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5 Things You Need In Your Sidebar + 1 Thing You Don’t
I do a lot of blog hopping (not as much as I should, but I still do about two hours a week). At the end of my session, I am always either very pleased or very frustrated about the experience of being on someone else’s blog. This is mostly because of what I can and cannot find on this person’s homepage, more specifically in their sidebar.
Why Are Sidebars So Important?
People on the internet are lazy. I can say this because I’m lazy on the internet. I want things to be easily laid out for me so I don’t have to spend more time than necessary on any one task. This means that your homepage should market you so that your reader 1) reads another post once they have finished the one they are currently reading and 2) has the ability to read your posts in the future. The best way to do this is through using your sidebar effectively.
Sidebars are such a useful and important feature of your blog: they are my go-to for finding additional information about the blog, it’s creator, and their interests without having to travel too far (like, say, to your contact page). So when I’m blog hopping and think “hey I really like what this person has to say, I will follow them”, I don’t want to have to search and search and search to find your social media links because chances are I have already given up before I do find them.
So what should you have in your sidebar?
A Small Bio
This doesn’t have to be much: a picture and a couple lines about you (including how to contact you) is more than plenty. You can have a more in depth bio on your About Me page. On Books and Ladders, I have a little longer one, but that is because it is my Google+ bio which synchronizes across all my platforms that are run through Google (so my Google+ page, my blog, and my email) instead of me having to update it every time I change something (like my picture). I have my picture, my bio, and my email all handy — and it’s the first thing you see in my sidebar. You’ll never lose sight of who is running my blog.
Social Media Information
Where else can I find you on the internet? List all your social media accounts and you can even include your email subscription and RSS feed subscription in here if you’d like (I do on Books and Ladders, but on Books Are My Fandom we have it separate). You can either list these using a text link or use fun icons for them that match your blog design or colour scheme. One thing to note is that if you’re using icons, make sure your reader is able to tell what each icon means. It’d be better to have something specific, like a bird for twitter and a “f” for Facebook, etc., rather than trying to be too clever and thus ambiguous. The less confusing the better.
You should be on bloglovin’ and if you aren’t, sign up now. Then add in their widget to your blog so that people can follow you on there. It is the best and easiest way for other bloggers to follow your blog and it makes commenting and blog hopping v easy. I’m also more likely to follow you on Bloglovin’ if you use their widget rather than an icon because I don’t have to leave your blog to do so. However, I use both an icon and a widget on Books and Ladders because I am devilish like that. The icon links to me personally but the widgets link to each blog individually.
Recent/Popular Post List
You want to give people something to read once they are done reading your current post so that they stay on your blog and read more of your opinions, views, etc. To do this, list either your most recent posts or your most popular posts so they can click around without extending too much effort. Most people choose between Recent Posts and Popular Posts, but you should choose the post feed that best suits you and your blog:
Recent Posts is best suited if you post every single day. Set it to a time frame (7 days, 10 days, etc.) so that people are always seeing the posts that you have recently published. You don’t want something to get overlooked! This is the feature we use on here, but with a bit of a twist. We have both Recent Reviews and Recent Posts (called See What You’ve Missed) because we want to be able to showcase the reviews we do separately from the rest of our posts. We only post reviews once or twice a week, with interviews, blog tours, memes, and discussions making up the rest of posting schedule, so we want you to be able to see those AND have access to our reviews as well. This means, however, that people who DO check your blog every day may not have something new to read.
Popular Posts is best suited if you have a variety of fluctuating traffic on your blog. My gadget on Books and Ladders lets me choose the time frame for the views per post (7 days, 30 days, all time – I have it set to 30 days). This let’s you see posts that may be older but that a lot of people enjoyed reading. For Books and Ladders, I have written a LOT of posts and while I do post (pretty much) daily on there, I want people to see the Best of the Best rather than what I’ve recently posted. Also, I promote older posts from Books and Ladders a lot more than the ones from Books Are My Fandom because I am on my personal Twitter a lot more than the BAMF Twitter. This means, however, that if someone doesn’t check your blog frequently, they may miss a recent post but have access to a post they have seen multiple times.
Please please please always include a search bar. I want to be able to see what else you have posted by searching for things. I want to see if you have read or reviewed a certain book? I search for it. But I can’t do this if you don’t include a search bar.
How do I use sidebars?
This is the bare minimum of things you should include in your sidebar. You can add in more depending on what you want to showcase but the sidebar should be used as a marketing tool for you and your blog. For my sidebars, I have a different approach based on the blog you are on.
On Books and Ladders, I include everything listed above and also include Google Friend Connect, a small Instagram feed, a spotlight on a past post that I want people to read that doesn’t show up in my Popular Post list, a blog button, and my archive. My sidebar is strictly on the left hand side since my blog reads left to right. When constructing my sidebar, my thought was that I didn’t want my sidebar to run out before any post does so that people will have it in their eyesight when they get to the bottom of my post. This is obviously not always the case, especially if I’m extremely long winded in a review or am doing multiple things in one post (i.e. book review, interview, giveaway, etc.).
On Books Are My Fandom, we actually use two sidebars: the one on the left to talk about the blog and our posts, including the BAMF Review Book for the current month and upcoming reviews, along with our search bar and our recent review list. On the right, our sidebar is all our social media information: Bloglovin’ widget, our personal social media accounts, subscribe by email, and the link to our bios.
And the one thing you don’t need?
The one thing you absolutely don’t need is a list of the tags you use or a tag cloud. You have the search bar so people can use this feature to search for the tag instead. It’ll make your sidebar look less crowded and allow people to interact with your blog’s search feature.
So add in these five things to your sidebar (and maybe some others), but remember you don’t want to crowd it either. Having too much is worse than not having enough. With too much on your sidebar, you can guarantee I won’t read any of it. I want the quick and dirty information about how to reach you, follow you, and what other posts I can read. You don’t need a countdown banner for every book you’re excited about or every Street Team logo you’re a part of in your sidebar — put those on your About Me page if you want to include them at all.