Post excerpts on the Homepage?

By Daniel Scocco

Lately some blogs are starting to display post excerpts instead of full posts on the Homepage (e.g. Pronet Advertising). There are both advantages and disadvantages with this method.

Advantages

Displaying only post excerpts will ensure that you are not incurring any search engine penalties for duplicated content. If you display full posts on the homepage you will have the exact same content on two places, that is on the Homepage and on the single post pages (provided your archives do not display full posts, which could worsen the problem). Some SEO experts (including Michael Gray on this video) argue that this reason alone is sufficient for displaying post excerpts on the Homepage.

Apart from the SEO benefits displaying only post excerpts on the Homepage will also boost the number of page views and possibly the number of comments. Readers that before were used to reading posts on the Homepage will now need to visit single post pages (increasing the page views) and they will see the comments on every post. Should they find an interesting or provoking comment they will be much more likely to leave a response.

Drawbacks

So far so good, but displaying post excerpts on the Homepage will also have some drawbacks. Traditionally blogs were created with full posts on the front page and readers are used to this feature. A Homepage without full posts might damage the user experience for those readers since it will add an extra click before they can access the content.

The question then becomes, do the mentioned advantages out-weight the drawback coming from the user experience? Below you will find a poll to investigate the issue:

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45 Responses to “Post excerpts on the Homepage?”

  • Bret

    My site is under going a significant redesign and I’m started to adopt a different approach to what gets displayed on the homepage. I’m starting to use a blend of full post and excerpts. The most recent post is always displayed in full and older posts are always condensed to an excerpt using the “more” feature. Therefore whenever I post something new, I have to go back and edit the older post and insert a “more”. I think this approach is a nice blend; however, my traffic is so low that I have no idea if readers like it or don’t like it.

  • Leftblank

    I’ve considered using excerpts on my front page only, but as far as I can tell, even quite some huge and high-ranked sites/blogs use the full content while still receiving high rankings so I’m not so sure how important it is.

    In addition to that I really dislike having to click in order to read an article I might not even like; not really a nice thing. The only occasion I’d consider using it would be when a whole lot of posts are made daily ( as in 10+ ), simply because using full posts would make it too hard to track them without having to use the archives.

  • Daniel

    Bret, that hydrib system is a nice idea I had thought about it as well.

    Leftbak, I agree that for 10+ posts daily post excerpts would be a positive feature, but then some big gadget blogs that have that frequency still use full posts. Also I think that 85% of the technorati top 100 use full posts on the Homepage also.

  • Mikulla

    Not sure for me. I went to excerpts. I might try to do 1 full post and the rest excerpts.

    I think excerpts make the site much more clean and organized.

  • Mike Panic

    My blog uses both, for good reasons, I often write articles that are 1500+ words long. Currently I display 10 articles on my homepage to ensure quicker load times, I don’t want a viewer to come to my page and have to scroll forever past the 1500+ word article that doesn’t intrest them to get to something that does.

    For other articles, I need to include various photos or screen caps for tutorials and don’t want to clutter up the front of the blog with all of it. Using the “read more” option helps seperate that content out.

    I don’t think its a clean line in the sand choice, use whatever makes the most sense. Major blogs like Lifehacker often feature the split content for long articles or to get that extra page view.

    If you are selling ad space yourself, the added number of pages to your site can also help bring up page views , thus making it more attractive to a potential buyer.

  • Edward Wolf

    As a new blogger, I am acutely aware of SEO ratings, (or in my case the lack thereof) and want to improve them. However, at this minute, I think I might be better served in the long run to pander to the readers than the search engines. If I keep trying to do everything I can to satisfy the search engines, I fear I might put my readers in second place and lose them altogether. If I can find that magic formula to please readers, I shouldn’t need search engines. Word of mouth works better. (I hope.)

  • Daniel

    Edward, absolutely. I always place the reader on the first place as well (heck I dont even run Adsense :)).

    But what if readers did not care for excerpts on the homepage? In that case you could get some SEO and page views benefits while still serving the readers good content. I am not affirming it is that way, but could be.

