Categories are often a source of exasperation or confusion for bloggers. Especially if you’ve been blogging for a while with no clear plan on categories or if you’ve recently migrated from Blogger to Self-Hosted WordPress (high five on that by the way!).
But fear not dear blogger, there are ways to whip your categories into shape.
I’ve revamped my category structure a few times as well as helping my clients clean up their categories for better organization.
A good category structure can help your readers find what they are searching for quickly and help with your SEO juice. A bad category structure or no structure can cause frustration and limit engagement to with your older posts.
1. Plan your category structure like you are writing the epic novel.
Anna Karenina is one of my favorite epics, it is broken into sections or parts and then each section has chapters. Think of your main categories as the sections of your epic novel.
Your categories should be the broad brush strokes of your content. Remember the key word here is BROAD. A good category should have many entries. You do not want a category for every slight topic change.
Sub-categories are the how the chapters fit into each section. This is where you can get more specific and drill down. However, sub-categories should still be fairly broad and have many posts under each subcategory.
Let’s look at a Food Blog with great category organization for an example. Good. Food. Stories. Casey has been writing for a long time and sharing everything from various recipes to travel recommendations and places to eat. She has a lot of content.
Even with all that wonderful content under the surface her navigation is clean and direct. The main sections (top-level categories) of Casey’s epic novel are:
- Cities & Restaurants
- Essays, Reviews & More
Her readers know right where to go to find what the are searching for. (Go check it out…I guarantee you’ll find something to make your mouth water.)
2. Sub-categories – filling in your broad strokes
Let’s take it a step further. Once you have the sections of your epic novel mapped out, you can start filling them in with your chapters, your sub-categories. Let’s use Recipes as an example. Casey’s navigation drop-down displays all the sub-categories under the category (Section) Recipes.
Use your sub-categories to define and refine your content.
Once you have your structure in place be consistent and never leave a post in “uncategorized.” That “uncategorized” category is just there to demonstrate laziness. 🙂 So while you’re at it pop into Settings >> Writing and change the “uncategorized” category to one that you find yourself using most often, then you will never forget to change and will be on top of the category game at all times.
3. Sub-subcategories – Your best friend for that deep content
Oh yes, we can go deeper. Depending on how much content you have and the organic nature of the levels to your subject you may or may not want to go to the sub-subcategory level. But it’s there and it’s so easy to use within WordPress.
Let’s look at Casey’s structure again. She has loads of regional food stories and recommendations and it’s important for her readers to find them easily. Reader Sally is planning a trip to Maine and she’s looking for some good eats while she’s on vacation. She has seen Casey’s post about a few hot spots in Maine but like most of us, can’t remember exactly the names of the restaurants or the dishes.
The sub-subcategories make it a breeze for her to find all the posts Casey has written about Maine and where to find the best Lobster Roll and which neighborhood bar to try out.
Reader Sally can go right to the category page that has all the reviews on Maine eating listed in one place. Easy peasy, and who doesn’t love that!!
BONUS – CLEAN NAVIGATION!
What do you get for all this category clean up work? Navigation that rocks and is so clean your readers can find what they are looking for in a snap AND probably discover some older gems along the way.
If you are just starting out you may want to stick to only categories but keep this in mind as you grow your content.
The goal is for your reader to be able to find what they are looking for from any page of your site. In a general sense, if they are reading about “Cherry Perogies” and want to look at breakfast recipes it should be easy to find the breakfast category.
I love simple, clean and easy navigation. If you have a lot of pages as well as categories you can consider having two navigation menus. One for pages and the second for categories works very well and keeps your important topics easy and organized.
Keep an eye out for the next post on Categories — I’ll demonstrate the nitty gritty of changing all those messy categories into this new streamlined structure you are going to create.