One underused feature of WordPress is the use of post excerpts. They are a way of creating a custom description for your articles, so that they show up in the preview of a post lists instead of the actual content. Since excerpts are not a mandatory element in WordPress, they are often ignored altogether.

However, that doesn’t make them any less important. Excerpts are often the content piece that persuades your readers to come in and read your full post, and as such they are an important tool to attract traffic. This article will show you why you should start taking care of your excerpts from day one.

The Preview Should Expand Your Headline

When users take a look at your posts list in your blog, they will only see three elements that may get their attention: the headline, the post thumbnail, and the preview. We talked this week about how important is to design a great headline to bring users in, and how you should thoroughly choose your words to get the most out of it. But what about the preview text? Well, it is perhaps the second most important element.

The preview text is a more elaborate description than your headline. It should highlight what your article contains, and what topics it touches upon. A good post excerpt should expand on what the headline says, and offer insights as to what direction your article will take. You should be explicit at all times, and make it as clear as possible.

Avoid Truncated Content At All Costs

By default, WordPress will offer an automatic preview of your posts by truncating the first 40 or so word in your content. This text is then stripped of all HTML styling and multimedia content, and appended with an ellipsis (three consecutive periods). This behavior is something you want to avoid at all times if you wish to offer a great user experience on your site.

The main reason for this is that, most of the time, only the introductory paragraph will appear on the excerpt. Since an introductory paragraph will barely mention anything really useful about the rest of your article, it probably won’t offer enough information. For a better user experience, you should dedicate enough time to craft a dedicated, custom post excerpt that properly introduces the user to the article.

Teach Your Visitors

One way of creating a great post excerpt is by clearly telling users what they will gain from reading your article. As we mentioned on our previous article, people may look for your posts in order to be taught something. As such, you should make it as clear as possible what they stand to gain and why it will be useful to them.

One good rule of thumb is to mention specific elements and pieces from the article. If possible, turn your excerpt into a summarized, short version of your article. This way, the preview will be as close as possible to the actual post while retaining all the essential parts.

Excerpts are a great way of presenting a light version of your articles. Doing so effectively will surely help your posts be more appealing to the average user, resulting in higher traffic and better overall conversions.