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 …

Get Thrive Leads for WordPress

Using Categories In WP PostsWordPress categories help to 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.

This tutorial helps you learn how to set up categories in posts.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress URLs are not 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 let you display search engine friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=8013

The post URL can display like this:

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

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

For more information about configuring and using permalinks, go here: Changing WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: Create A List Of 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 improved SEO.

The first step, therefore, is to plan what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your business, and even your industry.

Idea

If you need help planning a website, go here: A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical 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 very important in terms of establishing your business 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 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:

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

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Topics

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to focus on building your authority in a niche, or a micro niche 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 subniche (i.e. a subcategory) of the “Marriage Celebrant” niche (a category), which itself is a subcategory of the larger “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 the sample keywords …

Google Keyword Planner - Keyword research tool for category planning

(Use keyword research to help with category planning)

When planning your topic categories, it’s important to spend time thinking 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 an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the 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.

For tutorials on online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Money-Saving Guide To Website Planning 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 into WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Categories

Saving WordPress posts under categories that best relate to the main topics of your site helps to keep your content organized and easy to navigate, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your site for search engines.

WordPress allows you to easily organize content by categories

(Organize posts with categories)

To access your Categories area, log into the WP Dashboard and choose Posts > Categories

Posts - Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

Categories Screen

(Post Categories Section)

Here you can add, edit, and remove categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can optimize your site for search engines.

How To Add Categories To WordPress

Categories screen - Add New Category section

(Post Categories screen – Add New Category section)

To add a new post category, complete the fields in the ‘Add New Category’ section as per the example shown below:

WordPress Post Categories screen - Add New Category area fields

(Categories screen – 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 specific 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 site.
  4. Description – Write a brief description of your category 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 the ‘Add New Category’ button when done to add your new category …

New post category

(New category added)

Repeat the above process to keep inserting new categories …

Categories table

(List of categories)

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

Nested categories

(Nested post categories)

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

Adding nested categories to WordPress

(Adding hierarchical post categories)

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

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Practical Tip

If you need 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 a ‘parent’ category if required),
  3. Click 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 create and edit posts in WordPress here:

How To Delete WordPress Post Categories

Important Info

Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, posts that were 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 delete a single category, hover over the category and click the ‘Delete’ link …

Delete link

(Delete)

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

Click 'OK' to delete the category

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

How To Delete WordPress Categories In Bulk

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 categories by assigning your imported posts to a single category. If there are too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.

Disclaimer

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected when unnecessary categories are removed have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, visit this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post In WordPress

To bulk delete WordPress categories, click the main checkbox in the header row. This will select all category entries on the page.

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)

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

Select the 'Delete' option from the 'Bulk Actions' drop down menu

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

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

Bulk delete categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

Editing WordPress Post Categories

To edit a category, do this:

Go to your ‘Categories’ table, find the item that needs to be edited, then place your mouse over the category name, and click Edit

Edit - Category table menu

(Edit)

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

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

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 the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

WordPress post category table - Quick Edit

(Quick Edit)

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

Quick Edit screen

(Quick Edit screen)

Note

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 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 Post Categories – Useful Tip

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

'Uncategorized' WordPress post category

(’Uncategorized’ category)

Useful Information

The default category cannot be deleted.

Publishing posts under 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 users 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 table menu: Uncategorized – 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” in order to give your site an extra SEO boost …

Change 'Uncategorized' category to something more meaningful to your users and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site users and search engines)

Now, when new 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

(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 on your site, go here: How To Change Your WordPress Permalinks

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple Categories

In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to your posts …

WordPress posts can have multiple categories

(Posts can be published under multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below) lets you specify which of your categories is the primary category …

When 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 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 …

Categories display on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

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

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

Display a category menu on your WordPress sidebar

(Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar)

Tip

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 very long list of categories …

WordPress categories widget

(Managing your categories is important)

If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by listing categories using a drop menu …

Using a drop down category menu

(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop-down menu)

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

When a visitor selects a category from the list …

Selecting a category from the dropdown menu

(Select a category from the drop menu)

… An archive page displays posts in that category …

Category archive pages list posts published under common categories

(Category archive page)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your WordPress dashboard, go to Post > Categories and locate the category whose Archive Page you want to view. Hover over the item and click View

View - WordPress category menu

(View)

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

Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the black 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 selected (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …

Table of categories

(Table of categories – Sorting categories)

WP 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

(Search Categories)

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

Category Pages

(Category Pages)

You can select how many categories per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options Tab)

Input the number of categories per page 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 the ‘Apply’ button …

Screen Options Tab - Categories settings

(Screen Options – Categories options)

Post Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …

Category Table - Post count

(Category Table – Count column)

Posts assigned to the category will display in your Table of Posts

Grouping posts by category

(Grouping posts by category – WordPress Posts Table)

WordPress Categories – Tools

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

Category to Tag converter

(Convert categories to tags)

This will open the Tools > Import section …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter)

We have written a detailed tutorial on using WordPress tags here: Adding, Editing, And Deleting Tags

Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available a number of great plugins that can help 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in a membership site) …

Membership plugins can protect content in specific categories

(Membership plugins can protect content in specific categories)

Certain plugins will add new fields to your Table of Categories …

Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Categories Table

(Plugins can expand the functionality of your Table of Categories)

Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively

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

Here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit when using categories.

Choosing Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

In your content strategy, include the main keyword of your post in the title, 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 site targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Survival Accessories You Will Need For A Safe Winter Camping Adventure“.

Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

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

Select a post category to file your post under

(Choose a post 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  …

Using a plugin like Yoast SEO can help 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 …

Edit Category screen - Improving your category SEO 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 and managing 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 pages.

How To Set Up WordPress Categories

***

"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress Traffic & User EngagementWordPress Traffic & User Engagement

Learn how to drive more targeted traffic to your website and discover ways to improve user engagement with your business online.

More info: WordPress Traffic & User Engagement

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress 101: How To Use WordPressWordPress 101: How To Use WordPress

Learn how to unlock the power of the WordPress content management system (CMS) using the many powerful features inside your WordPress administration area.

More info: WordPress 101: How To Use WordPress

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

WordPress SEOWordPress SEO

In this WordPress SEO training series you will learn how to optimize your WordPress site and how to craft website pages and blog posts that will help you get better search engine rankings and improve your traffic results.

More info: WordPress SEO

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Need a new website or blog in a hurry?

This video course shows you how to quickly install and configure a WordPress website or blog on your own domain name and be up and running in no time!

More info: Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Why Your Business Needs WordPressWhy Your Business Needs WordPress

Learn about the unique features, benefits, and advantages of using WordPress to start or grow your business online.

More info: Why Your Business Needs WordPress

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Create Engaging PresentationsHow To Create Engaging Presentations

Learn how to create beautiful and engaging presentations that will help you sell more products and services online.

More info: How To Create Engaging Presentations

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.