sly : marketing

The Blog Sidebar and how to improve it

I haven’t given much thought about the sidebar of my blog, but at least I have come to realize that what I do can lower my bounce rate.

After I added a few links, two weeks ago (to the top marketing tools I am using), I have discovered that a lot of people are looking and clicking on the items in the sidebar.

Hence, for the past days I have been doing some thinking and research.

Let me try to answer the question (and I’m also asking you the question); what is the perfect blog sidebar?

What’s the purpose of the sidebar?

First, I asked myself what the purpose is.

I’m actually not sure what the purpose is, other than showing things that are important to the author. It’s more visible than almost any other parts of the blog, and it’s more visible than the pages in the menu.

To me, the purpose has been to get more people to connect with me (via Facebook, Twitter, RSS etc..) and subscribe to my newsletter.

So, what’s important to show?

For me, at least so far, I’ve adding things like:

I haven’t given this much thought (until now), but since I’ve started to do some research on this topic, I’ve discovered that I should focus on adding my most important stuff above the fold (as close to the top as possible, so people don’t have to scroll), because then more people will notice them.

Lessons from Professional Bloggers

I looked at the top 20 Internet marketing blogs, I found them at Winning the Web. There are a few things that almost all of the top ones include in their sidebar:

Lessons from People I Follow

All of the blogs I read are excellent, and worth following. I’m talking about (just to mention a few):

When I look at what they (people not earning thousands of dollars a month) include in the sidebar, I get the following list:

That’s almost like what the professional bloggers have included, don’t you think?

The three most important things to include

When I look at the lists, I see three things that we all need to include, and in this order (according to me):

The reason I wrote important links as the third thing we need to include, is that what we believe to be important links will be different for most of us.

Some of us are using the blog in order to promote our business (then we should add a link a page about our business). Some are earning money by promoting various services (earning commission), then add your best selling products as links or banners.

It all depends on how you are earning money (or the purpose of what you’re doing). If your blog is not about earning money, then find your purpose and add the links to something that describes your purpose and what you’re all about.

Awesome posts you should read

I have read several great posts about how the sidebar should look, here are some of the best posts I’ve read:

What’s your opinion?

I’m not sure if I’m right about this, hence I’m looking for your opinion (by the way, I’m always looking for your opinion).

What have you included in your sidebar, and what’s the top 3 items you’re using?

22 responses to “The Blog Sidebar and how to improve it”

  1. Keith Davis says:

    The sidebar, the bit we all forget… until now.
    Lots of great ideas to get us started.

    I’ve just added a Feedburner email subscription to my sidebar.
    I think that people understand email better than RSS.

    BTW – love the black and white photo of yourself that you use in your sidebar – might try something similar.

    • Thanks a lot. I believe you’re right about the email. I use both email and rss, but I should probably move them closer to the top (not many people scroll that far down).

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. TristanH says:

    Awesome post, Jens, and thanks for the mention 😀

    I think the #1 biggest mistake I see people making with their sidebar is just adding too much junk over there! Even if you have the space, you do NOT need to fill it all. The more stuff you have there, the less people are going to pay attention to what you’ve got there.

    I also think the sidebar is one of those things that bloggers need to be constantly tweaking. Play around with the order of the widgets. Add and remove one every once in a while.

    I do like your photo in the sidebar, too. Hmm… I’ll have to play around with mine and see what I can come up with.

    • Your photo looks good, it’s you with the knife isn’t it 🙂

      I’m going to do a few tweaks myself, I think that the “subscribe to my newsletter” widget is too big.

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

  3. Brankica U says:

    I redesigned my blog recently and I think the biggest change was the sidebar. I actually had 2 and removed one completely. I deleted some stuff and included some others. At the moment I am satisfied with it, but like Tristan said, it is something we need to work on all the time.

    I like your sidebar and I do think people should pay more attention to creating a good one. I am actually one of the people that will look through blog’s sidebar and footer to see what they have there.

    • Your sidebar looks awesome, so you’ve definitely done a great job. And I think it’s a good idea to have a single sidebar and not 2 columns (too much stuff).

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

  4. Greg says:

    funny thing is i was just thinking of moving my about info to the sidebar!

  5. I have been using recent posts, archive, a video, calender, admin details and a schedule on my blogs sidebar.
    download drupal themes

  6. Ishan says:

    Hi Dean,
    Subscription options and Popular posts are most important according to me. I use Recent Post widget on single posts using Widget Logic plugin. I think keeping sidebar clutter free and clean is important thing. I just hate a sidebar with lots of badges and banners.
    You have also quite a nice sidebar. Just wondering why you have both Recent posts and my recent thoughts widgets. They are from different categories but many posts are duplicate!
    Thanks for mentioning Blogging With Success.

    • You’re right, I actually don’t know why I have both the recent posts and recent thoughts.. I have just deleted recent thoughts. Thanks a lot for the tips 🙂

      And, thanks a lot for the comment.

  7. Robert Dempsey says:

    Hi Jens – great post. And it is interesting how many non-big money people use the same tactics as the big money people. My assumption is that’s because it works. On all of my blogs I put the newsletter opt-in at the very top, and then depending on what I’m selling, images (kind of like you have) to connect on various social networks and such.

    I’ve also been experimenting with using category listings instead of popular posts to see if there is more engagement, measured partially by time on site. I’ll have to let you know how that one goes.

  8. Bronzi Sheppard says:

    Hi Jens, on my side bar I have adsence, sociable, translate, categories, blog archives, links, friends following, quote of the day, facebook friends, two banners and my tweets. A bit much? Yes! But, I am always working on how to improve my sidebar. This is why I like you post on the sidebar. Thanks!

    • That’s what’s important, keep working on the sidebar and keep testing. I have done several adjustments, and at the moment I am fairly satisfied. I get a lot of clicks on the stuff in my sidebar, but I’m not sure if I have the right elements there.

      For instance, I have been thinking about adding friends (top commentators) and links to blogs I read, and I might add that sometime soon.

      Thanks a lot for sharing, looks like you have a lot of interesting things in your sidebar.

  9. Art of RetroCollage says:

    I wonder what you think of the various widgets that show recent visits. I do have a few, and I personally find them interesting, but I do not know if they are in any way a negative for my blog. Those widgets are all at the bottom of my sidebar.

  10. Matt Henss says:

    I came across this blog in my search to find out how to go about getting advertisements on my sidebar. Do you have any advice for me? Thanks.

  11. Joseph Hipolito says:

    This is nice style Jens for advertizing I will try this one if its effective..

    • Jens says:

      You should. I’ve been testing different types of ads, but I still haven’t found the perfect ad yet and the perfect spot.. and I believe that it’s different for every blog, but the sidebar (above the fold is usually one of the best spots to grab attention from the readers).

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