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We all love our blog’s sidebar (hopefully!). It’s a place to stick additional information about ourselves, our content, our social media information, and more. Today’s post is all about those items we must include in our sidebar. I think I can say I’m guilty of throwing things into my sidebar that my readers really don’t need. Have you done the same?
I blog with WordPress, so I have access to thousands of really cool plugins and widgets. It can be very tempting to throw every widget under the sun into your blog’s sidebar, but that’s the last thing you should do.
So, in an effort to keep your blog’s sidebar looking snazzy and clean at the same time, here are some items you really should include. Do you have any of these? All of these? None….of….these?
1. Short Bio
Put a short bio at the very top of your sidebar. Make it a brief overview of who you are, what your blog is about, and how you can help them. A nicely cropped image of yourself (professional) is also a nice addition to help your readers put a face to a name.
2. Subscribe Form
A must-have item in your sidebar is a form for your readers to subscribe to your newsletter. There are several WordPress widgets, but I opted to use MailChimp. With MailChimp, you can customize the look and feel of the form, and it’s easy to maintain your mailing list with a few clicks.
3. Social Media Links
Make it easy for your readers to connect with you on your social media accounts. Take a look to your right in my sidebar and you’ll see a good example of how this should look. I am not a supporter of including social media posts inside the sidebar. Personally, if I wanted to read your social media posts, I’d follow you on your social media account and go there to read it. I’m not visiting your blog so that I can see your Instagram or Facebook posts. My suggestion – only include links to the social media accounts you are present on and post to daily.
4. Popular Posts
There are several good WordPress widgets that allow you to share your most popular posts. I like having this in my sidebar because my readers can find the posts that are being read the most and check them out. I use a widget called Top Posts & Pages. It allows you share up to 10 posts that have received the most traffic in the last 48 hours. Take a look in my sidebar and check out how this widget works. It’s very simple to use. You can choose to display it as text links, or as image links as I have chosen to do.
5. Recent Posts
Aside from popular posts, you also should share your recent posts. I use WordPress’s default widget for this as it’s simple enough and does the job. I chose to share the last 5, but you can customize this to your liking. If you don’t already have your recent post list in your sidebar, consider adding this today. Readers who frequent your site don’t want to miss anything, so a recent post widget is perfect!
Another great widget to have in your sidebar is a Categories widget. It makes it easy for your readers to sort your blog’s content by the categories they want to see. For example, if you select “Blogging” in my Categories widget, you’ll be shown every blog post I’ve ever written about blogging.
One word of caution when using categories is to not go crazy with them. Try to use existing categories if you can, but if you write something you’ve never written about before, chances are you will need to create a new category. Make sure to apply the usage of categories consistently across your blog. Doing so makes it so much easier for your readers to find what they are interested in.
Using an archives widget is a great idea because it groups all of your posts by month and year. While not completely necessary, it’s another easy way to point your readers to a certain group of posts. Remember, the goal of every widget in your sidebar is to make it easier for your readers to find information.
8. Search Box
A search box is another must-have item in your sidebar. Make it easy for your readers to find any content they may be searching for on your site. Many times, I want to find a post myself and I can’t remember when I posted it. By searching for the subject, 9 times out of 10 I find it. Make your search box simple and easy to find.
Let’s See YOUR Sidebar!
I would love to see how you have designed your sidebar! Drop your blog’s URL in the comments section and I’ll check it out (and comment on it as well!).