To “Read More” or Not To “Read More”?

Mouse Click

By that, I mean the use of the More tag that truncates your blog post and in place put a “Read More” link for your readers to click to read the rest.

Is that a good practice? for you? for your readers?

I have been thinking about this ever since I started blogging, then today I found some fellow bloggers were discussing this very topic in WordPress forum. Some of my feelings were echoed there. Some were not. I decided instead of posting in the forum I will write down my thoughts in a post here.

There are two types of readers: those who have been reading your site and those who’s come here for the first time. Among those who’ve been reading, some of them read from an RSS reader and some visit the website every time. New visitors, obviously, are always reading at your website when they come for the first time.

  • Regular feed readers
    They don’t like the Read More link as it requires them to wait and load the web page to read. If all your readers are feed readers then you don’t want to use More tag at all. Getting the whole post right in front of their eyes makes them more likely to read the whole thing. It increases the readership, even if it means one less hit to your web site.
  • Regular web readers
    You don’t want to use the More tag on them either. Similar to the feed readers, they are already regularly visiting and they most of the time are just looking for new posts at the top. You want to make things easier for them, so they will read as much as possible. One less click is a couple seconds less wait time. Treat your regular readers well.
  • First-time web visitors
    This is where the issue becomes interesting. Do you get more readership out of a visitor when he has to hit page down 5 times just to see the next headline (then lose the patience after 10 keystrokes)? or do you get more when he sees 1-2 headlines per page, quickly finishes scanning all of your headlines on the front page before picking the ones he likes to click on?

    Ask yourself. When you are a visitor to a website for the first time, do you hit page down to scan the headlines first to see what this site has in store? I do and I think most people do too. I scan the headline quickly then decide which one, if any, to read. I hate having to scroll down and down and down and still can’t see the next headline. Sometimes I just lose the patience and don’t want to scroll any more.

With all those being said, they are not the deciding factors (they are considerations).

The deciding factor should be, in my opinion, based on what your last 10 posts are as of the moment, what portions of each one do you choose to be on the front page?

  • If a post has a very compelling first paragraphs, cut at the best place, even if it’s not particularly long. Do it especially if the rest of post might not be as grabbing as the beginning. Don’t deter visitors with the length. People are more likely to read when it looks short.
  • If a post don’t happen to have a compelling beginning, but gets to the best part midway or in the end, then leave the whole post on (unless it’s miles and miles long). Maximize the likelyhood of engaging your readers per square feet of your real estate. :)
  • If a post is about a niche topic that draws only a certain crowd (like my Dancing with the Stars posts), try not to put the whole post on. People who don’t watch the show have no use for them. You should make it easy for them to skip and move on to things that have a better chance capturing their attention.

Do these make sense to you?

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13 responses to “To “Read More” or Not To “Read More”?

  1. As a first time reader and user of wordpress, I have to say that when i’m scrolling around for a juicy blog to read, I look at the title and the first few lines.

    I have to say…i had something brilliant to say, but then I noticed you CUTE LITTLE KITTIES, and it just went down the drain. They are so adorable.

  2. haha shall i blame my cats (yes they are cats now) for that?

    “juicy”, hmmm, i hope my blog is juicy enough for ya ;-)

  3. I’ve dabbled in the past with the Read More and just don’t care for it. My posts also had less readers when I did that. What surprises me now is that my new layout shows an excerpt from today’s post alongside three excerpts from my writing categories. My posts are getting read AND my story archives are also getting read. I actually expected to get less reading of my posts.

  4. As you just posted to the thread in question you are aware that we just had a lively interchange on this same topic in the off-topic forum. :)

    Here’s a summary of what I said there. I think it’s entirely appropriate to use the tag on long posts. That is, of course, provided that you have a blog backup plan in place so, you do have copies of the entire posts on hand in case of disaster. Disaster Planning: Backups for Bloggers

    But here’s a word to the wise about truncating every post by using a tag. It’s used as a prevention tactic when it comes to blog scrapers. It’s also used by the obsessive bloggers who do all kinds of gray area dubious things to inflate their stats. I’ve experimented with this and what it does is drive readers away. They get peeved about having to click through every time to read the whole post and they desert your blog.

    Also if you are using rss feeds to backup your blog, then note that the wherever tag is inserted and/or when “summary feeds” are selected rather than “full” feeds you are not going to get whole posts.

  5. i think there’s an exception when readers don’t mind clicking more – when they see a substantial number of comments in the post. they are more likely to click on the more button to read the rest of the post to see what’s so interesting that it garnered so many comments! also they get to read the comments in that one click, so it’s like killing two birds with one click. ;)

  6. Jayne, my category page is like that too, showing only excerpts. I think a good title and first paragraphs go a long way and lengthy text intimidates people sometimes…

    timethief, i don’t know if I would sacrifice the use of More tag (assuming I need to use them from time to time) solely for the sake of disaster backup. After all, you post every day but disaster only happens in rare occasion, if at all. It’d be kind of like sacrificing your daily activity all the time just in case earthquake strikes on that day. :) But I do get the idea of what you’re saying and i think your post of Disaster Planning is really informative… Offline editor is probably the best way to go for it…

    sulz, good point, i could see myself doing that… :)

  7. I raised two cautions about the use of the tag above quite aside from the disaster planning scenario.

    Here’s a third one. There are other problems with the use of the tag that arise when those using the tag do not know the ins and outs of html coding.

    If you insert the tag between other tags like the italic tag, etc. without closing the tags or if you have not used self closing tags big troubles follow. We do have reports of this on the forum and you can find them in the search box.

    I’m currently only using the tag only on long posts and I’m vigilant about the surrounding html coding when I do so.

    Best wishes :)

  8. Very informative post, and very informative comments. I still don’t know what to do! I’m going to read more on the subject. My posts are usually very long. It sounds like I may need to tag them. Always learning something new on WP. Thanks for posting this!

  9. i think having a long story at the top has its reward being people almost must glimpse at it, but the downside would be if they are not interested they’d have to scroll alot… so it really depends on if the story is the catchy kind or not…

    here’s what i like to do sometimes: the top story, make it whole; as soon as it gets off the top, truncate it (if it’s long)… this way you only have one long post which is the newest… :-D

  10. In the end, I think it is going to be a matter of personal choice and what you think works best for you or your readers.
    Every blog and blogger is a bit different. That is what makes them interesting.

  11. well said, you’re absolutely right…

  12. Great advice. I think I’m going to go with James’ advice, as it’s the easiest solution for the technically impaired/ long-winded blogger!

  13. hm… I use “read more” on almost all my blogs because I tend to post long articles and also want to be able to display excerpts of a few of my recent articles without the reader having to hit “previous page” multiple times. However, I’ll try a one-or-two article(s) per page display and see if that makes a difference, just as an experiment.

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