How to Use Categories Properly in WordPress for SEO & Usability

Use Categories in WordPress for SEO
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WordPress categories and tags help you to structure your blog. They also play a vital role in the SEO of your website. Whenever I talk about the SEO of a WordPress site, I always follow one simple rule:

  • Keep low-quality pages out of the search index.

Today, I will be talking about WordPress categories and SEO.

I’ll also answer the question of:

  • Should we keep categories as no-index or do-index?

Related reading: How To Write SEO Friendly Content)

WordPress categories and tags are the two most important aspects from the user experience point of view.

For example, most of the related posts plugins use categories and tags to show related posts. If your categories are not well structured, related posts will show irrelevant articles, and it will have a negative effect on the bounce rate of your WordPress blog.

How To Structure WordPress Categories:

Planning the categories of your blog should be done from day one; do it as you are writing your blog’s business plan. For example, when I created the WPSutra blog, I used the following categories:

  • WordPress Themes
  • WordPress Plugins
  • WordPress SEO
  • WordPress News
  • WordPress Hacks
  • Editorial

This helps me to stay focused on my content strategy, and moreover, if I’m writing off-topic, this guide gives me a warning to get back on track.

Now, the question arises:

  • Are WordPress categories good for SEO?
WordPress categories
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As I mentioned above, WordPress categories are useful for structuring your blog. From a search engine perspective, Google is much more interested in your content (posts). Moreover, category archive pages are considered a “low-quality page” as it doesn’t add any value in terms of search engine optimization.

Categories and SEO:

Usually, people think that the more pages we have in search results, the more traffic will we get.

This was true in 2011 when search engine bots were not so smart. The more indexed pages, the higher the traffic.

But with the Google Panda update, search engines made it clear that they hate content farming– adding pages into search engines that serve no value.

A category page usually contains the archive of a select category, and depending on your blog design, it may show a complete post or a post excerpt.

Now, here are two questions that you should ask yourself:

  • Is your category page solving any problem to a user using Google Search?
  • If your category page is indexed, isn’t it showing the same content as your post?

You are now creating duplicate content.

In short, category pages are useless from an SEO perspective, but beneficial from the user experience point of view as it offers another way to navigate your site. It’s also helpful for search engine bots to crawl your website deeper.

My recommendation:

  • For better SEO, keep WordPress categories as “no-index but “do-follow”.

This will ensure that search engine bots can crawl all links, but will not index category pages.

If you are planning to change your existing category names to something more sensible, make sure your permalinks are not affected by this change.

If you use permalinks like “%category% / %posts%”, I would not advise you to change your categories or use a permalinks migration plugin for your blog.

Though some SEO experts suggest that using “%category% / %posts%” or %date% / %posts%” is a Google friendly permalinks structure, I would rather stick with a %post%.html” structure. The reason for this is that my posts will never get old and I can reuse them whenever I want.

Also, if I make any changes, it will not break my sitemap.

Do you have any questions? I love questions. Ask away in the comments below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the ShoutMeLoud feeds.

And don’t forget to share this post!

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

18 thoughts on “How to Use Categories Properly in WordPress for SEO & Usability”

  1. Sasi Binu

    But when i search my google indexed pages in google, Some category pages are showing two times with /?filter_by=featured link in the suffix. Is this any problem for my seo?

  2. Mahima Sharma

    We already have been using %category%/%post%.html structure for blog links. But we are not very sure if we should be using it further. From SEO perspective, sometimes the category has the same keyword that we want to target in the post which causes the keyword to occur multiple times. What would you advise?

  3. Vishal Agrawal

    If you search for very competitive term “on page SEO” you will find Moz’s category page is ranking.
    Also, Google’s webmaster trends analyst john muller says “Most the websites should not no-index anything. Google is smart enough to identify and discard un-wanted pages from index without hurting the webmaster or website”
    So my advice.. don’t no index categories unless you don’t have any post in that category. And no-index or better remove low-quality articles only.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Harry

    Hello, Harsh

    Thank you for sharing your views on CATEGORY AND SEO .

    I need a little help with the same.

    I search for a keyword regrading my blog- 5 apps that earn money the tech gossips
    and google shows very first Result as – 5 Ways to Earn Money Archives – The Tech Gossips
    and Link -› Tags › 5 Ways to Earn Money

    is this archive link really affect my Ranking.

    if yes then how i can remove it? just no index my TAG?

    i will appreciate your help

  5. Saud Khan

    Hi, If we select two categories for single post then we have an option to make one primary and another secondary. So, how we decided which category should be primary or secondary?

    For example: We have two categories Tutorials and Windows, Tutorial is a parent of Windows category, now if we want to select both categories for a blog post of about windows then which one should be primary?

  6. Zubair

    Your site is too addictive, every internal link or related post force me open it in new window, now i have 27 Shoutme loud tabs. 1 FB and 1 other site tab :), you are really SEO Guru for me. Thanks for sharing your knowledge Guru G.

  7. David

    Hi, i think i´m addicted to Shoutmeloud now XD…
    (1 hour reading and keep on opening tabs in chrome… ufff)

    Well, i want to question you something:

    How to make categories “Follow” with All in one SEO plugin?

    I already read your All in one SEO configuration post, and already addopted months ago what you said: not to index Categories neither Tags.

    But can´t find the way to make categories follow…

    mmmm.. another little question: do you use tags in your posts?.

    Thanks for your time and keep on writting Harsh!

  8. Matt

    Hi Harsh,
    I am just trying to confirm something. If I do not currently include ‘Category’ in my permalink structure then I can freely change or re-organize whatever categories I have on my site without having to do any redirects, right? I just migrated my site to WP from weebly so have been using the date structure.html for all the blogs that came over and the new ones I write. Soon I will change the link structure and do the re-directs but for now I just want to clean up my categories because I have too many and need to change some. Thanks for any advice.

  9. 113Tidbits

    Thanks for bringing this simple fix to the forefront of my attention.

  10. Tech Maish

    Can we add the same tag for the same categories. Let say Tag “Google” for Category ‘Google”

  11. insights

    Your artile is very instructive. Now I have got a better idea about good permalink structure. As much as possible we should try make the permalink as independent as possible and at the same time it should be delivering the right content information.

  12. Shahab Khan

    That means if someone is having %postname.html permalink structure then he can edit his older posts without time and date issue??

    1. Shahab Khan

      actually i mean to say that since we don’t have date in %postname%.html permalink structure therefore editing old posts with these permalink structure should not change or alter the Post permalink of edited post?

      I hope i am able to make you understand this time.

      1. Harsh Agrawal

        Thats true Shahab. Since you don’t have %date% in your permalink, you can recycle your post. I do it at times when some good post get unnoticed.. This will make get traffic for those posts which got unnoticed….

  13. DDlinks

    i have another reason why you should use %post%.html as permalink structure than %category%/%post%.html one
    because it gives u the ability to publish the same post under two or more categories and no duplication posts occurs
    .-= DDlinks ´s last blog ..Keep your drivers up to date =-.

  14. Asif

    Totally Agree with you man. Eespecially the last paragraph. I have also noticed this on gurus blog that they usually don’t mention date in their posts as well as you usually dont know when they posted the stuff…

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