This is the kick off to our annual January Blog Challenge: 31 Days To Clean Up Your Blog. What better time than January to sit down and review your blog? Over the 31 days we'll be sharing 31 tips, ideas, and strategies for you to deal with all those pesky maintenance tasks, take steps to grow in the new year and make blogging easier. This is Day 7.
For Day 7 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge we're going to talk about sidebars. As mobile traffic increases sidebars don't get as much attention as they used to but...
Your Sidebar is Still Valuable Real Estate
Despite the increase in mobile traffic, sidebars are still 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 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 its right to be in that space?
- Is it 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!
What To Include In Your Blog's Sidebar
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 and photo that links to your about page
- 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!)
- Ads that are not related to you - either from your ad network or ads you sell to brands you work with
These are just suggestions but the key is to make sure that whatever you choose, make sure it's working hard for you and that it makes for a good user experience for your reader.
Take Your Sidebar Cleanup Further:
WordPress Sidebar Manager Plug-Ins
WordPress users can use 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 here on FBC but you can research to see if there are other sidebar plug-ins that might work for you. If you'd like to see how it works on our site here are some examples (make sure you're on desktop):
- this page has our default sidebar
- this page uses our Canadian Tastemaker sidebar - we also use a plug-in called Ad Rotate so that the Tastemaker profile under More Canadian Tastemakers changes from view to view
- this page has a dedicated sidebar that a brand purchased as part of a sponsored post. This can create additional revenue opportunities for your site.
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 (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!