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Using WordPress Post Categories

WordPress categories help make finding information about similar topics on your site easier for visitors. Categories also help to organize your content and allow search engines to better index your WordPress site.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to add, edit, and delete categories in WP posts.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

By default, WordPress post URLs are not very 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 your WordPress site to display SEO-friendly URLs, so instead of having a web address that looks like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=6113

You can have the same post URL display like this:

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

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

To learn more about using permalinks, refer to this tutorial: Setting Up Your WordPress Permalinks

Step 2: Create A List Of Topics

Keeping content organized is very 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, therefore, is to carefully plan what kind of broad “topics” you will be writing about. These can be topics related to your specific niche, your products or services, your industry, etc.

We have written a detailed tutorial on website planning here: A Comprehensive Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients need to be better educated or informed about. This is very important in terms of establishing your business as an “authority” that online visitors will want to subscribe to (if you offer a newsletter or valuable content like ongoing training, tips, etc.) and/or refer to others.

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:

Step 3: Choose Relevant Category Names

Dominating an entire market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Sports”, etc…) is very difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. It’s better to try and build your authority in a niche, or a segment (i.e. subniche) of your market.

Take a look at the illustration below …

You can see from the above 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 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 estimates from Google for the average number of online searches performed each month for each of the above keywords …

(Keyword research - a useful 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 too big a goal (i.e. aiming to dominate the “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.

For tutorials on strategic online business planning like keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., visit this tutorial: A Practical Guide To Website Planning 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 convert your keywords into WordPress post categories.

Step 4: Set Up Your Post Categories

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

(WordPress lets you easily organize your posts by categories)

To access your Post Categories area, in your Dashboard menu, click on Posts > Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

(WP Post Categories Panel)

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

How To Add Categories To WordPress

(Categories panel – Add New Category area)

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

(WordPress Post 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 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 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 hierarchies of categories on your site (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 search engine optimization. Your category description will be used for your category pages “meta” description.

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

(New category added)

Repeat this process to keep inserting new categories …

(Categories list)

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

(Create nested categories)

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

(Add nested categories to WordPress)

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

(Post Categories module – Add New Category)

If you need 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 an optional ‘parent’ category),
  3. Click on Add New Category

(Add New Category)

Your new category will be added to your list …

(New post category added)

Learn how to create and edit WordPress posts here:

Deleting Post Categories In WordPress

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

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

How To Delete An Individual Category

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

(Deleting an individual category)

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

(Click ‘OK’ to delete the category)

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 categories by assigning your imported posts to a fewer number of categories. If you have 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 unnecessary categories are deleted have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on reassigning post categories, go to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete Posts

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

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

(Select the ‘Delete’ option 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 removed …

(Categories deleted)

Editing WordPress Categories

To edit a category in WordPress, do this:

In your ‘Categories’ table, find the item to be edited, then hover over the category name, and click Edit

(Edit)

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

(‘Edit Category’ panel)

You can also edit information in 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 Update Category to save your changes …

(Quick Edit fields)

Modifying the category slug will affect 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, we 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 site is established.

Post 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 attribute 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 relevant to your site visitors and optimized for search engines too.

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

(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 your users and search engines)

Now, when new posts get 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)

Note: The above site 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 on your site, see this tutorial: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using SEO-Friendly URLs

Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple Categories

Posts in WordPress must be published under one or more categories. This means that you can assign multiple categories to a post …

(WordPress posts can be published under multiple categories)

If you use a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify a primary category …

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

Displaying Categories

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

You can display categories in your posts …

(Categories display in your posts)

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

You can also show category menus in the sidebar …

(Categories can display on your blog sidebar)

It’s important to manage your categories. Depending on how many posts and categories are published on your site, you can end up with a very long category menu …

(Categories widget)

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

(Using a dropdown category menu)

We have created a detailed tutorial about adding sidebar widgets here: Adding WordPress Widgets To The Sidebar

When visitors select a category from the drop down menu …

(Selecting 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 admin area, go to Post > Categories and locate the category to display. Hover over the category name and click the ‘View’ link …

(Category table menu – View)

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

Post Categories – Sorting Features

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

(Sort by category 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 selected (i.e. Name, Count, etc.) …

(Sorting categories in the table of categories)

Categories – Searching Features

This feature is useful if your site has a large number of categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

(Category Search)

Your Table of Categories can be split into “Category Pages” with pagination buttons …

(Table of Categories – 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 Categories > Pagination > Number of items per page: field. If you want, you can also hide some or all of the columns (e.g. ‘Description’, ’Count’, etc.). Click the ‘Apply’ button …

(Screen Options – Categories settings)

Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an item in the ‘Count’ column …

(Category screen – Post count)

All posts assigned to the selected category will display in the Table of Posts

(Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)

Categories – Tools

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

(Convert categories to tags)

This will open the Tools > Import screen …

(Tools > Import section – Categories and Tags Converter)

We have written a detailed tutorial about using Tags here: How To Configure Post Tags In WordPress

WordPress Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress has a number of great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of categories.

For example, you can use plugins to add images to your categories, exclude categories from displaying in certain areas of your site, rearrange the way categories are ordered in 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 will add new fields to your Categories Table …

(Enhance the functionality of your Categories Table with plugins)

Step 5 – Using Post Categories Effectively

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

To further improve your results, here are some 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 your post title, preferably near the beginning. This helps to optimize your page for search engines, catch your visitor’s attention.

So, for example, if writing a blog post for an Outdoors Adventure Travel business targeting the “Winter Camping” niche could be titled “Winter Camping Tips – 7 Essential Survival Tools You Will Need For Your Winter Camping Adventure“.

Publish Your Posts Under The Correct Post Category

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

(Choose a post category to file your post under)

Use A WordPress 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 to improve your categories’ SEO)

You can even optimize categories individually …

(Improving your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up WordPress categories correctly. These simple steps will help keep your WordPress 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 content.

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