  • Kat

    I didn’t think that “duplicated content” on the same domain counted.

    If the post appears on mydomain.com, mydomain.com/posttitle.html, and mydomain.com/archives/posttitle.html, I thought that all counted as just one.

  • Chris Baskind

    There’s no downside — beyond the affront to blog traditionalists — in going to front page excerpts. It’s all I use these days.

    Excerpts are a service to readers. It makes your site easier to scan and utilize.

  • engtech

    Something to keep in mind, Technorati is ridiculously stupid when it comes to spidering your website. They *only* read the main page of your blog. I got bit by that and had to change my main page back from being a splash page.

  • Eli

    I use excerpts on my bigger sites but not on my personal blog.. I didn’t think about the duplicate content thing.

    It definitely sounds like the advantages outweigh the drawbacks.

  • Mikulla

    An offshoot of this topic: Should you place outbound links in excerpts? Doing so risks a user leaving your site without reading the article.

    What do you think?

  • Bes Z

    This is a very good question! I think it depends on how we look at our sites and the kind of impression we want our sites to give to visitors and readers.

    For blogs that want to give an impression of a blog, a site can show full posts on the home page. For a site that wants to be a bit more than a blog, people can have excerpts, or they can avoid excerpts all together while highlighting post titles and other areas of the site , much like a directory or a commerce site.

    If the post excerpt is really catchy or interesting, I will try to visit the post page itself to read more.

    By the way, I answered your question assuming that you meant a blog homepage. For my site, I would prefer both full [posts] and partial excerpts [post excerpts], depending on what I have on the homepage. If I only have blog posts on the home page, then full post may be good. Otherwise, partial excerpts can be better.

    Right now, I have collapsible excerpts on my site. If a user wishes to read an entire article, they can click a “Show more” link and read the entire article on the home page. This hopefully saves my readers a lot of time.

  • Daniel

    Mikulla, I would avoid links on the excerps altogether, be it internal or external links. Mainly because people will not be able to grap the context that they link is coming from.

    Bes, the idea about what kind of impression we want to give to readers is right on point. Post excerpts on the homepage (provided the content is good) would make me personally view the blog more as a content portal, almost a mini newspaper.

    But then again, 90% of the most popular blogs on Technorati use full posts on the Homepage…

  • francesco mapelli

    You say “A Homepage without full posts might damage the user experience for those readers since it will add an extra click before they can access the content.”

    I think that forcing people to traverse content they don’t want to see can damage the user experience much more.

    Homepage should be targeted for first time visitors, because loyal readers should be subscribed to your rss feed, providing full feeds, my loyal readers don’t have to do any extra click to get to the post page… they don’t even need to go to my homepage to read the content 😉

    I prefer to see excerpts because I hate to scroll for ages to find a post I’m intrested in… I want even the lazier visitor to be able to see 2-3 post title, so he can find something intresting.

    Some use cases

    With Excerpts:
    Bob is a first time visitor of my blog.
    He want to understand what the blog is about.
    On my homepage he can see my last 6 posts + excerpt, without scrolling. He finds a couple of intresting posts, he click on one and he likes it, so he subscribes to my rss feed.
    He will access my (full) content from his feed reader, if he wants to leave a comment he’ll click on the link and jump directly to my post page, never seeing my homepage again. Welcome, Bob!

    Without Excerpts:
    Rob is a first time visitor of my blog.
    He want to understand what the blog is about.
    On my homepage he can see my last post + excerpt, he stats reading it, but it does not like it.
    He scrolls for 3 times before getting to the second posts. After that he’s already a bit upset, he starts reading, the post is ok, he goes to the next one and he find another unintresting post … he starts to scroll down, but after a second he simply jump to another website. Goodbye, Rob!

  • Daniel

    Francesco, I agree with you to a certain extent. But you need to take into considerating that a very small portion of the Internet population uses RSS feeds.

    Even for a web-related blog like Daily Blog Tips the RSS will represent the minority. Almost 2/3 of my readers access the content through the website and not through the RSS feed. Hence when they open the Homepage they might be interested in readering the latest post because they already have seen the older ones.

