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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cut Off at the Knees: Truncated Posts

Do you cut your blog posts off at the knees? Truncating is when you force the blog to show only the first few lines of a post on a reader or RSS feed.

If you do, chances are good I probably miss your posts regularly.

As far as I know there are only two reasons to truncate your posts.

• you might be trying to prevent robots from scraping your content. (Though if you think about it, if some automaton did want your content, all they'd have to do is go to your blog and take it.)

• you want to force people to physically visit your blog.

If you say something in those first few lines that compels me to comment, I'll pop in, but I won't do it just to read a post. On any given hour, I have a hundred other blogs to check out first.

There was a very good group blog I used to follow, but they truncated their posts both on Google Reader and even email. So I contacted the blog owner and asked them why they did that. She never answered.

She then posted a Q&A on the blog and I asked that question again. Once more, she ignored me. For all I know maybe I was missing the larger issue and I was very curious. But since she never answered, I have to assume there was some ulterior motive involved. As much as I liked the blog, I didn't want to be manipulated, so I took it off my reader. 

If you do feel you must truncate your posts, here are some tips to ensure click-through.

• get to the point. If it takes you a while to say something meaningful, you're probably losing readers.

• use sparkling action verbs to draw attention. 

• have a good headline

• use strong SEO keywords so at least the bots will think the post is important.


Am I missing the point of truncated posts? Are there other good reasons to truncate? I'd really like to know. Readers: Do you regularly click through to read truncated posts or do those first few lines have to wow you?

*** 

Homestead Update: The grasshoppers are winning. Now I know why they're considered a plague. I read somewhere that I can dust my plants with flour and it'll gum up their mouths. I might try that on my strawberries. They're getting hit the hardest.


Writing Update: First round edits for Mistress of the Stone are done! I want to read it one more time before I send it back. Easiest-peasiest edit ever.


Monday: Guest Blogger, Tank will be taking the podium.


33 comments:

Victoria Snelling said...

When I'm looking at the really long list of blogs that I read I prefer truncated posts so I can scan through and easily pick out the ones I want to read properly.

So, I truncate my posts because that's how everyone wants to do it, no? :-)

I've just switched my blog to Wordpress from Blogger but I'm keeping Blogger as my reader because Wordpress insists on showing me whole posts and that feels too overwhelming and like I might miss something I really want to read.

My rather rambly point is that most of us don't think too hard about these things and fall into the trap of assuming everyone shares our preferences. Or maybe some bloggers don't realise they can choose.

Maria Zannini said...

Victoria: I've got nearly 900 blogs on my Reader. (I don't use Blogger's GFC)

The problem I face is that most people don't start off with a scintillating first paragraph, so if they truncate and that's all I see, they're unlikely to lure me in.

Also, even though it's one click, multiply that by a couple of hundred new posts every eight hours and that takes too much time out of my day. I prefer to scan the post at my leisure and click through only if I want to comment.

Thanks for sharing your reasons though, and thanks for stopping by. I feel enlightened. :)

Angelina Rain said...

I don't think that I truncate my posts, but since I don't know what that is, I'm really not sure if I do it or not.

I don't have that many blogs to go through, and half the time I'm pressed for time so I only read the ones with a cool title or a cool graphic or if I know the blogger will entertain me or offer me something of value. Otherwise, I skip. I also tend to skip the really long posts unless if they really grab my attention.

Mike Keyton said...

I'm with Angelina - I think. I don't have the savvy to truncate - or untruncate if it's being done for me.

Looking forward to Monday - unless Tank truncates : )

Sarah Ahiers said...

YAY!! I can't wait to see Tank's post!
I have a friend who truncates his post but he has a specific reason. It's a group blog, him and two others, but he's the main blogger. And every once in a while he or one of the other's would accidentally post on the same day someone else posted, which would bump their post below the new one. And since their blog posts are long (comic reviews, etc) people would miss the other new post. And because they use a lot of pictures, it would take a long time for the page to load. So truncating the posts meant people wouldn't miss any new posts if they don't use a feed and it also let the blog load A LOT faster.

Dee said...

Maria, I hate the truncated posts, too, and I almost never click through to read them. You're right, it takes an awesome start for me to bother going on.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: Your posts aren't truncated. :)

I'm with you. If it's a catchy title, I will read just to figure out why they used it.

***

Mike: I believe it's an option when you set up the modifiers on your blog. Never having been interested in it, I never checked it out.

Ref: Tank
I only want to truncate Tank when he pushes me out of bed.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Now this is a very good reason to truncate. I forgot about the group blogs that post several times a day. It still relies heavily on how persuasive you are in under five lines, but that's the blogger's problem.

