How we Blog: The Sidebar

MetsuAMan WritingALetterNationalGalleryOfIrelandDublinWe want our blogs read. Does the sidebar get people reading?

This page is a resource for bloggers. Our audience is other bloggers, contacts through other social media, friends in real life, and casual searches. The polls are for you: what do you click, when you find a new blog? What catches your eye and interests you? The more answers we get, the more information we have.

I have posts two years old which are still worth reading. How can I get readers there? The stats page tells me where people come from, and what they click to leave, but apart from images it does not show what internal links they click.

Comment. Shared experience helps us do better. I cannot change existing polls, but would add useful new ones- suggest one. What in the sidebar attracts you to a blog? Why do you have your sidebar widgets? What is your favourite widget? What blogs do you think have particularly good sidebars?

As an experiment, I put “Bravery games is a post I love, and a good introduction to this blog. Click and enjoy.” on my sidebar for a week, and got one click on it. Then I tried

click for my best photography post: 

Le Puy en Velay

It got five views, not because people noticed the side-bar but because I commented about it, on the zerotohero forum thread. Perhaps I should just accept that a blog is ephemeral, and seek to maximise traffic for my latest posts rather than old posts.

21 thoughts on “How we Blog: The Sidebar

  1. Aside from providing navigation to readers who want to locate content that’s not on the front page of my blog I have little use for widgets. I provide index pages in the custom menu at the top of my blog and as my themes is a responsive width theme all sidebar display is below the posts for those on mobiles in any event. In the case of this blog the Nishita theme is so wide that there’s a horizontal a scrollbar at the bottom so I can’t see the sidebar content without using it. Click this link so you know how your blog is displaying in various devices


    • Welcome, Timethief. I am delighted to see you here. Your cool site indeed gives useful tips.

      That Responsinator is a useful thing. I see the iPad is 768 by 1024, and coincidentally the Nishita column is 768 wide if you have a side bar, and the header is 1024 wide. I like Nishita, because I like the pictures. Yes it looks dreadful on a phone, but you would use the Reader on a phone. Ideally, we would all blog on our phones, commenting reading and blogging from the Reader- even laptops are so Noughties- but I still like the pictures, which are going to cause problems on phones. With the phone on landscape, 420 px width is very narrow. And many of my posts I have two pictures calculated to sit neatly alongside each other, together making 745 px. Mmm. Decisions, decisions.

      I like the idea of links on a page. However. I have one post which has far more search hits than any other: now most search terms are “Unknown” only search terms for it show up, generally. A matter of technical interest for pre-op trans women. As so many people go there, I put three links to other posts of interest to the same demographic, and less than 1% of visitors clicked them.

      I still have my page What I write about with lots of links, but I stopped updating it because the links were not clicked. You can get to it by clicking on the “Wildly Eclectic” image. OTOH I scroll down your Popular Posts, see SEO, and my interest is piqued.

      PS I see the Responsinator gives me six page views each time I go there- I am, actually, tempted when my page views seem low but my own views is not the way of increasing them.


  2. P.S. Something I have never been able to comprehend is why anyone would display links to the Top Posts and Pages in their blog. They are already getting traffic. I recommend using a text widget to create links to high quality content posts that aren’t getting traffic, after rewriting them so they are more likely to attract and engage readers.


    • I like my titles, and TPAP displays some of them; and a post might get there with only three page views. I will think about that one: tempting titles and see if they get clicked. Thank you.

      The widget I see a lot but would not have is Recent Comments. The drawback is that I respond to each and if I have been away from my blog (well, sometimes) I might have three comments to respond to: and the top three comments on that widget are all by me. I think this is less tempting. Also, it tends to be the newer posts which get comments.


      • I have read much of your older posts … and enjoyed it. Often I think of things you’ve said. I suppose one should think of it more as a book … with chapters … and move from the meaningless categories into something (I don’t know what yet) more substantial? Hmm. I shall ponder.


        • There are more words in this blog than in Middlemarch. It would be a serious investment of time. I would love to know how often the Random Post button gets clicked: all we wordpressers have this wonderful tool in the wordpress black bar, and I hardly use it myself. If you come for a specific thing- I had a lot of searches for Durga for a time- you go to old posts, but generally the newest post is the thing people read on a blog.


          • Actually, I don’t know how representative I am of readers, but when I find a blog that I enjoy and a style of writing that provokes my mind then I do a lot of thoughtful shopping and browsing. I become quite familiar with blogs I like, but I’m not sure what other people … or new readers do.


  3. A few comments.

    1) I agree with everything TT says, but I often do. I have a minimal sidebar. I rarely look at others’, and I doubt anyone looks at mine. The only reason I have a follow button is because someone recently asked me for it, and the archives are solely for my convenience. Otherwise I would have nothing. It is extraneous clutter.

