Depending on what blog theme or layout you have, you’ll most likely have a side bar. This is the area that runs alongside your content section, where you can add widgets and links and whatever you like – anything that you want to always have sitting next to your blog posts.
The side bar of your blog is prime real estate when it comes to capturing your reader’s attention. No matter what post they’re reading or what post they’ve landed on, they’re always going to see the side bar content as well, so if you really want them to click on something, it should be right there waiting.
How To Add To It
There are a two different ways you can add content to your side bar. My favourite way is with HTML. At the top of my side bar I add a HTML gadget where I put everything from my profile pic to my Bloglovin follow button in with HTML coding. I then add separate HTML gadgets for everything underneath that. HTML is the only way you’re able to add social media icons next to each other, Google ads and Instagram/Pinterest widgets, so it’s worth learning! If you need help with HTML, check out this post here. The only two things that aren’t HTML are my Search gadget and Mailing List gadget, as they came with my theme.
If you’re just adding simple images, such as your profile pic or buttons, and you want an easier way, you can add an Image Gadget to you side bar instead and upload your image that way. Then you don’t have to deal with HTML at all. You can add as many Image Gadgets as you like, but they may end up more spaced out than you’d like them to be.
How To Style It
For a long time I’ve had a set way of laying out my side bar content, as I think it looks great, flows from top to bottom and everything has it’s own special spot. For that reason I’ll be recommending my order of content, however feel free to mix it up and work out an order that works best for you.
Make sure you work with your branding colours and fonts. Keep everything consistent and make sure everything is spaced nicely.
When I want to re-work my side bar, I like to take a screenshot of my blog and open that screenshot in Photoshop. I’ll erase the side bar section of this image so it’s a white blank space, then I go through adding pieces and making sure they’re the right colours to suit the rest of my blog. Once I’m done, I’ll crop and save each individual image and upload them to my blog!
What To Include
Your profile pic is one of the most important parts of your blog. Blogs ran by an individual are personal, and your readers will want to know who it is behind the writing so they can connect with you. If you’re camera shy (I barely change my photo as I hate photos of myself!) you can figure out a way to get a photo of yourself without smiling like a cheeseball into the camera. Look down, look to the side, hold something in front of your face, make it artsy. It doesn’t have to be a professional headshot, it just needs to have a bit of your personality 🙂
You can include your profile pic as a circle, square, rectangle or make it a bit more creative by placing it in border or even as a polaroid shot.
Underneath your photo you need to say hi to your readers. Introduce yourself in the shortest way possible and explain what your blog is about or who you are / what you like.
If you have paragraphs to say about yourself, save them for your ‘About Me’ page.
Next up is a link to your contact page, as this needs to be easy to find! If a brand loves your blog and can’t find a way to contact you, they won’t be able to reach out for a potential collaboration. You don’t want to miss those opportunities.
You can either have your email address written there, or you can be more creative and add a button image than links to your Contact page. I love adding a little envelope, I think it looks really cute and you can see straight away that’s a contact button. I have a selection of side bar envelopes in both the Perfectly Pretty Blog Kit and the Blog Stylist Design Kit, which are already set at the perfect size to load straight into your side bar.
Adding social media icons is the best way to fit all your social links in the most compact way. In the blog themes I sell, these are already pre-coded into the theme, however if you’re doing it yourself you will need to use HTML.
Bloglovin is the top website for people to be able to follow your blog and see when you publish a new post, so the more followers you can gain on that platform the better. They have widget codes available that you can add to your blog, however sometimes they can be a bit glitchy on WordPress so if you have a WordPress site you might like to create your own Follow button image instead.
The ability to search your blog can be really helpful for readers who are looking for something in particular, or for brands who might want to check if you’ve mentioned them before. If you don’t have an easy-to-see Search bar at the top of your site, make sure there’s one in the side bar. On both Blogger and WordPress there should be a Search Gadget you can add in.
This is optional depending on if you have a theme like mine where Instagram is displayed across the bottom. If you really want to push your Instagram you can add a widget to your side bar using HTML. There are sites like Lightwidget and Snapwidget where you can create a free widget and they will give you a code to paste into a HTML Gadget on your blog.
The more traffic your blog receives, the more you should be interested in Advertising. If you’ve just started out though I really don’t recommend it, as ads can look really messy and distracting and if you’re not getting a lot of traffic, you will barely earn anything.
I have a Google ad in my side bar, and ONE only. If you have 5 different ads happening in your side bar, your readers are much less likely to click the content of the ad, or even notice it.. if it’s hidden between a million different things. The ad in my side bar stands out because it’s the only one in there and it’s placed in between my other side bar content.
Adding a Pinterest widget is going to give you the best chance of gaining followers, and trust me, Pinterest followers are important. You will need to go to the Pinterest Widget Builder, select ‘Profile’, type in your Pinterest URL, choose your widget size and copy both codes they provide at the bottom. Paste both codes into a new HTML Gadget on your blog, save and you should see Pinterest in your side bar.
Mailing List Sign Up
And lastly, a mailing list sign up form is an optional thing. I like the position of it in the side bar as you’re not screaming in someone’s face with a pop up to sign up. You want people on your list who want to be on your list, so let them find the sign up form in your side bar and they might just pop their email in.
There are so many other things you can add or mix/match such as buttons, category menus, banners, popular posts and links to your sponsors. If you are selling a product, create a banner to advertise it in your side bar. Link to your favourite posts so that you are sending traffic around your blog.
My best piece of advice though is to keep your side bar as clean, neat and simple as possible. The more cluttered your side bar is with widgets and images and links happening everywhere, the more people will ignore and avoid it. If your side bar is 10x longer than your blog post content section… not good!
Is It Necessary?
Before adding something to your sidebar, ask yourself, ‘do I really need this here?’ When I moved my blog over to WordPress and I was re-styling my side bar, I went to add the Instagram widget and thought, I don’t actually need this here. I have a big Instagram widget displayed across the bottom of my blog that people are bound to notice, so I didn’t feel like I needed it in my side bar as well.
Don’t go adding things in there that are mainly for the convenience of yourself, for example a Blog Archive (unless you want people going way back to your scary first posts). Add what you want your readers to see and make the side bar for them.
The less clutter the better, so keep refining your side bar until you have just what you need.