Thoughts, information and reflections about technology

Why should you prune your WordPress categories?

I have a site I’m trying to grow. It is this tech blog. Currently there are over 600 posts in 90 categories? I had to ask “Does it make sense to prune my WordPress Categories?” and “how many categories are too many?”

Step 1 – Determine if there is a problem.

A lot depends on your navigation and site layout. In this case, with 600 or so posts and 90 categories, there were probably too many categories. The average would be about 6 posts per category.

If you are allowing indexing on your categories, you might get better results with larger categories rather than trying to make the categories too granular. For example, I had

  • Cutting Edge Technology
    • Innovation
    • Home automation

Having ‘Innovation’ under ‘Cutting Edge Technology’ is just stupid.

The other issue is that I use a Category Dropdown for navigation. With 90 categories, it is just confusing, cluttered, crappy, and not very useful. Here is how it looked

Prune your WordPress Categories
Prune your WordPress Categories

Note that some of the categories have less than 5 posts. Do I really need separate categories for Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, Pinterest and every other Social Media Platform?  They can all be in one Social Media category.  A general rule of thumb is that you should not have a category unless you have, or will have, ten to 20 posts in that category

Step 2 – Look at your existing structure

Go to POSTS – CATEGORIES in your dashboard. Make sure you understand the existing structure. Take a look at the hierarchy. Each category will have a link showing the number of posts in that category. So, if you have something like the following, it might make sense to move everything to “Social Media”

  • Social Media – 15
    • Facebook – 3
    • Twitter – 1
    • LinkedIn – 2
    • Pinterest – 3

Step 3 – Re-categorize the posts in the sub categories.

Right click on ‘view’ for the category that you plan on deleting. Copy the link and save that. We will use that with the redirection tool. 

Next, right click on the number of posts for the category and choose “open in a new tab”.  

Look at the posts. See if it makes sense to simply move them to their parent category. 

In the case above, the 1st and 3rd posts were listed in more than one category. However, all posts belonged to the “Facebook” category.  In this case I would want them all moved to the “Social Media” category. If you mouse over a row, you will see a choice for “quick edit”. That is the fastest way to change the categories. 

 

You will then see the current categories. You might need to scroll down a bit to find the category you want. This is one of the reasons that we might want to simplify our categories. 

 

Recategorize your posts to prune WordPress Categories
Recategorize your posts to prune WordPress Categories

In this case, you would want to uncheck “Facebook” and check “Social Media” , then hit “Update”. Do this for all the posts in the category. 

Step 4 – Add redirection

This step is somewhat optional. The big question is “Are you getting search engine traffic to your existing categories?” If you haven’t optimized the categories for SEO, then the answer is probably ‘no’. You can check your Google Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics to see if the categories are getting traffic.

If you determine that you are getting enough traffic that it would make sense to do a redirection you will need to set that up. The Redirection plugin can make this simple.

You can take the part of the url you saved previously for the category. You only need the part after the .com or .net. Paste that into the source url. You can go to the categories page and right-click on view and choose copy-link address. You would then paste that into the Target URL in the redirection dialog.

Step 5 – Optimize your categories for SEO

Yoast, even the free version, is an excellent tool that will help you optimize your categories for SEO. You need to add a good bit of content for each category (~300 words or so). This will be a bit easier for broader categories than it would be for a very narrow category.

Summary

You should take a good look at how you are using categories in your site. If you decide to make changes, consider that you might need to do some redirection if you are getting traffic. 

A final note – Try to avoid putting posts in the “Uncategorized” category. That will not help your SEO and might even hurt. If you have a site such as a tech site where posts go stale, you might want to consider setting up a “Deprecated” or “Archives” category for posts that have no real current value such as a review of Windows ME.

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