Full Posts or Excerpts?

If you use an RSS reader you’ll notice two different methods bloggers use for displaying their RSS feeds. Some bloggers choose to show readers the full post directly in the RSS reader, while others choose to only use short excepts that contain a link to the blog post on their site. Each method has its pros and cons.

Excerpts

Pro:
1 – Increases page views as readers will have to visit the site to read the full post.
2 – May increase Alexa ranking and possibly advertising revenue.

Con:
1 – Less people actually read the post because it requires clicking the link and visiting the blog.
2 – Subscribers can become frustrated with not being able to see the full post and they may unsubscribe.

Full Posts

Pro:
1 – Easier for readers (they can get the whole article without clicking any links).
2 – Posts will be read by a higher percentage of subscribers.
3 – The number of subscribers may increase.

Con:
1 – Less page views for the website because readers have less incentive to click through
2 – Decreased page views can mean lower Alexa rankings and advertising revenue


As a reader, I prefer to subscribe to feeds that display the full post in the RSS reader. In my opinion the whole point of the RSS reader is to get everything you want to read in one place, without the need to visit every individual website. I think that using excerpts in feeds takes away from the convenience of RSS.

For this blog I use full posts in the RSS feeds because I think that is what my readers would prefer. Each blogger has to weigh the pros and cons and make the decision that helps them to achieve their goals.

Blog front pages and category pages

Deciding between using full posts and excerpts isn’t limited to just your RSS feed. Excerpts can also be used on the blog homepage and on category, date and search pages. Although I use full posts in the RSS feed, I use excerpts on the blog itself. My reason for doing so is the same – I think it is what my readers would prefer.

Using excerpts on the blog front page and category pages can help increase your pageviews, but I think that is a secondary reason for using them. When I visit a blog I like to be able to see the titles and excerpts of several posts all at once, rather than needing to scroll down through an entire post. I think it gives the reader a chance to quickly see what type of content is available on the blog.

Again, each blog’s goals are different and each blog’s readers are different. There is no right or wrong way.

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9 Responses

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  • JHS, August 11, 2007

    In WordPress, there is a warning that if you use the “More” tag, your feeds will cut off. I use Feedburner, as you do and that’s what’s happening. So how do you use the “more” tag to avoid putting the whole post on your front page and still get the whole article into your feed? I haven’t figured out how to do it and would love to know.

  • Vandelay Design, August 11, 2007

    JHS,
    First of all, thanks for visiting. Sounds like you want to have it set like I do, excerpts on the front page and full feeds. I don’t actually use the “more” tag. There’s a simple way to show excerpts that shouldn’t affect your feeds. In your index.php or your template file you want to find where it says the_content, and change it to the_excerpt (more info here.)

    If you want to customize what is shown in the excerpt, you can do that from the dashboard in the screen where you write the post. Hope that answers your question. Let me know how it works for you.

  • 1001 noisy cameras, November 15, 2007

    I understand the point that a full RSS feed being more reader friendly.

    However, I do have a question: What about scrapers? Won’t a full RSS feed give them access to more of the blog’s content?

  • Jacob Cass, December 4, 2007

    Hi, How do you actually make your RSS full? I have it as only excerpt now but I want to change it to full.

  • ilya, November 4, 2009

    Very good article, thanks.

    I’ve recently created a blog, which is really about the content and which I am still setting up. This morning I realized that my content is available for RSS subscribers as full posts and I was really wondering whether to put it as excerpts or leave as is.

    You raised a very valid point of looking into what the USER wants. I have taken a look at my own habits as a reader. And that proved your words. I hate feeds that show titles istead of the content. It is really annoying when you have to go to the website itself for something that might not make any sense at the end!

    Regarding advertisement – I think you may as well insert ads in the post itself, so they will go out in the feed. That’s what Scott Adams with dilbert.com does. As far as I get good content via the feed, ads do not annoy me unless they are blinking flash nonsense.

    So, thanks to reading this I decided to keep full posts.

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