There’s an interesting post by Daniel at DailyBlogTips.com on the opportunity to use post excerpts on the homepage instead of full posts.
As you may know, this blog has always used post excerpts, and I’d like to point out the reasons behind this, and to talk with you about this issue.

Advantages of post excerpts

The main advantages reported by Daniel are

  1. No duplicate content (no search engines penalties)
  2. Boost in pageviews
  3. Increased comments count

In my opinion for most blog the number 3 is the most important one: the SEO aspect is really important if you are fighting in a competitive field with big players, and the number of pageviews matters only when you start heavy monetization… but for smaller blogs is far more important having an active user base.

To this advantages, I’d like to add something else:

  • Quick topic communication
  • It’s easier to find an interesting post
  • You don’t force users to traverse content they’re not intrested in

Quick Topic Communication

When a new visitor visits to your homepage, if you are using excerpts he can easily see the title and first lines of a few posts, and he can quickly understand what you’re blogging about and how you approach the topic of your blog.

The keyword here is quickly: most visits are less than 20 seconds long… (think about how easy is just to “stumble” to the next page), so you need to communicate quickly what you’re talking about to catch the visitor attention as fast as you can.

Easier to find an interesting post

This is strictly related to the previous one: showing your visitors more posts allow a quicker scanning of your frontpage, and make it easier for them to find something interesting. (This can really make the difference if you blog about various topics).

Do not force users to traverse content they’re not interested in

This blog is about blogging and www social things, but I have developed some wordpress plugins…

Let’s say you are a blogger using drupal, there’s no reason why I should force you to scroll the for 4 seconds throught the entire post titled Category Cloud WordPress plugin only to reach the post you’re intrested in! (e.g. Economist.com Is Wasting Money In A Broken AdWords Campaign)

Drawbacks of Post Excerpts

There are two main drawbacks I see for using post excerpts

  • Users are used to full posts on the homepage
  • Users have to click one more time to reach the full content

The first one is more a matter of look and feel: most blogs have full posts on the homepage, so users are used to that, and they somehow expect a precise structure from a blog, including full posts on the homepage.
Differentiation can be a good thing, but you have to be aware you’re doing something different from the other blogs. (Well, it’s nothing revolutionary, but you should think about it).

The second one is not a small drawback, because it may impact your loyal readers: they already know what you’ve talked about before, and they know they’ll be interested in what you have to say today, but you force them to do one extra click every day.

The Feed Factor

There’s one last thing you should consider in my opinion: the Feed Factor.

You probably want your readers to subscribe to your rss feed.

For your subscribers it does not matter if you use full posts or excerpts in your frontpage, as they will access your (full?) content through their feed reader, and jump to the post page to read and post comments.

Basically your subscribers will never see your homepage again. (well, sort of…)

Conclusions

In my opinion, using post excerpts is the right choice for almost every blog.

  • First time visitors can quickly discover what you blog about and can be easily catched by a good title
  • Occasional visitors can find quickly a post they’re interested in
  • Subscribers are not harmed by posts excerpts

For someone to be harmed by post excerpt he must be:

  • A frequent visitor
  • Not a subscriber
  • Someone who cares about that extra click (I don’t)

In my opinion, this is a small percentage of your visitors, and while you may give them a small nuisance, you’re giving the others a better service and a more usable website.

Now, I’d like to hear from you what are your thought about this topic.
What have I missed?
What do you think about my analysis?
As a reader, do you prefer to have full posts on the homepage? (I can change the layout of the blog, if you want ;) )

francesco mapelli