Category Description: SEO for your Category Archive


Did you know WordPress had a special field for category descriptions?  Most people have seen it while working on category lists in their WordPress blog, but chances are you may have skimmed over it or paid it no attention.  You see, most themes are ill-equipped to take advantage of it – that means that, for most, it sits unused.  But there’s an untapped potential to be had in a category description – it’s an excellent way to apply some needed Organic SEO to your category archives.

PS: We’re talking about categories specifically, but every taxonomy has the chance for a description to be added, and every taxonomy has a template tag that can be used!

Step 0: The Category Description Tag

We’re going to be using the aptly-named ‘category_description’ tag.  If you’re nervous on editing HTML, this may be a bit daunting, but the benefits from adding a description to the categories well outweighs the effort put in.

<?php echo category_description(); ?>

Simply using category_description does nothing – we have to ‘echo’ (display) the text.  If there’s a specific category we want to display a description from, we simply add that category ID into the parameters of the tag:

<?php echo category_description('3'); ?>

This displays the description of category 3.

Step 1: Locate your Category Archive

This tag goes into the loop of the category archive.  Depending on what theme you’re using, you’ll be looking for this in a couple of different places:

  • loop.php
  • index.php
  • archive.php
  • category.php

Every theme is different, but we’re going to be looking for the “loop” in any case.  The loop is the part of the post that starts with:

<?php if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>

…or something similar.  We want to only have this code run if we’re on a category archive (it won’t hurt if it doesn’t, but we want to code with good practices in mind), so we’re going to add a WordPress ‘conditional tag’ as well.

<?php if (is_category()) { echo category_description; } ?>

IF this is a category archive, display the category description.

And that’s it.  Seriously.

Step 2: Adding a Category Description

Head to your dashboard and click on the Posts > Categories link.  If you’re adding a new category, take heed to the section below the name, slug, and category parent sections.  Fill in your category description as well, and hit save.

You’d be surprised how many people forget to do this.  Granted, WordPress *does* ask you to set the title of the site as you are installing it, but the tagline is a different story.  In fact, because I was curious, I ran a specific Google Search to see just how many search results would come up for the default tagline, “Just another WordPress site”

Actually, I also removed any results from and YouTube, since there’s a few tutorials on the subject.

The query ‘”Just another WordPress site”’ nets over 91.3 million search results.

And all these people had to do was hit the Settings > General button in their Admin Dashboard and change it.

Timezone Settings

If you like to schedule posts, then pay attention to this one.  Chances are your web server’s time-zone may be different from yours.  A lot of hosts have their server farms in Utah or on the west coast – not a problem if you’re in that longitude line, but if you’re in New York or overseas then you could run into some issue when your post goes out 6 hours before you want it to.

Luckily, there’s a handy setting that will let you set the timezone to your local choice – offsetting the server time to where posts go out when you want them to.

Writing Settings

Default Post Category

Not quite as bad as the timeline, but still worth doing, is making sure that you get rid of the “Uncategorized” category in WordPress.  Over 20 million use the default with no care for their SEO or human interaction.  Your posts may be random, but even the biggest chaos has a bit of order.

Head to the “Posts > Categories” section of your dashboard and find the “Uncategorized” Category.  Click on it to bring up a screen to change the “name” (the name you see in the template and in posts) and the “slug” (the part of the URL that comes up after /category/ in your site address).

Change it to something.  Anything.  Just don’t leave it the way it is.

*BONUS* Editing / Deleting the Sample Page

Once again, I took to Google to prove my point. The phrase below is a default page on every single WordPress install that’s created:

 “This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors.”

Apparently, 6.5 million people don’t realize that this page is indexed by Google even if you don’t link to it directly.  You can thank Google Sitemaps for that.

Do yourself a favor: delete it quickly, and with prejudice.

Reading Settings

Search Engine Visibility


The number one complaint I get from people with a new WordPress site is “why can’t Google see my site”?  And this is the first thing I check.  WordPress tries to mitigate this by displaying a warning on the home page of your dashboard, but believe me – I understand that it may still get lost in the shuffle.  Uncheck it and know you’re covered – at least by the basics, anyway.

Permalink Settings

Our final option is one that is often either neglected or done hastily.  You permalinks, to a certain extent, are the roadmap that people use to view your content.  Giving them a second though BEFORE you have a lot of content is better than re-thinking them (and redirecting to them) later on.  9 times out of 10, using the “Post Name” will serve every need you have – especially in the SEO department.  Adding dates is discouraged now-a-days unless you have a specific reason to date your content (not dating content will allow it to remain evergreen and worthwhile for longer).