There are two ways to put post excerpts on your main page in WordPress.
- The post excerpt function in WordPress
- The “More” tag
Which is the best way to use excerpts for your blog?
Can you tell which I am using? I’ll let you know at the end of this post. Both have advantages and disadvantages. In some cases, the disadvantages can be eliminated with a little modification of WordPress or with a plugin.
Lets start with WordPress’s built in post excerpts.
Actually almost nothing could be simpler that just activating the excerpt function. That is, if your theme or template has the option. If not, then it is not built in and you’ll need to make some changes in the code. You can also download a plugin that will add the feature.
The advantage of using excerpts instead of the more button is you can write an optional excerpt for each post.
This means you can have content completely different than the post the excerpts point to. This also means you have to write an excerpt for the best effect. You will need to write the excerpt both to tell what the post is about and create enough curiosity click through to read it.
Another advantage is that it affects all your posts when they are viewed on the main pages. No need to go through all your posts in order to shorten them.
For a plugin that lets you add excerpts check this post at Daily Blog Tips. This plugin also lets you choose to have a certain number of posts with full content while keeping excerpts on all the rest.
I have not tried either of these methods so be sure to make a backup of the files you edit before you edit them and see if the plugin is compatible with the latest versions of WordPress.
One disadvantage of using the excerpt function is, that by default, your excerpts may not have any link to the post other than the link in the title of the excerpt.
This can easily be unnoticed with some themes, leaving your blog looking it is full of scraped content. The post at Pro Blog Design gives a way to add a link at the bottom of the excerpt with a call to action to click the link (such as “click here to read the full post”)
There is one big disadvantage of excerpts that is shared with the More tag and that is partial feeds. We’ll talk about that in a bit.
How about using the More tag for excerpts?
This feature is in the WYSIWYG editor. Just place your cursor where you want the excerpt to end and click the button in the editor. No need to make any changes to your code. It is that simple. Place in a good spot and you will automatically create curiosity and tell what the post is about, at least, if you write your introductory paragraph with this in mind. This is the easiest way to go.
The More tag also provides a link to the post at the end of your excerpt, right where you place it.
This gives a call to action and encourages the reader to click through and read the full post. This goes back to those long sales letters you used to get in the mail. People are actually more likely to read, click, or go to the next page if you tell them to.
The disadvantages of the More tag are many.
The content is the same as used in the post. This is not really bad because the amount of duplicate content is not large enough to cause problems.
If you want excerpts for all your posts, you will need to edit each post and add it. This is a big problem if you have many posts. This type of excerpt is not blog-wide like the regular post excerpts.
I don’t particularly like the default text for the link. In some cases, it is just “More.” This is a relatively safe edit though, even if you are not familiar with code. The post mentioned above at Pro Blog Designs also shows how to edit the text in the link. Even I would feel safe with an edit of this type since you are just changing the text not any real code.
Again, the More tag shares its biggest disadvantage with the post excerpts.
Both methods will send a partial RSS feed. It seems like everyone believes that partial feeds are generally not as well accepted as full feeds. This can be fixed with a Full Text Feed plugin By Ronald Heft, Jr.
Ideally, your post excerpts are also used on both your Category and Tag archives as well.
This does require some code editing. If you want to tackle this job, I am going to send you off on your own to the search engine of your choice. As you can probably tell, I am not much into editing code myself. I would hate to go through the trouble now with a new WordPress version about to be released.
What method do I use for post excerpts on this blog?
I use the More tag, but with some special features. The Semiologic Pro theme I use here has both excerpts and a modified more feature. With Semiologic Pro the title of the post is used in the More link. Also, the test is easy to change to say just about anything you want to use.
With a bit of thinking, I came up with link text I think makes sense and provides a call to action. Also, the anchor text of the link is them optimized for all the SEO advantages you can get from an internal link using the keywords in the title. Much better than a link to pointing to your post with the anchor “More” or “Click Here.”
The Semiologic Pro theme also uses post titles automatically on the Tag and Category archives. This eliminates duplicate content on them. The Full Text Feed plugin is also already installed.
What is the best method for post excerpts on the main page for your blog?
That decision is up to you. If you’re just starting out, the More tag is the simplest to use. It is also well supported in WordPress. If you have a lot of posts, excerpts may be the way to go for you. If you can edit code, you may be able to get excerpts to do a lot for you. If you have many sites or blogs, or plan to, Semiologic Pro might be a good investment for your internet marketing business or as a good option as a semi-customized theme.