Have you ever wondered what to put in the sidebar of your blog? It seems like prime real estate, right?
A quick reminder about that sidebar. Most of us bloggers work on our computers, right? When we’re thinking about how our blog looks or how a post reads, we’re thinking in that frame of mind…how will this look on a computer screen? But over 50 percent of blog traffic is now on mobile devices! And Google penalizes page rank if your blog’s not optimized for mobile browsers. So how your blog reads on a mobile device is super important, y’all.
And guess what? The sidebar isn’t going to show up until after the end of the blog post on the mobile view. So sad. Most people on mobile view will never get all the way to your sidebar content unless you are engaging them and making them want more. That being said…it’s still important and should be full of the best graphics and info to help people navigate your site.
So what are the five must haves?
5 Things Every Sidebar Should Have
- Your Face! (And a short bio.) Yep. I said it. Take a picture of yourself and put it in your sidebar, y’all. Then link it to your “About Me” page. People want to know who’s talking to them. It doesn’t have to be a professional headshot. Grab a selfie stick and find some soft. natural light, or maybe grab a friend and park yourself in front of a pretty door or wall. Be yourself. Use the editing tools on Picmonkey or a great app like Facetune to do some color balancing and make your picture pop.
- Social Media Icons. Make it easy for people to be able to follow you! Link to your Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. People probably won’t follow you on all social media platforms, so give them the option that best suits them. You can use a plugin (I use Simple Social Icons) or you can do a little bit of coding and find and/or design your own social icons to coordinate with your branding.
- Categories. Please, for the love of all that is good and true, make sure it’s easy to navigate around your site. Categories give an at-a-glance picture of what you blog about. You can create graphics that match your branding with a link to each category or just use a category widget to display your categories. There are even plugins that allow you to customize the order they appear in. I love both ways!
- Newsletter Signup. Whether it’s a signup form or a clickable graphic that leads to a signup form, you need to include this in your sidebar. I know you may have a signup on your home page, and maybe a popup, too. There are so many different ways to point your readers to your newsletter subscription. It’s that important! Don’t overlook the sidebar as another way to get your newsletter in front of your readers.
- Links to your best posts. If you don’t have enough traffic yet to know what posts keep people coming to your site, then pick your favorites. Or maybe even do a mixture of both. Create a great graphic to advertise a post and then pop it in your sidebar and link it back to that post. You can use an image widget or do a little bit of CSS coding. And hey…since it’s in your image library, why not add it into a few other posts as well? The hard part’s already done. Or you can use a featured posts widget to pop a select set of posts into your sidebar. Just make sure it will pull the reader’s eye and make them want to click around.
And since you’re my friends and you made it this far, I’m going to tell you a few things that make me want to cry hot tears from all of the boredom when I see them in a sidebar. Just say no to these if you want to make sure your reader wants to click around on your site.
- Tag cloud–Tags are more for you than your reader.
- Archives–This is not an efficient way to navigate a site and most likely you don’t really want me to read what you wrote 7 years ago as a newbie writer.
- 200 badges for other websites–I know. I’m exaggerating. But still. A couple is fine, especially if you’re part of some awesome network that brings your site a lot of traffic or you’re a blogger on HuffPo. But if you really want to sport pieces of flair on your site, create a page and drop them all in one location. You don’t want your sidebar to look like a wall at TGIFridays. Plus every single one of those badges will take readers away from your site. So be sparing with them.
- Recent comments–Don’t put them in your sidebar. It takes them out of context from the post they belong with and you could unwittingly have a disagreeable reader’s comment in the sidebar for all to see since it’s curated to pull most recent. You don’t get to decide which comments go into those things.
- Blog roll–I know you love your BFF’s blog, but again…this is defeating the purpose of the sidebar. It takes people away from your blog. And I really don’t need to know what blogs you read.
- Social Media Feeds–I say this to be taken with a grain of salt. I think displaying one or two social media feeds is okay, but I don’t need to see your stream from FB and your stream from Twitter and your stream from Pinterest and your stream for Instagram. Pick your best social media stream and let go of the rest, especially if you’re not super active on them or don’t get great engagement.
- Ugly, irrelevant ads–I use ads in my sidebar, but they’re pretty and match my niche. I’m picky. I want to make sure the ads go well with my brand.
So tell me…what do you love to see in a sidebar? What seems irrelevant or redundant? Would you add anything to either of these lists?
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