What are WordPress categories?
Well, imagine going to a bookstore to buy a book for a friend’s birthday. Thousands of books are there. You’ve got “History”, “Biology”, “Literature”, “Psychology”, and many more. You’re deciding to go for literature. What kind of literature? Is it “adventure”, “thriller”, “the classics”, “science fiction”?
Let’s go with “adventure”. Ok, we narrowed it down a bit. Next, there are more choices: fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, etc. It seems we’re getting somewhere…
Using classifications helps a lot, they bring order to chaos, don’t you think? What would have happened if there were no specific book sections in the bookstore? Probably a really bad user experience, and a bookseller in a state of burnout.
This is how blogs should also be organized so that the reader doesn’t get lost scrolling for a particular topic.
The main section (eg: “History”, “Biology”) are called categories. They can have sub-categories (“thriller”, “science fiction”), or tags (“fantasy”).
We’ll go into the details below, so follow me!
WordPress categories vs WordPress tags
Categories are meant to classify in a broader way a series of blog posts. Categories can have their own sub-categories. If you feel that inside the main category, there are some important subsections, you can definitely define sub-categories.
Tags have the same classifying role, only that they get a bit more specific. Consider them as micro-categories.
On our blog, you can see the categories in the right sidebar.
This article has the tags: “build WordPress website”, “WordPress web design”. “WordPress 2021”
If you assign a category to a blog article, WordPress will assign the default category “Uncategorized”. Our advice is to rename it as “Other”, or “Miscellaneous”.
How to create WordPress categories
Before actually creating the categories, you should figure out the structure and their hierarchy. Maybe this is the hardest thing to do, prioritizing what should go as a category, as a sub-category, or as a tag.
The technical aspect of it is easy peasy. You can define categories in 2 ways:
1. Create a WordPress category at the blog post level
Go to Posts->Add New. Select “Add new category” from the panel on the right.
If you want to create a sub-category, you’ll have to assign a “parent category”, and choose an already existing category.
You can create more categories, and assign only the one relevant for the current blog article.
Right beneath the categories, you’ll see the option for tag creation.
That’s it! Mission accomplished.
2. Create a WordPress category in the WordPress dashboard
Head over to Posts->Categories.
When you will define a category, you’ll provide the following information:
Name: the name of the category. It will show up on your site.
Slug: the URL-friendly version of the category. This is generated automatically based on the name of the category, but you can change it if you want.
Let’s say your category is “healthy eating”, your slug can be healthy-eating. You do not need to include the whole website link, WordPress knows how to build it, like below:
Parent category: if you want to create a sub-category.
Description (optional): a description of what the reader will find in that particular blog category.
The moment you hit “Add new category”, you’ll see the category to the right.
How to manage WordPress categories
We’ve just mentioned that there’s a panel to the right, under Posts->Categories.
In here you can:
- Delete a category
- View a category – you will be directed to the web page of the category, with all the articles inside the category.
- Edit all the details of the category
- Quick edit – where you can update the name and slug of the category.
There’s a “Quick Edit” option underneath every post as well. It looks like this:
This is how you can rapidly assign another category to already existing posts, instead of entering every single post and making the edits.
This is a great way of managing your categories, especially when you’ve just redefined the whole structure of categories.
How to add WordPress categories to the blog sidebar?
Wanna make your categories easier to discover by your readers? You can include them in your website’s sidebar.
Note: not all themes allow a sidebar. But you could always use a plugin for that.
Here are easy steps to do this:
- Head over to Appearance->Widgets.
- Drag the “Categories” widget from “Available Widgets on the left, and drop to the right, inside the “Sidebar widget area”.
- Make adjustments to the widget (give it a name, select whether you want to see sub-categories, or show the number of posts inside categories).
- Save the widget.
And, you’re live!
How to add WordPress categories to a menu?
In WordPress, you can assign categories to menus as well. Let’s see how we can do this.
- Head over to Appearance->Menus .
- Select a menu or create a new one.
- Go to “Add menu items”, and tick the categories you want to show up inside your menu.
- Select “Add to Menu”.
- Save the menu, from the panel on the right.
WordPress categories and SEO
If you do proper content categorization you can improve your website’s SEO. Proper site structure and navigation are delivering a good user experience, and Google takes this as a good signal in its ranking algorithm.
One thing to bear in mind: avoid assigning more categories to a single post, it can hurt your website SEO-wise. You can assign multiple tags if you’d like.
We’ve seen that each category gets its own URL. Ideally, your categories should be keywords that your target audience is looking for. The slug for your category page should also focus on such keywords. What else can you do to help your category page rank in Google’s organic listings?
The most basic approach consists of using an SEO plugin, like Yoast SEO.
Just in case, here’s how you can install a WordPress plugin.
Once the plugin is activated, head over to Posts->Categories. Choose the desired category and select “Edit”.
Below the category setup, you’ll see the SEO optimization recommendations from Yoast SEO.
You’ll have to define:
- A focus keyphrase that is relevant to the topic and audience.
- The SEO title – a catchy title for your category page that also contains the focus keyphrase.
- A meta description – a description of your topic, that should be convincing enough for the audience so that it will get clicked. Avoid clickbait, please.
When you design a website make sure to provide the best user experience. The content should be clear, well structured, and definitely useful.
If you’re interested in improving your website’s usability using a slightly more scientific approach, you can check the article from our guests from UsabilityHub.