    The first point on this post goes into some detail about visual appearance:

    2) Re older posts, on my previous blogger one, I did have some suggested reading, ie the posts I thought were interesting, and I’m actually thinking about reinstating that on roughseas. May. May not. As TT says, not the statistical top posts because they get traffic anyway (mine are olive pate, and my about pages).

    3) I don’t blog for mobiles. I don’t think they suit longer thoughtful blog posts.

    4) I do link backs. Mostly I note people rarely click on them, but even if they do, the won’t comment. However, adding a link in a comment to something specific qv above, often does encourage people to read an older post.

    5) I take it you are looking at revamping your sidebar. I rarely look at yours or anyone elses. Actually I had to look at it now to see what it even had on it. I do look at pages.

    When you do a poll and you make it multiple choice it helps to tell people it is multiple choice.


    • This came out of Z2H. They wanted people to make a side-bar, add widgets, and I wondered, why? I want people to read my old stuff. Your archive on Roughseas, going back to March 2007 with just three months missing could be a show-off, but I agree few people would click it. Your memory of when a post would have been is remarkable. I don’t normally see your side-bar, because I go to individual posts, which do not have it.

      I too like comments, and I like the reciprocity with you.

      On multiple voting, I did not think anyone would be bothered to vandalise. I did click to prevent it with cookies, but perhaps that does not work.

      On pages, Timethief says that they do not get good search ranks, so I assume most of my views are from my header. My link backs work sometimes, but people have to see the post the linkback is on!


      • I think Z to H is futile. It neither teaches people how to blog nor how to write. More importantly it does not teach them how to think.

        I know the sidebar doesn’t show, which suits me fine, as I said, I use the archive for me. Should people click on the home page, perhaps it looks slightly less sparse with seven years (!) worth of posts.

        But if you want the old stuff highlighting, why not do what I did on itchy feet?

        Just do it as a page instead. You just need a title that suggests it is about YOU, because that really is what people like to click on.

        Are you looking for instant fame or returning readers? I would say go for the second one and then the first may or may not appear. So whether or not your pages get good ranks (you can’t tag or cat them) they may make your blog easier for readers. If you add new ones, as you just did, highlight them in your post, as you also did. As I did when I mentioned some new recipes, that’s mostly what you can do.

        Don’t get phased about needing everything to be high up in SEO. You are right about titles though. Still can’t believe that simple olive pate recipe of mine is number three on the google search page (wonder why it isn’t number one really?)


        • You- Olive pate; me Tucking: over the last three months nearly half as many views as home page/ archives, and three times as many as any other post or page, even though it is about page six on Google (why not page one?). I see you are still getting the comments, though far fewer than the number of visitors. My regular commenters commented, but then my searchers never do. They want the gen. They have it. They go.

          I took down What I write about because I stopped updating it, because it was not read. I suppose what I want is mad keen fans who read the lot; I won’t get instant fame doing what I am doing.

          “A selection of other posts”. I am considering that. “The Best of Clare”- on topics I feel my readers might find interesting, or what I felt was best written, most original, witty, etc? Just the title, or some explanation? I could try out a number of formats, place them on the side bar, see which works best.


        • And- z2H: I like it. I am doing it. It has given me a few post prompts, and a few ideas, and got me thinking about the sidebar. Teaching you to think- get a degree. Teaching you to write- no-one can, though a single hint may improve someone. There are some awful blogs, and people will give up. There are some well-enough written blogs, and because they don’t comment elsewhere they don’t get the traffic.


  4. I despise the term Blog Roll. Either you are showin an RSS feed from a parcular site, or you are showin a list of links to other sites that either I personally find interesting, or I personally manage. When I chose other content in the question about how I use the sidebar, links to other sites and RSS feeds from other sites is in part what I was referring to. Also, I use it to show most recent comments, which I guess could fall under community, but I didnଁt think of that when I filled out the survey.


  5. I have a blog badge for a blog hop and swap that I set up with someone else, and I will soon have another for anothe blog hop I am about to launch, I use both to advertise the schemes.
    If I really love a blog, I will read the entire thing, starting with the about page, and then working my way through the archives from the start. I have been put off blogs where the month archives are not easy to find, or are absent. I also use the search function, especially on food blogs, which are the ones that I read most frequently.
    In general, I am going to add a facebook and pinterest widget, and the one to see what other people are commenting, but that will be it. I am not that keen on a cluttered sidebar.


    • Mmm. Food blogs: a recipe is still relevant five years later. My photo of Cadbury’s old-style packaging gets found by- searches for Cadbury’s old-style packaging, 18 months later. And- so much blogging is part of the discussion, and people pay attention to the discussion now, not six months ago. So Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter- the sidebar can work for traffic now.

      Thank you for commenting.


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