WordPress post categories help to 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 experience and your search engine rankings.
Learn how to add, edit & delete WordPress post categories in this step-by-step tutorial.
Table of Contents
- Using WordPress Post Categories
- Step 1: Configuring Permalinks
- Step 2: List Your Main Topics
- Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
- Step 4: Set Up Your WP Post Categories
- How To Add Post Categories
- Deleting Categories
- How To Edit Categories In WordPress
- WordPress Category – Special Tip
- Post Categories – Additional Information
- Post Categories – Useful Tips
- Categories – Sorting Features
- Categories – Search Features
- Post Categories – Grouping Features
- WordPress Post Categories – Tools
- Post Categories – Plugins
- Step 5 – Use Post Categories Effectively
Using WordPress Post Categories
Default WordPress post web addresses aren’t very 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 allow your WordPress site to display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
You can have the same post URL look like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then we recommend doing so first before configuring your categories.
For more information about setting up permalinks, go here: Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks
Step 2: List Your Main Topics
Maintaining 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 search engines to better index your content.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about and publishing on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, your industry, etc.
If you need help with website planning, go here: A Comprehensive Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
When creating your list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that you believe your visitors, prospects, and clients should be better educated or informed about. This is important in terms of establishing your website as an “authority” that online visitors will want to come back repeatedly to 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:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Tips
- Commitment Ceremonies
- and so on …
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to focus on trying to build your authority in a niche, or segment of your market.
Take a look at the example below …
You can see in the above hierarchy 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 estimates from Google for the average number of monthly searches for each of the above 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 main keywords used throughout your content), and how to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. aiming to dominate the entire “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 grow your business online.
For tutorials on online business online strategies like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: A Practical 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 turn these into WordPress post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Your WP Post Categories
Publishing WordPress 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 content for search engines.
(WordPress lets you easily organize content by categories)
To access your Post Categories section, log into your WordPress site, then go to the main navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
This area lets you add, edit, and remove categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can optimize your website or blog for search engines.
How To Add Post Categories
(WP Post Categories screen – Add New Category area)
To create a new post category in WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example shown below:
(Categories panel – Add New Category 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 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. 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 automatically using a lower case version of your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your site (explained further below).
- Description – Add 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 the category pages “meta” description.
Click Add New Category to add your new category …
(New post category)
Repeat the above process to continue adding new categories …
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Hierarchical list of post categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop down menu …
(Create nested post categories)
You can also add new categories when creating or editing posts …
(Post Categories feature – Add New Category)
To add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Type a new category name (and choose an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Add New Category)
Your new category will instantly become available …
(New post category added)
Learn how to create and edit WordPress posts here:
Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the default category (see further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
How To Delete A Single Category
To remove an individual category, hover 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)
Deleting WordPress Categories In Bulk
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 would like to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.
Important: Make sure that any posts that will 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, refer to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A WordPress Post
To bulk delete WordPress categories, click on the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category items on the page.
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 the items you want to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …
(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)
Click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Bulk delete categories)
The selected categories will be removed …
How To Edit Categories In WordPress
To edit a WordPress category, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ section, locate the category item that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click Edit …
(WordPress category menu – Edit link)
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Make changes in the category fields, and click Update to save your changes …
(‘Edit Category’ panel)
You can also edit information in categories using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category table menu – Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click on the ‘Update Category’ button to save your changes …
(Quick Edit screen)
Important: Modifying the category slug affects 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 recommend investing 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 Category – Special Tip
All posts must be assigned to a category in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically attribute your post to “Uncategorized” …
The default category cannot be deleted.
Assigning posts to 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 visitors and optimized for search engines too.
Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
Change the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be 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” in order to give your site a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site visitors and search engines)
Now, when posts get published under 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”. For more details on how to set up SEO-friendly URLs, go here: Changing WordPress Permalinks
Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …
(Posts can have multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below), you can 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)
Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display in your posts)
Clicking on category links will open an archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).
As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display a category menu in the sidebar …
(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)
Managing your categories is important. 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 listing categories using a dropdown menu …
(Categories widget – Using a dropdown menu)
We have written a detailed tutorial on adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: How To Use Widgets In WordPress
When a visitor selects a category from the drop list …
(Select a category from the dropdown menu)
… An archive page displays all posts in that category …
(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)
Post Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and locate a category to display. Hover over the category title and click the ‘View’ link …
(Category table – View)
Let’s take a look at some other features of categories worth knowing about.
Categories – Sorting Features
The Table of Categories lets you sort categories by name by clicking on the little 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 sorted according to the column you’ve selected (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …
(Sort categories in the table of categories)
Categories – Search 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 you have lots of categories, you can divide these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
You can set how many categories to display per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
Enter the number of categories per page you would like 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’), and click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Screen Options – Categories options)
Post Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Post count column)
A list of posts assigned to that category will display in your Table of Posts…
(WordPress Table of Posts – Posts grouped by category)
WordPress Post Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter function found below your Table of Categories …
(Category to Tag converter link)
This brings up the Tools > Import screen …
(Categories and Tags Converter tool)
For a detailed tutorial about using WordPress post tags, go here: Adding, Editing, And Deleting Tags In Posts
Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available many great plugins to help manage and enhance the usefulness of categories.
For example, you can use plugins 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 a membership site) …
(Membership plugins can be used to protect content in categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Use Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-friendly URLs can help increase your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some tips for getting the most benefit from using post categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
As you create new content for your site, try to include the main keyword of your post in the title of your post, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your post 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 – 5 Wild Kayaking Adventures“.
Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Categories
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to select the correct category box before publishing the post …
(Select a post 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 for WordPress …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing your WordPress 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 better index your content.
"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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