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What Should Go In Your Blog’s Sidebar? (Episode #53)

The blog sidebar. Its that piece of real estate that is on every blog – and every blogger had to make the decision on what should and shouldn’t go in that space. Thing is, most bloggers end up cluttering it up unnecessarily. In this installment of our series, David discusses the perfect contents of a strategic blog sidebar. It can be boiled down to 3 components.

The blog sidebar… It is that piece of real estate that is on every blog – and every blogger has to make the decision on what should and shouldn’t go in that space. Thing is, most bloggers end up cluttering it up unnecessarily. In this installment of Coffee Break Blogging, we’ll discuss the perfect contents of a strategic blog sidebar. It can actually be boiled down to 3 components.

We’re now on Episode 53 and today we are going to be talking about what should go in the sidebar of your blog.

Now, this is an important episode for many people because I actually see; when I look at a lot of people’s blogs, and I obviously do; given what I do for a living, I see a lot of them that are just simply “overloaded.” It is almost as if people are going in there and going to the widgets’ section of WordPress and thinking, “Well, there is a widget for that, I might as well drag that thing right into the sidebar” so there will be widgets for Top Commenters, for all their social media links like literally every damn one of them, your categories, your tag clouds, your blog rolls; all that stuff just stuffed into the sidebar and it is just an ungodly site to look at.

So here is the thing… This is called the Blog Marketing Academy. That is the name of my website; that is the name of my company here. So… Blog Marketing. I am all about creating a blog that is going to serve as an effective marketing tool for you. And I am here to tell you that most of those widgets that are available to you inside of WordPress are actually a complete waste of your time and you should not be using them. Just because it is there does not mean it is a good idea.

So with that being said…

What should go on your sidebar?

So first of all, I am toward simplicity. I think that your blog sidebar should be simple, should not be overloaded and that everything that is there needs to have a strategic reason to be there. If it does not have a strategic reason to be there, it should not be there.

So at the very top of your sidebar; this is the most important thing that you could put on your sidebar, and that is your opt-in. That is because the number one function of your blog is to generate leads, to get people to subscribe to the email list.

Lead Magnet

Now, you need to put a lead magnet at the top of that sidebar. If you are not familiar with a lead magnet, it is essentially a thing that you give away to get them to your list. I am not talking about some generic eBook or something like that which is what most people do. A lead magnet is a very specific thing. It is a very SPECIFIC, little chunk of value that you are going to give people so they can solve a SPECIFIC thing. And I want you to notice how I keep using that word “SPECIFIC.” It needs to be something that is going to give them a quick win, have them achieve something and do it quickly. They should be able to consume it in just a few minutes. It should not be a big drawn out thing. And trust me; I know because I had done it the long way before.

My very first lead magnet; if you really want to call it that, I guess at that time it worked was like 50+ pages long. It was called “The Six Figure Blogger Blueprint.” It worked out fine, but that was also because at the time, not everybody and their entire family line was offering PDF to giveaway for their email opt-in. The thing is, it worked then. Today, it will just blend in to the general scenery. So you need to be very specific. You need people to experience a very quick win, be able to consume it quickly because if they don’t consume your lead magnet it is just a total waste of time. You don’t want to clutter their hard drive. You want them to actually go through it. So you got to make it sure and it needs to be specific in what it actually does.

Now at the top of your sidebar, you are going to display that lead magnet. You might have a little bit of copy there. What I mean by copy is just some text, maybe some bullet point; some things that are going to make them want that thing. And then you are going to give them an either full-on opt-in form which is going to be the email entry and the button to opt-in or you could use like a lead box type of thing where you just have a button that says “Click here to download” and it will pop-up the opt-in over at the top of the website.

So that is the absolute most important thing that goes in your sidebar. It should be the most noticeable thing on your sidebar and it needs to go at the tippy-top so that it literally going to be in everybody’s field of view. It is going to be above the fold and not something that somebody has going to scroll down in order to see.

Now, what else? I mean we are just going to put an opt-in in the sidebar and leave it that? Well, you could. It should be at that point accomplishing the most important function of your blog. But we can do more with that sidebar. That sidebar is a valuable real estate so we should use it effectively.

Money Posts

The next thing that I think that you should put in your sidebar is what I like to call The Money Posts. Now, the money posts are going to be those posts which are aimed at leading either to future revenue or current revenue. So for example if you have a blog post that has affiliate links in it and it is a really good piece of content but it happens to have affiliate links in it; and even better, you’re actually seeing some evidence that people are going through those links and actually buying, then that is a money-making post for you. It is a “money post.” Now you should then link to that money post in your sidebar directly.

Another thing would be if you have a post which is designed to be a very effective piece of marketing for one of your products where it could be like a little funnel structure where that blog post is designed to act as the top of the funnel…  Maybe to get somebody to opt-in for a lead magnet and become a lead for something. That would be a money post. But the whole idea to that blog post is designed to serve an actual strategic function for your business. So you want to go through your site and you want to like identify what those money posts are. What the most popular posts are.

Now here is the thing: You can use a plug-in that will list out the most popular posts on your sidebar; and many people do that. But I actually recommend that you do not allow a plug-in to do this automatically. I recommend that you manually select the blog post that you display on that sidebar. So that you can actually make sure that; again, every single thing that is listed there has a strategic reason to be there… if you let the code or the algorithm of the plug-in do the selection for you, well it is probably just basing it on traffic stats and little more. But from a marketing standpoint, you want to put the things in front of people that are more likely to communicate real value to them and lead them into something that can help you grow your business.

