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Using WordPress Post Categories

WordPress post categories help to make finding information about similar topics 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.

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn about configuring categories.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configuring Permalinks

By default, WordPress URLs aren’t very 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 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=2228

The post URL can look like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/romantic-destinations/top-honeymoon-resorts

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

To learn more about configuring and using permalinks, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Step 2: Create A List Of Topics

Keeping your site’s 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 search engines to better index your content.

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

If you need help with planning a website, see this step-by-step tutorial: A Cost-Saving Guide To Website Planning 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 need to be better educated or informed about. This is 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 to others.

Let’s say, for example, that you want 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 Topics

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Sports”, etc…) is very difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on trying to establish your authority in a smaller niche, or a subniche of your market.

Take a look at the example below …

You can see in 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 “Weddings” market (another category).

When deciding on 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 online searches performed each month for each of these keywords …

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

When planning category topics, it’s important to take your time and think carefully about all the elements you can control (like the keywords that will be 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 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.

If you need help with online business areas like keyword research, identifying target audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: The Website Planning Process Explained: A Useful Primer 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 convert these into WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up WordPress Categories

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

(Organize content with categories)

To access your Categories area, in the Dashboard, select Posts > Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

(WP Post Categories Panel)

This section lets you add, edit, and delete categories, including adding category descriptions and other information that can help to optimize your website or blog for search engines.

Adding WordPress Post Categories

(Categories screen – Add New Category area)

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

(Categories panel – Add New Category section 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 site.
  2. Slug – The “slug” refers to the words that display in the URL of all posts published under a category. The 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 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 website (explained further below).
  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 the ‘Add New Category’ button to add the new category …

(New category)

Repeat this process to continue inserting new categories …

(Categories table)

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

(Create nested post categories)

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

(Adding nested categories to WordPress)

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

(Post Categories box – Add New Category)

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

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

(Add New Category)

The new category will become instantly available …

(New category added)

Learn how to create and edit posts in WordPress here:

How To Delete Post Categories

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

You can delete WordPress categories individually, or in bulk.

Deleting An Individual Category

To delete categories individually, hover over the category you would like removed and click the ‘Delete’ link …

(How to delete single categories)

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

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

Deleting WordPress Categories In Bulk

Let’s say that you import product data into your WordPress site containing a large number of categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you want to consolidate posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete individually, this is where the bulk delete feature comes in handy.

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected when unwanted categories are removed 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 bulk delete categories, click on the main check box in the header row. This will select all category items on the page.

Next, go through the table and untick the box next to categories that you DO NOT want to delete. Select/deselect categories by toggling on the check box next to the item.

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

Once you have ticked all of the items you want to delete, choose ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop down menu …

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

With the ‘Delete’ option selected in the pulldown menu, click Apply

(Deleting multiple categories)

The selected categories will be deleted …

(Categories deleted)

How To Edit WordPress Post Categories

To edit a WordPress category, do this:

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

(WordPress post category table – Edit link)

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

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

You can also edit categories using the Quick Edit option. Place your mouse over the category title you want to edit and click on Quick Edit

(Quick Edit link)

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

(Category table menu – Quick Edit screen)

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

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 posts and pages have already been indexed in the search engines.

Categories – Special Tip

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

(Post category – ‘Uncategorized’)

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)

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

Hover over the “Uncategorized” entry and click on Quick Edit

(Category table: Uncategorized – Quick Edit link)

Change both 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 a little extra SEO boost …

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

(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”. To learn how to set up search engine-friendly URLs, see this tutorial: Using Permalinks To Improve Your WordPress SEO

Post Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Post Categories

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

(Posts can have multiple categories)

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

(When 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 in your posts)

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

As well as displaying categories on posts, WordPress can also display category menus in your sidebar …

(Categories can display on your sidebar)

Managing your categories is important. Depending on the number of posts and categories published on your site, you can end up with a really long category list …

(Managing your categories is important)

If you have many categories on your site, you can save space on your sidebar by listing categories using a drop down menu …

(Using a drop-down category menu)

We have written a detailed tutorial about adding and configuring sidebar widgets here: Configuring Widgets On Your Sidebar Navigation Section

When a visitor selects a category from the drop menu …

(Select a category from the drop-down menu)

… An archive page displays the posts in that category …

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

Post Categories – Useful Tips

To view Category Archive pages in your WP dashboard, go to Post > Categories and scroll through the Category Table until you locate the category to display. Place your mouse over the category title and click the ‘View’ link …

(View – Category)

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

WordPress Categories – Sorting Features

The Categories Table lets you sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by hovering near the column title and clicking on the 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, Count, etc.) …

(Categories table – Sorting categories)

WP Post Categories – Searching Features

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

(Category Search)

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

(Category Pages)

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

(Screen Options)

Type in the number of categories per page to show in the Categories > Pagination > Number of items per page: field. If you want, you can also hide some or all of the columns (e.g. ‘Description’, ‘Slug’, etc.), and click the ‘Apply’ button …

(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)

WordPress Categories – Grouping Features

In the Table of Categories, the Count column lists how many posts are assigned to each category. To view these posts, click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

(Category Table – Post count)

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

(WP Posts Table – Grouping posts by category)

WordPress Categories – Tools

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

(Convert categories to tags)

This opens the Tools > Import section …

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

If you need help using Post Tags, see this tutorial: Using Tags

WordPress Categories – Plugins

WordPress has a number of great plugins that can help manage and enhance your categories.

For example, there are plugins that allow you to add images to your categories, exclude categories from displaying in certain sections of your site, rearrange the way categories appear in lists, tables, and menus, even restrict access to content published under certain categories (useful in membership sites) …

(Membership plugins can help protect content in specific post categories)

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

(Enhance the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Using WordPress Categories Effectively

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

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

Choosing Keyword-Relevant Post Titles

SEO experts recommend including the main keyword of your post in your the title of your post, preferably at the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 3 Survival Tools You Will Need For A Safe Winter Camping Trip“.

Publish Your Posts Under Relevant Post Categories

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

(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)

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 can help optimize your categories)

You can optimize categories individually …

(Improve 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 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 index your pages.

***

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