So you have a blog. Or at least, you know you’re supposed to have one – and it’s supposed to come with a sidebar, and ideally sidebar widgets, right?
Buuuuuuuut what about that sidebar?
Many people get stuck here. You know they should throw up an about page photo, and maybe … some social media things? What about a weird, fuzzy add that makes you absolutely no money, but nicely trashes up the site so people don’t take it seriously? Or … cat photos.
Because always cat photos.
I’m not criticizing, friends. I’ve been here, and I understand what it’s like to try and figure it all out. You look at the sidebars of the pros and you’re like, Well hell. I don’t even have that many things to put on my sidebar. I’ll never be a real writer.
First of all, it’s time to tell your inner critic to shut up, because it’s really not being very nice to you.
Second of all, you can start with the sidebar widgets you’ve got, and build out from there. By the time you have “made it,” I promise all of these widgets will look perfectly natural in your sidebar. Until then, do the best you can and find stand-ins where possible. Let’s take a closer look at 10 of the best widgets to put in your sidebar TODAY.
Yeah, yeah. So maybe you’re not dreamily successful yet. Who cares? You can still do a lot to make yourself stand out with the following sidebar widgets, so do it to it.
About Photo & Blurb
You’d think this would be a no-brainer. And it’s true that most people do have a photo and About blurb, but it’s not as simple as that.
The first problem is that many people have the world’s worst photo – like themselves and their S.O. on a boat, for instance. Unless your blog is about boating or world travel, cut it out. Doesn’t matter whether you fall into the category of marketing experts, paleo food bloggers, fiction writers, editors or those copywriters that I love to help; your photo needs to be related to your profession and your audience.
Your bio must be as well. It’s cool that you like cats and unicorns. So do I. How much value do they bring to your reader, though? You can have ONE sentence (better yet, part of one sentence) to talk about your quirks. To maximize the value of your sidebar widgets, the rest of that paragraph needs to be on-task.
The Search Function
Yes, you need a search bar. Yes, you need it today. If you don’t know how to install a minimalist, attractive search bar that pulls relevant hits up in a readable way, I implore you to get a good (affordable) designer. More on that below.
Link to Free Resource Library
If you haven’t yet heard, the free resource library is your ticket to signups galore. People adore actionable, bite-sized freebies that will help them take their businesses to the next level. Check out my Free Resource Library in the navbar up top (or get access to more than a dozen sweet copywriting worksheets and guides here).
Don’t be afraid. While it might take you a few weeks to create and design your resources, it’s a one-time thing. When you finish, you’ll never have to work on it again unless you choose to add a free resource here and there, which most bloggers do.
Looking for a full tutorial? Here’s the world’s best guide and the one I used myself, so check it out. Once you’ve created yours, link to it in the sidebar using a little blurb or, even better, an image like the one I have over there on the right.
If you’re a serious blogger who’s in it to win it, you should have products. Maybe these are downloadable ebooks or worksheets you sell for a few bucks a piece, or maybe they’re full product listings like my Overnight Direct Marketing course. Whatever the case, why not put them in plain view? The sidebar is a cute lil’ piece of real estate that shows up almost everywhere on your blog, and it’s the perfect way to advertise unobtrusively.
Signup Box or Link
Well, duh. You want people to sign up for your email list, right? In my case, my Free Resource Library link is my signup link, but you can take several different approaches, including:
I’m a strong believer in recent posts. Not only does it give your audience a nice feel for your site, you create a clear path to more content. Other options include “popular posts” or “start here.” It’s really up to you, but don’t neglect it. Copywriters especially need to prove they can write before people will hire them, take their courses or sign up for coaching calls, so it’s critical you give your readers lots of opportunities to expose themselves to your work.
It’s up to you which style you choose, but make sure each recent post has an image associated with it. This creates much more incentive to click, and dresses up your sidebar nicely. Again, you’ll need some decent design skills to pull this off, or some help. You’ll also need to include featured images with your posts, FYI.
People have mixed feelings about the Categories widget, but mostly I think that’s because it can be sooooooo ugly. We think of the 2008-era WordPress versions, which were just a storm of words all stacked on top of one another, and we cringe. I mean, it’s not as bad as the tag cloud* but it’s still pretty bad. These days, widgets are much prettier. Get one that has a dropdown so it’s tidily contained.
* If you are using a tag cloud, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?? It makes you look like a schizophrenic whose brain exploded onto the page. No one, and I do mean no one, is ever going to search through a tag cloud to find meaning, so just stop.
Do it! Even if you have a really small Instagram account, it’s just so dang cheerful! Plus, if you’re trying to grow your account and you have decent traffic to your blog, it’s really a no-brainer.
Okay, I’ll admit I don’t have a super-strong opinion about this. But I think it’s nice for people to be able to navigate around your site without having to return to the top (which, in many cases, they won’t bother to do and will leave instead), so go ahead and put a pages widget down at the bottom of your sidebar. That way, when they scroll down to the end and want to go somewhere else, it’s right there for them.
This also isn’t crucial, but I absolutely think you should put it on your site if there’s a chance you’ll be doing affiliate marketing. (Not sure how that works? Here ya go.) While there’s nothing illegal about affiliate marketing, people do want to be reassured that you’re promoted goods because you care about them, not because you can make money from it. The best way to do this is to be honest about what you’re doing with a disclaimer.
Mine reads: This site may occasionally contain affiliate links. Wee only recommend products we love, use and would tell our friends about. Thank you for understanding and supporting New Leaf Writing!
Simple. Honest. Worth it.
Last but not least, have your designer set your sidebar so that it stops scrolling at the end. That way, no matter how far the left-hand content area scrolls, there is always something on the right-hand side. Much prettier.
Now that you know you’ve got some work to do, are you looking for a designer? I use Kotryna Bass, and she is absolutely, positively amazing. No, she is not compensating me in any way for this post – except insofar as she and her team provide absolutely epic web design and development services – but I just can’t stop shouting from the rooftops about her.
If you’re looking for a new site with all the right sidebar widgets, you can choose from her many gorgeous themes for WordPress or Blogger, or you can just get her help updating your existing site. She also offers customization packages, branding packs and more. The best part? The relationship is ongoing. Every time I need my site tweaked, I email her and she fixes it for next to nothing, and is always so quick and kind about it! Seriously, I highly recommend you check her out, because she has saved me and my site a thousand times over.
And that’s it! If you are, alternatively, looking for copywriting resources, we’d love to have you as part of our community! Get access to the free library below. Cheers!
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