WordPress post categories can help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help to keep you content organized and allow search engines to better index your WordPress site.
In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to configure WordPress categories.
Table of Contents
- Using WordPress Post Categories
- Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks
- Step 2: List Your Main Topics
- Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles
- Step 4: Set Up Your WP Post Categories
- How To Add Categories To WordPress
- Deleting WordPress Post Categories
- How To Edit Post Categories
- WordPress Category – Special Tip
- WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information
- WordPress Categories – Useful Tips
- WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
- Categories – Search Features
- Categories – Grouping Features
- Post Categories – Tools
- WordPress Categories – Plugins
- Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively
Using WordPress Post Categories
Out of the box, WordPress post URLs are not 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 let you display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:
You can have the post URL display like this:
If you have not configured your permalinks yet, then we recommend doing so first before configuring your categories.
We have created a detailed tutorial on configuring permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks
Step 2: List Your Main Topics
Keeping 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 SEO.
We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will be publishing on your website or blog. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, and even your industry.
We have written a detailed tutorial about planning a website here: A Money-Saving Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
When creating a list of topics, 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 business as an online authority that visitors will want to come back again to learn from and/or refer to others.
For example, let’s say 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 Locations
- Marriage Vows
Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles
Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is very difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on building your authority in a smaller niche, or a subniche of your market.
Take a look at the illustration below …
You can see from the above 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 selecting the keywords you would use as a top-level category to file 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 …
(Google Keyword Planner – Useful keyword research for category planning)
When planning 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 try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set a goal that is too big (i.e. aiming to dominate the entire 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 audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: The Web Site Planning Process: A Cost-Saving Primer 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 convert your keywords into categories and add them to your WordPress website or blog.
Step 4: Set Up Your WP Post Categories
Saving your posts under carefully planned categories helps to keep your content organized, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site for search engines.
(Organize posts using categories)
To access your WordPress Post Categories section, log into your WordPress site, then go to the navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories …
(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)
This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …
In this panel, you can create, edit, and remove categories, including inserting category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.
How To Add Categories To WordPress
(Categories panel – Add New Category area)
To create a new category, simply fill in the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as shown below:
(Post Categories panel – Add New Category fields)
- Name – Use 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 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 category. Your 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.
- Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website.
- Description – Add a brief category description 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 to add the new category …
(New post category)
Repeat this process to keep creating new categories …
(Table of categories)
You can also create “nested’ or hierarchical categories for your posts …
(Hierarchical list of categories)
To create a nested category, add a “child” category and then select a “parent” category from the ‘Parent’ dropdown menu …
(Create hierarchical post categories in WordPress)
You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts …
(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)
If you need to create a new category while creating or editing a post:
- Click on +Add New Category,
- Enter in your new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
- Click on Add New Category …
(Post Categories feature – Add New Category)
Your new category will be added to your list …
(New post category added)
Learn how to create and edit a Post in WordPress here:
Deleting WordPress Post Categories
Removing a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, 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.
How To Delete Categories Individually
To remove a single category, hover over the category and click the ‘Delete’ link …
(Deleting categories individually)
A warning message will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to go ahead, or Cancel to stop …
(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)
How To Delete Multiple WordPress Categories
Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing a large number of categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you would like to reduce the number of existing 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 can be useful.
Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected when unwanted 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: How To Edit And Delete A WordPress Post
To delete multiple WordPress categories, click on the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category items on the page.
Next, go through the table and unselect any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.
Once you have ticked all the items you want to delete, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …
(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu)
Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …
(Deleting multiple categories)
The categories you’ve selected will be removed …
(’Categories deleted’ message)
How To Edit Post Categories
To edit a WordPress post category, do this:
Go to your ‘Categories’ screen, find the item to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …
This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Make changes 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. Place your mouse over the category title you would like to edit and click on Quick Edit …
(Quick Edit link)
Edit your details and click Update Category to save your changes …
(Quick Edit screen)
Changing the category slug will change the URL of 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 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 already been indexed in the search engines.
WordPress Category – Special 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” …
The default category cannot be deleted.
Having posts attributed 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)
Instead of publishing posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your readers and better for search engines too.
Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …
(Category menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)
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 a little extra SEO boost …
(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your users and search engines)
Now, when posts get published under the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …
(Use SEO-friendly 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 SEO-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO
WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information
Let’s take a look at some of the additional features of post categories:
Multiple WordPress Post Categories
Posts in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …
(Posts can be published under multiple categories)
Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify a primary category …
(With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)
Displaying Post Categories
Posts can be grouped together by categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.
You can display categories in your posts …
(Display categories in your posts)
Clicking on the category links will open an archive page containing other category-related posts (see below).
You can also display a category menu in the sidebar …
(Display a category menu on your sidebar)
It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on the number of categories and posts published on your site, you can end up with a really long list of categories …
(Managing your categories is important)
If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a dropdown menu …
(Categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)
We have written a detailed tutorial on adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: How To Add WordPress Widgets To The Blog
When visitors select a category from the drop-down menu …
(Selecting a category from the drop menu)
… An archive page displays the posts listed for that category …
(Posts can display in category archive pages)
WordPress Categories – Useful Tips
To view Category Archive pages in your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you want to view. Hover over the item and click View …
(View – WordPress post category table menu)
Let’s take a look at some other useful features of WordPress post categories worth knowing about.
WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features
You can sort categories by name by clicking on the little triangle icon next to the title …
(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 chosen (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …
(Sort categories in the Categories table)
Categories – Search Features
Search for categories by typing in a keyword into the search field and clicking on the ‘Search Categories’ button …
(WordPress Post Categories – Searching Feature)
If you have many categories, WordPress allows you to break these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …
(Categories Table – Category Pages)
You can set how many categories per page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …
(Screen Options Tab)
Enter the number of categories per page 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 …
(Screen Options – Categories)
Categories – Grouping Features
In the Table of Categories, the Count column displays how many posts are assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …
(Table of Categories – Category posts)
Posts assigned to the category will display in the Posts Table…
(Table of Posts – Posts grouped by category)
Post Categories – Tools
To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter link found below your Categories list …
(Convert categories to tags)
This brings you to the Tools > Import section …
(Categories and Tags Converter feature)
We have created a detailed tutorial on Post Tags here: Configuring WordPress Tags
WordPress Categories – Plugins
WordPress makes available 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 areas of your site, rearrange the way categories are ordered in lists, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in a membership site) …
(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories)
Certain plugins can add new fields to your Table of Categories …
(Enhance the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)
Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively
Optimizing content, categories, and search engine and visitor friendly URLs helps to increase your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.
Here are some tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.
Choose Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles
SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your your title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves clickthrough rates.
So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Europe – The 10 Most Insane Kayaking Adventures“.
Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Post Categories
Each time you add a new article or post, remember to select a category box before publishing your post …
(Choose a category to save 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 …
(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps optimize your categories)
The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …
(Edit Category screen – 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. Following these simple steps will help keep your site 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.
"I have used the tutorials to teach all of my clients and it has probably never been so easy for everyone to learn WordPress ... Now I don't need to buy all these very expensive video courses that often don't deliver what they promise." - Stefan Wendt, Internet Marketing Success Group
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