WordPress provides many features to help you easily create content. Among them, post excerpts are one of the more underutilized. Perhaps this is because their usefulness isn’t readily apparent and WordPress even considers them to be optional. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how post excerpts can help you.
Refine your search engine results
Search engines use a compilation of data from across a post or page to determine how it ranks for various keywords. Content, of course, is a major factor. But the post excerpt is a specific element of data that is particularly important because it can double as your meta description. SEO plugins allow you to define a custom meta description, but without an SEO plugin, search engines may use your post excerpt as the meta description. It’s best to use a SEO plugin so you can customize your meta description, but it’s good to set an excerpt for search engines as well. Stick to 160 characters or less so Google doesn’t cut off the end of the excerpt on its search results.
Social media sharing
Social media sites can also use the post excerpt to display a description of a link. Like search engine meta descriptions, this social media description can be customized with an SEO plugin. It can even be set differently for different social sites. However, if you aren’t using an SEO plugin, the post excerpt comes in handy here as well.
While not all themes make use of post excerpts, many do. It’s common for themes to use post excerpts in your post listing pages. For example, on our WordPress tips page, the post excerpt is displayed below the featured image and title. Oftentimes when an excerpt is empty, an unspecified portion of text from your posts will be displayed. This is usually either the first paragraph or a specific number of words or characters, and you don’t have much say in where it cuts off. Using a post excerpt instead allows you to create a clean, concise, helpful description for your readers.
While post excerpts are an optional feature, they can provide your site with numerous benefits. Considering how easy it is to create one, there’s really no reason to leave this handy box empty next time you create a post.