    But you have a good point, thanks for sharing.

  • Everton

    the only factor in my view that really should determine whether or not you post excerpts is the word count. Some search engines will index the first 1500 or so words that they see, so if you post full posts and you are exceeding this number then you should reduce the number of posts.

    On my site I post excerpts as the majority of my traffic is from search engine visitors who don’t want to read every post, so I post excerpts in an attempt to increase my chances that I’m displaying at least one additional article that they want to read before they leave.

  • Bes Z

    Francesco, you bring forward an important point. Homepage should make visitors feel at home and not make them think more. The users should be able to navigate without any problems to different parts of the site.

    Francesco, when you say that a loyal reader does not have to click on an extra page, do you mean that all loyal readers subscribe to RSS feeds or do you mean that in an optimized environment, loyal readers should be using RSS feeds and not visiting the homepage? I agree that loyal readers may know that RSS feeds can be a good way at keeping up with content on a certain site.

    In my view and in my experience, a homepage can also try to cater to everyone, though like you said about RSS feeds, it [the homepage] has to work really hard to be a place of resource for both loyal readers and new visitors. A homepage can be like an RSS feed with partial content for different things.

    For example, not all loyal readers use RSS. People come through search engines, other sites and by typing by site url directly. Like Daniel mentioned above, majority of the internet users do not use RSS. If people come to the main site or even if a user types in a site url directly, they should be able to see what kind of new content is available on the site so that both the new and the previous users benefit from the homepage. How can this happen? The site owner/developer/designer has to create such a page.

    I like your “use cases” above. One thing I was thinking about, though. I may be wrong, so please correct me if what I am thinking does not apply to your 2nd example. Majority of the internet users already scroll on almost every page other than blogs. People scroll in their emails, and they scroll on Amazon. People scroll even in their RSS feeds. So maybe there is a possibility that when done right, a good page that requires scrolling is something that majority of the internet readers are used to, and are expecting. They may not run away if a page requires scrolling. A user is more familiar to a scroll bar in the browser window, I think, than an ajax scroller on a webpage where a user has to drag a bar within the page to go from one page to another, or from one section to another. Thus, people may be having no problem scrolling down a few pages, since they already do it daily.

    For example, this very page, I had to scroll down almost 9 pages. I still scrolled down and I did not feel any hesitation in writing this comment. I think it is because scrolling is one of the basic things in a browsing experience.

    Of course, if a page is 70 pages long, like some of the first web pages on the internet, then people will have a hard time knowing where they are. What do you think?

    Maybe a site can have RSS feeds for those who want full content or content in their own readers. The same site can have a homepage where people can see bits and pieces of information and they can navigate from there. A homepage can even show excerpts and full post, and yet it can also show bits and pieces of other information to help users navigate to places other than blog posts, including blog posts from the archives. It is the same as visiting Amazon.com; when people visit Amazon, they do not think “Oh, this is a shopping site so I have to scroll down and find my way from the home page.”

    Instead, they think “This is a popular website and this is the homepage, so I have to know what I want. I can click the “book” link here to find the book by Daniel that talks about Daily Blog Tips. I hope I can find the book easily since I do not remember its ISBN number.” That is probably what majority of the internet users, maybe 90%+, are looking for on every site. They probably treat a blog as any other site, since a blog is a site also. A blog can try to bring in new ways to save time and promote efficiency through things like RSS, yet at the same time, a blog should act like a site and not have a user relearn the entire browsing experience as if they had never visited a website before.

    RSS feeds help people, yes. I think blogs should still be better at accessibility and usability in other ways also. An RSS feed will help loyal readers through RSS feeds, though a well designed page with post excerpts and other things, or even a bit of scrolling, will attract people as most users, if not all, are already used to visiting hundreds of different websites a year or even a month and thus will know how to navigate a blog if that blog uses at least some principles that most internet sites use.

  • Tobsy

    Usually I show the entire post on the frontpage. But my last post was way too long. It just didn’t feel right, when I looked an it. So I edited it. Now the frontpage only shows an exerpt. But as I said – it’s an exception.

