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.

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How To Configure And Use Categories In WordPress PostsWordPress post categories help to make finding information on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories not only helps to organize your content, it also improves both your visitor’s search experience and your search engine rankings.

Learn how to configure post categories in WordPress in this tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

By default, WordPress post URLs aren’t really 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 allow your WordPress site to display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=4781

The same post URL can look like this:

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

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

We have written a detailed tutorial on configuring permalinks here: How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: List Your Topics

Maintaining your site’s content organized is very 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.

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

Important

For more information about planning a website, go here: A Practical Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating a list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients need to be better educated or informed about. This is important in terms of establishing your web site as an “authority” that online visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or valuable content like ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.

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:

  • Marriage Celebrant FAQs
  • Marriage Celebrant Services
  • Wedding Locations
  • Commitment Ceremonies
  • etc.

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Names

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Business”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially if you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on building your authority in a niche, or subset of your main market.

Take a look at the example below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see in 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 “Weddings” market (another category).

When choosing 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 monthly searches for each of these keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Useful keyword research tool for category planning

(Google Keyword Planner – Keyword research for category planning)

When planning your main topic categories, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the main keywords used throughout your content), and how to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set a strategic objective that is too big (i.e. aiming to dominate the “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.

If you need help with online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: Planning Your 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 WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Post Categories

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

WordPress lets you easily organize posts with categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize content using categories)

To access your Categories section, log into your WordPress site, then go to the main navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories

WP Posts Menu - Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

Post Categories Screen

(WP Post Categories Area)

In this screen, you can add, edit, and remove categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can improve your website’s SEO.

How To Add WordPress Post Categories

Categories screen - Add New Category area

(Categories screen – Add New Category)

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

Categories screen - Add New Category fields

(WordPress Post Categories screen – Add New Category fields)

  1. Name – Use 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 then display in all the category-related sections of your site.
  2. Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a 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 website.
  4. 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 your category pages “meta” description.

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

New category added

(New category added)

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 post categories

(Hierarchical list of categories)

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

Add hierarchical post categories to WordPress

(Create hierarchical categories)

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

Post Categories box - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Tip

If you need 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 choose a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
  3. Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Your new category will instantly become available …

New post category added

(New category added)

Learn how to add and edit WordPress posts here:

Removing Categories

Useful Info

Deleting 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 (see further below).

You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.

How To Delete A Single Category

To remove single categories, hover over the category and click Delete

How to delete a single category

(Delete link)

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 proceed

(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. product manufacturers), and you would like to reduce the number of categories by assigning your imported 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

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 delete multiple categories, click the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category entries .

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

Select/Deselect Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

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

Choose the 'Delete' option from the 'Bulk Actions' drop-down menu

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

With ‘Delete’ selected in the dropdown menu, click the ‘Apply’ button …

Deleting multiple categories

(Bulk delete categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

Editing Post Categories

To edit a WordPress category, do this:

Go to your ‘Categories’ section, find the category entry that you would like to edit, then hover over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

Category table menu - Edit

(Category – Edit link)

This brings up the ‘Edit Category’ screen. Edit the category fields, and click Update to save your new details …

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

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

(Category – Quick Edit link)

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

Category menu - Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit fields)

Disclaimer

Changing the category slug will change the URL of 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 category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.

WordPress Post 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 attribute your post to the default category “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' category

(WordPress post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Important

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

Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

Quick Edit

(Category: Uncategorized – Quick Edit)

Change both the Category Name and Category Slug to a keyword or keyword phrase that will be 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 users 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 search engine-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. If you need help setting up SEO-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

WordPress Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Post Categories

Every post in WordPress must be published under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to your posts …

Posts can be published under multiple categories

(Posts can have multiple categories)

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

With 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 Post Categories

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

You can display categories in your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Display categories on your posts)

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

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display a category menu in your sidebar …

Categories can display on your sidebar

(Display a category menu on your WordPress sidebar)

Useful Info

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 really long category menu …

Categories widget

(Managing your categories is important)

If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by listing categories using a drop-down menu …

Categories widget - Using a dropdown menu

(Using a dropdown category menu)

We have written a detailed tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: Adding WordPress Widgets To The Site

When visitors select a category from the dropdown menu …

Selecting a category from the drop menu

(Select a category from the drop menu)

… An archive page displays posts in that category …

Posts can display in category archive pages

(Posts can display in category archive pages)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and select the category whose Archive Page you would like to display. Place your mouse over the item and click the ‘View’ link …

View link - WordPress category menu

(View link)

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

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

The Categories Table lets you sort categories by name by hovering near the column title and clicking on the 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 sorted according to the column you’ve chosen (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …

Categories table - Sorting categories

(Categories table)

WordPress Post Categories – Search Features

This feature is useful if you have a large number of categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Search Categories Feature

(Category Search)

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

Categories Table - Category Pages

(Table of Categories – Category Pages)

To select how many categories you would like displayed per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right-hand side of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options)

Edit the number of categories per page you would like to display 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.), and click Apply

Screen Options - Categories

(Screen Options Tab – Categories)

WordPress Categories – Grouping Features

In the Table of Categories, the Count column lists how many posts are assigned to each category. To see these posts, click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …

Category Table - Count column

(Category Table – Post count)

A list of all posts assigned to the selected category will display in the Table of Posts

Grouping posts by category - WP Table of Posts

(Posts grouped by category)

Post Categories – Tools

You can convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter link found below your list of Categories …

Convert categories to tags

(Convert categories to tags)

This will open the Tools > Import screen …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter)

To learn more about Post Tags, go here: How To Set Up Post Tags In WordPress

WordPress Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available many great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful for membership sites) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in specific categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

Extend 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 post URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in search engines, which helps drive more visitors to your site.

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

Choose Relevant Keywords For Post Titles

In your content strategy, 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, and improves click-through rates.

So, for example, if writing a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 10 Survival Tools You Will Need For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

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

Select a post category to file your post under

(Add/Edit WordPress Post - Post Categories)

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 for WordPress  …

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help optimize your categories

(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO helps to optimize your categories)

You can optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins

(Edit Category screen – Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up your WordPress post categories correctly. Following 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 better index your content.

How To Add, Edit, And Delete WordPress Categories

***

"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum

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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.