How To Clear Up Your Blog Categories And Tags

I have a confession to share with you.

After blogging for more than eight years, I still make mistakes when I’m assigning ‘categories’ and ‘tags’ to my posts and pages. It took me a while in fact to understand the difference between these two ways for classifying content created in WordPress.

Book blog tips: cleaning up categories and tags

The result is that my categories and tags are in a mess.

I have some that are almost duplicates: ‘authors at home’ covers the same content as ‘writer’s homes’ for example. Others are inconsistent: I have ‘Australian authors’ and ‘Welsh authors’ but also ‘authors from (country name).

I have categories that I used just once or twice and its unlikely I’ll use them in the future. Others wouldn’t help visitors – especially first time visitors – find content of interest.

Having embarked on a clean up I thought I’d share some tips on how to bring some order to your categories. The step-by-step instructions below apply also to tags.

Changing The Category Of A Single Post

1. Open up WP admin and select ‘all posts’ from the menu panel on the left. You can follow exactly the same steps to change categories and tags for pages (just select ‘all pages’ from the left menu panel.)

2. On the main screen, select ‘All Categories’ to see a drop down menu of every category you’ve ever used on your site. 

Book blog tips: cleaning up categories and tags

Book blog tips: cleaning up categories and tags

3. Select the category you want to edit. Then click on  ‘Filter’ (to the far right of your screen). Your screen will now display only those posts that use that category. The category I wanted to change was called ‘Authors at Home’ .

4. You can now edit the posts individually by hovering over the relevant post and choosing the ‘Quick Edit‘ option.

Book blog tips: cleaning up categories and tags

This opens up a view of the meta data of your post, (not the entire post).

Book blog tips: cleaning up categories and tags

Scroll through the categories’ list until you find the one you want to use as the replacement. Click the checkbox and then confirm your selection by clicking on ‘Update’.

You can use this method to change other aspects of the post such as the title, slug (be very wary about changing this however), date and tags.

While this works great for a single post or a small number, it’s a chore if you need to change several posts. 

Fortunately WordPress has a Bulk Edit feature which makes this much easier.

Using the WordPress Post Bulk Edit

The WordPress Bulk Edit feature is easy to use and fast. It removes the laborious task of changing meta data one post at a time.

You start by following steps 1-3 as explained above.

Now instead of going through each post, you just use the checkbox to the left  of each post title. If you want to select all the posts, click the checkbox next to ‘Title‘ on the top row.

Now lick the arrow alongside ‘Bulk actions’ on the top row and select ‘Edit‘ – this will open up a meta data box where you can change the category for all these posts. Use the drop down menu to select your preferred alternative category.

Book blog tips: cleaning up categories and tags

Finally click on ‘apply‘ in the top row and then ‘update’ towards the bottom right corner.

Book blog tips: cleaning up categories and tags

And that’s it. All posts will now bear the new category.

A Note of Caution

While Bulk Editor is fast and easy to use, it does have some limits. The chief one is that you cannot use this feature to create a new category – only to
re-allocate posts to a different existing category. 

If you want to use a new category, you need to do this before you begin to use the bulk editor. 

You do this easily by opening ‘WP Admin‘, and selecting ‘categories‘ in the left menu. At the next screen type in your new category name (the slug will automatically be generated) and then select  ‘Add New Category’

Book blog tips: how to add a new category

Over to You

Do you have any tips to share about cleaning up categories and tags on blog posts pages. Are there any aspects about categories and tags you’d like me to address in a future post?

Did you find these tips helpful ? There are many more listed on my ‘book blogging tips‘ page.

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

23 thoughts on “How To Clear Up Your Blog Categories And Tags

  • December 31, 2020 at 8:00 am
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    Having just started on my wp journey properly, can you clarify what is the difference between categories and tags?
    I exported my old blog and have categorised all the old posts with BRONAS BOOKS and will now look to create useful categories going forward. Maybe things like READ IN 2020, READ IN 2021. Any other suggestions?

    Reply
    • December 31, 2020 at 1:25 pm
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      I was confused about this too for a long time Brona. Eventually I realised that both are ways to classify topics.The difference is in their scope (or scale). Categories cover broad range of topics; tags are more narrow in scope and focused on specific topics. You can think of tags as keywords for topics covered in the specific post whereas categories are meant to encompass a large group of posts.

      If we had a book about cooking for example, we’d have a category called recipes with tags such as gluten free, vegan etc

      So for us ‘book reviews’ would be a category since we’re likely to have many of them but an author;s name or a publisher’s name would be a tag.

