This will show you my take on how to use categories in WordPress.
After 6 years working with the platform and gathering the views of many WordPress authorities, here is the most effective way to use categories on your blog.
If you want to give your blog a fresh start I would recommend sitting down and writing out the main topics that you can comfortably cover with enthusiasm and passion, before doing any editing.
How to use Categories in WordPress
In WordPress, each post must be assigned to a category. Categories help position the content on the mind of the reader as well as the publisher.
The problem is there’s often a big difference between the topics your readers are looking for, and the categories you put your posts into.
If you have a lot of categories, don’t be tempted to use them as navigation. You readers don’t necessarily think about your content in the way you do.
On a focused blog, a popular posts widget can be much more effective tool for engagement. More on fixing your site’s navigation here.
Common Category Mistakes
- Assigning too many categories to a post
- Having too many categories with only a few posts in each
When you should create a new category
- When a new post does not fit into any others.
- When you’re adding a whole new angle or topic to your blog
How tags and categories work together
Where categories are general, tags should be specific. For example I might publish an article on WordPress security that references plugins and shares some spam strategies.
The category is security, but I would also add the tags spam, plugins, security and WordPress.org because it’s for self-hosted WordPress users.
- Category: Security
- Tags: security, spam, WordPress.org, plugins.
Categories – General
Tags – Specific
If you’re going to use categories as a part of your navigation, this is even more important.
Adding Categories to Menus
Once you have published enough content in a category you many want to add it to your navigation menus. The new menus system in WordPress allows you to freely combine pages, posts, categories and custom URLs freely.
Adding Categories to the Sidebar
Navigate to Appearance >> Widgets and drag a Categories widget into a widget area.
If you have a lot of categories this can make for a confusing user interface. It can be a better strategy to use the Menus option instead.
Duplicate Content and SEO in WordPress
When you assign more than one category to a post this creates the same content under http://yoursite.com/category/cat1/ as for http://yoursite.com/category/cat2/.
However in 2008 Google stated that they would not penalize websites for having archive pages that point to the same content.
Where there is a danger of duplicate content is when your main blog, category and tag archives show the full post content instead of excerpts or automatic summaries.
An example of posts in the security category archives (with post summaries) can be seen here.
Summaries for tags, categories and blog archives make the process of scanning and selecting relevant content much easier for your readers.
NOTE: You can set the maximum number of posts that show on archive pages by navigating to Settings >> Reading and changing the number in the Blog pages to who at most field.
Optimizing Categories for SEO
This tip improves your visibility in Google by indexing only the first page for a category archive.
Navigate to SEO >> Titles & Metas and check Noindex subpages of archives in the Sitewide meta settings section.
The rest of the default settings for this plugin are set to optimize the Title tags and meta-descriptions that search engines use to index your category pages.
Just activating this plugin will optimize your SEO for WordPress!
Managing and Editing Categories
If your permalinks structure includes categories in the URL then editing them can create broken links. Visit Settings >> Permalinks to see what your current structure is.
You can edit your blog categories by navigating to Posts >> Categories.
Hovering over a category will make editing links appear. You can edit the category URLs, add a description, delete the category or view it on the front-end of your website.
Deleting a category moves it to the default category – which is set by navigating to Settings >> Writing.
Navigate to Posts >> All Posts, hover over the post you want to edit and click the Quick Edit link.
From here you can easily change categories for a post.
You can also bulk edit post categories by ticking posts in the list, choosing Edit from the Bulk Actions drop-down and clicking the Apply button.
Now that you have more control over your categories you can hopefully go forth into the information wilderness with a clearer picture of your blog’s content strategy.
Questions? Let us know in the comments.