How To Use Excerpts To Get More Visitors To Read Your Blog Posts

Not only is adding an excerpt to a WordPress blog post easy to do, but if written correctly, they can bring in lots of extra traffic and comments to posts and pages.  

Want more people to read your blog posts? Include an excerpt.

What is an excerpt?

Put simply, it’s a short extract from a film, broadcast, or piece of music or writing. However, you can also write your own.

There are two potential methods for WordPress users to generate excerpts for their blog posts and pages.

  • Automatically – by default, WordPress generates excerpts by selecting the first 55 words of a blog post.
  • Manually – with a minor tweak, you can manually edit or replace the text used for the excerpt for each post and page you want to publish.

Automatic excerpts can look messy, as WordPress does not split up any of the text into paragraphs that contain the first 55 words of a page or blog post. The last sentence may also be incomplete (depending on how many of the 55 words have been used).

The advantage of the manual method is that you’re not limited to just the text at the beginning of a post. You can, if you prefer, create a full summary or write an introduction that will tempt readers to want to read more. You’re also not limited by how many words you can use.

What are the best tips for writing an excerpt?

  • The best tip I can give is to ask yourself what would make you want to click the ‘read more of this post’ link.
  • Don’t make the excerpt too long, otherwise, it could put people off from reading it. 
  • Use clear and direct language. Part of being pithy is using firm, direct, and clear words to describe your article.
  • Write the excerpt when the final version of your blog post or page is ready for publication.
  • The best excerpts contain questions or cliffhangers because they make many readers want to find out more.

While I believe that the title of a blog post is the most crucial element in getting readers to want to read a blog post, excerpts come a close second. 

Adding a well-written excerpt can tempt lots more readers (who were not persuaded by the title of your blog post), to want to read more.

How to add your own excerpt to a WordPress blog post.

You’ll find the excerpt box towards the bottom of the toolbar of a draft post. 

Where to find the excerpt box.
  • Before publishing your post, click inside the box and write your excerpt.
  • Remember to save the changes.
  • Publish or schedule the post.

Here’s one I wrote for a recent piece of flash fiction. 

Excerpts are optional, but consider writing one of your own.

And here’s what it looked like in the email notification after the post was published. 

Excerpts can help tempt a reader to click the ‘Read more of this post’ link.

Are you displaying all the contents of your blog posts in your emails?

I do not display the full contents of any of my blog posts in the email notification that is sent out to my followers. I do this so that readers have to click ‘read more of this post’ to read the full post. This helps generates more traffic to my blog.

You can also do this by inserting a page break into the draft of a post or page. 

Conclusion

  • Excerpts can be added to both blog posts and pages.
  • If written correctly, excerpts can generate more traffic and comments on blog posts and pages. 
  • Consider adding your own excerpts to all your blog posts and pages instead of allowing WordPress to generate one for you.
  • When writing an excerpt, ask yourself what would make you want to click the ‘read more of this post’ link.
  • If you display the full post in the emails notifications that are sent out to your followers, consider changing the setting to ‘summary.’ My post ‘How To Instantly Get More Traffic To Your Blog‘ explains how to do this. 
  • Excerpts that contain a question or cliffhanger will tempt many readers to want to know more.

What about you?

  • Do you write your own excerpts for your blog posts and pages?
  • Do you have any tips for writing excerpts?

Join the discussion by leaving me a comment that I can respond to with more than just a ‘thank you.’

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Author: Hugh W. Roberts

My name is Hugh. I live in the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, the most popular of which are my blogging tips posts. If you have any questions about blogging or anything else, please contact me by clicking on the 'Contact Hugh' button on the menu bar. Click on the 'Meet Hugh' button on the menu bar to learn more about me and my blog.

66 thoughts

  1. Oh my gosh Hugh, fantastic tip. I kept looking for it, it wasn’t there. Then thought to open the screen options tab, it was not checked. Remedied that immediately.The auto excerpt always bothered me. It usually didn’t convey what I wanted to say about the post. Thanks to your lovely tip, I’ll be writing my own mini cliffhangers now.

