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Using WordPress Post Categories

WordPress categories help to make finding information 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.

Learn how to configure categories in posts in this step-by-step tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

Out of the box, WordPress URLs aren’t very search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of categories, you will 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 web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=9966

You can have the post URL look like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/travel-destinations/10-top-romantic-destinations-for-newlyweds

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

To learn more about permalinks, refer to this step-by-step tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Step 2: Make A List Of Topics

Keeping your content organized is 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 boost your site’s optimization for improved SEO.

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

We have created a detailed tutorial about planning a website here: Planning A Web Site: A Useful Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating a list of topics, 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 come back repeatedly to and/or refer to others.

For example, let’s say that you want to start a site 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:

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Titles

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Fashion”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially when you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by trying to build your authority in a niche, or a segment of your market.

Take a look at the example below …

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 selecting the keywords you would use as a top-level category to publish your posts under, it’s a good idea to take into account factors like “market competition.”

For example, the screenshot below shows Google’s estimates for the average number of monthly searches for each of the above keywords …

(Use keyword research to help with category planning)

When planning category titles, 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 to use these elements to try and gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. trying to dominate the 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 increase your market share online.

If you need help with strategic online business areas like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: The Website Planning Process - A Practical Guide For Business Owners

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

Step 4: Set Up Categories

Publishing WordPress posts under categories that best 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 web pages for search engines.

(WordPress allows you to easily organize your posts using categories)

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

(Posts Menu – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

(Categories Screen)

Here you can add, edit, and delete categories, including adding descriptions for categories and other information that can help to improve your site’s SEO.

How To Add Categories

(Post Categories panel – Add New Category section)

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

(Categories screen – Add New Category fields)

  1. Name – Type a concise 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 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 category. Your slug can be different than 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 your category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your site (explained further below).
  4. Description – Add a brief description of your category 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 the category pages “meta” description.

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

(New category added)

Repeat the above process to keep creating new categories …

(Table of categories)

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

(Creating nested post categories)

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

(Create hierarchical categories)

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

(Add New Category)

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

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

(Add New Category)

Your new category will be added to your list …

(New category added)

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

Removing WordPress Categories

Removing a category does not delete the posts assigned to that category. Instead, any posts 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 Categories Individually

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

(How to delete single categories)

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

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

How To Delete Multiple Categories

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 reduce the number of existing categories by assigning your imported posts to a fewer number of categories. If there are too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

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

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

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

(Select/Deselect Categories)

After ticking all the items you want to delete, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ dropdown menu …

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

Click the ‘Apply’ button …

(Bulk deleting categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

(’Categories deleted’ message)

How To Edit Categories

To edit a post category, do this:

Go to your ‘Categories’ panel, find the category to be edited, then place your mouse over the category title, and click Edit

(Edit)

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

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

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

(Quick Edit link)

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

(Quick Edit screen)

Changing the category slug will change 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 category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your posts and pages have already been indexed in the search engines.

WordPress 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 assign your post to “Uncategorized” …

(’Uncategorized’ WordPress category)

The default category cannot be deleted.

Having posts attributed 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)

Instead of publishing unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more relevant to your users and optimized for search engines too.

Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘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” in order to give your site a little extra SEO boost …

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

Now, when 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)

Note: The site used in the example above 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 search engine-friendly URLs on your site, see this tutorial: Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

WordPress Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Post Categories

In WordPress, posts must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to a post …

(Posts can have multiple categories)

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

(If using multiple categories, use a plugin like Yoast SEO to assign a primary category)

Displaying Categories

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

You can display categories on your posts …

(Categories display on your posts)

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

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also show categories in the sidebar …

(Display a category menu on your blog sidebar)

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 …

(Managing your categories is important)

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

(Using a dropdown category menu)

We have created a detailed tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In Your Blog

When a visitor selects a category from the drop list …

(Select a category from the dropdown menu)

… An archive page displays all the posts filed under that category …

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your WP admin area, go to Post > Categories and locate the category whose Archive Page you would like to see. Place your mouse over the item and click the ‘View’ link …

(Category table – View link)

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

WordPress Categories – Sorting Features

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

(Sort categories by 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 chosen (i.e. Name, Slug, etc.) …

(Sort categories in the Categories table)

WordPress Categories – Searching Features

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

(Category Search)

If your site has many categories, you can break these up into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

(Category Pages)

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

(Screen Options Tab)

Input 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’, ’Slug’, ‘Count’), and click the ‘Apply’ button to update your settings …

(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)

Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …

(Table of Categories – Category posts)

Posts assigned to that category will display in your Posts Table

(Posts grouped by category)

Post Categories – Tools

Convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags using the category to tag converter feature found below your list of Categories …

(Category to Tag converter tool)

This opens the Tools > Import section …

(Categories and Tags Converter tool)

We have written a detailed tutorial on using Tags here: How To Set Up And Use Tags In WordPress

WordPress Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available many great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 for a membership site) …

(Use membership plugins to protect content in specific post categories)

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

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

Step 5 – Using WordPress Post Categories Effectively

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

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

Choose Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in the your post title, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your post for search engines, and improves clickthrough rates.

So, for example, if writing a blog post on Outdoors Adventure Travel targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 5 Survival Accessories Everyone Needs For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

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

(Post Categories module)

Use A WordPress 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 optimize your categories)

The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …

(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 WordPress 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.

***

"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie

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