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Why and how to use excerpts on your blog index page

A common mistake I see photographers doing on their site is: not using excerpts on the blog index page.

If you’re not sure what that means, I owe you some definitions:

  • The blog index page is a site’s main blog page (not the homepage), which lists out individual blog posts one after the other.
  • Excerpts are small snippets of blog posts (sometimes just the post title).

This happens when you choose to display blog posts in their entirety on the blog index page, one below the other.

So when you reach the Blog page, you can’t really choose which blog post to see; you’re just stuck in an endless array of images from the first post.


The problems with listing out blog post entirely:

1. Bad user experience

Some visitors might become mesmerized the quality of your images and sit for a full hour scrolling down the page. But most people won’t do that!

Instead, they’re looking for quick ways to navigate around the site, to find something they’re interested in. Allowing them to quickly choose a blog post to read is important.

2. Website performance goes down the drain

Such a long blog page is obviously tough to load for any browser/device. Testing tools confirm this: here & here.



3. Bad for SEO
As you already know, Google ranks websites not only based on the page’s SEO title and meta-description. Instead, Google looks at the page load speed, at how users interact with the page and so on. So the top 2 points above, in turn, greatly affect SEO too.

Better layouts for the blog page

Let’s explore ways to solve the issue and improve the blog index page:


1. List

You can keep your regular blog layout, but just allow small excerpts of each post to be shown (followed by a “Read More” link that leads to the full post). That way, browsers don’t have to load the full content for every post on the main blog page.

Excerpts are basically like small teasers of the full articles.

Here are a few examples of such a blog page:

If using WordPress, those “Continue reading” or “Read more” links use something called “More Tags”. Details and examples of how to use them in WordPress can be found here. If using Squarespace, here’s the support page with instructions for using blog excerpts. 

2. Grid

Many themes have the option to display blog posts in a grid layout. I’ve worked with a photographer who had a similar problem to what I describe at the beginning of this article. After tweaking his WordPress theme options, his site’s blog page was greatly simplified:


This type of grid layout is similar to a regular gallery page, so “browsing familiarity” is there. 

3. Masonry layout / Justified-grid

I am a big fan of more creative layouts for blog index page. A blog page like this is easy to use, and also easy on the eyes :-)


Notice that the photographer didn’t let the page become too long (with too many blog post “boxes”) and introduced a limit per page, thus requiring pagination at the end. This is important for page performance. 

P.S. This site also takes advantage of large displays: the blog post “boxes” enlarge and re-arrange themselves on larger screens to occupy the full width of the browser window!


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