With all of the competition and distraction on the web, it can be tricky getting (and keeping) people’s attention. Writing a proper excerpt is essential for SEO, and its importance cannot be overstated.
When you post a new article or blog, there’s a piece of writing which carries a lot of SEO weight called an “excerpt.” Like the name suggests, it’s typically a segment pulled from the main body of writing that concisely summarizes the entire article.
One of the most important purposes of an excerpt is that that is what will show just under the title of your article in web searches. This reinforces what we say over and over—the title and excerpt are so very important and will likely be the difference between being discovered or not. That’s right—not even read, but simply found online.
Just answer the question
Search engines attempt to answer users’ questions as directly and accurately as they can and tend to favor articles that basically answer the query right there in the headline or excerpt…which is why excerpts and titles are so critical.
Try to place yourself in the mind of the user—what questions would you ask? Try rephrasing it over and over to see what variations you come up with. If you can answer it in a sentence or two that contains your keywords, that’s solid gold.
Character count counts
Excerpts should be between 120-160 characters, no more and no less. As far as SEO goes, this is the sweet spot. Be sure to check the character count and stay within those parameters if possible.
Excerpts also need to be interesting—it may be the only thing the reader will read unless it hooks them in. The whole purpose of copywriting is to get the reader to read the next sentence, and if the excerpt doesn’t hook them, they won’t bother with the main body of text.
Now, you may worry that you aren’t a necessarily clever writer or that you have to come up with some ridiculous click-bait writing, but here’s the real secret: all the excerpt has to do is answer the question they’re asking and hint at the greater details that await them if they’ll just open the article and continue. That’s the magic!!
Search engines respect and promote the keywords and the straight answer, the reader sees that the question that they’re asking is being answered as closely as possible in their search results, and you just wrote an article that got discovered.
Often, though not always, the excerpt is an exact copy of the first subheader—the one just under the title of the article. I use that a lot in my writing, since subheaders also carry a lot of weight in SEO and serve a similar function of summarizing the text that follows. A bit more than half of the time I’ll take inspiration from the first subheader but then tweak it as necessary; shorten or lengthen it or try to jazz it up a little.
Where does it go?
When you post a blog in WordPress or other site builders, there’s a spot to enter your own excerpt. Doing this tells google and other search engines what you would like for your excerpt and they will place it right under the title in their search results.
If you skip this step, an excerpt will still appear, but will be chosen by the search engine based on whatever comes immediately after the title of the piece (this all depends on standard heading structure, of course, since the search engines make assumptions based on it).
It’s so hard to get clients in the door that we need to use every tool at our disposal. Writing a proper excerpt is not only necessary, it’s absolutely essential, and its importance cannot be overstated. Yet that doesn’t mean that it needs to be some elusive and impossible task. Just follow the above recommendations and practice writing a couple of versions and soon you’ll be generating excerpts like a master.
Matthew Ogden is a Minneapolis-based copywriter and content writer and editor. He’s written for national retailers and lobster roll companies alike. When not writing he can be found nose deep in a book, writing and performing music, or nerding out about guitar tone.