Now when you actually display these money posts, you can just simply list them out as standard links or you can actually create a little graphic. Kind of like turning that blog post into a full long guide and kind of have a little graphic there in your sidebar. Now do not make it look like a banner ad. At least it looks something different than that but you can put those things on there where it is kind of like “The Ultimate Guide to blah-blah-blah” whatever would be relevant to your market. And make a little graphic for that and stick it into your sidebar. Now obviously, graphics take more room but they are also more noticeable. If you are going to display graphics you probably only want to highlight 2 or 3 posts. Do not give them a big list of 8 to 10 of these graphics because you are just giving them too many calls to action but that is a really good effective use of that real estate in your sidebar.

Another thing that you can keep in mind is what is called “Native Advertising”. We can go over this more; a little bit later in our series here with Coffee Break Blogging but native advertising is all the rage right now. It is what you see when you go to Facebook when you see “sponsored posts” or you see “promoted tweets” on Twitter. It is all about advertising which fits the context that it is sitting in. And newsfeed ads on Facebook; they look like all the others showing up on your newsfeed but yet they are sponsored. So they are “native”; they are native to that environment. Now if you ask yourself what is native to the environment on your blog, it is going to be “blog content.” But it does not mean you can’t situate every single thing around that blog post to all work in conjunction to make you money or grow your email list.

So how could you do that? How could you optimize one of these money posts that you link in your sidebar to more effectively grow your business? Well, obviously you want to make sure that you have got calls to action inside your blog posts but you could also control what goes around that blog post. For example, put it on a custom sidebar. And the sidebar for that blog post will have specific calls to action right then and there that are uniquely related to that blog post. So that regardless of what they click-on on the screen it does you some good.

If you go to one of these news sites out there on the internet, very often you will see like a little grid at the bottom of the article that are like related from around the web or something. Many times these are actually sponsored placements of native advertising. And if you click on one of those; and I did this the other day, I clicked on one… it was some news site and I clicked on it and it has some picture of Obama sitting there so it’s obviously some political thing; I went to that blog post that they linked to and it was just a blog post looking thing and the whole site was designed to look exactly like a blog. But if you look at all the calls to action in the sidebar, every single one of them led to something to that exact business had. So it was designed to look like a blog but the entire thing was one big ad or something. But it looked like a piece of content.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to be that aggressive but you can apply some of the same principles to your own blog by optimizing everything around your money posts so that they will all do you some good regardless what they click on, okay?

So we can go on more in that strategy a little bit later.

Social Media Connections

Now, aside from your money posts what is the other thing that I recommend that you put in your sidebar? Well, it will be your social connections. You do want people to connect with you outside of just the blog and outside of just your email list. You want them to get connected with you on social media. Now the big thing here is that I recommend that you get a little targeted to what you are connecting them to. Do not just give them a whole army of social media icons and let them pick. I think you need to focus on one or two different things.

If you go to my sidebar right now, it has got a small picture of me, a very brief little bio; it links to my About Page, and then I’ve got a link for somebody to follow me on Twitter. That is pretty much it. I don’t want to give them too many things. And that is the mistake that most people make with their sidebar; is that they are going for the “impulse click.” It is the same mentality that grocery stores are going for when they stick a bunch of potato chips in the grocery store’s checkout line. They are hoping that they are going to basically go, “Huh, well I didn’t know that I wanted a bag of chips” so you buy a big bag of onions. Great! You do not want your sidebar to work that way. You want everything there to be strategic, to lead to something and do not give them so many things that you do not control what they are doing. This is about funneling their attention. And if you litter up your sidebar with too many things it is not going to work out, as well from a marketing standpoint.

And all those widgets that are built in to WordPress with the categories and the tags and all that; just keep in mind, people do not navigate that way especially when you give them a big drop-down that has like twenty categories in it. It’s just a waste of time.

Alright, so that is what should go in your blog sidebar. The top 3 are the Lead Magnet at the very top, right below that; your Money Posts and then right below that, a small mention on some way to connect with you on Social Media.

So if you want to take this a little bit further and you want to really optimize your blog, go through every single component not just your sidebar of your blog and make sure this is really operating in the right way. You can actually take this to the next level with a brand new action that I have released over at the Blog Marketing Academy and I’m simply calling it “The Perfect Blog Blueprint.” And what this is; is an action plan which goes very strategically, very targeted to all these different components of your blog including all the design elements as well as the structure of your content itself and I show you how to optimize each one for conversions in maximum effect. That is The Perfect Blog Blueprint. And if you want to learn more about that you can go over to blogmarketingacademy.com/blogblueprint and it will take you right to that action plan so you can learn more about it.

These Action Plans are actually; they are doing really well inside the Training Vault over at the Academy. They are not full long courses; they are not just simple PDF reports. They fall right in the middle. It is like a little mini course but you can literally just follow along with the system, check it off. As you do my system will keep track of where you left off so you will know exactly where you are and it will guide you through accomplishing a very specific outcome. And in this case we are talking about maximizing the conversion opportunities of your existing blog.

So anyway, once again that is blogmarketingacademy.com/blueprint. I hope you enjoy this episode. If you did head over to iTunes and leave a quick review for me; an honest review I should say. I’m not saying you can only go over there if you have something great to say… I want honest reviews regardless what they are, over inside of iTunes for Coffee Break Blogging! 😉

With that, I will see you in a few days with the next episode in our series.

See you then! 😉

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