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 Add, Edit, And Delete CategoriesWordPress post categories help make finding information 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.

Learn how to set up categories in WP posts in this tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

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

Permalinks let you display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a post link that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=8210

You can have the same post URL look like this:

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

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

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

Step 2: List Your Topics

Keeping 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 search engines to better index your content.

We recommend, therefore, planning what kind of broad “topics” you will write about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, and even your industry.

Important Info

To learn more about website planning, see this step-by-step tutorial: The Web Site Planning Process: A Money-Saving Primer For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating a 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 important in terms of establishing your site as an online authority that visitors will want to come back repeatedly to and/or refer to others.

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:

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

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just getting started. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to establish your authority in a niche, or a sub niche of your market.

Take a look at the illustration below …

How To Add, Edit And Delete WordPress Categories

You can see in the above Market > Niche > Sub niche hierarchy 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 deciding on the keywords you would use as a top-level category to file 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 online searches performed each month for each of the sample keywords …

Use keyword research tools to help plan your categories

(Keyword research - a useful tool for category planning)

When planning your category topics, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you can control (like the main keywords used throughout your site), and how to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic goal (i.e. dominating the entire online “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 grow your market share online.

For tutorials on strategic online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: A Practical Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners

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

Step 4: Set Up Your WP Post Categories

Publishing your posts under carefully planned categories helps to keep your content organized, provides online visitors with a better user experience, and helps to optimize your content for search engines.

Organize your posts using categories

(Organize posts by categories)

To access your Post Categories area, go to the WP Dashboard and click on Posts > Categories

WP Posts Menu - Categories

(WP Posts Menu – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ screen …

WP Post Categories Screen

(WP Post Categories Section)

In this area, you can add, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to optimize your website for search engines.

Adding Categories

Categories panel - Add New Category

(Post Categories screen – Add New Category)

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

Post Categories screen - Add New Category area fields

(Categories screen – Add New Category area fields)

  1. Name – Enter a short category name here, preferably one that uses 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 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. Your slug can be different than your 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 SEO. WordPress uses the category description you write here for your category pages “meta” description.

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

New post category

(New category added)

Repeat the above process to continue inserting new categories …

Categories list

(Categories table)

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

Creating nested post categories

(Creating a hierarchical list of categories)

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

Creating nested post categories in WordPress

(Adding nested categories)

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

Post Categories module - Add New Category

(WordPress Post Categories feature – Add New Category)

Useful Tip

If you need to add a new category while creating or editing a post:

  1. Click on +Add New Category,
  2. Type in your new category name (and select an optional ‘parent’ category),
  3. Click on Add New Category

WordPress Post Categories box - Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Your new category will become instantly available …

New category added

(New post category added)

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

How To Delete Categories

Useful Information

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 default category (this is covered further below).

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting A Single Category

To delete single categories, hover over the category and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click the ‘Delete’ link to remove the category from your list …

How to delete categories individually

(Deleting an individual category)

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

Click 'OK' to delete the category

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

How To Delete Multiple WordPress Categories

Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing many different categories (e.g. an e-commerce catalog), and you would like 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 individually, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.

Useful Information

Important: Make sure that any posts that may be affected by deleting unnecessary categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting Posts

To bulk delete categories, click on the main check box in the header row. This will select all category listings on the page.

Next, go through the list and deselect 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 the items to be deleted, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

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

(Select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu)

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

Deleting multiple categories

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be removed …

Categories deleted

(Categories deleted)

Editing WordPress Post Categories

To edit a post category, do the following:

In your ‘Categories’ section, find the category to be edited, then hover over the category title, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

WordPress category table menu - Edit

(Edit)

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

'Edit Category' screen

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

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

Category - Quick Edit

(Quick Edit)

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

Category table - Quick Edit screen

(Category – Quick Edit screen)

Important Info

Modifying the category slug changes the URL of 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 recommend investing 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 assign your post automatically to a default category called “Uncategorized” …

'Uncategorized' WordPress post category

(’Uncategorized’ WordPress post category)

Info

The default category cannot be deleted.

Attributing 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 readers and optimized for search engines too.

Place your mouse 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 generally 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 users and search engines

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your site visitors 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 search engine-friendly URLs

(SEO improved URLs)

Note: The site used in the example above has been configured to display SEO-friendly URLs, with the Permalinks set to display posts as “domain/category/post title”. To learn how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Configuring Your WordPress Permalinks

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress 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 be published under multiple categories

(Posts can have multiple categories)

If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO (see further below), you can specify a primary category …

With multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category

(When using 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 visitors to find topic-related content.

You can display categories on your posts …

Categories display on your posts

(Categories display on your posts)

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

You can also display a category menu in your sidebar …

Display a category menu on your blog sidebar

(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)

Idea

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

WordPress categories widget

(Categories widget)

If you plan to use 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

(Categories widget – Using a drop down menu)

We have written a detailed tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: How To Add WordPress Widgets To Your Site

When a visitor selects a category from the drop-down menu …

Selecting a category from the drop menu

(Selecting a category from the drop menu)

… An archive page displays the posts in that category …

Posts can display in category archive pages

(Category archive pages list posts published under common categories)

WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips

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

View link - WordPress post category table menu

(View – WordPress category table)

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

WordPress Post Categories – Sorting Features

You can sort categories by name by hovering near the column title and clicking on the little triangle icon …

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, Description, etc.) …

Categories table

(Table of categories – Sorting categories)

Categories – Search Features

To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

Search Categories

(Search Categories Feature)

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

Table of Categories - Category Pages

(Table of Categories – Category Pages)

To specify how many categories per page, click on the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right-hand side of your screen …

Screen Options

(Screen Options Tab)

Type in the number of categories per page 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 the ‘Apply’ button to update your settings …

Screen Options Tab - Categories

(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)

Post Categories – Grouping Features

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

Table of Categories - Post count column

(Table of Categories – Post count column)

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

Grouping posts by category - Posts Table

(Grouping posts by category)

WordPress Categories – Tools

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

Category to Tag converter tool

(Convert categories to tags)

This opens the Tools > Import screen …

Categories and Tags Converter

(Categories and Tags Converter)

To learn more about Tags, refer to this tutorial: How To Set Up Tags In WordPress Posts

WordPress Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available a number of great plugins to 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 (useful in membership sites) …

Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories

(Membership plugins can protect content in specific categories)

Certain plugins can add new fields to your Categories Table …

Expand the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins

(Enhance the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Use Categories Effectively

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

To optimize your site further, here are some additional tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.

Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles

As you create new content for your site, always try to 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, if writing a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel site targeting the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In America – 7 Memorable Kayaking Adventures“.

Publish Posts Under Relevant Categories

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

Select a category to save your post under

(Choose a post category to file your post under)

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 optimize your categories

(A plugin like Yoast SEO helps improve your categories’ SEO)

You can also optimize categories individually …

Edit Category screen - Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins

(Edit Category screen – 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. 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 better index your pages.

How To Configure WordPress Categories

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"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

***

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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.