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

This step-by-step tutorial helps you learn about configuring and using categories in WP posts.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Default WordPress post web addresses aren’t really search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of post categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.

Permalinks allow WordPress to display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=8858

You can have the post URL display like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/romantic-destinations/nine-best-honeymoon-resorts

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

To learn more about permalinks, see this tutorial: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

Step 2: Make A List Of Your Main Topics

Maintaining your content organized is very important, as this will not only make it easier for your visitors to find the information they’re searching for, but can also help to boost your site’s optimization for better search engine results.

The first step, then, is to carefully work out what kind of broad “topics” you will write about and publish on your site. These can be topics related to your niche, your business, or your industry.

Important Info

To learn more about planning a website, see this step-by-step tutorial: Planning Your Web Site: A Useful Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating your 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 website as an online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or valuable content like ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer to others.

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 the following:

  • Marriage Celebrant FAQs
  • Marriage Celebrant Services
  • Wedding Tips
  • Marriage Vows
  • and so on …

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Names

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Health”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to build your authority in a niche, or micro niche of your market.

Take a look at the illustration 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 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 monthly searches for each of the above keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Useful keyword research for category planning

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

When planning category titles, 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 to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. dominating the “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a very narrow niche or microniche, you could experience little to no activity on your site and hence no significant opportunities to increase your business online.

If you need help with strategic online business online strategies like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: The Website Planning Process - A Cost-Saving Blueprint 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 turn these keywords into WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Categories

Publishing posts under carefully planned categories that relate to the main topics of your site helps keep your content organized, provides your visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site content for search engines.

WordPress lets you easily organize posts with categories

(WordPress lets you easily organize posts with categories)

To access your Post Categories area, in the Dashboard menu section, click on Posts > Categories

WP Posts Menu - Categories

(WordPress Posts Menu – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

Categories Section

(Post Categories Area)

Here you can add, edit, and delete categories, including inserting category descriptions and other information that can help to improve your website’s SEO.

How To Add Post Categories

WordPress Post Categories screen - Add New Category

(Categories screen – Add New Category section)

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

Post Categories screen - Add New Category fields

(WordPress Post Categories panel – Add New Category section 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 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. 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 automatically using a lower case version of the category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your site.
  4. Description – Add a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with search engine optimization. Your category description will be used for your category pages “meta” description.

Click Add New Category to add the new category …

New category

(New post category)

Repeat this process to continue adding new categories …

List of categories

(Categories list)

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

Creating a hierarchical list of categories

(Create nested post categories)

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

Adding hierarchical post categories to WordPress

(Adding hierarchical categories to WordPress)

You can also add a new category when creating or editing posts  …

WordPress Post Categories feature - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Tip

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

  1. Click on the ‘+Add New Category’ link,
  2. Enter your new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
  3. Click on the ‘Add New Category’ button …

Post Categories feature - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Your new category will instantly become available …

New post category added

(New post category added)

Learn how to add and edit WordPress posts here:

How To Delete Post Categories In WordPress

Important

Removing 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 WordPress default category (this is covered further below).

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting Single Categories

To remove an individual category, hover over the category you would like to delete and click Delete

Deleting a single category

(Delete link)

A message will pop up in your browser asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to permanently delete the item, or Cancel to stop …

Click 'OK' to proceed

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

Deleting Categories In Bulk

Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing a large number of categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you want to consolidate posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Info

Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected by deleting unwanted categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign categories in posts, go to this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post

To delete multiple WordPress categories, click the main checkbox next to the ‘Name’ column title. This will select all category entries .

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

Select/Deselect Categories

(Select/Deselect Categories)

After ticking all the entries to be deleted, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

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

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

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

Deleting multiple categories

(Bulk deleting categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

How To Edit Post Categories

To edit a WordPress category, do this:

In your ‘Categories’ screen, locate the item that you would like to edit, then place your mouse over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

Category table menu - Edit

(Edit link)

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

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

You can also edit information in a category using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you want to edit and click on Quick Edit

Quick Edit link - Category

(Quick Edit – Category table menu)

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

Category menu - Quick Edit screen

(Category table – Quick Edit screen)

Disclaimer

Important: Changing the category slug will affect the URL of posts assigned for that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links pointing to posts that have already been indexed by search engines.

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 Categories – Special Tip

All posts must be assigned to categories in WordPress. If you do not assign a post to a category, WordPress will attribute your post automatically to “Uncategorized” …

Category - 'Uncategorized'

(Category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Important Info

The default category cannot be deleted.

Having posts assigned 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 readers and optimized for search engines too.

Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

Quick Edit Link

(Quick Edit link)

Change 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 an extra SEO boost …

Change 'Uncategorized' category to something more meaningful to your visitors 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 …

Use SEO-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”. To learn how to set up SEO-friendly URLs, go here: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

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 filed under one or more categories. WordPress lets you assign multiple categories to your posts …

WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories

(Posts can have multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …

With 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 Categories

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

You can display categories on your posts …

Display categories on your posts

(Display categories in your posts)

Clicking on the category links opens an archive page containing other 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 WordPress sidebar)

Important Info

Managing your categories is important. Depending on how many categories and posts are published on your site, you can end up with a long category list …

WordPress categories widget

(Managing your categories is important)

If you have many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by selecting the drop down menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …

Using a drop down category menu

(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop menu)

If you need help with adding and configuring sidebar widgets, go here: How To Use Widgets In WordPress

When visitors select a category from the menu …

Selecting 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 category archive pages

(Category archive page)

Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your dashboard, go to Post > Categories and scroll down the Category Table until you find a category to display. Hover over the item and click View

View

(View link – Category table)

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

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

Your Table of Categories allows you to sort categories by name by hovering near the column title and clicking on the triangle icon …

Sort categories by name

(Sort by category 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, Count, etc.) …

Table of categories - Sorting categories

(Table of 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 …

Search Categories Feature

(Search Categories)

If you have lots of categories, WordPress lets you divide these up 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 to display per category page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …

Screen Options Tab

(Screen Options)

Input 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’, ’Slug’, ‘Count’). Click the ‘Apply’ button …

Screen Options - Categories settings

(Screen Options – Categories options)

WordPress Post Categories – Grouping Features

In the Table of Categories, the Count column displays the number of posts assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …

Table of Categories - Post count

(Category screen – Count column)

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

Posts grouped by category

(Grouping posts by category – WP Posts Table)

Categories – Tools

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

Convert categories to tags

(Convert categories to tags)

This brings up the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter feature

(Tools > Import screen – Categories and Tags Converter feature)

We have written a detailed tutorial on using WordPress post tags here: How To Configure And Use Tags

WordPress Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available a number of 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 areas of your site, rearrange the way categories appear in menus, tables, and lists, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in membership sites) …

Membership plugins can protect content in categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

Expand the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins

(Enhance the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)

Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively

Optimizing content, categories, and search engine-friendly URLs can help improve your site’s navigation and relevance in the search engines, which can help drive more visitors to your site.

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

Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles

As you create new content for your site, include the main keyword of your post in your post title, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, and improves click through rates.

So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking Adventures – 7 Insane Kayaking Adventures“.

Publish Your WordPress Posts Under The Correct Category

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

Add/Edit Post - WordPress Post Categories

(Post Categories module)

Use An SEO Plugin

One 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 improve your categories' SEO

(Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help improve your categories’ SEO)

The plugin also allows you to optimize categories individually …

Optimize your categories with SEO plugins

(Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has helped you to better understand the role and importance of setting up your WordPress post categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your 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 pages.

How To Set Up Categories

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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 detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.