I’ve already touched on the importance of blogging in the article, ‘Why Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Blog’. In today's post we are delving further into the importance of a good blog sidebar, and my top 5 do’s and don’ts for what to include in yours.
Your sidebar can definitely make or break your blog, and an overwhelming sidebar can definitely put readers off. You want your sidebar to enhance your blog and not distract the reader, that’s why it is important to keep it minimal, less is more effective.
A Friendly Photo
A lot of people might stumble across your blog through a post they found and not know who you are. A friendly photo of yourself at the top of your blog sidebar can help them put a face to the blog. Readers can connect with you more when they know what you look like, as it reminds them you’re an actual person giving them advice.
It would be very disheartening to put in hours of work to create amazing blog content only to find people visit your site once and never come back again, right? That’s why a subscribe button is so important, you need to give people the option to stay up to date with your latest posts. This way you can hopefully turn those one-time visitors into loyal followers of your blog. Just make sure it’s near the top of your sidebar and easy to spot, you don’t want to miss out on potential readers because they didn’t see the button!
For the exact same reason you need a subscribe button, you should also include your social media links. It provides more ways your visitors can stay up to date with your blog and what you have to offer. If someone finds one of your articles on Pinterest and visits your blog, you don’t want them to click away once they’ve read the article. If they see your social links, they might just click over and follow you on those platforms, which will then increase the chances that they see your future blog articles, when you link them in a Twitter or Facebook post.
Make the most of your sidebar and use it to your advantage. If you are trying to build your mailing list, place a signup box in your sidebar. Use an incentive for people to sign up and place it near the top of the sidebar. It’s one of the first places people look when they first visit your blog, so it will be a lot more effective at generating new email subscribers.
Adding a short list of categories to your blog sidebar not only organises your posts, but it also shows your readers what other topics you cover. This provides them with the opportunity to keep browsing through your articles and see if any of the other topics interest them. This is a great way to show your readers more of your blog posts without overwhelming them with tag links and archives.
The days of sidebar ads are over. Why put in all this effort to make your blog the best it can be, to attract more readers, only to send them away to another site? And you only make a few pence from each click! Ads can quickly make a sidebar look messy and incohesive, they are usually different sizes, don’t fit in the space, and don’t match the theme. Stop annoying your readers with distracting ads. Leave them out of your sidebar and focus on providing your own quality products and services to sell to your viewers instead.
Tag lists can also make a blog sidebar look messy very quickly. The more blog posts you have the more the tags will build up and before you know it, half your sidebar is taken up with hundreds of unnecessary tags. This is both confusing and distracting to your readers. The best way to organise your blog posts is to create a short category list that covers your main topics. This provides clear and easy navigation without the clutter.
Social Media Feeds
A lot of people still feature a social media feed in their sidebar, and while this isn’t a massive mistake, it’s best to keep the sidebar minimalistic with only the things that are really important. You’ve probably already got your social media links at the top of your sidebar, so featuring your social media feed as well isn’t a priority. It’s only going to distract the readers from your blog posts.
Award badges are another no no for the sidebar. Unless your award is a major accomplishment that will seriously boost your reputation, I suggest you leave it out the sidebar. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be proud of your award, you can always place it on your ‘about me’ page, or feature it in a blog post, but having them in your blog sidebar can add clutter and make your blog look amateur.
Links To Your Favourite Bloggers
Having a list of your favourite bloggers in your sidebar can make your blog look very unprofessional. It’s not really necessary and clutters up the sidebar. You’d be much better off writing a whole blog post on your favourite bloggers and why you like them. Not only would that be more helpful for your readers, you then have a detailed post that you can refer people to, rather than some random links with no explanation.
All in all, the best practises for creating a quality side bar are to keep it clean, minimal and only feature the most important things. Ask yourself “What do I want people to do when they visit my blog?”, and use the sidebar as a place to direct them towards these things.
Do you have any more blog sidebar tips? Leave them in the comments section below!