I recently described how to change full post displays to excerpts on multi-post views of your WordPress Theme. If you use post excerpts on your WordPress or WordPress.com blog and excerpts in your feeds, you need to think about writing with excerpts in mind.
An excerpt is one of two things. First, it is the first 100-200 words of your post or article. Second, it is a summary of your post or article, manually written by you, the author.
If you are using the
the_excerpt() template tag in your WordPress Theme or the more quicktag button on your WordPress Write Post panel, you are using the top section of your post as the excerpt.
If you use the excerpt template tag, WordPress automatically displays the first 120 words of a post as the excerpt. If you use the more quicktag button, the excerpt ends where you put the more comment code tag in your post content. With this, you control the length of your excerpt, but it is still the top part of your post. If you use the Optional Excerpt section on your Write Post panel, whatever you write is the summary expert of your post.
Thus, the excerpt or the first few sentences of your post becomes what people will read when they see the excerpts on your blog or within the excerpts of your feeds.
Are you writing with excerpts in mind?
Writing With Excerpts in Mind
There are many ways of writing, including telling stories, journaling, pontificating, bragging, and providing technical or general information. Blog writing styles are also diverse. Some people write on only one point. Others try to cover two or four points. Others start with one subject, switch to a second, possibly a third, and finish with their fourth, fifth, or sixth point. Still others have no point at all, just rambling and sharing what comes out of their heads as it arrives through their fingers.
All begin with a form of introduction. An introduction can do many things.
- Tell the reader nothing at all about the topic.
- Tell people what you are going to tell them.
- Hint at what you are going to tell them.
- Following in the footsteps of Reader’s Digest magazine, the introduction can tell you a story as an example of what the story is about.
- In the footsteps of many great novels, the introduction can hand you a baited hook and lure you into the story without even knowing what is about.
When you understand that your readers are going to only see the first 120 or so words of your post, shouldn’t that change how you write those first 120 words? If you want to encourage people to read your blog, it better.
Hooking your readers and compelling them to click the “Continue Reading” link to the rest of the post is a challenge. It’s also the only way you will get people to click the button. You have to think about those precious first 120 words and make every word count towards motivating them to move their mouse and click.
How you do it is based upon your own writing style. Here are some examples of how I could have started this post. You can choose for yourself which ones might compel you to click the “Continue Reading” link to read to the end of the post. (Note: the continue reading links are fake.)
I’m going to talk about how to write excerpts for your posts. Excerpts are typically the first 100-200 words of your blog post. If your blog features excerpts, you may want to consider how to write excerpts to motivate people to [continue reading...]
With many blogs, you have the choice of displaying full content posts on pages with more than one post, or excerpts, abbreviated versions of the first paragraph or so of your post. Should your writing style change depending upon which one you use? [continue reading...]
Jessica writes long posts. Andrew writes short posts. Jessica gets more traffic on her blog. Andrew is envious and wants to know how she does it when her front page only shows the excerpts and not the full posts? Jessica explains that it is “all in the writing of the excerpt.” [continue reading...]
It’s short. To the point. It grabs your attention and hangs on. It pulls you in. You can’t resist. You…must…click it! It is…the well-written excerpt. [continue reading...]
Writing an Explicit Excerpt
The explicit excerpt is one you write yourself. It is not automatically created.
In WordPress, the Optional Excerpt is in a textarea box under the Image Upload section which you can expand to write your post summary or whatever you want the excerpt to be.
An explicit excerpt is typically a summary of what the post or article is about. This is a common practice for technical blogs to summarize a technical article, thesis, or report. It is also used by websites using a blogging program as a Content Management System (CMS), using the excerpt to promote a summary of the article.
Explicit excerpts typically offer a summation of what the article is about, with the beginning, middle, and end points summarized. In and of itself, it is an abbreviated version of your post or article. Whether or not the reader clicks through to the full post, they usually get the gist of the topic. If it says enough to interest them, they will click it to continue reading the whole article or post.
Effective writing of explicit excerpts must include keywords and phrases to help the reader decide if this is the information they are looking for.
An example of an explicit excerpt for this article could be:
Many blogs use excerpts on multi-post pages and in feeds to give readers a quick summary or introduction to the full post content. This article examines what to consider when writing blog post and excerpts. Techniques include recognizing the differences between different types of excerpts and introductions to posts and articles, how to write excerpts, and how to write excerpts that encourage readers to click the “continue reading” link to read the full post content.
Are there enough keywords in that summary to describe the topic? To encourage the reader to click through to read more?
Searching and Search Engine Excerpts
Think about the first 120 words of the last post you wrote. Will the first sentence or two help the reader to know what you are writing about? If they read it through an excerpt on your search, category, author, archives, or other multi-post pages featuring excerpts, will they have enough information to want to click through and read the whole post?
If you write technical, how-to, educational, or more fact-based articles on your blog, and you pick up a lot of traffic directly from search engines, give serious attention to what you write in the first sentences of each post. After all, you want to help them find the information they are seeking, right?
Help them by wording that first paragraph carefully so their scanning eye can catch the words that will help them solve their problem or answer their question.
Search engines display the first 100 words or less of the post. As your eye scans down the list of search engine search results, it is looking for your search term keywords but also keywords associated with your search goal. If they are there, the searcher will click on that link to your blog looking for answers.
Some search engines only feature the first 25 or so words of a post in their search results. You rarely get more than two or three lines to influence someone that your blog post has the answers they seek. Google offers two versions: the first 100 or less words of the post or article plus the 5-15 words wrapped around the keyword search terms.
For example, based upon search results for “Lorelle on WordPress” in Google, you will find the following two examples:
Write Mom: Great WordPress Resource – Lorelle on WordPress
I found this blog over at Lorelle on WordPress. It’s a great resource for all things WordPress, written in easy to understand language. …
Tailrank – Posts for ‘Lorelle on WordPress’
Lorelle on WordPress mentions a few “bugs” that she has noticed. … Lorelle on WordPress has an article up that talks about the technical side of …
The first example is the first few words of the post. The second examples shows the first few words of the post, and then shows the keywords searched for, “Lorelle on WordPress”, highlighted deeper down into the post.
Checking out what excerpts search engines showcase from your blog will help you understand a little more about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques, and the critical value of excerpts and well written introductory paragraphs.
Now that you know a little more about what it means to write with excerpts in mind, how will this change your blog writing style?
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- Website Development – Keywords Help You Write Your Blog
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- How to Write Good – Tips For Bloggers on Blogging
- Why Do You Blog? Do You Have a Purpose?
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- Do You Ever Think About What You Write About?
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- Blogging Yourself Into a Job: Is Your Blog Your Resume?
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