Blogging for Beginners Vol. 4: The Optimal Sidebar
So far, our small series "Blogging for Beginners" has dealt with choosing the right domain and web host, and it also gave good advice on an essential equipment of plugins and a theme. On top of that, we have also compiled lots of useful tips, tricks, and resources for excellent content for you. Today, we'll talk about something that even experienced bloggers like to forget - the sidebar. The sidebar is the element that most blogs from all over the world like to neglect. Most of the time, it's either overloaded with tons of widgets or filled to the brim with advertisements. It seems like nobody puts thought into what makes a sidebar useful, and how it should be structured. That's why I'll give you a recommendation on what makes sense and what doesn't. But first, let's take a look at the things that can easily be done incorrectly.
Common Sidebar MistakesFor many bloggers, the sidebar seems to be the panacea for an extreme variety of features. However, this is not a good strategy. So, let's take a quick look at all the mistakes you can make when working on your sidebar:
1 - Too Many WidgetsA sidebar should not be overloaded. Not every widget that exists should be used. Here, you should precisely filter what's imperative. Tag-clouds, calendars, latest articles and comments, author biography, social media buttons, the latest videos, multiple newsletter forms, and ad banners. Your visitors will be overwhelmed by the mass of information, and won't perceive any of the features.
2 - Confusing Variety of WidgetsIf like mentioned in mistake number 1, you simply have too many functions and widgets in your sidebar, it can become confusing very quickly, resulting in the sidebar completely failing its purpose. Additionally, there might be visitors that will be scared off by a "messy sidebar." Visitors will struggle to find the purpose of the sidebar. Many people will then assume that the rest of your blog is likely the same.
3 - Keep all Default Widgets ActivatedWhen installing WordPress or activating a new theme, it's no surprise when many of the default widgets move into your sidebar. I recommend checking that, and removing all widgets.
4 - The Infamous Blog NetworksBlog networks might be great, but most of the time, they don't do much for you. These backlink banners don't belong into the sidebar. In my opinion, they don't even belong on a website at all. You will barely notice any traffic that comes from these networks, but in return, you give them a follow link to their website. They gain more visibility in the search results while you lose, as you don't receive any value in return. In addition to that, these buttons give your visitors a wrong impression, as they could easily assume that you were dependent on these networks. So, stay away from them! You don't need them.
Google Ads in the Sidebar? No![caption id="attachment_77322" align="alignnone" width="640"] No Google Ads in the Sidebar, it Won't do You Any Good![/caption] This is easily the worst mistake that novice bloggers can make. When starting a blog, you shouldn't put out any ads at all. Your goal is to gain readers. But that will only work when these readers can trust you. This can only be accomplished when they feel like you want to help solve a problem, entertain them, or transmit knowledge. On top of that, using Google Adsense will ruin your blog's loading time, which is a part of the Google index' ranking factors. There's only one reason to use advertisements on a blog: You have to make a living off of blogging. That's the only justification for ads on a blog. My personal blog, for example, is a (still rather small) part of my income that I need to make by writing. That's why you will find one single ad block of Google in the articles. There's also a static ad block for my eBook listed in the sidebar. That's it, and it will stay like that for a long time.
When, Where, and Why to Implement Google Adsense?In General: If you use Google Adsense ads, place them within the post, and only place a single one. For one, that's the best spot for ads, generating the most clicks, and second, users tolerate one Google ad. This space is already sufficient to produce a nice, passive income. However: Google Adsense is only worth it when you already have a decent amount of traffic on your blog. You definitely should avoid that for the first year, and even then, only implement an ad block when you have at least 20,000 visitors on your website each month. It won't be worth it below that since you'll only get a couple of cents. As there's a payment limit of 70 Euro at Google, you could also wait two years for the first money, given a moderate amount of visitor traffic. Is it worth it? Better stay away from ads. Very Clear: Google ads don't belong into the sidebar, neither do similar ads. That would be the best way to put off your visitors, getting less and less traffic, instead of gaining any. However, if you want to use an ad block within the articles, copy it, add this code, and place it in your theme's