Do you use your WordPress categories to their fullest potential? I’m going to show you 9 different ways to hack your WordPress categories into shape!

This is day #10 of 30 WordPress Hacks in 30 Days!

So you have your categories listed in the sidebar of your blog like everybody else. I’m going to show you 9 more things you can do with WordPress categories that will be better for you AND your blog. At the same time, customizing your blog with these hacks will begin to set it apart and make it different than all the “cookie-cutter” blogs in the blogopshere.

Top Level Categories: In WordPress when you create a category, it has to have a preface like www.site.com/category/news. In the “Permalinks” section of your options or settings in your WP dashboard you can change your “category base”, but that’s only to change it from the default “category” to another word you choose. There is (ridiculously) no way to remove it entirely and just have a category be www.site.com/news. With the Top Level Categories Plugin installed, it strips out the “category” so your category names CAN be top level all the time.

Folding Category List: Maybe you’re tired of that list of linked categories hogging up a bunch of your sidebar real estate on your blog. If so, maybe you would be interested in trying to display them using the Folding Category List WordPress Plugin instead.

Multi-Column Category List: If you’re trying to create a simple sitemap and you just want a page with multiple categories listing your posts, the Multi-Column Category List Plugin for WordPress may be just what you need.

Latest Posts from Each Category: If instead you’re creating a theme with an aside or block of recent posts for a page, header, footer, or anywhere – you can use the Latest Posts from Each Category WordPress Plugin for that, and it has all kinds of formatting options, as well as comment counts, dates, and more.

Author Assigned Categories: If you have multiple authors in your WordPress blog this plugin will be helpful to you. You can assign certain categories to certain authors so that they won’t be able to post in categories you don’t want them to. It works with “user levels” so you could assign say the “news” category to only “reporters”, etc. Very helpful if you have an admin, editor, and then some writers – all with different roles or permissions.

Category Icons: Lots of other blogging platforms have the ability to assign little pictures or “icons” to categories that you can use in your posts or the sidebar. WordPress does not. That’s why I wrote the post Very Easy WordPress Theme Hack: Show Category Images, which involves uploading the images in FTP yourself to a directory you create and then inserting some PHP code in your template files. The Category Icons WordPress Plugin automates all that nonsense, and even has additional options that hack couldn’t provide. Now it’s easy to upload and assign images to all your wordpress categories.

Category Pages: This plugin can solve all the worries of many people that have been commenting on my Better SEO and $$$ with WP Category Templates post. I wrote that post because it was the first way I figured out to place original content on every category page for better search indexing. In entailed creating a separate category template file for every category with a few paragraphs of original content in each. If you switch themes, you might have to rewrite them – it was a solution, but also a big hassle. With the Category Page WordPress Plugin, it allows you to “write” a WordPress page and then “assign” it to a category. So basically, then this plugin puts the contents of this page at the top of whatever category you assign it to. I don’t think that this is the best solution – but it is a solution that’s better than the original one I had. I will give you other options to this coming up. I have not installed this plugin, and the thing that I question is whether or not all the pages will show in the “Pages” section of your sidebar. You could easily exclude all the ones you created to associate with categories, but that could be very tedious.

Page Category Plus: This is a unique plugin that could be confused with the Category Pages one, but it does yet something different. The Page Category Plus WordPress Plugin allows you to assign categories to Pages. You know how you get to choose categories whenever you write a post, but you don’t have that choice when you write pages? Now you have that ability once this plugin is installed. So if I install this plugin and assign my 30 WordPress Hacks in 30 Days “page” to my WordPress Category – it will show up on the same page as my posts now. WOW – will this plugin make my job of organizing this (and other) blogs a whole lot EASIER!

Manage Category Descriptions: This is IMHO “the solution” to having original content on category pages for good SEO and more indexed pages. In your WordPress dashboard go to “Manage -> Categories” and then click on that category to edit it. Give your category a “description”. Next, if you created any category templates like category-6.php, delete them. And then on your archive.php (or cateogry.php if you have one) find this section of the code:

<?php /* If this is a category archive */ if (is_category()) { ?>				
<h2 class="pagetitle">Archive for the '<?php echo single_cat_title(); ?>' Category</h2>

That’s the part of the template that say “if this is a category page, then show the title”. Well, all you have to do is paste in one line of code directly below that to print the description for the category out:

<?php /* If this is a category archive */ if (is_category()) { ?>				
<h2 class="pagetitle">Archive for the '<?php echo single_cat_title(); ?>' Category</h2>

<?php echo category_description(); ?>

Of course, you don’t repeat those first two lines, you just copy the third one for the description in your template. You can also put it in a div, style it, give it a border or background color to make it stand out, etc. I personally believe that this is a much better way to display original content on category pages than either a plugin or individual templates, because it doesn’t have to create any extra pages or template to worry about. In addition, you could use the descriptions for other things on your blog in other places if you wanted.

I hope that you derived some benefit from my category hacks – and may your chisel your WordPress blog into more of “your own” each and every day. Once again, if you have anything to add to make this hack page any better, or a question – please comment now!