* "Only connect. . ." E.M. Forster, Howard's End

Thursday, June 9, 2011

7 Things Your Blog’s Sidebar Can’t Live Without

Your blog sidebar can be filled with anything you’d like, from fun and fancy widgets to ads for generating some extra income. But there are several important elements that your blog sidebar shouldn’t be without. They’ll not only help you keep readers on your site, but will help bring them back for more, or even turn them into leads.

Here are seven essential elements you should include in your blog’s sidebar:

1. Option to Subscribe

Assuming you have remarkable content on your blog, your readers would be interested in coming back to your blog to read your latest posts. So make it easy for them! Add a subscribe button linking to your RSS feed URL. You can use Feedburner to create this URL from your original RSS feed URL, as Feedburner makes it easy for readers to add your feed to their RSS reader, like Google Reader. Also, make sure to include an email form field to allow users to subscribe via email, so your posts will go straight to their email inbox.

2. Category List

Often called “categories” or “topics,” this is a list that makes it easy for your readers to find content that they are interested in. Most blogging platforms automatically create this list from the categories or tags that you assign it when configuring each blog post. Try not to assign more than 1-3 categories per post, since any more would diminish the usefulness of sorting your content by category.

3. Most Popular Posts

The sidebar is a great place to display your most popular (usually meaning the most highly trafficked) blog posts. This way, readers won’t have to dig through pages and pages of content to find your most remarkable content. It will also peak people’s interests to find out why these posts are the most popular.

4. Recent Blog Posts

Including recent blog posts makes it easy for users who enter your site through a single blog
post (rather than the homepage) to navigate to your most recent content. This is a great way to encourage readers to remain on the site and get additional page views.

5. Search Box

A search box makes it easy for your readers to find content based on the keyword or phrase they’re looking for. You can have this in your sidebar, but another popular option is to have the sidebar in your header (like HubSpot’s blog).

6. Social Media Connection Options

These days, RSS isn’t the only way readers keep tabs on their favorite blogs. Include links to your social media profiles, such as Facebook and Twitter, so that you can provide updates to your readers on sites that they visit each and every day. You can even add a Facebook Like Box (previously called Fan Box), so that users can “like” your fan page without having to leave your blog.

7. Calls-to-Action

Now that you have all this great content and blog traffic, you should include calls-to-action for what you want your readers to do next. This is especially useful if this blog is a business blog, as you can include CTAs leading to your landing pages and get leads. Try to make your CTAs as relevant to your blog content as possible. You’ll be able to place the most relevant CTAs within each blog post (usually at the bottom of each post) since you’ll be able to customize this space more easily.

Thanks to DIANA FREEDMAN on DECEMBER 20, 2010 UStandOut.com

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