Everyone focuses on headlines. Optimize the headline! Make it enticing! Make it SEO friendly! But what often gets me to click is actually the excerpt. A short snappy excerpt will give me an idea of what the article is about.
The excerpt in a blog post is like the subtitle in a book. The title of the book can be clever, but usually short. The subtitle will often give you more of a hint about the contents.
Nat Eliason has the most interesting excerpts. He keeps them really short. I read the excerpt and think, “oh, i’d like to read that.” Here’s a screenshot of his blog homepage:
That’s how excerpts should really work. Instead, we all get lazy and leave the excerpt to be the first 200 characters of the body. Most times a sentence will get chopped off, leaving you wonder what’s in the rest of the sentence. As if that makes someone actually click through. In reality, cutting a sentence in a random spot is probably more annoying than enticing.
I pulled a bunch of his headlines and excerpts. Thankfully his RSS feed has 100 items, a very good sample size.
Here are the five shortest excerpts of the 100:
- The Problem with Retirement Funds
Why get rich slowly?
- How I Spend 5 Minutes Per Day on Email
I don’t “do” email anymore.
- I Stopped Using Shampoo, and No One Can Tell the Difference
Not even my mom could tell!
- The Founder Trap
What happens when the wrong thing works?
- Unqualified Experts: 5 Rules for When to Ignore Authority
I’ve resisted sharing this for a while…
These excerpts pack a second punch.