What are Categories?
Before WordPress version 2.3, categories were the only way to organize your blog posts in WordPress, so you probably used or at least heard of them before. In fact, you can’t even publish a post without assigning a category to it. So what exactly is their purpose again?
Categories are used to group similar topics together – kind of like book chapters. The chapter titles of a book usually give you a pretty solid grasp of what the book is about and how it is structured. If the author or editor of that book were to reorganize or remove chapters, it would change the whole structure, and perhaps the whole story.
Let’s take an example of a health blog. If you’re running a comprehensive blog, you could select and create your categories based on the main components of health: Exercise, Nutrition, Motivation, etc. You can add sub-categories to each of those if needed (ex. Recipes under Nutrition). But there are a few rules you need to keep in mind:
- Categories can only be used for posts, not pages
- Every blog post should fit into one category (sometimes a post fits into two categories, but this shouldn’t occur often)
- It is best to work with a single category limit for most of your posts
- Categories shouldn’t be created for topics that you’re not going to discuss any further in the near future
- You should place your categories into hierarchies and add subsequent subcategories as your site develops
You can create categories from the category interface (Posts > Categories). Let’s look at the Add New Category screen:
Speaks for itself. Give your categories easily identified, short names that visitors will instantly recognize. The category name should include a relevant keyword.
This is the URL of your category name. It is found in category archives and your post URLs if you’re using custom permalinks. Use dashes to separate words and don’t stuff it with keywords.
You can create a subcategory by assigning a parent to it. Leave it at “None” if it is a top-level category.
This is where the category description goes. It is not shown by default, but some WordPress themes may display it.
Although you are able to create as many categories as you like, the less you have the better. Typically, if you have more than a dozen blog categories, your content may not be as focused as you might think.
Google may translate a large number of blog categories to a lack of focus. This will make it much harder for your content to get the ranking which it deserves. That’s why it’s important to think very carefully about each category that you’re adding to your site.
Another reason why you should think carefully about each category you add or assign is that it can be quite challenging to change a post’s category later on, especially when it is part of a post’s URL slug. So to avoid redirecting 404 pages, choose categories wisely to save yourself some trouble in the future.