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 WordPress CategoriesWordPress post categories can help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help search engines to better index your WordPress site.

This step-by-step tutorial helps you learn about configuring WordPress categories.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Default WordPress post web addresses are not search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress categories, you will first need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.

Permalinks let you display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=1469

You can have the post URL look like this:

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

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

To learn more about permalinks, see this tutorial: Changing WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: List Your 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 search engines to better index your content.

We recommend, therefore, first planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about and publish on your website. These can be topics related to your niche, your services or products, or your industry.

Important Info

To learn more about website planning, refer to this tutorial: How To Plan Your Web Site - A Money-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, remember to 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 website as an “authority” that online visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.

For example, let’s say 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 the following:

  • Marriage Celebrant FAQs
  • Marriage Celebrant Services
  • Wedding Tips
  • Marriage Vows
  • and so on …

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Topics

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Technology”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on building your authority in a niche, or a segment (i.e. subniche) of your main market.

Take a look at the illustration below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see from the above 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 selecting 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 Google’s estimates for the average number of monthly searches for each of these keywords …

Use keyword research to help with category planning

(Google Keyword Planner – Useful keyword research tool for category planning)

When planning your category topics, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the keywords that will be used throughout your site), and how you are going to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set a goal that is too big (i.e. dominating the online “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.

If you need help with strategic online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: A Money-Saving Guide To Web Site 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 your keywords into post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Your Categories

Publishing posts under carefully planned categories helps to keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides web visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site for search engines.

WordPress lets you easily organize content using categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize content with categories)

To access your WordPress Categories area, in your main menu section of your WordPress Dashboard, select Posts > Categories

WordPress Posts Menu - Categories

(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

Post Categories Screen

(Categories Area)

In this screen, you can add, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.

Adding Categories To WordPress

Categories screen - Add New Category

(Categories screen – Add New Category area)

To create a new post category in WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as shown in the example below:

Categories panel - Add New Category area fields

(Categories panel – Add New Category fields)

  1. Name – Type 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 category-related sections of your site.
  2. Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a 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 the category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site.
  4. Description – Write a brief category description 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 Add New Category when done to add the new category …

New category added

(New post category)

Repeat this process to keep adding new categories …

Categories table

(Table of categories)

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

Nested categories

(Create a hierarchical list of categories)

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

Creating hierarchical categories

(Add hierarchical post categories to WordPress)

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

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Tip

To add a new category while creating or editing a post:

  1. Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
  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

(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)

Your new category will instantly become available …

New post category added

(New category added)

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

How To Delete WordPress Categories

Info

Removing a category does not delete 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.

How To Delete Single Categories

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

Delete link - WordPress category

(Category – Delete link)

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

Click 'OK' to proceed

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

Deleting Multiple WordPress Categories

Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing many different 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.

Useful Information

Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected when unnecessary categories are removed have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, visit this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post

To bulk delete categories, click the main check box in the header row. This will select all category items on the page.

Next, go through the list and untick the box next to any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.

Select/Deselect Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

Once you have ticked all of the categories to be deleted, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

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

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

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

Deleting multiple categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

Editing Post Categories In WordPress

To edit a category, do this:

Go to your ‘Categories’ section, find the category item to be edited, then place your mouse over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

Edit link

(WordPress post category – Edit)

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

'Edit Category' panel

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

You can also edit categories 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 Update Category to save your changes …

Quick Edit screen

(Category – Quick Edit screen)

Useful Info

Important: Changing the category slug affects the URL of all posts published under 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, 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 posts and pages have already been indexed in the search engines.

Categories – Useful Tip

All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will automatically attribute your post to “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' post category

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Important

The default category cannot be deleted.

Having posts assigned 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

(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.

Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

Quick Edit Link

(Quick Edit)

Change both the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be generally 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” 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 readers 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

(Use search engine-friendly 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”. To learn how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

WordPress Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple Post Categories

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

WordPress posts can have multiple categories

(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)

If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below), you can specify a primary category …

If using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category

(When 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 your visitors to find related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

Categories display on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

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

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display category menus in the sidebar …

Display category menus on your WordPress sidebar

(Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar)

Idea

It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on how many posts and categories are published on your site, you can end up with a long list of categories …

Managing your categories is important

(Categories widget)

If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can reduce 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 drop-down menu)

We have written a detailed tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In The Sidebar Navigation Area

When visitors select a category from the list …

Select a category from the dropdown menu

(Select a category from the dropdown menu)

… An archive page displays all the posts filed for that category …

Posts can display in a category archive page

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and locate the category to display. Hover over the item and click View

View link - Category table

(View link)

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

Post Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort categories by name by clicking on the 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 rearranged according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …

Table of categories - Sorting categories

(Sort categories in the Categories table)

Categories – Searching Features

The search 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

(Table of Categories – Category Search Feature)

If you have loads of categories, you can split these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Categories Table – Category Pages)

To select how many categories to display per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options Tab)

Enter the number of categories per page you would like to show 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

(Screen Options Tab – Categories)

Categories – Grouping Features

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

Table of Categories - Count column

(Table of Categories – Category posts)

Posts assigned to the selected category will display in your Posts Table

Posts Table - Posts grouped by category

(Grouping posts by category)

Categories – Tools

To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter function found below your list of Categories …

Category to Tag converter tool

(Category to Tag converter)

This opens the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter)

We have written a detailed tutorial about Tags here: Adding, Editing, And Deleting Post Tags In WordPress

Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress has a number of great plugins to 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) …

Membership plugins can help protect content in specific post categories

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

Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …

Enhance the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins

(Expand the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Use WordPress Post Categories Effectively

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

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

Choose Relevant Keywords For Your 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 page for search engines, and improves click through rates.

So, for example, an article on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Survival Tools Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.

Publish Your Posts Under The Most Relevant Category

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

Choose a post category to save your post under

(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)

Use An SEO Plugin

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

A plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories

(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to optimize your categories)

You can optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins

(Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up WordPress 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 exactly what they are looking for and for search engines  to index your pages.

Add, Edit, And Delete WordPress Categories

***

"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.