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3 Reasons to Use Post Excerpts on Your Blog

Posted 11 October, 2014 in Blogging Tips / 7 Comments

I have design issues with many book blogs. I went back to using an RSS reader because a lot of blogs that wrote posts I enjoyed most had the worst designs and usability. But that’s an issue for another day.

But one thing that annoys me more than anything else is when a blog’s homepage has the ten most recent posts. Sound crazy? Probably. But when I say the blog’s homepage has ten posts on it, I mean ten. entire. posts.

Book reviews are usually, like, 1,000 words when you take into account the intro, the book’s description, the review, the author’s bio, etc. Cover reveals frequently have large images that takes up the entire screen.

So what does this mean? Reaaaaally long homepages. Loooooots of scrolling. Combine those two, and you have a frustrated Brittany. I’ll be looking for a review of a specific post, or specific blog tour stop, and I feel like I’m getting carpal tunnel looking for it.

If you go visit five book blogs, I’ll bet you’ll find at least one that’s posting their whole posts on the main page. Now, start at the top. Keep your finger pressed on the down arrow key. Count how long it takes you to get to the bottom.

I just did this for a blog whose content I generally like (but don’t want to point fingers or call out their home page), and counted for 70 seconds. If I were just browsing, that’s a long time spent on just a few posts.

Now do the same for this blog. I just did it, and it took only 15 seconds.

Not only do these long blogs cause frustration, but from a blog admin perspective, they muddle things up.

The good news? Implementing excerpts will either be 1. Easy or 2. Really, really easy. At the end of the post, I’ll go into how to do it on WordPress.

Now, time to make your blog better looking!

1. It Prevents Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is a pretty big SEO issue. It’s when a substantial amount of content on two or more different web pages (or web sites) is identical or really similar. It’s an issue because some website are created only to generate ad revenue, and instead of writing high-quality page copy themselves, they’ll steal it from other sites.

Duplicate content also just makes it harder for Google and the other search engines to determine which posts to show in search results, and in what order. If three posts are nearly identical, and Google’s business relies on showing you the most helpful link first, how can they determine which one to rank first? Basically, it makes things messy. So if a site has a lot of duplicate content, they’ll just be like “No,” and penalize your site. Meaning no search engine visibility. Meaning…sucksss.

Showing entire posts on your homepage can result in a lot of duplicate content, because every post will show up in at least two pages: once on the post’s page, and once on the home page. Depending on your tag and category situation and your theme, duplicate content may appear there.

You may be thinking, “Won’t showing post excerpts still cause duplicate content for the excerpt showing up on both pages?” Well, you’re right, but that’s a lot less. If you’re using excerpts that are only a few paragraphs long, that’s not long enough blocks of duplicate content to get you a penalty.

2. Your Analytics Will Be More Accurate

You want to know how many people are reading each of your posts, right? Of course you do. It’s helpful information. If you advertise on your site, it’s an important metric in determining whether or not an advertiser will want to work with you, and how much they’re willing to pay.

For the rest of us, it’s just a good number to know. Sometimes authors or PR companies will ask you for metrics when you want to participate in something. For me, it’s most useful in helping me with the direction of my blog. If a certain type of post gets a lot of traffic, I’m going to write more of them.

But if someone is spending their entire time on your site reading posts on the home page, your analytics are all messed up. Since they don’t click through to the post’s individual page, that page doesn’t get a pageview (obviously). So while someone may have read 10 different posts, you only see one view of the home page when you log into Google Analytics.

3. It’s More Reader-Friendly

This goes back to the point in my intro. That endless scrolling is annoying. It doesn’t look good, either. Using post excerpts makes it easier to browse through different posts. That can keep readers on your site longer, and they’re more likely to read more posts since they’re easy to skim through.

I get why people think that showing the whole post on the home page will result in more reads, since you want to reduce the number of clicks readers have to do. However, the concept behind the “less clicks” rule kind of seems counterintuitive when the reader still needs to spend more time to get to where they want.

How to Use Post Excerpts

This will vary depending on your blog’s theme (and platform…the below options are for WordPress users). Some themes have it built in, like mine. So when I go to write a post, I can just click the “Insert Read More tag” in the WordPress kitchen sink:

wordpress post excerpt icon

This inserts “<!–more–>” into the post where I want the cut to go. Then on the homepage, only the stuff below the the tag shows up, then the reader can either click “Continue Reading” or the post title to be taken to the post’s page. I’d like to play around with replacing the “Continue Reading” text with an image, but I’ve been afraid to dig in to my files. Sometimes I’m cool with it, sometimes I’m scared. I’m in a scared spell right now.

If your theme doesn’t already support post excerpts, Nose Graze has a great tutorial on editing your theme files to allow it.

Which method do you use: full posts or excerpts? I’d love to hear your reasoning in the comments!

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3 Reasons to Use Post Excerpts On Your Blog

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7 Responses to “3 Reasons to Use Post Excerpts on Your Blog”

  1. I’m the exact opposite. I want to see whole posts on a homepage because excerpts annoy me. I don’t want to have to click to see more and I’m much less likely to read a post if it an excerpt.

    • With blogs that I’m already a fan of, I can be that way. But even with a favorite blog, I don’t always going to want to read every single post. For example, some of my favorite review blogs review genres I’m not interested in.

      65% of my site’s visitors are return visitors coming straight to the post from social media or my email newsletter, so it’s not a huge deal here anyway. 🙂

  2. I used to never use the ‘read more’ tag until I suddenly came to the realisation that my home page was just too looooooooooooong. So, I went through ALL my posts and added in excerpts and read more tags. Now, It’s easy to scroll through! I can totally relate to this post!

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