WordPress gives you a couple different options if you want to display a shortened version of a post on your website. The Read More Tag and Post Excerpt both look really similar, and both serve essentially the same purpose. So what’s the difference? Is there a reason you ought to be using one over the other? When and why? We’ll answer those questions and give you a full comparison of the two below!
Why Use Either?
Good question. Two good answers. First and most importantly, page load times. A page loading with a series of abbreviated teasers is going to load much more quickly than a page of full length posts, especially when those posts are long or filled with images or video. Long page load times are more than just an annoyance to users: it hurts bottom line. 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, and 79% of customers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to do business on that website again.
The second reason is page views. For one, with abbreviated teasers there’s more content to a page, which means the guest is more likely to see a post that catches their eye. In addition to that though, every click through to the post from the abbreviated teaser adds a page view on your site, boosting your SEO.
Post Excerpts require a little tinkering to set up, but don’t let that dissuade you. First, in the Post Editing screen, click screen options and enable Excerpts.
This will open the Excerpt box right below the post content:
Whatever you want to display as your excerpt, enter it into that box. If you enter nothing into the box, WordPress will take the first 55 characters of your post as your excerpt. We’re not done quite yet, though.
You’ve given WordPress an excerpt to use, but you still have to tell WordPress to use it. Head to your child theme folder. Exactly which file you need may vary by theme, but you’re looking for the_content() inside php tags: <?php the_content() ?>. In the Twentyfifteen theme, it’s inside content.php and looks like so:
Just replace the_content() with the_excerpt(), save the file, and boom. You’re displaying excerpts instead of full posts.
The Read More Tag
The Read More tag is a cinch to use. You can find it in the toolbar above the post content box (see pic below), and when you click it, it inserts a dashed —–MORE—– line into the post wherever your mouse cursor was placed. You can move the line by simply dragging it with your mouse, and anywhere that post is displayed, your readers will only see the text above that line followed by a “Continue Reading” button.
The Pros and Cons
There are upsides and downsides to each feature even though they appear remarkably similar. Let’s take a look at each.
- One-time setup
- If you forget to add an excerpt, WordPress does it for you
- You can completely customize excerpt text
- Becomes the default for every single post whether you want it to be or not
- Requires editing code
- Post Excerpts are theme dependent. If your theme does not use the_excerpt tag, you’re not using excerpts.
- Plain text display only, no images
Read More Tag
- Doesn’t require code edits to work
- Easy drag and drop method of selecting text to display
- Have to remember to use for each post
- Cannot enter custom text to display
And there you have it. Both methods have upsides and downsides, but each are very similar in function. It really just comes down to how bad you don’t want to fool with editing code. If you’re comfortable making minor code edits and you don’t want to fool with remembering to use the Read More Tag every post, use Post Excerpt. If you feel the opposite, use the Read More Tag. One way or the other, if you have any questions feel free to fire them off in the comments, and happy WordPressing!