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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 experience and your search engine rankings.

Learn about configuring post categories in this tutorial.

Using WordPress Post Categories

Step 1: Configure Your Permalinks

Default WordPress post web addresses are not very search engine friendly. In order to make the best use of WordPress categories, you will need to modify the way WordPress displays your URLs.

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

http://www.mytravelagency.com/?p=9995

You can have the post URL look like this:

http://www.mytravelagency.com/travel-destinations/7-best-romantic-destinations-for-newlyweds

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

We have created a detailed tutorial on setting up and using permalinks here: How To Improve Your WordPress SEO Using Permalinks

Step 2: List Your Main 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.

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

To learn more about planning a website, see this tutorial: A Basic Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

When creating your list of topics, remember to include areas of your business that your visitors, prospects, and clients should be better educated or informed about. This is important in terms of establishing your web site 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 other people to.

For example, let’s say 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 Names

Dominating a vertical market (i.e. “Weddings”, “Travel”, “Business”, etc…) is extremely hard, especially if you’re just starting out. you have a better chance of getting somewhere by focusing on establishing your authority in a smaller niche, or subset of your main 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 choosing the keywords you would use as a top-level category to publish 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 online searches performed each month for each of these keywords …

(Google Keyword Planner – Keyword research for category planning)

When planning your main topic categories, it’s important to spend time thinking carefully about all the elements you can control (like the keywords that will be used throughout your content), and how to use these elements to try to a competitive advantage. If you set an unrealistic 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 business online.

If you need help with strategic online business planning like effective keyword research, identifying audience demographics, etc., refer to this tutorial: A Comprehensive Guide To Website Planning 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 categories and add them to your WordPress website or blog.

Step 4: Set Up Categories

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

(Organize content by categories)

To access your WordPress Categories area, go to the WP administration area and click on Posts > Categories

(Posts – Categories)

This opens the ‘Categories’ panel …

(Categories Area)

This screen lets you add, edit, and delete categories, including inserting descriptions for categories and other information that can improve your website’s SEO.

Adding Post Categories

(Categories panel – Add New Category section)

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

(Post Categories panel – Add New Category section fields)

  1. Name – Use 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 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 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 category hierarchies on your website (explained further below).
  4. Description – Write a brief category description 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 when done to add your new category …

(New category added)

Repeat this process to continue creating new categories …

(Table of categories)

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

(Creating a hierarchical list of categories)

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

(Create nested categories)

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

(Add New Category)

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

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

(Add New Category)

Your new category will become instantly available …

(New post category added)

Learn how to add and edit a WordPress Post here:

How To Remove Categories In WordPress

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

You can delete categories individually, or in bulk.

How To Delete Categories Individually

To remove categories individually, hover over the category you would like removed and click Delete

(Delete link – Category table menu)

A warning message will appear 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 WordPress Categories In Bulk

Let’s say that you import product data into your site containing a large number of categories (e.g. product manufacturers), and you would like to consolidate posts to a single category. If you have too many categories to delete one at a time, this is where the bulk delete feature can be useful.

Important: Make sure that any posts that will be affected by deleting unnecessary categories have been reassigned to an existing or new category. For more details on how to reassign post categories, go to this tutorial: How To Edit And Delete A Post In WordPress

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

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

(Selecting/Deselecting Categories)

Once you have selected all the items you would like to delete, select ‘Delete’ from the ‘Bulk Actions’ drop menu …

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

Next, click the ‘Apply’ button …

(Deleting multiple categories)

The selected categories will be removed …

(’Categories deleted’ message)

How To Edit Categories

To edit a post category in WordPress, do this:

In your ‘Categories’ section, locate the category that needs editing, then place your mouse over the category name, and click the ‘Edit’ link …

(WordPress post category table – Edit link)

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

(‘Edit Category’ section)

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 on Quick Edit

(WordPress category table – Quick Edit)

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

(Category menu – Quick Edit screen)

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

Post Category – Special Tip

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

(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 unassigned posts as “uncategorized”, let’s make the category a little more meaningful to your site users and optimize it 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 main 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 site visitors and search engines)

Now, when posts get published using the default WordPress category, the URL will make more sense to visitors and be more effective for SEO …

(Use SEO-friendly 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”. For more details on how to set up search engine-friendly URLs on your site, go here: Improve Your WordPress SEO With Permalinks

WordPress Categories – Additional Information

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

Multiple WordPress Post Categories

Every post in WordPress must be published 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 which of your categories is the primary category …

(With multiple 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 visitors to find related content.

You can display categories in your posts …

(Categories display in your posts)

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

You can also show a category menu in the sidebar …

(Categories can display on your 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 list of categories …

(Managing your categories is important)

If you plan to use many categories on your site, you can reduce space on your sidebar by selecting the drop menu option in your ‘Categories’ widget settings …

(Using a drop-down category menu)

To learn more about adding sidebar widgets, go here: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In The Website

When visitors select a category from the dropdown list …

(Select a category from the drop menu)

… An archive page displays all posts listed under that category …

(Posts can display in a category archive page)

WordPress Post Categories – Useful Tips

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

(View)

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

WordPress Categories – Sorting Features

Your Table of Categories lets you sort items alphabetically (or in reverse alphabetical order) by 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, Description, etc.) …

(Sorting categories in the Categories table)

Categories – Search Features

This feature is useful if you have many categories. To locate a specific category, type in a keyword into the search field and click on the ‘Search Categories’ button …

(Search Categories Feature)

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

(Table of Categories – Category Pages)

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

(Screen Options Tab)

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’, ‘Count’). Click Apply to update your settings when done …

(Screen Options Tab – Categories settings)

Post Categories – Grouping Features

Click on an entry in the ‘Count’ column …

(Table of Categories – Post count column)

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

(WP Posts Table – Posts grouped by category)

WordPress Categories – Tools

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

(Category to Tag converter link)

This opens the Tools > Import screen …

(Categories and Tags Converter)

We have created a detailed tutorial about using Post Tags here: Using Tags In WordPress

Post Categories – Plugins

WordPress makes available many great plugins to manage and enhance the usefulness of post categories.

For example, you can use plugins to add images to your categories, exclude categories from displaying in certain sections 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 categories)

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

(Extend the functionality of your Table of Categories with plugins)

Step 5 – Use WordPress 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 improve your results further, here are some more tips for getting the most benefit from using categories.

Choosing Relevant Keywords For Your Post Titles

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

So, for example, an article for an Outdoors Adventure Travel company focused on the ”Kayaking” niche could be titled “Kayaking Adventures – 5 Memorable Kayaking Adventures“.

Publish Posts Under Relevant Categories

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

(Add/Edit Post – WordPress Post Categories)

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  …

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

You can optimize categories individually …

(Improve your category SEO with SEO plugins)

Hopefully, this tutorial has given you a better understanding of the role and importance of setting up and managing WordPress post categories correctly. 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 index your pages.

***

"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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