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 Categories In WordPress PostsWordPress categories help to make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Adding categories not only helps to keep your content organized, it also improves both your visitor’s search experience and your search engine rankings.

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn about adding, editing, and deleting categories in posts.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Out of the box, post URLs in WordPress aren’t search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress 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=2488

You can have the post URL display like this:

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

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

To learn more about setting up and using permalinks, go here: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: Make A List Of Topics

Maintaining your content organized at all times 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.

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

Important Info

To learn more about website planning, go here: How To Plan A Website - A Money-Saving Primer For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, remember to 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 website as an online authority that visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer other people to.

For example, let’s say 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 Locations
  • Marriage Vows
  • and so on …

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Headings

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Pets”, etc…) is very difficult, 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 a micro niche of your main 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 larger “Weddings” market (another category).

When choosing 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 these keywords …

Use keyword research to help plan your categories

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

When planning your topic categories, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you have control over (like the main keywords used throughout your site), and how to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set a goal that is too big (i.e. dominating the entire “Wedding” market), you will only end up feeling disappointed. If, on the other hand, you focus on a very 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 strategic online business areas like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: How To Plan Your Business Website - A Useful Guide For Business Owners

Once you have mapped out your top-level topics and figured out what your main keywords are, the next step is to convert these into post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Categories

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

WordPress lets you easily organize content using categories

(Organize posts by categories)

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

Posts Menu - Categories

(Posts Menu – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …

Categories Screen

(Categories Area)

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

Adding WordPress Categories

Post Categories panel - Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories panel – Add New Category)

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 section fields

(Categories panel – Add New Category fields)

  1. Name – Type 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 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 create one for you using a lower case version of the category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested category hierarchies on your website (explained further below).
  4. Description – Write a brief category description here. Some WordPress themes display this category description, and it can help with SEO. Your category description will be used for the category pages “meta” description.

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

New category added

(New category added)

Repeat the above process to continue inserting new categories …

Categories table

(List of categories)

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

Creating nested categories

(Create nested post categories)

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

Creating hierarchical post categories

(Create hierarchical categories)

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

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Useful Tip

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

  1. Click on +Add New Category,
  2. Type a new category name (and choose a ‘parent’ category if necessary),
  3. Click Add New Category

Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Your new category will instantly become available …

New post category added

(New post category added)

To learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress, see these tutorials:

Removing Post Categories

Info

Deleting a category does not delete posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts assigned to the deleted category will be reassigned to the default category (see further below).

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting Categories Individually

To delete single categories, place your mouse over the category and a menu will display containing various options. Click Delete to delete the category from your list …

Deleting an individual category

(Deleting single categories)

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

Click 'OK' to delete the category

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

How To Delete Categories In Bulk

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 would like to consolidate posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.

Important Info

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

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

Next, go through the list and untick the box next to any categories that you DO NOT want to delete. You can select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.

Select/Deselect Categories

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

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

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

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

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

Bulk delete categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …

'Categories deleted' message

(’Categories deleted’ message)

How To Edit Post Categories In WordPress

To edit a post category in WordPress, do this:

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

Edit link - WordPress post category

(Category – Edit link)

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

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

You can also edit a category using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you would like to edit and click the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

Quick Edit link - WordPress post category table menu

(Quick Edit link)

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

Category table menu - Quick Edit fields

(Quick Edit screen)

Note

Important: Changing the category slug will affect the URL of all posts assigned to that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links to posts published elsewhere.

For this reason, we strongly recommend investing 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 already been indexed in the search engines.

Post Category – 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 to “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' post category

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

Info

The default category cannot be deleted.

Assigning posts to 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 better for search engines too.

Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit

Quick Edit

(Quick Edit)

Change 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 an extra SEO boost …

Change 'Uncategorized' category to something more meaningful to visitors and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your users 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 …

SEO improved URLs

(SEO improved 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”. If you need help setting up search engine-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

WordPress Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Categories

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

Posts can have multiple categories

(Posts can have multiple categories)

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

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

You can display categories on your posts …

Categories display on your posts

(Display categories on your posts)

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

You can also list category menus in your sidebar …

Categories can display on your WordPress sidebar

(Display categories on your WordPress sidebar)

Info

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 long list of categories …

Managing your categories is important

(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 category menu

(WordPress categories widget – Using a drop down menu)

We have created a detailed tutorial about adding sidebar widgets here: Adding And Configuring Widgets On Your WordPress Sidebar Navigation Section

When visitors select a category from the drop list …

Select a category from the drop down menu

(Selecting a category from the dropdown menu)

… An archive page displays all posts in that category …

Posts can display in category archive pages

(Posts can display in category archive pages)

Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your WordPress admin area, go to Post > Categories and select the category to view. Hover over the category title and click the ‘View’ link …

Category - View

(View)

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

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

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

Sort categories by 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, Description, etc.) …

Categories table

(Table of categories)

Post Categories – Searching Features

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

Search Categories

(Category Search)

If your site has loads of categories, WordPress divides these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

Categories Table - Category Pages

(Category Pages)

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

Screen Options

(Screen Options)

Type in the number of categories per page you would like 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’, ‘Count’), and click Apply to save your changes …

Screen Options Tab - Categories

(Screen Options – Categories)

WordPress Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …

Category screen - Category posts

(Categories Table – Post count)

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

Posts Table - Grouping posts by category

(Posts grouped by category – Posts Table)

WordPress Post Categories – Tools

To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter function found below your Table of Categories …

Category to Tag converter function

(Category to Tag converter feature)

This opens the Tools > Import screen …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter)

If you need help with WordPress tags, go here: How To Set Up Tags In Posts

Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress has a number of great plugins to help manage and enhance your post 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 order of your categories, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (e.g. when used in membership sites) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in post categories

(Use membership plugins to protect content in categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

Extend the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins

(Use plugins to extend the functionality of your Table of Categories)

Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively

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

Here are some additional 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 your the title, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, and improves clickthrough rates.

So, for example, if writing a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel company focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Australia – The 3 Most Insane Kayaking Destinations“.

Publish Your WordPress Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

Each time you add a new article or post, remember to tick the correct category box before publishing your post …

Add/Edit Post - WordPress Post Categories module

(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  …

A plugin like Yoast SEO helps to optimize your categories

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

The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …

Optimize your categories with SEO plugins

(Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing 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 exactly what they are looking for and for search engines  to index your content.

How To Configure And Use Categories In Posts

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"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

Originally published as Using WordPress Post Categories.