Make Your Sidebar Sing
I want you to know that I did research many problogger opinions on what is necessary to include in a successful site’s sidebar. Agreeing with some and disagreeing with others, my own opinion is there are 5 (my magic #) sections that should be present in almost every blog’s sidebar. Of course this is highly subjective. But I do give probloggers some credence because they test, analyze, and tweak practically every link for it’s effectiveness. So let’s dive in.
The purpose of the sidebar is to 1. invite visitors to stay longer 2. give more information about you 3. provide a big-picture glimpse of your blog. Your job is to decide what is important to you and what you want your readers to do next. The sidebar is a hierarchy with the most important actions at the top to the least at the bottom.
- Subscribe box
This would have visitors subscribing to your blog’s RSS feed or updates sent to their email (or a combination). The best subscriptions go to their email. RSS readers have to be checked for updates. This takes more effort and many times isn’t read at all. Everyone checks their email. Thus a better way to reach subscribers.
- Social media buttons
Once readers leave your site and if they didn’t subscribe to your updates, these buttons will be just about the only way for you to continue communicating with them. Hopefully you have accounts with twitter and facebook to add these to your sidebar.
- Popular posts
I just added this widget this week. This one is specifically designed to show visitors your best posts in order to keep them on the site longer. It also gives them a good feel for your blog. I like this better than recent posts because readers can already see your recent posts on the home page. I wouldn’t want recent posts taking up valuable site real estate. It’s just repetitive.
An About box should be high on the sidebar. Its purpose is to quickly tell the reader what they will find in your blog and what to expect more of. There should also be a picture of you the writer, not your dog.
- Search the blog
This widget is likely the least important of the five. I don’t think I have ever used it except on my own blog. The theory is people who show up to your blog because of a google search will use this box to see what information you have on a topic they are interested in. Some bloggers think this feature is so important that they place it in their header. For me, I send it to the bottom of the sidebar.
I won’t go into what to leave off the sidebar. But I will suggest to be minimalistic. Minimize for optimal effect. The more stuff you add the more it waters down what is important. You don’t want to overwhelm the reader. Or they won’t do anything. Make your blog serenade your visitors not shout at them.
Does your sidebar sing or scream?