  2. Hi Hugh,
    Great blogging tips post, as always. I copy the meta description and use it as my excerpt.
    Congratulations! You won the Inspire Me Monday Linky Party!
    Janice

    1. I’m presuming your blog is self-hosted, Caz? If not, then WordPress automatically does all the updates for you. If it’s self-hosted, then I recommend you do the update to the latest software available as this will ensure you have all the latest information, including any bug fixes they add to the new version. My advice is to always ensure you have the newest version of any software. New versions also give users access to new features.

  3. Thanks Hugh, I will try this. After reading your post on updating the “About Me” part of a page, I did just that. I realized I had left mine more or less unfinished, so I changed the picture, tweaked the information a nd moved it. You haven’t steered me wrong yet, so I will give a try. thanks and blessings, Michele

    1. I’m so pleased to hear that you’ve updated your ‘about’ page, Michele. It’s such an essential part of all our blogs and often gets forgotten about. Well done for doing all the work on updating it.

      Writing a good excerpt for a blog post can make all the difference, especially when we don’t always get the title of a post correct. I hope excerpts work as well for you as they do for me.

      1. Any chance you have a post coming up about copyrights and blogging. I notice several folks that I follow show them and think I really should, just haven’t gotten there yet. Thanks and blessings, Michele

        1. I’ve already written and published a couple of blog posts about copyright, Michele. Click here and here to view them. I’d definitely recommend that you copyright all your posts and any images that you own.

  4. Excellent help article Hugh. Yes, I’ve been writing my own excerpts for a few years ever since I purchased a SEO plugin, there’s a place after the post where I draft my excerpts, I can add. Excerpts are something akin to blurb writing but much shorter. 🙂

    1. They’re a great way of promoting our blog posts and pages, Debby. The automatic ones that WordPress generate are not always outstanding. If you don’t have an enticing blog post title, then having a well-written excerpt can make all the difference.

  5. A great summary of the benefits of using excerpts Hugh. I’ve been using them for a while now and make it a part of my publishing routine to work out the words to write for my excerpts before hitting the publish button. You are so generous sharing your experiences, I always learn something from you, so many thanks 🙂

    1. Excellent. Glad to hear you’re already using excerpts, Debbie. The default excerpts that WordPress generated don’t always look good.

      I’m glad you’re learning from my blogging tips posts. I enjoy sharing all this information with you all.

    1. Hi Paul, you’re welcome, I hope writing your own excerpts work as well for you as they do for me.

      If you struggling to get engagement on your blog, check out some of my other blogging tips posts, (You’ll find a link on the menu bar of my blog). I’ve written about the subject a lot. The best tip I can offer is to network with other bloggers. There’s lots of free advice out there. And don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

      Good luck.

        1. You’re welcome, Paul. I always reply to comments. It’s another big tip of mine – always respond to those who leave comments. By doing so, many of them will keep coming back.

        2. Thanks Hugh, I’ve replied to to the few comments I’ve got so far. Unfortunately, although all the comments have been favourable, people aren’t clicking on Like so they aren’t getting the option to Follow which is frustrating. But thanks for your tip, appreciate it.

        3. I wouldn’t take much notice of the ‘like’ button and who likes any of your blog posts, Paul. I’ve discovered that some bloggers and readers click ‘like’ regardless of whether they’ve read the post or not. Some see the ‘like’ button as a way of getting some free publicity. I’ve checked your blog and the follow button does show up (in the bottom right hand of the screen) when scrolling. I’d also recommend you add the ‘Follow’ widget in the widget bar on your blog (you’ll see it in my widget bar to the side of all of my blog posts). Feel free to ask me any other questions. I’m always happy to help.