  • Maki @ DoshDosh

    My take on the discussion.

    I don’t think we should even care if the Top 100 blogs in Technorati use excerpts or not. It’s completely irrelevant to the discussion.

    Why? Because we cannot isolate post excerpts and determine if it is a contributing factor to each blog’s link popularity. A lot depends on design, content and niche so post excerpts cannot be said to be a significant factor in their popularity.

    Excerpts are more a design and word count issue (as Everton mentioned). If you write long articles or post often, excerpts definitely make it neater and more convenient for readers.

    Like everything else, a lot depends on writing great headlines and copy. Links in excerpts are OK if you write intriguing copy. In any case, they offer value to readers by making it easier for them to access information.

    Making them go through the whole article looking for a link to the source can be frustrating, to say the least.

  • francesco mapelli

    mhh…the conversation is really intresting, I think I’ll write a post about this in the next days to give you -and me- a better idea of what I think 🙂

    The central point for me is this:

    I think that using a feed reader and a good browser (or a online feedreader like netivibes) is the best way to live the blogosphere.

    So I think that we -since we’re trying to share and improve our knowledge about the blogosphere- should push people towards what we think is the best possible configuration to explore the blogosphere.

    This mean we should push the users to use rss, and we have to offer sites optimized for that.

    Obviously we have to provide sites with high usability also for unexperienced users or users that do not use feed readers, but we have to gently push them to use a feed reader, firefox instead of I.E. etc, because the’ll be happier this way.

    Bes Z:
    The scrolling experience it’s something I’m happy with when I’m browsing a site I like, or my emails etc., but I found it annoying when I’m tring to quickly understand if I like a site or not.

    I’m very lazy, so it may be only me, but if I’ve to scroll more than one post to find something intresting in a blog, I’ll jump to the next one, while I don’t mind reading 6 titles and read the 6th post if I have excerpts…

    Oh, guys, you’re making me doubtful of my excerpts… now I’ll have to ask my readers what they prefer 🙁

    Thanks 😉

  • Daniel

    Maki, no one ever correlated the post excerpts issue with blog popularity. Anyone who has studied statistics knows the difference between correlation and causation.

    The fact that the majority of the Technorati Top 100 blogs display full posts, however, mean that the majority of blog readers are used to that. Those blogs set the standard into what people expect to see on blogs since they have the biggest readership and most of the links are pointing to those blogs.

    As a consequence readers might get used to the way they organize information, and it might create a bias (even if unconcious) towards it. That is why I mentioned the issue that maybe the majority of blog readers “want” full posts on the homepage.

  • Everton

    The fact that the majority of the Technorati Top 100 blogs display full posts, however, mean that the majority of blog readers are used to that. Those blogs set the standard into what people expect to see on blogs since they have the biggest readership and most of the links are pointing to those blogs.

    Totally disagree Daniel – 2 wrongs don’t make a right. Just because the big blogs do something (and many are in the position they are in just because they got in early, not because they write the best content or because they are SEO experts), doesn’t mean it’s automatically the right thing to do . For instance, problogger doesn’t offer a subscribe to comments option – should we all rush out and remove ours?

    You should always do what makes sense for your site, which in this case as both Maki and I have said is really about wordcount and design. Of course, reference other sites when making a decision, but don’t just do it cause they do.

  • Maki @ DoshDosh

    Daniel, in your earlier message to Mikulla and Leftbak, you seem to be implying that because most of the Technorati 100 uses full posts, it’s a vote in the corner for using full posts rather than excerpts.

    The Technorati 100 is all about blog and link popularity. You get into the top 100 because of how many links you receive from other blogs not because of any other reason.

    I didn’t mean to say that correlation (a relationship between two factors) implies causation but judging from your comments on this topic, that correlation suggests or hints at causation (full posts lead to blog popularity).

    In fact, your response to me confirms this:

    Those blogs [Technorati Top 100] set the standard into what people expect to see on blogs since they have the biggest readership and most of the links are pointing to those blogs.

    You are essentially saying that popular blogs determines reader perceptions on how blogs should be designed and how content should be structured.

