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How to Configure WordPress and Thesis as a Blog – Part 4 Understanding and Using Categories

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This is part four of five in a series on how to configure WordPress and Thesis as a blog. Here we go over the importance of categories as post specific functionality if you are using the ‘blog’ as a blog. Categories allow posts to be hierarchically organized. We discuss how categories help you achieve a semantic URL structure which is important for your blog.

Video Transcript

So the next thing to talk about then is categories. You know, I talked in the original Start Building Your Website Here presentation. We talked about you know, post-specific functionality. And categories and tags are post-specific functionality that you want to use if you are using a blog as a blog.

And so, the first thing to talk about is categories. Now categories only apply to posts. So for example, if you’re looking at a post and you’re looking at the edit post, you can add a category over here on the right, right? But if you’re trying to do the same thing at the page, you can’t. If you look at… if we look at this page, there’s no place for you to select a category and the reason is categories are the hierarchical structural element for posts whereas pages are already hierarchical. That is you can have a page and then it can have a subpage and then that subpage can have a subpage. And so you know, for example, on… well, you can just have a page say called Apples and then 3 subpages under that, Green Apples, Red Apples and Blue Apples and that would be an example of a hierarchical structure of pages. Well, categories provide you with that hierarchical structure for posts.

And so, by way of example on my categories site,, I have Bananas, Cherries, Oranges and Apples as categories and then the Apples category has Green Apples as a subcategory, Red Apples and Yellow Apples as subcategories. And so, from my category list, you can see here’s the main category, here are the subcategories.

So categories are the mechanism for providing this hierarchy to posts that is inherent in pages. Pages have that…in hierarchy inherently. And the concept behind using categories in a post is that categories generally should be used with one category per post. I routinely observe people categorizing posts by placing you know, a number of categories for each post but that’s not really how categories are intended to be used and that undermines the hierarchical nature of the organization. And so what you would do instead would be you would just use a single category. Even if it’s Red Apples, right?

Let’s just say I go to a Red Apple category and my Fuji apple is a red apple. This Fuji apple is not an apple under Red Apple, it’s simply a red apple even if it will show under Apples because an Apple archive page will show all of its subcategories. But it’s only been classified as a red apple.

And the reason for this hierarchy is in order to create a semantic URL. Google wants to see semantic URLs. That is, Google wants your URL to be readable in its native language such that when a person is looking at that URL, they can tell what the page is going to be about. In this case, you can see that my URL structure is Apples – Red Apples and Fuji. And so, anybody reading this knows that this is a post about Fuji Apples which is a subcategory of Red Apples which is a subcategory of Apples, suggesting of course, that there are other categories of fruit here as well.

And so, that’s what you’re looking for is this natural progression of categories. You see this on my site as well where for example, for Lessons, if we go to Start Building Your Website Here… well in fact, yeah, let’s go to Start Building Your Website Here, Installing and Using Themes and then Free WordPress themes. You can see that the first category is Video Tutorials then How To Build A Website, Lesson 5: Installing Themes, and then Introduction to WordPress Themes. This is a semantic URL and the person can tell you know, really, how the whole site is organized by this. They can tell how the whole site is organized by this. They can tell there’s a category called Video Tutorials that has a whole bunch of tutorials under it, one of which is How To Build A Website and inside that, it has a variety of lessons, at least 5 of them. And inside this lesson, there’s this part, Introduction to WordPress themes. And so, that’s what we’re looking for, is to generate this URL.

Now up to this point, Lesson 5, these were all pages. So I have a page called Video Tutorials, a subpage of that is Start Building Your Website Here and a subpage of that is Lesson 5, Installing Themes. When you look at the next part, that’s a post and it then has categories similarly named to produce the same URL structure. So anyway, that’s what we’re trying for is a semantic URL.

