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 Categories In WP PostsWordPress categories help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Filing posts under categories also helps to keep you content organized and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn about configuring categories.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress post URLs 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 search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=7236

The post URL can look like this:

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

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

We have written a detailed tutorial on permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Step 2: Make A List Of Your Main Topics

Keeping your content organized is important, as this will not only make it easier for your visitors to find the information they’re searching for, but can also help search engines to better index your content.

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

Important

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

When creating a list of topics, 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 web site 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 would like 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 Locations
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • etc.

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is very hard to do, especially if you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on building your authority in a smaller niche, or segment (i.e. subniche) 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 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 “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 online searches performed each month for each of the above keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Keyword research tool for category planning

(Google Keyword Planner – Keyword research for category planning)

When planning category names, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (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 a goal that is too big (i.e. aiming to dominate 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 online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: How To Plan Your Small Business Web Site - A Basic Guide For Business Owners

After mapping out your top-level topics and figuring out what your main keywords are, the next step is to convert these into post categories.

Step 4: Set Up WP Post Categories

Saving your WordPress posts under categories that best 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 site for search engines.

WordPress allows you to easily organize posts using categories

(Organize your posts by categories)

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

Posts - Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

Categories Screen

(WP Post Categories Area)

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

How To Add WordPress Post Categories

WP Post Categories screen - Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category area)

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

Categories panel - Add New Category fields

(Categories panel – Add New Category fields)

  1. Name – Enter a concise category name here, preferably using 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 the category-related sections of your website.
  2. Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a category. Your 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 create one for you 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 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 SEO. WordPress uses the category description you write here for your category pages “meta” description.

Click the ‘Add New Category’ button to add the new category …

New post category added

(New category)

Repeat the above process to continue adding new categories …

Table of categories

(Table of categories)

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

Nested categories

(Hierarchical list of categories)

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

Adding hierarchical categories

(Create nested categories in WordPress)

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

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Useful Tip

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

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

Post Categories module - Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories module – Add New Category)

The new category will be added to your list …

New post category added

(New post category added)

If you need help creating and editing a Post in WordPress, see these tutorials:

Deleting Categories In WordPress

Important

Deleting 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 (see further below).

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

How To Delete Categories Individually

To remove a specific category, hover over the category you would like removed and click Delete

Delete

(How to delete single categories)

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

Click 'OK' to delete the category

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

Deleting Multiple Categories

Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing a large number of categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you want to reduce the number of existing categories by assigning your imported posts to a fewer number of categories. If you have 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 categories in posts, visit this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A WordPress Post

To delete multiple categories, click on the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. 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 check box next to the item.

Selecting/Deselecting Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

Once you have ticked all of the entries to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …

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

(Choose the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu)

Click Apply

Bulk deleting categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …

'Categories deleted' message

(’Categories deleted’ message)

Editing WordPress Categories

To edit a post category, do the following:

Go to your ‘Categories’ panel, locate the category item that needs editing, then hover over the category name, and click Edit

Category - Edit

(Edit – Category table)

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

'Edit Category' section

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

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

(Quick Edit – WordPress category table)

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

Category menu - Quick Edit fields

(Category table – Quick Edit screen)

Important

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

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 posts and pages have been indexed in the search engines.

WordPress Post Categories – 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 automatically to a default category called “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' post category

(’Uncategorized’ post category)

Important

The default category cannot be deleted.

Attributing posts 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

(Publishing posts under the ‘uncategorized’ category is not recommended)

Instead of publishing unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your site visitors and optimized for search engines too.

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

Category: Uncategorized - Quick Edit

(Category table menu: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)

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 a little 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 site readers 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 …

SEO improved URLs

(Use SEO-friendly 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, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

WordPress 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. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …

WordPress posts can have multiple categories

(WordPress posts can have multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …

If 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 WordPress Post Categories

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

You can display categories in your posts …

Categories display on your posts

(Categories display in your posts)

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

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also list categories in your sidebar …

Categories can display on your blog sidebar

(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)

Important

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

(WordPress categories widget)

If you have 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 dropdown category menu

(Using a drop-down category menu)

If you need help with adding sidebar widgets, go here: How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In The Website

When a visitor selects a category from the menu …

Selecting a category from the drop menu

(Select a category from the drop menu)

… An archive page displays the posts in that category …

Posts can display in category archive pages

(Posts can display in category archive pages)

WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your admin area, go to Post > Categories and locate the category whose Archive Page you would like to display. Hover over the category title and click View

View link

(View)

Let’s take a look at some other features of post categories worth knowing about.

Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the little triangle icon next to the title …

Sort by category 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 selected (i.e. Name, Description, etc.) …

Sort categories in the table of categories

(Categories table – Sorting categories)

Categories – Search Features

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

Categories Table - Searching Feature

(Table of Categories – Category Search Feature)

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

Category Pages

(Category Pages)

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

Screen Options

(Screen Options)

Edit the number of categories per page you would like 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’, ’Count’, etc.). Click Apply to save your changes when done …

Screen Options Tab - Categories

(Screen Options – Categories)

Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

Table of Categories - Post count

(Table of Categories – Category posts)

All posts assigned to that category will display in the Posts Table

Posts Table - Grouping posts by category

(Grouping posts by category)

Categories – Tools

You can 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 will open the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

We have written a detailed tutorial on how to use Post Tags here: How To Add, Edit, And Delete Tags In WordPress

Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available a number of 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 tables, menus, and lists, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in membership sites) …

Membership plugins can protect content in post categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

Enhance the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins

(Extend the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and SEO-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 when using post categories.

Choosing Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the your post title, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your post 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 Australia – 10 Wild Kayaking Destinations“.

Publish Posts Under The Right Post Category

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

Post Categories section

(Add/Edit WordPress Post - Post Categories)

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 to optimize your categories

(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps optimize your categories)

The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …

Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins

(Optimizing your categories 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 WordPress 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 better index your content.

Configuring Categories

***

"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. 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.