WordPress categories can help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories also helps to keep you content organized and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.
Learn how to configure and use post categories in WordPress 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 Categories
- 4.1 How To Add WordPress Categories
- 4.2 Deleting Categories
- 4.3 Editing WordPress Post Categories
- 4.4 Categories – Useful Tip
- 4.5 WordPress Categories – Additional Information
- 4.6 Categories – Useful Tips
- 4.7 WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
- 4.8 Categories – Searching Features
- 4.9 WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
- 4.10 Categories – Tools
- 4.11 WordPress Post Categories – Plugins
- 5 Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively
Default WordPress post web addresses aren’t very search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.
Permalinks allow your WordPress site to display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:
The same post URL can display like this:
If you have not yet configured your permalinks, then do so now before configuring your post categories.
To learn more about permalinks, see this step-by-step tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
Step 2: List Your Main Topics
Maintaining 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 to significantly boost your site’s optimization for improved search results.
The first step, therefore, is to work out what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about and publishing on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your services or products, or your industry.
We have written a detailed tutorial on website planning here: A Money-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 need to be better educated or informed about. This is important in terms of establishing your business as an online authority that visitors will want to come back repeatedly to and/or refer other people to.
For example, let’s say 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:
- Marriage Celebrant FAQs
- Marriage Celebrant Services
- Wedding Planning
- Commitment Ceremonies
Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially if you’re just getting started. It’s better to try and establish your authority in a niche, or segment (i.e. subniche) of your main market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
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 “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 the sample keywords …
(Keyword research - a useful 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 main keywords 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 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 grow your market share online.
If you need help with strategic online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: The Website Planning Process - A Practical Primer 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 WordPress post categories.
Step 4: Set Up Categories
Saving your WordPress posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides your visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your web pages for search engines.
(Organize content using categories)
To access your Categories section, log into your WordPress site, then go to your navigation menu and select Posts > Categories …
(Posts – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
Here you can add, edit, and remove categories, including inserting category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.
How To Add WordPress Categories
(Categories screen – Add New Category section)
To create a new post category in WordPress, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ area as per the example below:
(Categories panel – Add New Category area fields)
- Name – Enter 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 website.
- Slug – The “slug” are the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a specific category. The slug can be different than 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 your category name.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site (explained further below).
- 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 your new category …
Repeat this process to continue adding new categories …
(Table of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Creating a hierarchical list of post categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ dropdown menu …
(Add hierarchical post categories)
You can also add a new category while creating or editing posts …
(Add New Category)
To add a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
- Enter your new category name (and select a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
- Click Add New Category …
(WordPress Post Categories feature – Add New Category)
The new category will become instantly available …
(New post category added)
To learn how to create or edit a WordPress Post, see these tutorials:
Removing a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts assigned to deleted categories will be reassigned to the default category (this is covered further below).
You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.
Deleting A Single Category
To delete categories individually, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing various options. Click Delete to delete the category from your list …
(How to delete categories individually)
A window will pop up asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
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 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.
Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected by deleting categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning categories in posts, visit this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post In WordPress
To delete multiple categories, click the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all items on the page.
Next, go through the table and unselect categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the checkbox next to the item.
After ticking all of the categories to be deleted, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …
(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu)
With ‘Delete’ selected in the drop-down menu, click Apply …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be removed …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
Editing WordPress Post Categories
To edit a WordPress post category, do this:
In your ‘Categories’ section, locate the category that you would like to edit, then place your mouse over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Make changes to the information in the category fields, and click Update to save the 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 …
(Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit fields)
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 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 posts and pages have been indexed in the search engines.
Categories – Useful Tip
In WordPress, every post must be assigned to a category. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will assign your post to “Uncategorized” …
The default category cannot be deleted.
Assigning posts to 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 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: Uncategorized – 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” in order to give your site a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your visitors 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)
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 SEO-friendly URLs, go here: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
WordPress Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some additional features of post categories:
Multiple Post Categories
In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …
(Posts can have multiple categories)
Note that using a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …
(When using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying Post Categories
Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find topic-related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Categories display on your posts)
Clicking on category links will open a category archive page containing other category-related content (see below).
You can also display a category menu in the sidebar …
(Categories can display 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 very long category menu …
If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by selecting the drop menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …
(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop down menu)
We have written a detailed tutorial on adding sidebar widgets here: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In The Website
When a visitor selects a category from the drop-down list …
(Select a category from the dropdown menu)
… An archive page displays posts filed for that category …
(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)
Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WordPress admin area, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you would like to display. Hover over the item and click the ‘View’ link …
(Category table – View)
Let’s take a look at some other features of WordPress post categories .
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort categories by name by 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 sorted according to the column you’ve selected (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …
(Sort categories in the Categories table)
Categories – Searching Features
Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
If you have lots of categories, WordPress lets you split these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
To specify how many categories per page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
Type in the number of categories per page you would like to show 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.). Click the ‘Apply’ button to save your changes …
(Screen Options – Categories)
WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features
In the Table of Categories, the Count column lists how many posts are assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Category Table – Post count)
A list of posts assigned to the selected category will display in the Posts Table…
(Grouping posts by category)
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)
This will take you to the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter)
We have written a detailed tutorial on using WordPress tags here: Using Post Tags In WordPress
WordPress Post Categories – Plugins
WordPress has a number of great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of post categories.
For example, you can use plugins to add images to your categories, exclude categories from displaying in certain sections of your site, rearrange the way categories appear in lists, menus, and tables, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in membership sites) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Use plugins to expand the functionality of your Categories Table)
Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
To further improve your results, here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit when using categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Post Titles
In your content strategy, 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, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Tools You Will Need For Your Winter Camping Adventure“.
Publish Posts Under The Right Category
Every time you add a new article or post to your website, remember to select the most relevant category box before publishing your post …
(Select a category to file 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 to optimize your categories)
You can optimize categories individually …
(Optimize your categories 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. 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 index your pages.
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