Now that you mention it, I do follow a graphic design blog that is picture and text heavy. I wish they truncated. It takes forever to move on to the next post when it pops into my Reader.

***
Dee: Agreed. I don't want to take extra steps just to read something. If you want to be read, post it. Otherwise you take your chances getting skipped.

If it's like Sarah said, a blog that posts several times a day with lots of pictures, truncating could be a mercy, but most of us aren't in that boat.

Anna Soliveres said...

Maria,

Great topic. I recently switched my blog from standard view to Dynamic view (this may be a different topic altogether). But basically you can look at my blog and see a more interactive way to connect/read/review past posts. I decided to go this route because I have such a mix of content, from very personal posts to writing specific topics.

Would love to get your thoughts on using the dynamic view on blogger.

Cheers,
Anna Soliveres

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Great post, Maria. Yu certaibnly got me thinking... But I think I'm in the camp which prefers the truncated posts. I pick and choose as I have not the time to read ALL of them every week. I do try to get to all over time, though...

Marianne Arkins said...

When folks truncate their posts, I feel as thought they're forcing me to visit. I don't like being forced to do anything. I've unfollowed some of my favorite blogs because they truncate. In fact, I think I only follow one now who does, and I seldom read her posts.

I'd rather page down to read than be forced to click.

Rebekah Loper said...

I only do it when I have an insanely long post that will more than fill up the screen (usually 2 or 3 times) when you actually read it on my blog, not in an RSS.

Most of the time I prefer the full post all at once, but even in RSS, if someone has a really long blog, it can take FOREVER to scroll to the next one. When you lose interest a third of the way through, it's annoying to have to keep scrolling through it, versus just closing a tab or window.

Most posts I don't truncate, though :).

Maria Zannini said...

Anna: I've heard of Dynamic Views, but I've never tried it. I go under the assumption people just come here to leave a comment and don't often wander about for other information. But I can see it's benefits for a marketplace. I'll check out your blog later today when I take my next break.

***
Pat: All things being equal, I'd love to scan the first three lines of a post, but I'm lazy. If it's not in front of me, I won't look for it.

***
Marianne: I'm glad I'm not the only one who views it this way. Internet content is public, but I'm not going to go out of my way to find it. There are too many other places to read without extra clicks.

***
Rebekah: Long posts worry me. I think people's eyes start to glaze over when it gets too long. On the few occasions I've had extra long posts, I've broken them up into easy-to-read bites. This was especially useful when I ran the Killer Campaign series. It seemed to encourage readers to come back and read the next installment.

Raelyn Barclay said...

I'm mostly in the same camp as you Maria. During my spring cleaning of my reader, it was the truncated blogs that were the first to go with just a few exceptions. I wasn't clicking through so they were just stressing me out, LOL, and I don't have nearly as many to go through as you. After reading some of these comments, I can see the point of group blogs and/or heavily graphic blogs truncating.

Interesting subject.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I tend to skip over truncated posts, too. If it's not worth their time to show the whole blog, it's not worth mine to click and read more. Besides, I like the shorter blogs better anyway (I really try to keep mine under 400 words) and tend to skip anything that's lengthy. I just don't have the time!

Angela Brown said...

I don't truncate my posts, at least I hope I haven't hit the wrong button somewhere that does that. I've seen a blogger that does the truncating thing but I just go to her blog most times anyway from my blog roll. I have seen another blogger use the truncating but she does so with purpose. The last time she did it, it was because she was sharing her thoughts on a trilogy and truncating gave her the option to tell readers up front that there were spoilers. That, I can see, is a good reason to truncate.

Darn those grasshoppers. They must be close relatives of locusts. Hope the flour works for you. Strawberries are some tempting fruit for the buggers, though :-)

So can't wait for the next book. Well, I have to wait, so I will, but I'm so excited!!

Krista D. Ball said...

Whenever I want Maria to see one of my posts in her Google Reader (she's mentioned before that she uses it), I use the word "corgi" in the title. She has yet to miss a corgi photo ;)

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: This blog post came up because of some spring cleaning on my Reader. I was in one of those moods where I felt I needed to trim the dead weight. And just like you found, the truncated posts were some of the first to go.

Stacy: I wish I could hit the 400 word mark. I try for 500. More than that and I think people's eyes glaze over.

Angela: I can't remember if it was Blogger or WordPress that has a nifty feature to hide the spoilers. Must be WP. It only hides the spoilery parts.

Krista: GUILTY!!!
You've discovered my secret. LOL.

Jenny Schwartz said...

