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 And Use Post CategoriesWordPress post categories can 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 search experience and your search engine rankings.

This step-by-step tutorial helps you learn about configuring & using categories in WordPress posts.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

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

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

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=1516

The post URL can look like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/travel-destinations/top-honeymoon-destinations

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

We have created a detailed tutorial about permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

Step 2: Create A List Of Your Main Topics

Keeping your site’s 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 search engines to better index your content.

The first step, then, is to carefully work out what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your services or products, your industry, etc.

Idea

If you need help with planning a website, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners

When creating a list of topics, remember to 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 online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer to others.

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 Planning
  • Marriage Vows
  • etc.

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Headings

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on building your authority in a smaller niche, or a sub niche 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 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 deciding on the keywords you would use as a top-level category to file 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 online searches performed each month for each of these keywords …

Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning

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

When planning your category names, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (like the main keywords used throughout your content), and how you are going to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (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 microniche, 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., refer to this tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide To Website 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 keywords into post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Categories

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

WordPress lets you easily organize your posts using categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize content using categories)

To access your WordPress Post Categories area, go to the administration area and choose Posts > Categories

Posts - Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

Post Categories Section

(Categories Area)

This section lets you add, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can help to optimize your site for search engines.

How To Add Post Categories

Categories panel - Add New Category area

(Categories screen – Add New Category area)

To add a new category, simply fill in 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 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 the 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. Your slug can be different than 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 hierarchies of categories on your website.
  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. Your category description will be used for the category pages “meta” description.

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

New category

(New category)

Repeat the above process to continue inserting new categories …

Table of categories

(Categories list)

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

Hierarchical list of post categories

(Nested post categories)

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

Adding nested categories to WordPress

(Create nested categories)

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

WordPress Post Categories module - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Tip

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

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

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

The new category will instantly become available …

New category added

(New category added)

To learn how to create or edit a WordPress Post, see these step-by-step tutorials:

How To Remove WordPress Categories

Useful Info

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

You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting Categories Individually

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

How to delete categories individually

(How to delete single categories)

A warning message will pop up 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)

Deleting WordPress Categories In Bulk

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 there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Note

Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected when categories are removed have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, refer to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts

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

Next, go through the list and unselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.

Select/Deselect Categories

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

Once you have ticked all the categories you want to delete, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …

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

(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu)

Click Apply

Deleting multiple categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …

Categories deleted

(’Categories deleted’ message)

Editing Post Categories

To edit a WordPress post category, do the following:

In your ‘Categories’ table, find the category item that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click Edit

Edit link

(WordPress post category menu – Edit link)

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

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ section)

You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Hover over the category title you would like to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

Quick Edit link

(Quick Edit – Category table menu)

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

Quick Edit fields

(Category – Quick Edit screen)

Info

Modifying 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 published elsewhere.

For this reason, we strongly 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 – Special Tip

In WordPress, all posts must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will assign your post to “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' category

(WordPress post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Important Info

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

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

Category Table Menu: Uncategorized - Quick Edit Link

(Quick Edit)

Change both 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 your readers and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to site readers and search engines)

Now, when posts are published using 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 search engine-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. If you need help setting up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, go here: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

WordPress Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple Post Categories

In WordPress, posts must be published under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …

WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories

(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)

Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify a primary category …

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

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

Displaying WordPress Post Categories

Posts can be grouped together by categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

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

You can also show category menus in the sidebar …

Display category menus on your WordPress sidebar

(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)

Important Info

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 category menu …

WordPress 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 listing categories using a dropdown menu …

WordPress categories widget - Using a drop menu

(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)

We have created a detailed tutorial on adding sidebar widgets here: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In Your Sidebar Section

When visitors select a category from the list …

Select a category from the drop down menu

(Selecting a category from the drop down menu)

… An archive page displays all the posts in that category …

Posts can display in a category archive page

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

WordPress Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you find the category to see. Place your mouse over the category name and click View

View link - WordPress post category

(View link – WordPress post category table menu)

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

WordPress Categories – Sorting Features

You can 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 categories by name

(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 chosen (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …

Categories table - Sorting categories

(Sort categories in the table of categories)

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

(Search Categories)

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

Table of Categories - Category Pages

(Category Pages)

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

Screen Options

(Screen Options)

Enter the number of categories per page to show in the Category Table 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’, etc.), and click Apply

Screen Options - Categories settings

(Screen Options Tab – Categories options)

Categories – Grouping Features

In the Categories Table, the Count column lists how many posts are 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)

Posts assigned to that category will display in your Posts Table

Grouping posts by category - Posts Table

(Grouping posts by category)

Post Categories – Tools

Convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter tool found below your Categories list …

Convert categories to tags

(Convert categories to tags)

This brings up the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter)

We have created a detailed tutorial on Post Tags here: Using Tags In WordPress

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 sections of your site, rearrange the way categories appear in menus and list, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for a membership site) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

Plugins can be used to expand the functionality of your Categories Table

(Expand the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-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 more tips for getting the most benefit when using categories.

Choose Relevant Keywords For Your 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 at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 10 Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.

Publish Your Posts Under The Correct Post Category

Every time you add a new article or post, remember to tick a category box before publishing the post …

WordPress Post Categories section

(Select a category to save your post under)

Use A WordPress 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 helps to optimize your categories

(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps to optimize your categories)

The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins

(Improve 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 content.

Configuring 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.