    If this isn’t an implicit correlation between blog popularity and the choice of having post excerpts or full posts, I don’t know what is.

    In my humble opinion, the Technorati Top 100 doesn’t have a hegemony over how people view blogs in general. Far from it.

    Over 65 million blogs in the world and the top three English blogs have only 70,000 blogs linking to them.

    I’ve been following dozens of Japanese blogs for some time and Gigazine, the number one blog in Technorati Japan uses excerpts on almost every post. I’m sure you can find many other counter examples.

    These statistics or anomalies just number games we can use all day to backup our arguments. I’m primarily concerned with how you seem to lump the Technorati 100 into the topic of full posts or excerpts. You give the Technorati 100 far too much credit. 🙂

  • Daniel

    Everton and Maki thanks for heating up the discussion hehe, here are my counter arguments:

    1. I agree with you that just because the Technorati Top 100 guys do something it will not automatically become the right thing to do. In fact I do many things that they don’t just because I think on my own terms for my blog. For instance my blog is one of the very few that does not have an archive.

    2. That said you can not deny that they represent some reference and standard setting for the blogosphere. When Darren Rowse wanted to study the average time that successful blogs had been blogging what did he do? He studied the Technorati Top 100 and made his conclusions based on that data. It is a matter of numbers. Those Top 100 blogs currently have over 1,000,000 links pointing to them, how could they not have an influence on how readers perceive blogs?

  • Everton

    Those Top 100 blogs currently have over 1,000,000 links pointing to them, how could they not have an influence on how readers perceive blogs?

    I still don’t think that’s relevant:

    -1m links still isn’t that many and it’s not even 1m unique sites
    -The majority of my visitors aren’t bloggers, so they have no idea what the top 100 do
    -As a fellow blogger, I couldn’t tell you what ANY site has on their homepage as in 9 times out of 10 I go direct to an article via RSS or a link and this will be the same for most bloggers, so claiming that the top 100 will have set the expected standard here is wrong

  • Maki @ DoshDosh

    That said you can not deny that they represent some reference and standard setting for the blogosphere. When Darren Rowse wanted to study the average time that successful blogs had been blogging what did he do? He studied the Technorati Top 100 and made his conclusions based on that data.

    OK Daniel.. there’s a problem with using Darren Rowse to back up your argument. We need to put the reference to Darren in context.

    Darren Rowse’s study on the Technorati Top 100 was a direct response to a specific question: “How can one get into the Technorati 100?”

    His analysis of Technorati 100 corresponds to a specific query about the Technorati 100 and does not signal his support of the top 100 as a reference point for bloggers.

    It is incorrect to infer that Darren is promoting the validity of the Technorati 100 as a reference and standard for the ENTIRE blogosphere when he was only simply examining the Technorati 100 as a response to a relevant query.

    Using him to talk about standard setting prerogatives is just flat out of context.

    What you’re stating here is something that is quite different.. that the MAJORITY of blog readers are influenced by the Technorati 100 and are likely to perceive blog styles and content structure based on their perception and experience of the Top 100 blogs.

    That is far too grand a sweeping statement to make when there are so many more blog readers than there are blogs. The fact remains that most blogs on the Top 100 are very niche and are only familiar to specific audiences.

    We are all bloggers here, so lets do a test.

    Who actually reads Jim Whimpey, Jihad Watch, Truth Dig, Arlequin, Coolerheads Prevail and Xiaxue? All Top 100 blogs and I’m very sure there are many people who haven’t even heard of or read them before.

    To say that the Top 100 has influence on content is fairly accurate but to say that they have influence over blog reader’s perceptions about factors such as design and post layout is just a generalization that doesn’t hold water at all.

  • Jeff

    If Google can’t determine your site is a blog it’s their problem. To see people worried about duplicate content like this is so sad. So what if your post is located in 2 places on your site. Don’t let Google dictate what you do with your own personal blogs… C’mon people.

  • SEO Genius

    I have only recently started to put post excerts on the front page of my website and it sure has increased page views and also i have seen a large increase in visitors however this could be to do with other reasons.

  • Bang Kritikus

    So, use or not

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