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Using WordPress Post Categories

WordPress categories help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Publishing posts under categories also helps to organize your content and allows search engines to better index your WordPress site.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to set up post categories in WordPress.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

By default, WordPress URLs aren’t really search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress categories, you will first 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=8893

The same post URL can display like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/romantic-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 about permalinks here: Changing Your WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: List Your Topics

Maintaining your site’s 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 to boost your site’s optimization for improved search results.

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

If you need help with website planning, see this tutorial: A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

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

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:

Step 3: Select Relevant Category Titles

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Pets”, etc…) is extremely difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on building your authority in a smaller niche, or segment of your market.

Take a look at the illustration below …

You can see from the above Market > Niche > Sub niche 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 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 consider 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 …

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

When planning your main topic categories, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (like the main keywords used throughout your content), and how you are going to use these elements to gain a competitive advantage. If you set too big a goal (i.e. trying to dominate 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 increase your market share online.

For tutorials on online business online strategies like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., see this tutorial: The Web Site Planning Process: A Practical Blueprint For Non-Technical 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 post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Your Post Categories

Saving WordPress 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 your posts with categories)

To access your WordPress Post Categories area, log into your WordPress admin section, then go to the admin navigation menu and click on Posts > Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This brings you to the ‘Categories’ screen …

(Post Categories Screen)

In this panel, you can create, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can improve your website’s SEO.

How To Add WordPress Categories

(Categories screen – Add New Category)

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

(Post Categories screen – 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 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. 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 your category name.
  3. Parent – Ignore this field, unless you plan to create nested hierarchies of categories on your website.
  4. Description – Write a brief description of your category 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 Add New Category to add your new category …

(New post category)

Repeat this process to keep creating new categories …

(Categories list)

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

(Creating nested categories)

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

(Adding nested categories)

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

(Add New Category)

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

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

(Add New Category)

Your new category will instantly become available …

(New category added)

Learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress here:

How To Remove Post Categories

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

To delete categories individually, place your mouse over the category you would like removed and a menu will display containing a range of options. Click Delete to remove the category from your list …

(How to delete an individual category)

A window will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click OK to proceed, or Cancel to abort …

(Click ‘OK’ to proceed)

Deleting Categories In Bulk

Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing many different categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you want to reduce the number of 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.

Important: Make sure that any posts that will 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, see this tutorial: Editing And Deleting A Post In WordPress

To delete multiple categories, click the main check box in the header row. This will select all items .

Next, go through the table and unselect 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)

After ticking all the entries you would like to delete, select the ‘Delete’ option from the ‘Bulk Actions’ pulldown menu …

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

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

(Deleting multiple categories)

The categories you’ve selected will be deleted …

(Categories deleted)

How To Edit Categories

To edit a category, do this:

Go to your ‘Categories’ table, locate the category entry that you would like to edit, then hover over the category title, and click Edit

(WordPress category table – Edit)

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

(‘Edit Category’ screen)

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)

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

(Category table menu – Quick Edit fields)

Important: Modifying the category slug affects the URL of posts assigned for that category. This can lead to “page not found” errors when visitors click on links 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 post category slug afterward if at all possible, especially after your site is established.

WordPress Categories – Special 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 automatically to the default category “Uncategorized” …

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

The default category cannot be deleted.

Publishing posts under 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)

Instead of publishing posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more meaningful to your visitors and better for search engines too.

Place your mouse over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on the ‘Quick Edit’ link …

(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 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 an extra SEO boost …

(Change ‘Uncategorized’ category to something more meaningful to your users 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 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 on your site, see this tutorial: Configuring WordPress Permalinks

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Categories

Posts in WordPress must be filed under one or more categories. WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to your posts …

(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)

Note that a plugin like Yoast SEO lets you specify a primary category …

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

Displaying WordPress Categories

Posts are grouped together into categories, making it easier for visitors to find related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

(Categories display in your posts)

Clicking on category links will open a category archive page containing related posts (see below).

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

(Display categories on your WordPress 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 very long category menu …

(Managing your categories is important)

If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by specifying that your ‘Categories’ widget display as a drop menu …

(Categories widget – Using a drop menu)

To learn more about adding and configuring sidebar widgets, see this tutorial: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In Your Sidebar Navigation Section

When visitors select a category from the drop down list …

(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)

WordPress Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages from your WP dashboard, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you locate the category to see. Place your mouse over the item and click View

(WordPress post category table – View)

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

Categories – Sorting Features

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

(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, Slug, etc.) …

(Categories table)

WP Categories – Searching Features

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

(Search Categories)

If you have a lot of categories, WordPress lets you break these up into “Category Pages” that you can navigate through using pagination buttons …

(Table of Categories – Category Pages)

You can specify how many categories per category page, by clicking on the ‘Screen Options’ tab at the top of your screen …

(Screen Options)

Enter the number of categories per page you would like to display 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’, etc.), and click Apply

(Screen Options Tab – Categories options)

Post Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

(Table of Categories – Category posts)

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

(Grouping posts by category – Posts Table)

WordPress Post Categories – Tools

To convert WordPress Categories into WordPress Tags, use the category to tag converter tool found below your Categories list …

(Convert categories to tags)

This opens the Tools > Import section …

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

If you need help with Post Tags, go here: Configuring And Using Post Tags

Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available many great plugins that can help manage and enhance the usefulness of 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 way categories appear in lists and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in membership sites) …

(Membership plugins can be used to protect content in specific categories)

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

(Plugins can enhance the functionality of your Categories Table)

Step 5 – Use WordPress Categories Effectively

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

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

So, for example, an article on Outdoors Adventure Travel focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking In Australia – 7 Remote Kayaking Destinations“.

Publish Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

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

(Add/Edit Post – WordPress 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  …

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

The plugin also lets you optimize categories individually …

(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 and managing 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 what they are looking for and for search engines  to better index your pages.

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