Now the way you assign a category to a post is right here. Now categories, most often are set up you know, a category that’s already been created exists right here. And so, if you want to add a new category that doesn’t exist, you could create a new category and let’s just say,NextGen Examples is my category name and it’s going to be a parent category so it won’t have a new category. We’ll add the new category and then we’ll undo uncategorized. And actually, what I really want to do here is I’m going to make NextGen Examples my parent category. So I’m going to create another one here and I’m going to say Single Images as the category I’m using here and we’re going to use NextGen Examples, add that and then we’re going to unclick this one. So what I’m doing here is I’m using the category for this post is Single Images. Single Images is a child category of NextGen Images so I select this as the category name.

Now , once you have a whole bunch of categories, you can just scroll through here and find which category to use. And in fact, in my case, let’s see, yeah, in my case, when you want to search for a category, it’s not entirely easy because I have many, many, many, many categories. So you can see my categories right here you know, you have to scroll down through them to find which category the post should be placed in. But nevertheless, that’s how you use categories.

Then instead of using all categories, you could always use most used categories and if you have a set of categories that gets used a lot, you could switch to that instead or all categories for in terms of a view.

So anyway, that’s assigning a category to a post inside of this page. Now you can also create your categories from inside the categories page. And those categories that we created inside the post, get brought over here. If we edit this, you can see that here’s its name, NextGen Examples. It creates a slug, NextGen-examples and the slug is really the machine-friendly URL and the machine-friendly name of this and this name is sort of the reader-friendly name.

NextGen Examples does not have a parent. You could place a description in the description box. Description box doesn’t get used very often but if you were going to have a page that displayed all of your categories and you want a category description under each of those categories displayed, this would be a place where you could enter a description that would get used there.

This is where Thesis SEO becomes into play. Most SEO devices do not allow you to add a title tag or a meta description tag or meta keywords or robots meta tags to your category archive pages. But Thesis does and so, for category archive page, you could type in a title, a meta description, meta keywords, decide whether or not Google’s going to index it.

And then the other thing you can do which is cool with Thesis is that you can also change the headline so you could give an introductory headline and you could do introductory HTML before the archive page displays. So in this instance, for example, here is a category archive page. And a category archive page is a page that displays all posts within that category and it’s automatic default feature of WordPress to have this ability to display categories or display your posts as a post within a category and displaying all of the posts inside of that category in this page.

Now there is no actual page that you can edit which is why we have these other… well in fact, let’s just go to Edit Category here. If we come down here, we can add a meta title tag. So I’m just going to type one in. “Here is a demonstration meta title tag and this is a demonstration meta description tag.” And then in terms of introductory headline, it said Yellow Apples there, right? Well, we can change that to say, “My favorite Yellow Apples.” And then we could even take a block of text, let’s see, let’s just take this block of text right here. You can take that block of text… what happened to my… it’s over here. There’s what it is. Put that block of text there and hit update and now we can go look at that page and that was Yellow Apples. And now it says, “My favorite Yellow Apples” and then it has that text before we get to this stuff. And it doesn’t have to be text, it can be any kind of HTML. So you could again have a banner in here, you can have image in here, you could put you know, a sign-up button in here. You can do any kidn of HTML in this section here before you get to this, the rest of the post.

Okay so that’s categories. I know I’m going long but I want to finish this off by talking about tags. And actually, somebody asks, “Do you need to have categories or can you just leave it alone?” You should have categories. The reason you should have categories is because WordPress wants to see a semantic URL structure and in the absence of categorization, you’re not going to have a semantic URL structure. And so, that’s what you need to have is… so you should at least have… yes, you should have a category. And the chances are, a rational organization of your posts is going to have more than a single category. So just think about that as an organizational structure that helps your readers find your posts and helps Google understand the content of your page and those are, I think, 2 important things. If all of your posts are apparently, in the root of your directory, which is what they will be without categorization, then Google is going to get the impression you don’t have a semantic URL structure. And because you won’t and Google doesn’t like to see everything on the top level, they definitely want to see a semantic structure.

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