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.

Add, Edit, And Delete CategoriesWordPress post categories can help to make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help to organize your content and allow search engines to better index your WordPress site.

This step-by-step tutorial helps you learn how to configure and use post categories.

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress post URLs aren’t search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of categories, you will first 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:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=1468

The post URL can look like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/romantic-destinations/10-best-honeymoon-resorts

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

We have written a detailed tutorial on setting up permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

Step 2: Create A List Of Topics

Keeping your 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 SEO.

The first step, then, is to work out what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, and even your industry.

Info

If you need help website planning, go here: A Comprehensive Guide To Website Planning For Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients should be better educated or informed about. This is 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.

Let’s say, for example, 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 the following:

  • Marriage Celebrant FAQs
  • Marriage Celebrant Services
  • Wedding Planning
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • and so on …

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Business”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially when you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to establish your authority in a niche, or sub niche 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 subniche (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 take into account factors like “market competition.”

For example, the screenshot below shows Google’s estimates for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of the above keywords …

Keyword research can help you with category planning

(Keyword research can help you with category planning)

When planning category topics, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (like the keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how you are going to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic 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 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 planning like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning 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 convert these into post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Post Categories

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

Organize your content using categories

(WordPress allows you to easily organize content with categories)

To access your WordPress Categories section, in your Dashboard menu section, click on Posts > Categories

WP Posts Menu - Categories

(WP Posts Menu – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

Categories Section

(Categories Area)

Here you can create, edit, and remove categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.

Adding Post Categories To WordPress

Post Categories panel - Add New Category section

(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category area)

To add a new category to WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as shown in the example below:

Post Categories screen - Add New Category section fields

(WordPress Post Categories panel – Add New Category fields)

  1. Name – Type a short 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.
  2. 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 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 using a lower case version of your category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website.
  4. Description – Add a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with search engine optimization. Your category description will be used for the category pages “meta” description.

Click Add New Category to add the new category …

New category added

(New category)

Repeat the above process to keep adding new categories …

List of categories

(Table of categories)

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

Nested post categories

(Create a hierarchical list of categories)

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

Create nested categories

(Adding nested categories)

You can also add new categories when creating or editing posts  …

Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories section – Add New Category)

Practical Tip

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

  1. Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
  2. Enter your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if required),
  3. Click Add New Category

Add New Category

(Post Categories section – Add New Category)

The new category will become instantly available …

New category added

(New category added)

Learn how to create and edit a WordPress Post here:

How To Delete Categories

Important Info

Removing a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts that were assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the WordPress default category (see further below).

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

How To Delete Single Categories

To remove single categories, 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 …

WordPress category - Delete link

(Delete – Category table menu)

A message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …

Click 'OK' to proceed

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

How To Delete Multiple WordPress Categories

Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing a large number of categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you would like to consolidate posts to a single category. If there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.

Note

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected by deleting unwanted categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, refer to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete A Post

To bulk delete categories, click on the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category listings on the page.

Next, go through the table and unselect any 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

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

After selecting all the items you want to delete, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …

Select 'Delete' from the 'Bulk Actions' dropdown menu

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

Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …

Bulk deleting categories

(Bulk delete categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

'Categories deleted' message

(Categories deleted)

Editing Post Categories

To edit a WordPress post category, do the following:

Go to your ‘Categories’ screen, locate the category item that needs to be edited, then place your mouse over the category title, and click Edit

Edit - Category table menu

(Edit – WordPress post category table)

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

'Edit Category' panel

(‘Edit Category’ section)

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

WordPress post category table - Quick Edit link

(WordPress category menu – Quick Edit)

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

Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit fields)

Useful Information

Important: Changing the category slug affects the URL of all posts assigned to that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links pointing to posts published elsewhere.

For this reason, we strongly recommend investing time into planning your categories before publishing content, and avoid changing the category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your posts and pages have already been indexed in the search engines.

WordPress Category – Useful Tip

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

'Uncategorized' WordPress post category

(’Uncategorized’ category)

Useful Info

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

(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 visitors and optimize it better for search engines too.

Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit

Category: Uncategorized - Quick Edit Link

(Quick Edit link)

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” in order to give your site an extra SEO boost …

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

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

Now, when 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 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 search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Categories

In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to your posts …

Posts can have multiple categories

(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify a primary category …

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

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

Displaying WordPress Post Categories

Posts are grouped together under categories, making it easier for your visitors to find related content.

You can display categories on your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Display categories in your posts)

Clicking on category links opens a category archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).

You can also display categories in the sidebar …

Display categories on your WordPress sidebar

(Display categories on your WordPress sidebar)

Tip

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 list …

Managing your categories is important

(WordPress categories widget)

If you have many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by selecting the drop down menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …

WordPress categories widget - Using a drop down menu

(WordPress categories widget – Using a dropdown menu)

We have written a detailed tutorial about adding sidebar widgets here: Using Widgets In WordPress

When visitors select a category from the list …

Selecting a category from the drop-down menu

(Select a category from the drop down menu)

… An archive page displays the posts listed for that category …

Posts can display in category archive pages

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you find the category whose Archive Page you would like to view. Hover over the item and click View

View link - WordPress post category table

(View link)

Let’s take a look at some other features of post categories .

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort categories by name by hovering near the column title and clicking on the little triangle icon next to the title …

Sort by category 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 selected (i.e. Name, Count, etc.) …

Categories table

(Categories table)

WordPress Post Categories – Search Features

This feature is useful if your site has many categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Search Categories Feature

(Search Categories)

If you have many categories, you can split these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Categories Table – Category Pages)

You can specify how many categories per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …

Screen Options Tab

(Screen Options Tab)

Input the number of categories per page to show in the Table of Categories 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’, etc.), and click Apply

Screen Options Tab - Categories settings

(Screen Options Tab – Categories)

Post Categories – Grouping Features

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

Table of Categories - Post count

(Table of Categories – Post count)

Posts assigned to that category will display in your Table of Posts

Posts grouped by category

(Grouping posts by category)

WordPress Categories – Tools

To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter tool found below your Categories table …

Convert categories to tags

(Convert categories to tags)

This opens the Tools > Import screen …

Tools > Import section - Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter feature)

We have written a detailed tutorial on using Tags here: How To Set Up And Use WordPress Tags

WordPress Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available a number of great plugins to help you manage and enhance your 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in membership sites) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in specific categories

(Membership plugins can be used to protect content in specific post categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …

Enhance the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins

(Extend the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)

Step 5 – Use Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-friendly URLs helps to increase your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.

Here are some tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.

Choosing Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

When planning new content for your site, 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, 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 In Asia – The 7 Most Unforgettable Kayaking Locations“.

Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

Each time you add a new article or post to your website or blog, remember to select the most relevant category box before publishing the post …

Add/Edit WordPress Post - Post Categories

(Select a category to save your post under)

Use An SEO Plugin

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

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help improve your categories' SEO

(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories)

You can even optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins

(Optimizing your categories with SEO plugins)

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

Configuring & Using WP Post Categories

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and grow your business online at minimal cost!

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.