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Why I like using the Extended field

On Movable Type's Edit Entry (and MT4's Edit Page) screen you can find a variety of fields you can fill in to build your entry: Title, Categories, Tags, Publish Date, Body, and Extended are but a few of them. Using these fields to their potential can help you have a better blog.

When writing an entry in Movable Type, I like to use the Extended field -- in addition to the Body field -- to hold my text. There are several reasons to split your entry between these two fields.

First off, if you don't see the Extended field you'll need to enable it. With version 3.x of Movable Type, add or edit an entry. At the bottom of that page click "Customize the display of this page." You may need to select the Custom option in the Editor Fields section, then put a checkmark next to the Extended Entry text. While you're there, choose the Both option for the Action Bar -- it's a time-saver. Save. The page will re-load and you'll see the Extended field below the Body field. In MT4, the Extended field is always available.

Now you can see the Extended field, but why would you want to use it?

  • On your Main Index (your blog's home page), you can display just the Entry Body with a link to the rest of the story on the Indiviual Entry Archive page ("Continue reading..."). Keeping the display on the Main Index short lets your site's visitor quickly shuffle through your latest posts to decide what they want to read.
  • By encouraging your site's visitors to click through to read an entry you are getting them to see more of your site. That becomes another opportunity for you to show them something else they might be interested in: a list of categories on your blog, recent comments, or advertising, for example.
  • Separating your post into the Entry Body and Extended fields makes it easy to selectively format an entry with some simple CSS.
  • Visitors who want to read an entire post will have to go to that entry's Individual Entry Archive page. That results in a more accurate set of statistics about your site because you can see how many people went to a specific page, which can serve as an indicator of where your reader's interests lie. For example, if you start to see that pages about red widgets receive more page views than pages about blue widgets, you can assume your audience prefers red widgets and you can focus your future entries on red widgets. (Side note: not using any tools to watch site statistics? My favorite is Mint, though there are many other options, such as Google Analytics.)

On the other hand, the Main Index holds many of the latest entries on your blog. Everybody reads something on that page, but you can't tell what was most-liked or most-read.

Once you've started using the Extended field to pull your readers further into you blog and started to see some patterns, you can take steps to monetize through advertising:

  • Once you know your visitors prefer red widgets, you can tailor your site to them more. As you cover more topics about red widgets, you'll increase your site's traffic because of the clear focus it has. Similarly that clear focus should result in more specific advertising, which is obviously more profitable!
  • By using both the Entry Body and Extended fields, it's easy to place an ad in the middle of the Individual Entry Archive page. That position may or may not be worthwhile, but it's nice that it's such an easy option.

Oh yeah: actually using the Extended field is easy -- just type in it, the same as the Entry Body. When publishing, a "Continue reading..." link will automatically be added after your Entry Body on the Main Index of your site. Individual Entry Archives will display both the Entry Body and Extended Entry with no further work from you, too. (If you're using the default templates, that is. If you've customized your templates, some more work may be required.

Comments (3)

Hi Dan,
I totally agree. With the extended field you can show several entries on your main page without having a super long main page.

Hi Dan,

Thanks so much! I was looking for this feature, and I'm so glad it was further discussed and described here.

Kent:

I found this information very enlightening... thank you Dan.

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