Two Mistakes in Optimizing for the WordPress Reader

I was doing it wrong! Here’s a quick guide to optimizing content for audiences who read your content through the WordPress Reader!

I love my WordPress Reader audience.  You’ve lifted my from obscurity to a healthy newbie blog and I thank you.  I’m paying much more attention to the Reader now, and I realize–YIKES.  I’m doing it wrong! Sigh.  Okay, let’s all learn from my mistakes!

My Horrible Warning Example

Here’s what I saw in the Reader. Bleah!  I had crafted a careful excerpt that I thought would go there. I put this kind of “disclaimer” at the top of the post to explain that I’m recommending books in part as an experiment in affiliate marketing. But that is not what the post is about AT ALL.  And it probably turned off some potential readers.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 1.50.25 PM.png
Here’s a link to the post.  It needed to go SOMEWHERE. 🙂

Excerpts: Not What I Thought They Were

By careful examination of my posts in the Reader, I have learned two things

  • WordPress Reader takes the first 200 letters —whatever they areand slams it next to your featured image in the Reader.
  • Excerpts are useful when people visit, because they help guide readers as they scroll through your other posts.   But they’re not going to help you in the Reader.

I’m a wordy witch; this matters to me.  I’ve been trying to use the “Excerpt” option in the Post Settings Sidebar, in my theme (the Entrepreneur).   If your theme supports this (many do),  you can create a very short introduction to what your post is about there.  The Post Settings sidebar is just below the PUBLISH button.  You may find it hidden under MORE OPTIONS.

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I take the opportunity to provide a clear “lede” (opener) in my excerpts.  I want the reader to know what they’re likely to get when they open the post.  My blog is fairly eclectic, with walk-throughs, design advice, and even opinion/musings about blogging and writing.  I want people to know what they’re going to get with today’s post.

A well-written excerpt is an opportunity to set the stage. 

But it doesn’t have to be an actual excerpt. 

A good excerpt:

  • Sets the audience up for what they’re going to read;
  • Manages expectations so that they’re happy and satisfied with what they will get;
  • Encourages people to take a look but come on, keep it honest or risk turning your audience off. For good.

Of but isn’t an excerpt really more of a teaser?  Shouldn’t we be putting in sexy, come-hither material in the excerpt?  

Yes and no.  We have to be careful.  We’re being taught to put in “3 ways to do this” and “five things that”  because people tend to click through that content.  They click through because the post promises to limit the time they have to spend on the material.

This gambit will age as people over-use it (hey, I’m guilty).  We may not be using this in two or three years, but gambits can get old and “click-baity” –therefore tired and bleah.

Some excerpts will drive off some of the audience with over-promising.

Consider GET MASSIVE RETWEETS! with “Hey, guys, I have a few easy tricks for you to encourage your audience to tweet your content!”

Which one has more credibility?   The “massive retweet” excerpt looks like it’s going to be a commercial for some product we can’t afford, of dubious value.   The other one, hey, perhaps some news you can use!

Lesson Learned:  WordPress Reader ENTIRELY ignores your excerpt.  The theme can use it, but it’s not going to reach WordPress Reader audiences unless they actually Visit your site–which most don’t do.

Image Size Matters

I have not been paying attention to image size in the right way.  I’ve been very concerned about making the images look right in my theme, but not in the Reader!

Hence this hellish image, greeting me in the reader this morning.

My jaunty title is completely obscured.  The image should look like this:

Blogging Life

I go through the Reader and notice many examples of this. Optimizing the image for the READER is different from optimizing it for the THEME.  I need to find a happy balance.

I downloaded the picture from Pixabay at 1280 by 1012.  This makes for some nice big images on the feature page. I should’ve used the 640 by 506 image that was available. That would’ve helped some.  But not much in the Reader which rendered the new smaller image like so:

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The smaller, 640 by 506 image, in the Reader

On the “pro” side, the image is legible, readable, but it still cuts off the top with the title.  This is okay in this situation, but I will pay attention to it in future.  I’ve noticed many people put up large quotes that can get cut off both top and bottom!

Here’s a post from the UndeniablySara blog, which I enjoy.  In the Reader it looks like this:

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 2.47.48 PM

I don’t mean to pick on Sara. I’m sure she winces when she sees this great quote chopped up like this. Here’s full image:

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 2.47.17 PM.png

Clearly, the thing to do here would be to crop the top and bottom of this quote.  It’s wasted space and won’t take away anything from the image itself.

Second Lesson Learned:  Look at your content in the WordPress Reader as well as all the other ways (tablet, phone, desktop) that your site will be accessed.  Crop feature images and make sure that the post is readable. 

Thanks for dropping by!    Hope this was helpful.  ~ Lola

Update and a BONUS TIP

When I went to check on this post in the reader, it produced this:

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 3.14.25 PM

How ironic is it that you can see the FULL PICTURE of the example that was cut off in the Reader when I used a smaller image!    This is the vagaries of the way WordPress Reader decides what to publish in your post.  Note that I have a SHORT TEXT up there.

I’m guessing that if you don’t use your entire 200 character limit in that first paragraph, the Reader drags in more of the visual content from your blog to compensate.   Good to know!   Best, Lola









Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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