Our blog content is what brings our readers to us closer but a blog’s sidebar definitely has its part to play as it display useful and important information. It’s part of human nature to want more stuff and our blog’s sidebar is one place where we always stuff as many information as possible for our readers. Having a widget ready sidebar in our theme can be a breeze but it also can make our blog look cluttered and untidy if we put too much information in it.
Even though i am in the blogging niche, you can see on the sidebar i have various categories on blogging, SEO, social media, weekly roundup, traffic report etc. There was originally a total of 13 categories and i deleted three of them due to the suggestion of Steve Roy in a post he had written.
After doing that, i started to think about whether my sidebar has too much stuff and does it distract readers from focusing their eyeballs on the content.
What can you put on your sidebars?
There are lots of items you can insert in your sidebar and below are the ones i can think of.
- Social buttons
- Subscription Form and buttons
- Email opt in list box
- About page
- Search box
- Facebook fan page
- Recent post
- Recent comments
- Most popular/commented post
- Tag cloud
- Donation buttons
Of course i cannot cover all but i guess these are the most common ones you can find in a blog’s sidebar. There are also plugins such as “Top Commentators” that you can put on the sidebar. Do you put them all in? Of course not, nobody will ever do that unless you decide to quit blogging.
What is the main purpose of a blog’s sidebar?
Before you decide what widgets you want, you need to understand why you need a sidebar, in other word what is its main purpose. Your headline and content is the one that attracts people to stay in your blog, then the purpose of a sidebar is to make them stay longer. It should be able to help you to attract more pageviews as well as display some important information to let your readers understand what your blog is all about.
You can also use it to monetize your blog where you can put some ads there. The most common ads space is the 125 X 125 ads banner. The options you can use in your blog’s sidebar is limitless.
What Items should you put on your Sidebar?
It depends. You got to judge by yourself which is your priority.
Is connection and engagement with your readers your priority?
Then you may want to show your social profiles button above the fold which people can find easily.
Are you selling ads space in your blog?
Then your ads banner need to high up so that the conversion which leads to sale is higher.
There you can see, it really depends on you. The higher your ads banner is, your earning may be higher but at the same time you are sending people earlier to leave your site. No matter which niche you are in, i always prefer to see these four items on a blog’s sidebar when i visit a blog.
Four essential items your readers should see
There are so many choices for your sidebar but there are four which you must have in your blog.
1. Subscription option
Be it a list or feedburner subscription. You need to provide options for people to subscribe if you want loyal readers.
2. Social profile button
Twitter, Facebook, the latest Google +, Linklein or any other social networks you are in, these are the place where people can find you and networking with you.
3. Most popular post
Your most popular content don’t have to hide under the archives. You need to dig them out and put them in front of your readers.
4. Search box
There are times when people know the content comes from your blog but they are not willing to explore the archives and look for them. This is when your search box comes in handy.
Your sidebar widgets should not be permanent
We get confuse sometimes when we are given too much choices. Whatever you put on your sidebar, you have your reasons for doing that but your sidebar widgets should not be permanent. I took down the recent comments widget today due to the suggestion of Steve Roy. Recent comments widget is to encourage interaction. Come to think of it, i no long require this since i have installed the Reply Me plugin which sent an email directly when i reply to the comment.
I have also changed my “WordPress Popular Post Tool” plugin to “WordPress Popular Tool” Plugin. The difference is the former classify posts with post comments as most popular post. The latter gives more option as you can select based on pageviews and comments too.
Most commented ≠ Most popular
Some of your post may have lots of comments but it may not attract any pageviews from your visitors. Take a look at this in-page analytics from Google.
From the image, you can see only two post attracts some clicks for the past one month. They are not the post that attract the most pageviews. In other words, not too many people are interested to read the rest of the post even they attract a lot of comments. I will try the other plugin but it will take some time to capture the pageview data, starting from the date when it’s installed. I will definitely update you on this if i see any difference.
There are plenty of choices for us when we are inserting widgets in our sidebar. We have to restrict ourselves from going overboard and try to keep things as simple as possible. Consider each sidebar widget carefully whether you require them and make sure it’s helpful to you.
What are your thoughts about your blog sidebar?
Which widgets do you think is essential in a blog’s sidebar?
Please share your experiences with us.
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