WordPress categories help to make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories not only helps to keep your content organized, it also improves both your visitor’s search experience and your search engine rankings.
Learn about adding, editing, and deleting categories in this tutorial.
- 1 Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
- 2 Step 2: List Your Main Topics
- 3 Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
- 4 Step 4: Set Up Your WP Categories
- 4.1 How To Add Categories To WordPress
- 4.2 How To Remove Categories In WordPress
- 4.3 How To Edit Categories
- 4.4 WordPress Categories – Useful Tip
- 4.5 Categories – Additional Information
- 4.6 Categories – Useful Tips
- 4.7 WordPress Categories – Sorting Features
- 4.8 WordPress Post Categories – Search Features
- 4.9 Post Categories – Grouping Features
- 4.10 Categories – Tools
- 4.11 WordPress Categories – Plugins
- 5 Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Default WordPress post URLs are not very 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 web address that looks like this:
You can have the same post URL look like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so now before configuring your categories.
To learn more about setting up permalinks, go here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs
Step 2: List Your Main Topics
Maintaining content organized at all times 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, then, is to work out what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about. These can be topics related to your niche, your products or services, or your industry.
For a detailed step-by-step tutorial on planning a website, go here: The Website Planning Process: A Money-Saving Primer For Business Owners
When creating a list of topics, include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients should be better educated or informed about. This is very important in terms of establishing your site as an online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or valuable content like ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.
Let’s say, for example, that you want 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: Select Relevant Category Names
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Pets”, etc…) is extremely hard, 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 subset of your main market.
Take a look at the example below …
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 “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 can help you with category planning)
When planning your topic categories, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (like the main keywords used throughout your site), and how you are going to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. dominating the entire “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a 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 areas like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Comprehensive 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 turn these into categories and add them to your WordPress website or blog.
Step 4: Set Up Your WP Categories
Publishing posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides site visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your web pages for search engines.
(Organize content with categories)
To access your Post Categories section, go to your admin area and select Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This brings you to the ‘Categories’ panel …
(WordPress Post Categories Section)
Here you can add, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.
How To Add Categories To WordPress
(Categories screen – Add New Category)
To add a new post category to WordPress, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example below:
(Categories panel – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Type a concise 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 then display in all the category-related sections of your website.
- 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 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 create one for you using a lower case version of the category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website (explained further below).
- Description – Write a brief description of your category here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with SEO. 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 continue creating new categories …
(List of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Nested post categories)
To create nested categories, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ drop-down menu …
(Create nested post categories in WordPress)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Type your new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click the ‘Add New Category’ button …
(Post Categories section – Add New Category)
Your new category will instantly become available …
(New category added)
Learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress here:
How To Remove Categories In WordPress
Deleting a category does not delete the 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.
Deleting Single Categories
To remove a single category, hover over the category and click Delete …
(Delete – Category)
A 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)
Deleting Multiple 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 reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a fewer number of categories. 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 may be affected when categories are deleted 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 A Post In WordPress
To delete multiple categories, click the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category entries .
Next, go through the list and untick the box next to categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
After selecting all of the categories you would like to delete, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …
(Choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)
Click Apply …
(Bulk delete categories)
The selected categories will be removed …
How To Edit Categories
To edit a post category in WordPress, do the following:
Go to your ‘Categories’ table, find the category that needs to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click Edit …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ section. Edit the details in the category fields, and click Update to save your details …
(‘Edit Category’ section)
You can also edit information in categories using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you want to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(WordPress category table menu – Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Category menu – Quick Edit fields)
Changing the category slug will change the URL of 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 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 Categories – Useful 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 automatically to a default category called “Uncategorized” …
(WordPress 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 unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your site readers and optimized for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit …
(Category menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)
Change 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 an extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to visitors 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 …
(Use SEO-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”. If you need help setting up search engine-friendly URLs, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks
Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of categories:
Multiple Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to your posts …
(Posts can have multiple categories)
If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify a primary category …
(If using multiple post categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying WordPress Post Categories
Posts can be grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories on your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on the category links opens an archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
You can also list a category menu in your sidebar …
(Display category menus on your blog sidebar)
It’s important to manage your categories. 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 selecting the drop down menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …
(Use a drop down category menu)
If you need help with adding sidebar widgets, see this tutorial: How To Use WordPress Widgets
When a visitor selects a category from the list …
(Select a category from the drop-down menu)
… An archive page displays all posts listed under that category …
(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you locate the category whose Archive Page you would like to view. Place your mouse over the item and click View …
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of WordPress categories .
WordPress 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 triangle icon …
(Sort categories by 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, Count, etc.) …
(Sorting categories in the Categories table)
WordPress Post Categories – Search Features
You can search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
Your Table of Categories can be divided into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
(Table of Categories – Category Pages)
You can specify how many categories you want displayed per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …
Edit 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 Apply …
(Screen Options – Categories settings)
Post Categories – Grouping Features
Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Category posts)
A list of all posts assigned to the category will display in your Posts Table…
(Grouping posts by category)
Categories – Tools
Convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter feature found below your Table of Categories …
(Convert categories to tags)
This brings up the Tools > Import screen …
(Tools > Import screen – Categories and Tags Converter)
We have created a detailed tutorial on how to use WordPress tags here: How To Set Up WordPress Post Tags
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress has 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 appear in menus, lists, and tables, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for membership sites) …
(Membership plugins can be used to protect content in post categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Table of Categories)
Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly URLs helps to increase 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 categories.
Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the post title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, and improves click through rates.
So, for example, a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 3 Essential Survival Tools You Will Need For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.
Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Every time you add a new article or post, remember to tick 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 …
(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps optimize your categories)
You can optimize categories individually …
(Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)
Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up WordPress categories correctly. Following these simple steps will help keep your website organized, easier to manage, and make it easier for your site visitors to find what they are looking for and for search engines to better index your pages.
"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now
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