Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video Using categories and tags, part of WordPress 4 Essential Training.
- Adding categories and tags to your posts, is done from the Posts editor. Because categories are mandatory, they appear first in the right-hand sidebar, directly here under post's formats, which I've collapsed. Out of the gate, you only have one category called Uncategorized. This is because every post must belong to a category, and Wordpress doesn't know anything about how you want to organize your content. So Uncategorized is the only option. What you see here, is that I've added a couple of extra categories in-between the movies, so I also have a category called Events, one called News, and one called Promotions.
But, if you don't assign a category to your posts, it will always automatically be set to the default category, which out of the box, is Uncategorized. Now, Uncategorized is obviously not a good category to use. So, you need to know how to make new categories. For example, the post I'm currently writing is about the history of the company, so it would make sense to create a category called History. I can do this by simply clicking the Add New Category button under the main Categories list. When I click this button, I get a new field that opens up, and here I can type in History, and make that the new name of my category.
Once I'm done making the category, I'll click Add New Category. It automatically gets added in and floated up to the top of my list. Now I have two categories applied to my post, History and Uncategorized. Since I no longer need Uncategorized for this post, I'll uncheck it, so now, the post is only categorized as History. Now you can also create parent-child relationships between your posts. So for example, if I want to create a new category called Recent History, I can simply type in Recent History, and then use this drop-down underneath to set History as the parent.
This would create a new category that belongs under History. And what would happen is, if you go to the front end, and you go and look at the category index for History, you will get all the articles that are either categorized as History, or as Recent History. However, if you look at the index for Recent History, you would only get the posts categorized under Recent History. That's how the hierarchy works and that's why the hierarchy is important to understand. But for now, we're going to leave it at just History. Now, if you have a lot of categories, and there are some you use a lot more than others, you can use this Most Used tab.
Now, right now it doesn't make any sense in my example because I don't have a lot of categories yet, but as you start using your site more and more, and categorizing more and more posts, you will see a curated list of your categories here. Tags, are quite different. They're free text based, meaning you type in whatever tag you want to apply to your post, and then comma separate them. And then you can add them in bulk. If the tag you type in already exists, let's say vitamin, you'll see that Wordpress will try to help you by showing the existing categories they've already created.
But, if you add something new... WordPress says nothing. Once you've added your comma separated list of tags, you simply click Add, and you can see all of these tags appear down here underneath. And if you want to remove them, you have to click this little red x next to each of the tags to take them away. Now there's an important thing to remember about tags. Tags are case-sensitive. That means, I already have a tag called vitamins. But if I go in here, and I say Vitamins, and I type it out with a capitalized V, and then add it, I would now have two tags.
One that's called Vitamins capitalized, and one that's called vitamins uncapitalized. So when you're making tags, make sure that you're consistent at how you write them out, and also make sure when WordPress tries to help you, to use existing tags rather than constantly adding new ones that look almost the same. Once I've added my categories and tags, I'm going to click Save Draft. And my post now has both categories and tags. Now here's the cool part. We can now edit the categories and tags. If you go to the main menu in the Admin Panel, go to Posts, you'll see that we have Categories and Tags.
And if you go into either Categories and Tags, you get a full list of all the available categories or tags, and you can see how many posts have been published with these categories and tags. And you can see here under Categories, that Uncategorized has been used once, for one post, and that happens to be the Hello world! post. But because we haven't yet published the other post, it doesn't show up even though it should be under History. From here, I can now Quick Edit my categories, so I can change the Name, or I can change the Slug. I often mispell my categories the first time I add them, so I can go in and edit that here, and this will automatically impact all the content on your site.
So editing your categories or tags from these views, won't actually detach them from your posts. It'll just change everything throughout the whole database. You can also choose to do a full edit. In that case you go to the full editing view, where you can set a new Name, a new Slug, a new Parent, and write a category or tag description. So this description would only show up if someone goes to the index page for that particular category or tag. If this depends on the theme you're using, some themes support Description, some don't.
So you need to check to make sure that the theme you're using uses descriptions if you want to use that. You can also get plugins that extend this further, to give categories and tags individual feature images that you can use to display on these index pages. Now that you know how to create and apply categories and tags to your posts, here is my final piece of advice. When you start a new site, take some time to plan out your category structure. I often see sites where no plan was created, and what you end up with is a long list of categories with few items in them.
This doesn't do anything for organization and it can get really frustrating to manage as a site owner. My own site, at morten.com, is a great example of how not to do this. I have tons of categories I hardly use, and I keep one thing to reorganize everything but it's just too much work. By making a plan for what categories you need, and expanding that list only when necessary, you make a far more understandable structure, both for yourself, and for your visitors.
Note: This course covers an older version of WordPress, which features the Classic Editor. Watch this course only if you are using the Classic Editor plugin or using WordPress 4.9 or earlier. Otherwise, watch WordPress 5 Essential Training, which covers the new Block Editor experience.
- Creating posts and pages
- Formatting text
- Publishing and scheduling posts
- Adding images, audio, and video
- Bulk editing posts and pages
- Customizing themes and menus
- Using widgets
- Extending WordPress with plugins
- Editing users profiles
- Configuring settings
- Getting new readers
- Keeping WordPress up to date and secure