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 …

Configuring WordPress CategoriesWordPress post categories help make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Adding categories to your site not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s experience and your search engine rankings.

In this tutorial, you will learn about adding, editing, and deleting WordPress categories.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress post URLs aren’t really search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.

Permalinks allow your WordPress site to display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=3634

You can have the same post URL display like this:

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

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

We have created a detailed tutorial about configuring and using permalinks here: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

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 significantly boost your site’s optimization for better search engine results.

We recommend, therefore, first planning what kind of broad “topics” you will publish on your site. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your business, your industry, etc.

Useful Info

We have written a detailed tutorial on website planning here: The Website Planning Process: A Practical Guide 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 very important in terms of establishing your business 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.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to start a site 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
  • etc.

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Topics

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on establishing your authority in a niche, or sub niche of your market.

Take a look at the example below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see in 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 larger “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 consider factors like “market competition.”

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

Google Keyword Planner - Keyword research for category planning

(Keyword research can help you with category planning)

When planning your main topic categories, 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 to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic 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 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 online strategies like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: How To Plan Your Small Business Website - A Useful Blueprint 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 keywords into post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Your WP Categories

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

Organize posts with categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize posts using categories)

To access your WordPress Categories section, in the Dashboard, choose Posts > Categories

Posts - Categories

(Posts Menu – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …

Categories Section

(WordPress Post Categories Panel)

This panel allows you to create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.

Adding Post Categories To WordPress

Categories screen - Add New Category

(Post Categories panel – Add New Category area)

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

Categories screen - Add New Category area fields

(Categories screen – Add New Category area 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 category-related sections of your site.
  2. 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.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site.
  4. 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 the category pages “meta” description.

Click Add New Category when done to add the new category …

New category added

(New category added)

Repeat this process to continue adding new categories …

List of categories

(List of categories)

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

Hierarchical list of categories

(Hierarchical list of categories)

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

Adding nested categories

(Add nested post categories)

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

Post Categories module - Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories box – Add New Category)

Tip

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

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

Post Categories module - Add New Category

(Post Categories section – Add New Category)

The new category will instantly become available …

New post category added

(New post category added)

Learn how to create and edit WordPress posts here:

How To Remove Post Categories In WordPress

Important Info

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

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting Single Categories

To delete single categories, hover over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click Delete to remove the category from your list …

Deleting categories individually

(Delete)

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

Click 'OK' to proceed

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

How To Delete 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 reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If there are too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Important

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 post categories, go to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A WordPress Post

To delete multiple categories, click the main check box next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category entries on the page.

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

Selecting/Deselecting Categories

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

Once you have selected all of the category items to be deleted, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …

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

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

Click the ‘Apply’ button …

Bulk delete categories

(Bulk delete categories)

The selected categories will be deleted …

Categories deleted

(’Categories deleted’ message)

Editing Post Categories In WordPress

To edit a WordPress category, do the following:

In your ‘Categories’ screen, find the category that you would like to edit, then place your mouse over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

Category table - Edit link

(Category table – Edit link)

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

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you want to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

WordPress post category menu - Quick Edit link

(Quick Edit link)

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

Category - Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit fields)

Important

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

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 been indexed in the search engines.

WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tip

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

Category - 'Uncategorized'

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Useful Information

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

(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 readers and better for search engines too.

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

Category Table Menu: Uncategorized - Quick Edit Link

(Category table menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)

Change both the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be generally 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 your site users and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your visitors 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 SEO-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. For more details on how to set up search engine-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks

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 filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to your posts …

Posts can have multiple categories

(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)

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

When using multiple post 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 Categories

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

You can display categories on your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Display categories on your posts)

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

You can also list categories in your sidebar …

Display categories on your WordPress sidebar

(Display a category menu on your sidebar)

Important

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 …

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 selecting the drop down menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …

Use a drop down category menu

(Using a drop-down category menu)

For more information about adding sidebar widgets, go here: How To Add Widgets To Your WordPress Sidebar Menu

When a visitor selects a category from the list …

Selecting a category from the drop menu

(Select a category from the drop down menu)

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

Category archive page

(Posts can display in category archive pages)

Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress admin area, go to Post > Categories and select the category to see. Place your mouse over the item and click View

WordPress post category table - View link

(Category table – View link)

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

Post Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by clicking on the 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 rearranged according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …

Table of categories - Sorting categories

(Sort categories in the table of categories)

Post Categories – Searching Features

To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Search Categories

(Search Categories Feature)

Your Categories Table can be split into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …

Category Pages

(Table of Categories – Category Pages)

To specify how many categories per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options Tab)

Type in the number of categories per page you would like 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’, ‘Count’), and click the ‘Apply’ button …

Screen Options - Categories

(Screen Options Tab – Categories)

Post Categories – Grouping Features

In the Table of Categories, the Count column lists the number of posts assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …

Table of Categories - Post count

(Table of Categories – Post count column)

Posts assigned to the category will display in your Posts Table

Posts grouped by category - Table of Posts

(Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)

Post Categories – Tools

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

Category to Tag converter

(Category to Tag converter)

This will open the Tools > Import screen …

Tools > Import screen - Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter)

If you need help using Tags, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Adding, Editing, And Deleting WP Post Tags

Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress has many great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 are ordered in lists, menus, and tables, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in a membership site) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories

(Membership plugins can help protect content in specific post categories)

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

Expand the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins

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

Step 5 – Use Post Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly 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 from using post categories.

Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the the title of your post, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves click-through rates.

So, for example, if writing a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.

Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Categories

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

Add/Edit WordPress Post - Post Categories

(Select a post category to file your post under)

Use An SEO Plugin

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

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories

(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps to improve your categories’ SEO)

The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …

Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins

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

Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up and managing your 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 pages.

How To Set Up Categories

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"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

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.