I am trying to make a query to take first 3 categories with most posts per user, but no luck so far. This is where I am now:

SELECT DISTINCT(terms.term_id) as term_ID, terms.name, terms.slug, posts.post_author, t0.count_id

FROM wp_posts as posts
JOIN wp_term_relationships as relationships ON posts.ID = relationships.object_ID
JOIN wp_term_taxonomy as tax ON relationships.term_taxonomy_id = tax.term_taxonomy_id
JOIN wp_terms as terms ON tax.term_id = terms.term_id

SELECT COUNT(*) as count_id, count_terms.term_id
FROM wp_posts as posts_count
JOIN wp_term_relationships as count_relationships ON posts_count.ID = count_relationships.object_ID
JOIN wp_term_taxonomy as count_tax ON count_relationships.term_taxonomy_id = count_tax.term_taxonomy_id
JOIN wp_terms as count_terms ON count_tax.term_id = count_terms.term_id
WHERE count_tax.taxonomy = "category"
AND posts_count.post_status = "publish"
AND posts_count.post_author in (1,2,3)
group by count_terms.term_id

) as t0 on posts.post_author in (1,2,3)

WHERE tax.taxonomy = "category"
AND posts.post_status = "publish"
AND posts.post_author in (1,2,3)

Which returns the users with categories, but with total sum of all the posts in those categories for this users. And I need first 3 categories with most posts per user. Any idea how to do that?

2 Answers 2


Your question is slightly ambiguous, but I read it this way: given an author and you want to know the three categories in which has published most posts. Let's use wp_query to get there.

$author = 'johndoe';
$author_posts = new WP_Query (array (
  'author' => $author,

Now we have an array of all posts by this author. Sadly it's not possible to order them by category (because a post may have multiple categories), let alone by amount of posts per category. So we'll have to loop through the results and do the counting ourselves.

 $cat_array = array();
 if ( $author_posts->have_posts() ) {
   while ( $author_posts->have_posts() ) {
     $cat_array[] = wp_get_post_categories(get_the_ID(),array('fields'=>'names'));

This gives an array $cat_array which simply holds all the categorie names of all the author's posts. We will have to count the duplicates to see which category is used most. There's a PHP function for that: array_count_values.

 $cat_count = array_count_values($cat_array);
 $cat_count = arsort($catcount); // sorts an array by value from high to low

We end up with $cat_count holding the list of categories by this author from high to low occurence. Depending on what you want you could use this information to loop through $author_posts again or do a new query to get all the posts in the three top categories:

$author = 'johndoe';
$top_cats = $cat_count[0] . ',' . $cat_count[1] . ',' . $cat_count[2];
$author_posts = new WP_Query (array (
  'author'         => $author,
  'posts_per_page' =>-1,
  'category_name'  => $top_cats,

Beware that this is a fairly expensive procedure in terms of computation. Also note that I didn't test this code, so some debugging may be necessary.

  • Yes, indeed is expensive procedure, that's why I want it to get results from the database with one query. With your example I should make a couple requests. I have to use this for listing of users and I don't think I can use your code, but thank you for time and response.
    – gtsolov
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 11:43
  • I don't think it can be done in one query, because you need some counting/sorting halfway narrowing down your search.
    – cjbj
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 11:47

Write this function in your functions.php or plugin file-

function wpse_240422_get_author_post_categories( $author_id ) {

     * this $categories array will contain all the post categories an author posted in
    $categories = array();

     * gather all the posts publised by $author_id
    $posts = query_posts( array( 'author' => $author_id, 'posts_per_page' => -1 ) );

     * loop through posts, take their categoreis and store them in $categories array
    foreach ( $posts as $post ) {
        foreach ( get_the_category( $post->ID ) as $category ) {
            $categories[] = $category->term_id;

     * now count the number of times every category was used
    $category_counter = array_count_values( $categories );

     * sort them from high to low
    arsort( $category_counter );

    return $category_counter;

Use: To get post categories used by author 1, just pass the author id to this function and take only the keys. For example:

$author_categories = array_keys( wpse_240422_get_author_post_categories( 1 ) );

Now, this $author_categories will contain all the categories this author posted in.

Finally, use array indexes to get your desired category-

$most_1st = $author_categories[0]; // top most 'used' category
$most_2nd = $author_categories[1]; // second most 'used' category
$most_3rd = $author_categories[2]; // third most 'used' category

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