Add, edit & delete categories in WordPress

We use categories in WordPress to create containers that group together posts that belong to one and the same subject.

We do not have to use categories if we do not want to. But still, as they are a part of the default installation we need to know how to add, edit and delete categories to successfully manage our WordPress website.

Let’s start by looking at the basics. What are they, how can they be used and what purpose do they serve?

We will then look at how we can add, edit and delete categories in WordPress.

Finally we will address some common questions when editing, creating and deleting categories.

What is a category

We can use categories to group together posts of our choosing in a container of our choosing.

Could I be more vague? Let’s use an example to illustrate. 

We have a website about Boats. Specifically we write about sailboats, catamarans and motorboats.

To make the website easier to navigate we create three containers to hold our posts. These containers are in fact categories and are named: Sailboats, Catamarans and Motorboats.

Now, going forward when we write a post (posts of our choosing) we will also place it in one of our categories (containers of our choosing). 

Managing categories

Whether you intend to use categories or not you still need to understand how to manage them. 

One reason is that the default WordPress installation includes at least one category. This category is named “Uncategorized” by default.

Further, if you install a theme with sample content you may inherit any number of sample categories.

So let’s look at how we can add, edit and delete categories in WordPress. 

How to add categories

There are two different ways to add categories to your WordPress website.

If you decide to use categories they are most likely part of a well planned website structure. 

To create the categories in advance is a simple process.

Add categories via WordPress Dashboard

  1. We start by planning the web site structure. Write down information about your categories including name, slug, parent category if applicable and a description.
  • Category Name is what you are naming your category.
  • Slug simply means how the category name appears in your URL or website address. Most of the time we use the category name but write all letters in lower case.
  • Parent directory will only come in to play if you have deep category structures where a parent category has sub-categories (otherwise known as “children”).
  • Description is where you can describe what your category is about.
  1. Log in in to the WordPress Dashboard and click Posts > Categories
Select Posts > Categories in Dashboard
  1. Use the information from step 1 to complete the form and click “Add New Category”. Now simply repeat until you have created the website structure and categories you need.
Compete form and click Add New Category

Add categories via Create post

Another way is to create a category while writing a post. Again it is a simple process but I do recommend creating your categories beforehand via the Dashboard. Categories, if used, should not be an afterthought.

Follow the steps below to add a category when writing a post.

  1. Log in in to the WordPress Dashboard and click Posts > Add New
Select Posts > Add new
  1. On the next screen, in the right column, under the Post tab you will find the Categories section.
Categories section in Add new post interface
  1.  In the Categories section click the Add New Category link visible in the image above
  1. Fill in the New Category Name and select Parent Category if applicable and click Add New Category
Add new category in the Add new post interface

And you are done. I am sure you noticed that adding a category while writing a post  gave you less information to enter. Specifically, you are not asked for the Slug that is part of the URL.

This is another reason why you should create your categories via the WordPress Dashboard beforehand.

How to Edit categories

You need to know how to edit categories as nobody should want to keep the default category “Uncategorized”.

It can also come in handy if you are changing your website structure and for example need to rename categories.

Please be aware that changing a category name may also change the URL or web address of the posts that belong to that category. Check your settings in the WordPress Dashboard under Settings > Permalinks

Regardless of the reason it is really simple to edit categories in WordPress.

  1. Log in to the WordPress Dashboard and click Posts > Categories
Select Posts > Categories in Dashboard

2. Your Categories will be listed on the right side of the screen. When you hover over the Category you want to edit the Edit option appears

Edit Category via WordPress Dashboard

3. Click Edit

Edit category form in WordPress Dashboard

4. On the Edit Category screen you update the information as needed and click Update

How to Delete categories

It is quite simple to delete a category if we for example have decided to only use tags.

To delete a category you simply follow the below steps.

  1. Log in to the WordPress Dashboard and click Posts > Categories
Select Posts > Categories in Dashboard

2. Categories are listed to the right on the screen. Hover over the Category you want to delete to reveal the Delete option

Delete Category via Dashboard

3. Click Delete, and then click OK on the warning box that pop up

Please be aware that deleting a category may also change the URL or web address of the posts that belong to that category. Check your settings in the WordPress Dashboard under Settings > Permalinks

What happens to the posts if I delete a category in WordPress?

If you have posts that belong to the category you delete the posts will simply be moved to the default category Uncategorized. So there is no risk that you also delete the posts.

How do I delete the default “Uncategorized” category in WordPress?

It is not possible to delete a default category. There are however two ways to remove the Uncategorized category. You can either rename it or create a different default category and then proceed to delete the original default category Uncategorized. 

What if I want to change the WordPress Default Category “Uncategorized”?

There are two ways to change the default category Uncategorized in WordPress.

You can either simply follow the instructions above and rename the category. 

The other way is to add a new category and assign it as the new default category. 

To change the default category

  1. Log into the dashboard
  2. Select Posts > Categories
  3. Select Add a new category and choose a name for your new default category
  4. Select Settings > Writing
  5. Change the default post Category from “Uncategorized” to your newly created category

Using Categories vs using Tags in WordPress

We use categories to broadly match our posts to topics within our niche. 

Tags on the other hand are like labels that help describe a post in more detail.

A post typically belongs to one category but may have several tags. Time for another example.

We write a post about a motorboat. The post is assigned to the category Motorboats. At the same time we assign the following three tags to better describe the post: Triple engine, Powerboat, Carbon fiber hull 

Now in the example above the tags will help the Powerboat enthusiast to use the tags to find this post should they be in the market for a carbon fiber, triple engine power boat.

Had they relied on the category Motorboats alone, they would have to sift through posts about all kinds of other boat types as well. 

Do categories in WordPress really serve a purpose?

I would argue that categories are less important today than ever before. Let me explain my position.

When we build a website we have to remember that we write for two audiences.

Most importantly we write for the visitors. We write to offer solutions to real problems.

We also need to write clearly and with purpose to allow the search engines to find and index us correctly. 

Let’s look at these two audiences separately. 

Do the visitor need your categories to use your website

The visitor will come to your website from a search engine. The visitor will land on a page on your website that matches the keyword the visitor used in the search engine. 

Now, and this is important, should your webpage not match the user intent (what the visitor expects to find) the visitor will go back to the search engine and search again or click on another alternative.

The visitor will not use your categories, menus or search functions. 

Conclusion: Categories can make your site appear organized but the visitors have no real need or use for your categories.

Will categories in WordPress help me with the search engines

I guess it depends on how you ask but I have found no proof that using categories will make you more attractive to the search engines.

The search engines use robots to crawl your website. And if they need your category name to understand what you are writing about you have bigger problems.

Conclusion: Use categories if you want but the search engines do not need them to understand your website.

Meet the author: Mattias (Matt) is a serial entrepreneur and travel industry expert with more than 20 years of experience in business and web development. Mattias identifies with self-starters and entrepreneurs, loves to garden, and believes everyone needs a game plan for financial independence.