Throughout January we will be running our 31 Day Blog Challenge: 31 days to clean up, grow and improve your blog. What better time than the start of a new year to get things sorted and ready to go for a brand new year of blogging?
We'll be sharing 31 tips, ideas, and strategies for you to get things in order and make blogging easier. This is Day 7.
Your Sidebar is Valuable Real Estate
Sidebars are very valuable real estate on any website. And yet, they are very poorly used my most bloggers. They're cluttered, ad filled, badge filled, and often scroll down the page long after the blog post has finished.
It's time to evaluate every single thing you have in your sidebar. Ask yourself these questions and be harsh with yourself:
- Does it earn me income?
- Does it bring me traffic?
- Does it encourage my readers to connect with me? Subscribe to my content?
- Does it encourage my readers to browse my site further?
- Is it encouraging people to leave my blog?
- Does it contribute to clutter or does it have a purpose - is it earning it's right to be in that space?
- Are they consistent with your blog's overall design and branding?
Less is more when it comes to sidebars. The more you have, the more likely readers are to turn a blind eye to it - it just becomes noise to ignore.
But, if you choose your sidebar items carefully and limit them to half a dozen items, they'll have more impact and draw your reader's eye - especially if they're useful to your reader. And if well thought they can help increase your page views/visit significantly!
If more than 30-40% of your sidebar widgets are sending people away from your blog you need to re-evaluate your strategy. Here are some suggestions on what to include (and remember, ads are always optional):
- Your social media links so people can connect with you
- Your email subscribe form
- a bio teaser that links to your about page
- 1 large ad that does not relate to you
- 2 -4 small ads that do not relate to you (try to place them in pairs so they take up less space)
- 1-4 ads that relate to products you have produced or a cause you support. Example: a cookbook you've written, a meal plan you sell, a non-profit you support, a fundraising event, a food tour you present, an event you are participating in etc.
- Links to 2-4 posts on your blog that you want to draw more attention to - they can be your most popular posts, your most pinned posts if you want to tie into social media, or you can change them seasonally to highlight older posts that get lost. Example: in blueberry season highlight your blueberry recipes.
- A related series of posts you've written: a series of tutorials on making bread, a series of reviews on street food, etc
- a search box so readers can look for posts (and so you can look for posts too!)
These are just suggestions but the key is to make sure that whatever you choose, make sure it's working hard for you. There's nothing wrong with listing your blog roll or badges you've earned but they often lead people away from your blog. Why not create a separate page just for listing those and add it to your blog's menu? If people want to see that, they'll find it and, it's an additional page view for you!
Take It Further:
WordPress Sidebar Manager Plug-Ins
WordPress users can choose from a number of sidebar plug-ins that allows you to create different sidebars for different pages based on categories and tags. This can be really useful for promoting related material or running ads on specific pages/posts. For instance, if you have categories for reviews of food trucks, fine dining restaurants and sushi places, you could create unique sidebars for each category. So your food truck category could have a sidebar that highlights your posts for your top 5 food trucks in your city, etc. We use WooDojo's Woo Sidbars on FBC but there are several others that work well too.
If you're really serious about seeing how much people are clicking on your sidebar you can try a heat mapping service like Crazy Egg or ClickDensity (there are many more). These services are usually paid but some have a free trial. They let you see where people are scrolling to on your site, what they're clicking on and more. If your blog is all about earning income, you might find them worth the investment. If you're just curious about what people click on, the free trials can be interesting!