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When it comes to promoting your small business online, writing blog posts should play a large roll in your marketing mix. Each blog post is an opportunity for you to answer common questions your target audience may have, which is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your niche.
So if someone from your target audience finds one of your blog posts in their search results, that particular post may be the only page they visit. It’s up to you to make a clear first impression and let them know what you have to offer.
And your blog sidebar is the place where you make that first impression.
I bet you’re thinking, “But wait, isn’t my homepage supposed to do that? Can’t they just click on my About page to find out everything they need to know?”
The answer is: Not always.
See, for the purpose of this post, I’m talking about the experience you want to create for people who land on your website by clicking on a blog post.
How often do you read a blog post that you find on Pinterest or via Google search and then actually hang around and surf through the rest of the site?
You can’t guarantee that someone is going to stay on your website long enough to move from page to page.
So do yourself a favor and create a blog sidebar that acts as a tool to market your business for you. After you’ve set it up with the most essential widgets, it will operate on autopilot next to all of your blog posts.
How to Use Your Blog Sidebar as a Marketing Tool
Avoid adding too many widgets to your sidebar
Don’t trick yourself into thinking you need to include all of the widgets you can into your blog sidebar. Having too many options to choose from will confuse your readers.
When your readers are confused, they don’t take any action at all.
Here’s a list of widgets you can leave out of your sidebar:
- Search Bar: A search widget works best when your blog posts are efficiently organized with blog tags and keywords. If they are not, your visitors will probably not find what they are looking for. Also, if your blog is relatively new, you may not even have the content to justify adding a search widget. Don’t diminish your credibility. Avoid inviting someone to search for something if you know you can’t deliver.
- Archives: This widget serves zero purpose unless you have a large back catalog of posts. Since archives are organized chronologically, most visitors don’t have the patience or attention span to sort through all of the months and years.
- Categories: If you have more than a half dozen blog categories, narrow them down to the four most important or popular categories and leave all of the others out of the widget
Five Must-Have Widgets for Your Blog Sidebar
1. An introductory statement or tagline
Introduce yourself. Let your blog readers know who you are and what you do. You may think it’s obvious, but it isn’t. A sentence or two will do.
2. A picture of yourself
Show your readers the person behind the blog post. Make eye contact with them. Give them the chance to know you, like you and trust you. Otherwise they won’t know who just gave them all of that valuable information in the post they just read
3. A Mailing List Opt-In Form
Invite readers to stay connected with you by joining your mailing list. My favorite opt-in form creator is Bloom by Elegant Themes (I also love it for creating pop-ups, too). If your new reader found some value in your blog post, give them even more value by offering a freebie in exchange for their email list.
4. An Invitation to Follow You On Social Media
There are a few ways you can do this. One way is to add a widget with social media share buttons for all of the platforms where you hang out. I like the Simple Social Icons plugin for WordPress.
Another option is to feature the platform that you use the most.
For example, don’t include a Twitter follow button if you haven’t tweeted since before the Kardashians had kids.
Showcase the social media platform where you hang out most (and where your target audience hangs out the most).
If you’re particularly proud of your Instagram feed, just focus on that. My favorite Instagram plugin is Instagram Feed, which offers a sidebar feature.
5. Recent Posts List
Unlike adding widgets for searching, blog categories or archives, which can be vague and have too much scope for one visit, a recent posts widget offers a better payoff. People will be more likely to stay on your website longer and read one more post. Keep your list to 4-5 blog posts to avoid decision fatigue.
Use your blog sidebar as an abbreviated and combined version of your home page and about page. Curate your sidebar to draw attention to the most important things that readers should take away from your website. Don’t overwhelm them with too many options.
Let your blog sidebar keep warm traffic warmer by creating an invitation to connect with you via email and on social media.