I'll admit my guilty secret. I read blogs in Google Reader and a truncated post has to be exceptionally intriguing for me to click through to read it. I prefer to read an entire post in Google Reader -- so clear and easy -- and then click through to leave a comment or share the post on Twitter.

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: That's me exactly! I am married to Google Reader. If it's not on the Reader, then it doesn't exist. On occasion I'll do the emailed RSS feeds, but I get so much mail I try not to clog my inbox with more if I can help it.

Melissa McClone said...

I have no idea about the truncated post and why people do that. I don't do it on my blog because I don't see the point and I couldn't figure out how to do it if I wanted to. LOL!

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I read in your first comment that you read 900 blogs. Holy cow! How do you even have a house, let alone a garden and animals?

Grasshoppers with gummed up mouths made me laugh.

Shelley Munro said...

I'm on the team that prefers no truncated posts. I don't like the extra clicking. There aren't enough hours in the day as it is.

Those grasshoppers sound like a real problem. We don't have them over here. We have white aphids, but I just pick the herbs or lettuce and wash it well and get rid of them. Is there any sort of companion planting that would put them off or do they eat everything? A flower like marigolds mixed with the vegetables sometimes helps with pests.

I look forward to hearing Tank's wisdom.

Dru said...

This is the first time I'm hearing of truncated blogs. How do you do that anyway.

Like you, my time is precious especially reading all the blogs that I do read, so it's better if I can read it all in my Google reader before commenting.

How are things with you? I hope all is good.

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: I imagine it would require extraordinary circumstances. I wouldn't want to do it for a normal blog.

Barbara: Not everyone posts at once. I usually scan about 200 blogs every 6-8 hours. If they're interesting, I bookmark the post. If it compels me to comment, I visit. The rest I read and delete.

Shelley: There are some plants grasshoppers don't like but I have my gardens spread over an acre, not counting the potted plants. They seem to be born and grow up right around my the brick of my house which is how I've been picking them off. But now they're getting big and can escape me easier.

Dru: Things are better. I hope I've turned the corner. Thanks for asking.

As for how to truncate, I believe there's an option under settings that allows you to truncate. I've never used it, but I've seen it.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I need to see an interesting first few lines to keep reading whether the posts are truncated or not.
Can't wait to hear if the flour on strawberries works.

Nadja Notariani said...

I don't care for truncated posts either, and for the same reason. I read the post and then decide whether I have something to reply. I don't go to the blog until I've made that decision.

As for your grasshoppers...Oh, my! I've heard they can be just awful. Never heard of the flour bit, but it couldn't hurt to try it.
Maybe your chickens would feast around on them...can you free range them in the afternoon or something? I don't know how big your strawberry patch is, but could you cover them with mesh, or do you have too many? It breaks my heart to think of your crop ruined!!

I read somewhere that when they swarm, they lay eggs in the soil - so you will have trouble the next year also. There's got to be someway to kill them without harming your soil/plants...right? Oy!

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: Unlike the commercial stuff it'll probably take me a while to see results, but I'll let everyone know if it works in a few days--I hope. :)


Nadja: Last year the chickens free ranged. Grasshoppers (and scorpions) were fewer, but the chickens didn't discriminate between meat and vegetables. What the drought didn't take, the chickens finished off. Bad chicken children.

Shirley Wells said...

I'm reading backwards so I've already seen Tank's guest post. Very good it was too. :)

I hate truncated posts and I feel the blog owners are trying to force me to visit. *But* since I swapped platforms, I have to offer truncated posts on my main blog page. I can direct people via FB or Twitter to the 'real' page but if people visit the blog's home page, they see the truncated posts. I'm thinking of moving to Wordpress in the summer so I may change my system yet again. :)

Maria Zannini said...

I'm hesitant to move my blog to WordPress. I've spent too long at this address.

I thought you used a Blogger platform, but it looks as if it's on your own domain. There must be an option that lets you opt out of truncated posts. I've never seen one yet that forces you to truncate.

Margie said...

WordPress.com gives you the option to truncate posts (or not) in your RSS feed. Within the Theme options themselves, some Themes use truncated posts on the home page, and some don't.
I think some bloggers choose truncated posts because it makes their view stats look better if someone reads a post at their site rather than in the reader.

Maria Zannini said...

Margie: That's exactly my point. I don't want to be forced to click through just to give someone an extra bean in their counter. Either they want to share content or don't. Subtle manipulation has never sat well with me.

thanks for stopping by, Margie!

Kourtenay said...

I just read that some bloggers are doing more truncated posts to help prevent unethical sites from stealing posts (word for word in many cases) and posting it as their own work.
I still haven't figured out how this is accomplished..yet.