BlogSEO has posted an interesting list titled 10 Must-Have Things That Should be on Your Blog’s Side Bar which I’m certain will cause some debate among ProBlogger readers.
As I look down the list there are some I strongly agree with and others which I have a personal aversion to. Here’s their list headers with a few comments with my own opinion in brackets after each:
- Site Search – (agree with this one – I regularly search for keywords on others blogs and would include it in my own top 10)
- Archives – (I use date based archives on some blogs but not others – the main reason to have them in my mind are for SEO purposes. Search Engines like to be able to find every page on your blog quickly and to be linking back into your archives means the SE bots are only ever a few links from every page on your blog. Of course this can also be achieved with a SiteMap or even by Categories, which is the way I do it here at ProBlogger).
- Blogroll – (I used to be a big fan of the blogroll in sidebars but without really ever making a definite decision on it have stopped using them. The main reason for this was that they became so unmanageable as my blogs grew and at times it became something of a political activity that I really didn’t want to buy into. I’m not anti blogrolls but would rather link to other blogs from within my content as they write quality/link worthy posts. I do have a links page that I guess functions as a blogroll but as you’ll see it’s very out of date – I haven’t updated it in many months.) I do have links to other blogs in my sidebar but they are other blogs in the network to which I belong. We’re actually working on a less dominating way of doing this which I’m really looking forward to implementing as the list is now getting way to long.
- Recent Comments – (I’d be hesitant to include this in a ‘must have’ or ‘essential’ list and don’t use it on any of my own blogs at all. I agree that it can be very useful for creating community and I have had a number of readers requesting it here at ProBlogger – but I find that on a blog like this that can have up to 6 or more posts per day and that gets upwards of 50 comments on some posts that it almost becomes a little pointless. If readers want to keep track of the latest comments on threads here I encourage them to use the ‘subscribe to comments’ feature instead. Having said this on newer blogs that are attempting to establish community this feature can work well – as a result we have it on quite a few b5media blogs).
- Blog Categories – (As I said above – this is something I use on all of my blogs both for reader usability to enable them to find posts quickly but also for SEO purposes. I don’t find it necessary to have both it and a date based archives on most of my blogs though).
- Most Popular Posts – (I’ve often considered this plugin but have never found room in my sidebars to use it. Instead I manually highlight some of the more popular posts, as well as those I want to be popular, in my header menus and sidebars. I do this for the same sort of reasons that people would use the plugin but like to retain the control over what links appear there).
- Contact Info – (I’ve ranted about blogs that don’t include easily accessible contact details before so will only say that I strongly agree with this one. I just don’t get why people wouldn’t include a way of being contacted – in fact to me it leaves me feeling a little suspicious when a blogger chooses not to have a way of giving feedback in a more personal way than comments).
- Short About Section – (I like blogs to have some sort of information on the blog and blogger but don’t always see it as essential, depending upon the topic and goals of the blog. I know my about pages are among the most popular of the blog here at ProBlogger and think they are well worth putting some time into as they can act as a springboard further into your blog if you use them well).
- Your Other Projects/Blogs – (I generally highlight some of my other projects at some point on my blog either in the about page, sidebar or footer. Depending upon how many other projects you have you might want to be a bit picky or choosey on this one. I probably wouldn’t have this one as my 2nd highest ‘must have’ but it’s a feature on most of my blogs to some extent so I guess it is important to me).
- RSS Buttons – (I personally like to feature RSS buttons or links prominently on most of my blogs – especially those where I know my readership are RSS savvy like ProBlogger readers).
As you can see, a sidebar is a pretty personal thing. Some people choose to have two (or even occasionally three) of them to fit more features in and an increasing amount of bloggers are experimenting with blogs without sidebars altogether and are instead incorporating their ‘must haves’ into their footers, horizontal menus and headers (in fact big footers seem to be very popular at the moment).
Other ‘essentials’ that some bloggers include in their sidebars include:
- Blogger/Author Photo
- Advertising (contextual, CPM, text links, Blog Ads etc)
- Affiliate programs (image links and text links)
- Newsletter Signup
- Stats Buttons
- Copyright statement
- Links to Webrings and other services
- Acknowledgments to designer/blog platform etc
- ‘Now Listening to’ or ‘Currently Reading’ lists
- Amazon Wishlist
- Paypal/Donation/Tip Jar button
- Flickr photos
- Links to other services or products you have to sell
- Link to Your Shop
I’d love to see some discussion on your own ‘must have sidebar features’ in comments. What do you include in each blog you have and what do you leave out?