      You can use a few different approaches:
      1. A category called Book reviews with tags for historical fiction, fantasy, lit fiction, author’s name etc. Similarly you could have a category called ‘reading plans’ – with tags for each year .
      2. OR you could have a category called book reviews, and then sub categories for fiction, fantasy, lit fiction. Author’s name, publisher’s name, year you read it could all be tags

      WordPress says that you’ll want somewhere between 5 and 10 categories in order to properly categorize your posts and make your site easy to browse. But try not to assign a post to too many categories. If you decided for example to follow the second option above, you could do book reviews AND crime fiction but I wouldn’t also use year you read the book.

      Does that make sense?

      Reply
        • January 2, 2021 at 6:41 pm
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          Happy to help any time Brona

  • December 30, 2020 at 4:32 pm
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    Great post again, Karen. I did a huge job of clearing up the tags and categories on the AWW Challenge blog, and used the techniques you describe here. (I love the hard work you do in these posts to provide step-by-step instructions, accompanied by images, btw).

    A couple of things I would add. One is how to check out minimally used categories and tags. To do that, instead of selecting “all posts”, you select “categories” or “tags”, and then, click on the “count” heading which sorts the categories (or tags) into numerical order by number of times used. You can then expose any with counts of 0 (zero) and can delete them (usually – why keep one not used), or with very low counts, enabling you to rethink whether they’re needed or can be combined with another category/tag.

    To find duplicate or very similar categories or tags, with a view to, say, combining them, you can, once you have the list of categories (or tags), do a search on a term like, say, “awards”. This brings back all the categories (or tags) with “award” in their name. This filtering makes it easier to find things like, say, NSW Literary Award and New South Wales Literary Award. It’s amazing how over time you can forget you have a category or tag, and create a similar one. (And, of course this happens more easily in a team blog where there are many hands.)

    Reply
    • December 31, 2020 at 1:26 pm
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      Excellent tips Sue. I was tempted to add this into the original post but it was getting too long so thought I’d save it for another day. You’ve just saved me so much work 🙂

      Reply
      • December 31, 2020 at 1:53 pm
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        Ah but, many of your readers won’t necessarily see my comments, so you might have to do it anyhow, with your pretty illustrations showing where things are! You can’t get off that easily you know!!

        Reply
        • December 31, 2020 at 3:08 pm
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          That’s a good thought. Oh well, I shall add it to my list of things to do

  • December 29, 2020 at 5:13 pm
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    Yep, my tags are a mess too. Before I start messing around with them I need to decide what tags actually make sense to use – it’s a bit like designing a filing system from scratch

    Reply
  • December 29, 2020 at 2:38 pm
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    I was just missing Bloggiesta the other day — a weekend of just working on blog problems, things in need of updating, etc. This is great! I’ve never used the bulk edit feature at all!

    Reply
    • December 29, 2020 at 5:09 pm
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      Bulk editor is really worth getting to know – you can also use it to delete spam comments if you get loads of those

      Reply
  • December 29, 2020 at 11:49 am
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    Thank you very much for this, Karen. It’s something I desperately need to do and, now that I know how, I can start the new year with a cleaner, more useful (to readers), set of categories and tags.

    Reply
    • December 29, 2020 at 5:10 pm
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      It’s not one of the most exciting blogging activities but necessary, If you get stuck, let me know

      Reply
    • December 29, 2020 at 5:10 pm
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      That’s what I love to hear – that people find these tips helpful 🙂

      Reply
  • December 29, 2020 at 6:27 am
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    This is a great informative post, thank you for sharing the info. I organised my posts by categories earlier this year but my tags are ridiculous 😕

    Reply
    • December 29, 2020 at 5:11 pm
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      So are mine! I decided to work on the categories first and hope I have the energy left for the tags

      Reply
  • December 29, 2020 at 6:08 am
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    Oh lord do I ever need to do this!! Thank you for the tips. Now to motivate myself…

    Reply
    • December 29, 2020 at 5:12 pm
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      Get yourself a nice glass of wine (or a coffee or hot chocolate), put something good on the tv – it helps to make the task more pleasurable 🙂

      Reply
  • December 29, 2020 at 12:52 am
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    Ugh! 😩 My categories are not too out of control, but my tags are! So many tags! One of these days I want to look at every tag that has only one post assigned to it and assign that post somewhere else and eliminate that tag. I checked my tags the other day and eliminated 3 that had zero posts attached. Why?! Thanks for the practical reminder!

    Reply
    • December 31, 2020 at 1:28 pm
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      I thought I’d responded Carol but now can’t find the reply. Very odd. Anyhow, yes my tags have run away with me too and are in dire need of a clean up. Sue (Whispering Gums) has kindly explained how to find those tags/categories that have zero posts or very few – it’s much quicker than going through post by post

      Reply
      • December 31, 2020 at 7:23 pm
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        Thanks! Happy New Year Karen! 🥂🎉

        Reply

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