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 Categories
Publishing your WordPress posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized and easy to find, provides web visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.
(Organize content using categories)
To access your Categories area, log into the WordPress administration section and choose Posts > Categories …
(WP Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …
This screen allows you to create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can help to optimize your website or blog for search engines.
Adding WordPress Post Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category)
To create a new post category in WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as shown below:
(WP Post Categories panel – Add New Category section 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 then display in all the category-related sections of your site.
- Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a specific category. Your slug can be different from 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 automatically create one for you using a lower case version of your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site (explained further below).
- Description – Write 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 your category pages “meta” description.
Click the ‘Add New Category’ button to add your new category …
(New post category)
Repeat the above process to keep creating new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating a hierarchical list of categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop-down menu …
(Adding nested post categories)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
If you need to add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Enter a new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Post Categories module – Add New Category)
Your new category will be added to your list …
(New post category added)
If you need help creating and editing posts in WordPress, see the tutorials below:
Deleting a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the default category (see further below).
You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting Categories Individually
To delete categories individually, place your mouse over the category and click the ‘Delete’ link …
(Deleting single categories)
A message will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, 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. product manufacturers), and you want to consolidate posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.
Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected when unwanted 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 WordPress Posts
To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all items .
Next, go through the table and deselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
After ticking all the items to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu …
(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu)
With ‘Delete’ selected in the drop menu, click Apply …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be removed …
How To Edit Post Categories
To edit a WordPress post category, do the following:
In your ‘Categories’ panel, locate the category item that you would like to edit, then place your mouse over the category title, and click Edit …
(WordPress post category – Edit link)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ panel. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save your changes …
(‘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 link – Category table)
Edit your details and click Update Category 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 pointing to posts that have already been indexed by search engines.
For this reason, we strongly 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 been indexed in the search engines.
Post Category – Useful Tip
All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will attribute your post automatically to the default category “Uncategorized” …
(’Uncategorized’ post category)
The default category cannot be deleted.
Having posts attributed to 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 unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your site users and optimized for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
(Category table: 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 a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to site visitors and search engines)
Now, when new 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 site used in the example above 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 search engine-friendly URLs on your site, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …
(Posts can have multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(With multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying WordPress Post Categories
Posts are grouped together by categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display in your posts)
Clicking on the category links opens an archive page containing related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also show categories in the sidebar …
(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a really long category menu …
(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-down menu …
(Using a drop down category menu)
If you need help with adding sidebar widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Use Widgets
When visitors select a category from the dropdown list …
(Selecting a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays the posts in that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll down the Category Table until you find a category to see. Place your mouse over the category name and click the ‘View’ link …
(View – WordPress post category table menu)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of post categories .
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
Your Categories Table lets you 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)
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, Description, etc.) …
WP Categories – Searching Features
You can search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(Categories Table – Searching Feature)
If your site has lots of categories, WordPress allows you to split these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
You can select how many categories per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
Input 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’, etc.). Click Apply to save your changes when done …
(Screen Options Tab – Categories)
WordPress Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Categories screen – Category posts)
A list of all posts assigned to the selected category will display in the Table of Posts…
(Grouping posts by category)
Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter feature found below your Categories table …
(Category to Tag converter tool)
This will open the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter tool)
To learn more about WordPress tags, refer to this tutorial: How To Configure Tags
WordPress Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available a number of great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of post 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 are ordered in tables, lists, and 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 can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Expand the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Using Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
To further improve your results, here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit when using categories.
Choosing Relevant Keywords For Post Titles
When creating content for your site, always try to include the main keyword of your post in the title of your post, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves click through rates.
So, for example, if writing a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Essential Survival Tools Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Every time you add a new article or post, remember to select a relevant category box before publishing the post …
(Select 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 helps to improve your categories’ SEO)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up WordPress post categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your site 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.
"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)
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