Categories are “top level” topics. They shouldn't be too specific and we recommend using no more than 8 to 10 Categories per website. Determining the best Categories depends on the nature of the site’s content and its audience. If you’re building a new site from scratch, it’s an opportunity to define Categories that best match your content and how you want to enable people to find it.

Defining Your Categories

It's best to define your Categories from the start of a new website. A great way to do this is with a card-sorting exercise. Take a representative sample of stories from your site (or if you’re a new organization, the kind of stories you intend to publish on your site), and write their headlines on index cards. Do this for at least 100 stories; more is better. Then sort all the cards into groups based on topic. As you find similarities with any group of cards, write a label for the topic they all share. That becomes your Category for that group of stories. After the first pass that you may still have too many Categories. Keep sorting until you’re down to one dozen at most.

For any given post you should make sure at least one Category is assigned, in the post edit screen using the Categories panel:

categories panel in WordPress

WordPress also makes it possible for content authors to add new Categories in the Categories panel, which is almost never a good idea for a news website. Categories should be determined in advance, not created ad hoc. Site administrators should take responsibility for defining a limited set of Category terms. Usually, this is done in consultation with other editorial staff, but it's important that the administrator manages the process and the outcome. Resist temptations to engage in category sprawl.

Managing Categories

You can create and manage categories by going to Posts> Categories. The Categories list page shows existing categories. Each Category has a slug, which is the URL-friendly name of the Category. In the right column of the Category list page is a Count column showing how many posts have been assigned to that Category.

Category list page in WordPress

You can click on the Count link for each category to open a post list screen with posts in just that Category. When you hover over the Category name, you'll see links to EditQuick EditDelete, or View the Category archive page:

links under a category name in WordPress

To add a new Category just complete the Add New Category form. To edit a Category, click on its name to open the Edit Category screen:

editing a category in WordPress

Note that:

  • The Slug will be automatically generated unless you enter one you prefer.
  • You can optionally add a Description and a Featured Image for each Category as well, which will display on the Category archive page.
  • You can choose any sidebar you wish for each Category archive page. This could be useful for displaying sidebar content related to that Category. You can create custom sidebars for this purpose in Appearance > Theme Options > Layout > Sidebar Options, then go to Appearance > Widgets to place widgets in your new custom sidebar.
  • It's possible to create Parent/Child relationships between Categories, but we advise against doing that. It's best to keep the total number of Categories between 8 and 10, then use Tags for more granular subject terms.

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