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 …

How To Set Up & Use WordPress CategoriesWordPress post categories help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Filing posts under categories also helps search engines to better index your WordPress site.

Learn how to set up & use categories in WordPress in this tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Default WordPress post web addresses aren’t 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 WordPress to display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=2209

The post URL can display like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/romantic-destinations/best-romantic-resorts-for-newlyweds

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

To learn more about permalinks, refer to this tutorial: How To Set Up Your WordPress Permalinks

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 searching for, but can also help to significantly boost your site’s optimization for better SEO.

The first step, therefore, is to plan what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about. These can be topics related to your niche, your products or services, your industry, etc.

Info

For a detailed step-by-step tutorial about website planning, go here: A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, 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 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.

For example, let’s say that you would like 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:

  • Marriage Celebrant FAQs
  • Marriage Celebrant Services
  • Wedding Locations
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • etc.

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Topics

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is extremely difficult, 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 market.

Take a look at the illustration below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

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 choosing 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 the sample keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Useful keyword research for category planning

(Use keyword research to help with category planning)

When planning category titles, 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 try to a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (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 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 areas like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Money-Saving Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to convert your keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress website or blog.

Step 4: Set Up Categories

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

Organize posts by categories

(Organize your content with categories)

To access your WordPress Categories section, go to the WP Dashboard and select Posts > Categories

Posts - Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

Post Categories Screen

(WordPress Post Categories Area)

This area allows you to add, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.

How To Add Post Categories To WordPress

WP Post Categories panel - Add New Category

(Categories screen – Add New Category section)

To add a new post category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example shown below:

Post Categories screen - Add New Category fields

(Categories screen – Add New Category area fields)

  1. 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 category-related sections of your website.
  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 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.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site (explained further below).
  4. 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 the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add the new category …

New post category

(New post category)

Repeat this process to keep creating new categories …

Table of categories

(Categories table)

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

Creating nested post categories

(Create nested categories)

To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop menu …

Creating hierarchical categories in WordPress

(Add nested post categories to WordPress)

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

Post Categories box - Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)

Useful Tip

If you need to add a new category while creating or editing a post:

  1. Click on +Add New Category,
  2. Type your new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
  3. Click on Add New Category

WordPress Post Categories box - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Your new category will be added to your list …

New post category added

(New post category added)

Learn how to create and edit a Post in WordPress here:

How To Remove Post Categories In WordPress

Important

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

To delete single categories, place your mouse over the category you would like to delete and a menu will display containing various options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to delete the category from your list …

Delete - Category table menu

(Deleting an individual category)

A warning message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to stop …

Click 'OK' to delete the category

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

Deleting 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 want to consolidate posts to a fewer number of categories. If you have too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.

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Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected by deleting unnecessary categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, visit this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts In WordPress

To bulk delete WordPress categories, click the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category listings 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.

Selecting/Deselecting Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

Once you have selected all of the categories you would like to delete, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop-down menu …

Choose the 'Delete' option from the 'Bulk Actions' drop down menu

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

With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the dropdown menu, click Apply

Deleting multiple categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …

Categories deleted

(’Categories deleted’ message)

Editing Categories In WordPress

To edit a category, do this:

Go to your ‘Categories’ panel, find the item that needs to be edited, then hover over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

WordPress category table - Edit

(Edit link – Category table)

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

'Edit Category' panel

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

You can also edit information in a category using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you want to edit and click on Quick Edit

Quick Edit link

(Quick Edit link – Category table menu)

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

Quick Edit screen

(Category – Quick Edit screen)

Info

Changing the category slug affects the URL of posts assigned for 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.

WordPress Categories – Special Tip

In WordPress, all posts must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will attribute your post to “Uncategorized” …

Category - 'Uncategorized'

(’Uncategorized’ category)

Important Info

The default category cannot be deleted.

Assigning posts 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

(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 site users and optimized for search engines too.

Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

Quick Edit Link

(Category: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)

Change both the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be 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” to give your site a little extra SEO boost …

Change 'Uncategorized' category to something more meaningful to your site readers and search engines

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

Now, when new 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 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 SEO-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: How To Configure Your WordPress Permalinks

WordPress Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Post Categories

In WordPress, posts must be published under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to a post …

WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories

(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

(With multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)

Displaying WordPress Categories

Posts can be grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

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

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also show categories in the sidebar …

Display a category menu on your WordPress sidebar

(Categories can display on your sidebar)

Useful Info

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 really long list of categories …

WordPress categories widget

(Managing your categories is important)

If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a drop down menu …

Using a dropdown category menu

(Using a drop-down category menu)

If you need help adding and configuring sidebar widgets, see this step-by-step tutorial: How To Use WordPress Widgets

When visitors select a category from the drop menu …

Select a category from the drop-down menu

(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)

… An archive page displays posts listed for that category …

Posts can display in category archive pages

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress admin area, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you want to view. Place your mouse over the category title and click View

Category table menu - View

(WordPress category table – View link)

Let’s take a look at some other features of WordPress categories worth knowing about.

WordPress Categories – Sorting Features

The Table of Categories allows you to sort categories by name by hovering near the column title and clicking on the black triangle icon …

Sort categories by 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 chosen (i.e. Name, Count, etc.) …

Sorting categories in the Categories table

(Categories table)

Categories – Search Features

This feature is useful if you have a large number of categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Search Categories

(Categories – Search Feature)

If your site has lots of categories, WordPress lets you divide these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Categories Table – Category Pages)

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

Screen Options Tab

(Screen Options)

Type in the number of categories per page to display 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 options)

Post Categories – Grouping Features

In the Categories Table, the Count column shows how many posts are assigned to each category. To see these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

Categories Table - Category posts

(Table of Categories – Post count column)

All posts assigned to the category will display in your Table of Posts

Table of Posts - Posts grouped by category

(Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)

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

(Category to Tag converter)

This opens the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Tools > Import screen – Categories and Tags Converter tool)

If you need help with WordPress post tags, see this tutorial: How To Configure And Use Tags

WordPress Categories – Plugins

WordPress has a number of great plugins to manage and enhance your 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 (e.g. when used in a membership site) …

Membership plugins can help protect content in specific categories

(Membership plugins can protect content in specific post categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

Expand the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins

(Extend the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Use Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and post URLs can help improve 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 additional tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.

Choosing Relevant Keywords For Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your the post title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In America – The 10 Most Insane Kayaking Adventures“.

Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Categories

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

Add/Edit Post - WordPress Post Categories

(Choose a post category to save your post under)

Use A WordPress SEO Plugin

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

A plugin like Yoast SEO helps improve your categories' SEO

(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps improve your categories’ SEO)

You can also optimize categories individually …

Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins

(Edit Category screen – Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up WordPress post categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your WordPress 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.

Configuring & Using WP Post Categories

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Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.