WordPress Tutorial: Shortening Your Blog

Tutorials

“I would like to make a blog, but I don’t want the home page to run on forever.” It’s a common request that I get from clients, but one that is easy to manage once you know what you are looking for. So, in this tutorial I will go over some of the things you need to know about controlling how your blog displays text. It’s easy, I promise.

1. Create a new post.

Let’s begin with creating a new post. From your dashboard, go to “Posts / All Posts”. From there click the “Add New” button near the top-left.

New Post

TIP: You can add new posts in a variety of ways with WordPress. You can add a new post from the main login page under the “New Post” tab; on any page you can hover your mouse over your name in the top-right corner for a drop down menu, then slide out the sub menus for your blog / New Post; or from your blog’s dashboard you can use the “quick press” field.

2. Add some text.

A good habit to form early on is to create strong opening paragraphs. Journalists like to think of the “upside-down pyramid”, or a model of writing that puts the most important information at the top. In writing for the web, you have a split second to capture people’s attention, so getting right to the point in the beginning will attract more readers, but you also don’t want to give away the entire post. Give your readers something to lure them into the post and visit your site. For more writing tips, visit Copyblogger which has great ideas for making your writing more attractive to readers.

3. Add a Read More Tag

This is the first line of defense in your battle against endless blogs. WordPress offers the Read More tag as a way to trim down longer posts and give readers a cue to find out more.

First let’s talk a little about what a Read More tag is. A “tag” in WordPress is basically like adding a note to a page of text. It’s a hidden set of instructions that, in this case, tells your blog to reformat the post under certain conditions.

When you add a Read More tag between text it will tell WordPress to cut everything below the tag, essentially creating an excerpt for your post. So if your post has text with a strong lead paragraph you can add a Read More tag below the intro which will tell your blog’s home page to cut everything below that first paragraph.

First, start by placing your cursor between the two paragraphs you would like to separate then click the Insert More Tag.

Read More Tag

 

This will insert a line (which in TEXT view is a bit of shortcode) that will tell the site that everything above is to be included in the summary view.

Read More in Text

TIP: The text above the Read More Tag will be used for search engines. Google for example, pulls text from websites to provide an example of what the site is about so that people can easily discern whether or not they want to go to the site. If you use a Read More tag that will tell Google that the text you’ve singled out is where readers can glean information about what is in your post or page. Most media professionals will tell you that you should limit this text to about 120 words or so. Therefore, your most important ideas or keywords should be at the very beginning, conveying the theme quickly and simply – an art that takes a little time to develop.

4. Choose a Feature Picture

You can also instruct WordPress to display an image in your excerpts with a recently added tool that helps you control the Featured Image. This simple tool allows you to choose an image that will sit at the top of your article. Since images tend to be better at luring readers than text (actually combining the two is best), then having an image that relates to your story will give your new post a good chance at being read.

In order to add a feature image, first find or add a new image and either click the “Use as Feature Image” when adding the image, or go back and pick an image using the right-sidebar menu for the Featured Image and clicking “Set featured image”. For more on adding images, see my previous post here.

Featured Image Menu

5. Edit Your Blog’s Settings

Now that you have a beautifully formatted post you can submit your article and go to your blog’s page to check out how the final article displays. You can always change the location of the Read More tag if you are unsatisfied with summary text, but if you are looking to adjust the length of the blog’s main page even more, you do have another level of formatting to play with.

Depending on your blog’s Theme you should be able to access controls on your Dashboard. Go to “Settings / Reading” in the main menu and look for the “Blog page show at most” section. Adjusting this number will tell your blog’s main page to display only the number of posts you choose. I like to use around five or six so that people get the gist of the last few blogs without being overwhelmed, but there is no hard and fast rule. Plus, many new WordPress themes are incorporating unique designs that may not necessarily need this kind of adjustment.

If you do change the number of posts, be sure to save before checking your work or else the formatting won’t take hold.

Now Go Play!

Now that you have a few controls to help prevent your blog from becoming an endless stream of text, play around with the settings and the Read More tags to see what kind of effects you can create with your post summaries. Also be sure to pay attention to the before and after picture of your site’s statistics. Generally speaking people prefer bite-sized posts so you should see increased activity, but if you are experiencing a loss in readership with the new formatting, you may want to reconsider the changes.

Any questions?

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