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.

How To Set Up Post Categories In WordPressWordPress post categories help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Filing posts under categories also helps to organize your content and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.

Learn about adding, editing, and deleting categories in WP posts in this step-by-step tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

By default, post URLs in WordPress are not search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of post 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=3532

The same post URL can look like this:

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

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

For a detailed tutorial on using permalinks, go here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Step 2: Make A List Of 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 looking for, but can also help to boost your site’s optimization for better SEO.

We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your niche, your business, or your industry.

Tip

For more information about planning a website, go here: A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating a 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 site 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 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 Locations
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • and so on …

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Headings

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Pets”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on establishing your authority in a smaller niche, or a sub niche of your main market.

Take a look at the example below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see from the above Market > Niche > Subniche 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 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 estimates from Google for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of the above keywords …

Keyword research can help you with category planning

(Use keyword research to help plan your categories)

When planning category names, it’s important to take your time and think 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 an unrealistic goal (i.e. trying to dominate the online “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a very narrow niche or microniche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to increase your business online.

For tutorials on strategic online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: How To Plan Your Website - A Practical Blueprint For Non-Technical 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 Categories

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

Organize content using categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize content by categories)

To access your WordPress Categories area, log into your WordPress site, then go to your navigation menu and select Posts > Categories

Posts - Categories

(Posts Menu – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

WordPress Post Categories Section

(Categories Section)

This screen lets you create, edit, and remove categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to optimize your site for search engines.

Adding WordPress Categories

Categories screen - Add New Category area

(Categories panel – Add New Category section)

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

WordPress Post Categories screen - Add New Category area fields

(Categories panel – Add New Category section 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 website.
  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 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 automatically 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 site (explained further below).
  4. Description – Write a brief description of your category 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 when done to add the new category …

New category added

(New category)

Repeat the above process to continue adding new categories …

Categories table

(List of categories)

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

Hierarchical list of post categories

(Create a hierarchical list of categories)

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

Creating hierarchical categories in WordPress

(Add nested post categories)

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

WordPress Post Categories section - Add New Category

(Post Categories box – Add New Category)

Tip

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

  1. Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
  2. Type a new category name (and choose an optional ‘parent’ category),
  3. Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …

Post Categories box - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Your new category will become instantly available …

New post category added

(New post category added)

If you need help creating or editing WordPress posts, see these step-by-step tutorials:

Removing Post Categories

Info

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

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

How To Delete A Single Category

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

Delete link - Category table menu

(Deleting categories individually)

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

Click 'OK' to delete the category

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

How To Delete WordPress Categories In Bulk

Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing many different categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you want to consolidate posts to a fewer number of categories. If you have too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Info

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected when categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign categories in posts, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post In WordPress

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

Next, go through the list and unselect 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 selected all of the items to be deleted, choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

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

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

Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …

Bulk delete categories

(Bulk delete categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

How To Edit Categories

To edit a WordPress post category, do the following:

Go to your ‘Categories’ screen, find the item that you would like to edit, then place your mouse over the category title, and click Edit

Edit

(Edit link)

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

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ section)

You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit

Category - Quick Edit link

(Quick Edit)

Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …

Category table - Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit screen)

Useful Info

Modifying the category slug will affect the URL of all posts published under that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links 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 post category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.

WordPress Category – 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 to a default category called “Uncategorized” …

WordPress post category - 'Uncategorized'

(’Uncategorized’ post category)

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 posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more meaningful to your visitors and optimized for search engines too.

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

Quick Edit Link

(Quick Edit link)

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 a little extra SEO boost …

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

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to users 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 search engine-friendly 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”. To learn how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information

Let’s take a look at some of the 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 be published under multiple categories

(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …

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

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

Displaying WordPress Categories

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

You can display categories on your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

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

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

Display category menus on your blog sidebar

(Display categories on your sidebar)

Important

It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on how many categories and posts 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 …

Using a drop down category menu

(Categories widget – Using a drop down menu)

If you need help adding and configuring sidebar widgets, refer to this tutorial: How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In Your Blog

When visitors select a category from the list …

Selecting a category from the drop-down menu

(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)

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

Category archive pages list posts published under common categories

(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your admin area, go to Post > Categories and locate the category to view. Hover over the item and click the ‘View’ link …

View link - Category

(Category table menu – View link)

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

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

Your Table of Categories allows you to sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and 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 sorted according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …

Sorting categories in the table of categories

(Categories table)

WP Post Categories – Searching Features

You can search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Category Search

(Category Search)

Your Categories Table can be divided into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

Categories Table - Category Pages

(Category Pages)

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

Screen Options

(Screen Options)

Enter the number of categories per page to show in the Table of Categories in the Categories > Pagination > Number of items per page: field. Note: you can also hide some or all of the columns (e.g. ‘Description’, ’Slug’, ‘Count’), and click the ‘Apply’ button …

Screen Options Tab - Categories options

(Screen Options Tab – Categories options)

WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …

Table of Categories - Post count

(Table of Categories – Category posts)

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

Grouping posts by category

(WP Table of Posts – Posts grouped by category)

WordPress Categories – Tools

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

Convert categories to tags

(Convert categories to tags)

This will take you to the Tools > Import screen …

Categories and Tags Converter feature

(Tools > Import screen – Categories and Tags Converter tool)

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

Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available many 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 a membership site) …

Membership plugins can help protect content in categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in categories)

Certain plugins will add new fields to your Categories Table …

Use plugins to expand the functionality of your Categories Table

(Plugins can enhance the functionality of your Categories Table)

Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively

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

To improve your results further, here are some tips for getting the most benefit when using post categories.

Choose Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles

In your content strategy, always 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 for an Outdoors Adventure Travel company targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In America – The 5 Most Memorable Kayaking Destinations“.

Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Categories

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

Choose a post category to save your post under

(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  …

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

(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps optimize your categories)

The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Optimize your categories 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. Following these simple steps will help keep your 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 Add, Edit, And Delete Post Categories In WordPress

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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 detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.