What Are WordPress Categories?

Here at TaxoPress, our plugins allow you to manage Categories, Tags, and all your WordPress taxonomy terms.

If that sentence doesn’t make sense to you, I’m here to help!

Categories are a great tool for WordPress users. They can help you organize your site content and improve your site’s search engine optimization. By organizing your posts into Categories, you can create a logical structure for your website and make it easier for visitors to find relevant content.

In this guide, I’ll show you how Categories help your WordPress site, how to create them, and how to enhance them with the TaxoPress plugins.

What is a Category?

In WordPress, a Category is a way to organize and group your posts based on broad topics or subjects. It is a taxonomy that allows you to classify your content into different sections on your website.

When you create or edit a post in WordPress, you can assign it to one or more Categories using the box in the right sidebar. By default, Categories are only available for posts, but you can add them to more post types.

Add Categories to a WordPress post

On most WordPress themes, the Categories will be immediately visible on your posts. The location of the Categories will change depending on your theme. This screenshot below shows where Categories appear in the “Twenty Twenty-Three” theme.

View categories on a WordPress post

This next screenshot shows how Categories appear in the “Twenty Twenty-One” theme. In this example, the Categories are now on the right side of the post and the “Categorized as” text is added before the terms. In another post, we explained how to all the ways you can display Categories on your site.

Views Categories on a WordPress post with a new theme

The difference between Categories and Tags

The main difference between Categories and Tags is the ability to create levels of Categories. Categories are hierarchical, which means terms can be organized into a parent-child relationship. 

Here’s an example: you could have a Category called “Fruit”, and under this Category you could have categories called “Apples”, “Bananas”, “Grapes”, and “Peaches”. Tags are not hierarchical, which means there’s no relationship between them. You can still add the same words as Tags, but by default they can not have relationships. You can modify this using the Taxonomies screen in TaxoPress. You can see this structural difference by looking at the two boxes for adding Categories and Tags, as in this screenshot below:

Adding Categories and Tags

There is another difference that I’ll share from personal experience. I normally see Categories used for broad topics or themes. For example, Categories may be used for high-level groups such as “Fruit” or “Apple”. In contrast, Tags may be used for more specific groups, such as types of apples.

This guide has more on the differences between Tags and Categories.

Why should you use WordPress Categories

Here are some key reasons why I recommend using Categories for your content.

  • WordPress forces you to use Categories. By default, WordPress creates an “Uncategorized” Category. You can change the name of that category. You can also choose a different Category, or multiple Categories. But you will have a difficult time trying to have a WordPress post with zero categories.
  • Categories enable your visitors to find content. If you organize your WordPress posts in Categories, this will allow users to quickly find what they are looking for. At the bottom of each post, users can see your Categories and click to read more on the topic they choose.
  • Categories help you organize and write posts. Categories will allow you to group similar posts together. This can save you time, as you don’t have to browse through every post to find topics you need to work on.
  • Categories can improve the SEO of your site. With the use of appropriate Categories, you will increase the visibility of your content on search engine results pages. This can help attract more organic traffic to your WordPress site and achieve the site goals. The team behind the Yoast SEO plugin have written a helpful guide to using taxonomy pages for SEO.

How to add Categories

There are several ways to add Categories, but the best approach is to use the main “Categories” screen. This allows the most control over your new Categories.

In your WordPress admin dashboard, go to “Posts”, then “Categories”, as in this screenshot below.

How to add Categories in WordPress

You will see the Categories screen with the “Add New Category” area, as shown in the next image:

  • Name: Enter the category name you want to appear on your site.
  • Slug (optional): The “slug” is the URL-friendly version of the name. It is usually all lowercase and contains only letters, numbers, and hyphens. If you don’t enter a slug here, WordPress will automatically generate it from the category name. Find out more about these slugs.
  • Parent Category: If you would like your new category to be a part of a hierarchy of categories, select here a parent category.
  • Description: Add a description for your category. In most cases, this will not be visible on the front of your site. Click here for more on Category descriptions.
Adding Categories in WordPress

If you don’t want to add Categories manually, you can use TaxoPress to generate automatic categories. It’s also possible to schedule future changes to the Categories on your post.

How Many Categories Per Post?

There’s no “correct” answer to this question, but most experts recommend less than 10 Categories per post. If you add too many Categories, you’re likely to add several that are not very relevant. Here’s how to control the number of Categories per post.

WordPress Category Archive Pages

Every Category in WordPress has a dedicated archive page that displays a list of posts assigned to that Category. By default, the archive pages will use these permalinks:

  • Parent categories: /category/fruit/
  • Child categories: /category/fruit/apples/

You can change the URL of the category pages by going to “Settings” then “Permalinks”, as in the screenshot below. You can also remove “Category” from your permalinks.

Permalinks for Categories in WordPress

Categories and Navigation Menus

Categories can be used in WordPress navigation menus. Using the site editor in WordPress, Categories can be added as menu items. This can give your visitors easy access to content grouped by specific topics.

In this example screenshot below, I’m adding a menu link. I search for “Fruit” and there are two results. One is a post with the word “Fruit” in the title. The other result is the archive page for the Category called “Fruit”.

Menus for Categories in WordPress

Category Blocks

WordPress provides two category blocks that you can use with the block editor.

There is the “Categories List” block that can show an overview of all your site’s Categories. In this screenshot below you can see the block inside a post. The default displays for this list are a vertical list or a dropdown. The version of this in TaxoPress is called “Terms Display“. There are five settings available for this block in the sidebar:

  • Display as dropdown
  • Show post counts
  • Show only top level categories
  • Show empty categories
  • Show hierarchy
The Categories List block in WordPress

The other available block is the “Categories” block. This shows all the Categories for the current post. The version of this in TaxoPress is called “Terms for Current Post“.

The Categories block in WordPress

Category Management

It is possible to create, edit, and delete categories in the WordPress dashboard. On a regular basis, I would recommend looking carefully over your Categories and removing terms that are rarely used. Here are some ways you can manage Categories on your site:

If you do manage your terms outside of WordPress, it’s possible to import your taxonomy terms.

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