        4. How good of you to keep helping, thank-you. I’ve taken your advice, and have now placed the Follow button where you suggested, which is much better. Could I possibly ask, does a blog always need to instigate discussion? My first blog was a humorous account of my first trip to a music publisher and the need to adapt your dreams over time, and the second was about my first Zoom online writing course. My next will be the first about songs I wished I’d written, breaking a hit song down and why I admire it. I’m not trying to inform, such as your blogs do so well, or create debate. My blogs are as much about relating my experiences in an entertaining way and hoping that people relate with their own experiences. Discussion would be nice but it’s not the first aim of my blogs – does that matter?

        5. I believe the majority of bloggers like to see comments and discussion on their posts, Paul. Why? Because it proves to the blogger that what they’re writing and published is being read. It’s a little like getting reviews for books. Many bloggers give up on their blogs if discussion and comments are not forthcoming. However, I do know a few bloggers that don’t mind if their blog posts get much interaction. Sometimes, if visitor stats are good, they’ll think that the numbers are enough. As I said in my previous comment, don’t take it that somebody who has clicked the ‘like’ button on a blog post has actually read what’s been written.

          Search engines, such as Google, also rate blogs that have comments on them far higher than those that don’t. They see comments as a sign that the blog is active, and therefore, rate it higher.

          However, if you’re not concerned by comments and discussion on your blog posts, then go with what feels right for you. After all, we’re entirely different, and all look for different things. Whatever you do, though, always respond to any comments left on your blog posts. In the six and half years I’ve been blogging, I found that the majority of those who leave comments, dislike being ignored. Many of them never return to read more posts.

          I hope that all helps.

  6. Hi, Hugh – This is an excellent reminder. When I was self-hosted, I faithfully wrote my own excerpts all of the time. Now, not so much (which translates to ‘never’).
    Thanks for this friendly nudge.

    1. I’m glad to have reminded you, Donna. Writing our own excerpts can really boost blog posts and pages getting more views and comments. I have fun with writing my own excerpts.

  7. Great tip, Hugh. I should play around with the manual excerpt a bit, as it is set on automatic right now (for email notifications). I was actually wondering how you created these “lead-ins” to your blog posts that are different from the beginning of your actual posts. Aha, now I know. And now I know those intros are called excerpts.

    I use the “read more” for the posts on my home page as well. Except for my expense reports, as I’m using an old (pre-Gutenberg) template, which doesn’t publish/display the “read more” breaks correctly, unfortunately.

    1. WordPress automatically sets excerpts to automatic unless the whole post is displayed in the email, Liesbet (and nobody should be doing that and getting fewer visitors to their blog).

      I’ve noticed lots of new cool templates appear on WordPress. It’s something I’m going to be looking into more over the coming months.

  8. I have written them before, Hugh, and find them effective. I should write them more often. I also had fixed my email to post just part of the post which makes it easier on the reader. Also, my theme includes the option to not show the whole post on my home page and utilizes the “continue reading” button. Great tips, Hugh and thanks for the good reminder.

    1. Same here with my home page not showing the whole post, Terri. However, I didn’t know it came as part of the theme. It’s amazing what all the different themes do and do not include. I came across one the other day that aligns the text under images to the right. It’s set like that, although I don’t know if it was possible to switch it off (as I didn’t try the theme out). It’s a little like the mini-profile of me that now appears at the end of all my blog posts. It comes as standard with the theme, but (unlike with other themes) there’s no way of switching it off. I like the theme so much, that I stuck with it, although I had to cut back on my profile, as otherwise, it would have taken up another half a page.

    1. From what I see on email notifications, a lot of bloggers use the automatic excerpt, Natalie. Of course, it’s better to have an excerpt than display the whole post on an email, but if the opening few lines of the blog post are not enticing enough, it means we could be losing extra traffic and comments on blog posts. I’ve been doing my own for quite some time, and have great fun in thinking them up.

    1. Yes, they’re a great way to get readers to click on the ‘read more’ link to read the post and to visit your blog.

      I found your comment in my WordPress folder. Not sure why it ended up in there, but it would be worth checking if the same is happening on other blogs where you’re leaving comments.

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