How to Use WordPress Categories

WordPress

The category outline is the first key step to cleaning up and displaying your categories. If you start making changes without any plan, you’ll end up with a big mess. If you are a new blogger, implementing your category outline should be pretty easy. However, for most bloggers, you’ve likely never implemented any sort of structure to your blog posts, so the category-tag outline is a great reference sheet as you make improvements.

WordPress Categories

You can find a list of all your categories under Categories subsection of the Posts in your WordPress Admin Dashboard. In this section, you will see the category name, description, slug, count, and SEO metrics (if you have Yoast). You likely only see 20 categories at a time, so make sure you use Screen Options to customize your view. When I’m cleaning up categories, I like to hide descriptions.

If you want to add a new category, simply enter it in the left hand section called Add New Category.

Parent & Sub-Categories

Parent categories are large categories that include subcategories. For most bloggers, you don’t need parent categories. However, certain content makes sense to have a parent category. Some food bloggers who write about other topics include a parent category called Recipes. The subcategories are topics such as Appetizers, Main Dishes, and Desserts. If you are averaging around 100 posts per category, I recommend breaking it down into subcategories.

If you are using subcategories, you want very few, if any, posts in the parent category. Here’s an example with the post count next to the category:

  • Recipes (0)
    • Beverages (24)
    • Desserts (35)
    • Main Dishes (53)
    • Side Dishes (19)

Each post in Beverages, Desserts, Main Dishes, or Side Dishes will also show up the Recipe category, even though Recipe technically has 0 posts in it.

Cleaning-Up Category Structure

When I clean up a clients category and tag organization, I focus on categories first. I will create a default temporary category such as Miscellaneous. During the process, if I delete any category that I no longer want to use, posts will get assigned it. At the end, I will go through these posts to make sure they are properly categorized.

  1. I delete and redirect any categories that are no longer going to be use. If the category is used very sparingly, I will not redirect it.
  2. I convert any categories that will be tags into tags using the Convert Categories to Tags plugin.
  3. I add any new category terms that were identified in the post.
  4. Using Quick Edit, I filter all posts by category to make sure each post has the correct category term.

Optimizing Categories for SEO

Once you have cleaned up the category and tag structure, complete these landing pages to benefit your SEO. Adding a description to each category provides an SEO benefit as well as a user experience benefit. The description (often visible in the theme) guides the reader with the type of posts they can find in this section. Lucia from Essential Omnivore takes this a step further with her dietary tags. Her custom theme features a few custom fields (featured podcast and recommend products), but her description is rich with detailed information about the dietary type.

On top of completing each description, you want to make sure you are completing the Yoast Fields. In the example of Essential Omnivore, we updated her titles to include the phrases “Recipes and Resources”. So, her Autoimmune Protocol page has the technical title of “Autoimmune Protocol Recipes and Resources | Essential Omnivore” instead of “Autoimmune Protocol Archive | Essential Omnivore“.

Default Category

Does the word “uncategorized” do anything for your seo? Have you ever looked up “uncategorized” in Google? I thought so. If you don’t categorize your posts, you are not providing an opportunity for your readers to explore new content.  Change the default category in your settings to something you use regularly!

You Might Also Like: How to Organize Your Blog Categories and Adding Categories to Your Widget Areas in WordPress. Want more WordPress tutorials? Check out more posts!  This post was originally written on February 17, 2015, and was updated in 2018.

Optimizing Your WordPress Categories for SEO and User Experience

Optimizing Your WordPress Categories for SEO and User Experience