The pile of garbage made me sick.
As I drove by one of the largest landfills on earth during a steamy hot, humid day, the stench of putrefied flesh, disgusting sludge and nasty filth created a trash cocktail which made me wanna hurl.
Long, long ago in a universe far, far away, I lived in Staten Island, New York. Staten Island houses the Freshkills landfill. Imagine the whole of New York City dumping their trash in 1 spot. Now imagine inhaling this disturbing concoction. As I did whenever I drove through the central, west-side portion of SI.
I’m ashamed to say this. But my old blog sidebar mirrored Freshkills.
Old Blog Dump
I treated the sidebar on my old blog as a dumping ground. I trashed annoying ads here. I dumped wayward widgets here.
My readers could dumpster dive through the stunningly putrid sludge to mine…..crap. My old sidebar was filth.
Plain and simple. A hodgepodge of colors, widgets, ads, and pretty much the kitchen sink, all shoe-horned into my right hand blog real estate.
Of course, none of my readers touched that trash. Who would willingly dive head first into a terrifying trash heap in Freshkills? Who would wade through a stinking, festering canal in Bangkok to search for anything? Having lived in SI and traveled through Bangkok I’d say a NYC-supplied dump and BKK canal rival one another on the RBPI: Ryan Biddulph Pukability Index.
The Problem with Trashy Sidebars
Nobody in their right mind reaches into the trash to grab anything.
No reader in their right mind clicks on any ad or link from a trashy-looking, unprofessionally-designed blog sidebar.
G and D are the Scarlet letters of blog sidebars: Garbage Dump. Making this precious piece of blog real estate a dumping ground scares off readers and subscribers and yes, blogging business. Create an elegant, clean, crystal clear sidebar, like a Central Park West Penthouse. Not like a rat-infested sewer.
Taking out the Trash
My new blog sidebar presents a clean, tidy image. Like a museum.
My wife Kelli and I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City recently. The cleanliness and orderliness at the Met stunned me. Nothing out of place. Nothing ragged or tattered or dirty or rag tag. Just a Spartan level of orderliness.
The same type of orderliness you want to apply to your blog sidebar.
Readers feast on clean, clear blog sidebars. Calls to action? Taken. Ads are clicked on and images are ogled.
Selfies are digested. Bounce rates drop.
Take out the blog sidebar trash with these tips.
1: Prune Prodigiously to Align Intelligently
My old blog was a fine study in release.
Meaning, I released virtually every sidebar element not related to my niche after I cleaned blogging house.
Here’s your catch phrase: “If it ain’t relevant, remove the element.”
Trash anything that doesn’t fully align with your niche.
Example; when I built Blogging from Paradise I trashed virtually all elements from my sidebar. Because my old blog centered on the “make money online” niche. My new niche centered on “how to retire to a life of island hopping through smart blogging.”
I deep-sixed all “make money online” widgets. To avoid confusing my readers. To send a clear message to my minions; this blog (and sidebar) are all about how to retire to a life of island hopping through smart blogging.
2: Retch Test
Remember those hideous-looking websites of the early ’90’s? Those sites seemingly hellbent on portraying a Halloween themed brand, with bold blacks and neon greens and heavy fonts and ghoulish graphics? Amateur hour. I felt the urge to purge anytime I peeped these putrid websites.
They sure as hell didn’t patch the Retch Test.
Here’s what you do: look at your side and see if the design makes you want to puke. If the design goads you to bring up mom’s spaghetti, you need an overhaul.
Using loud colors, jam-packing 435 ads into your sidebar, posting monstrously large ads on this valuable real estate and any other terrible tactic which is not easy on the eyes.
Of course, if you feel the need to violently vomit, you should take out the trash and replace with the tasteful.
3: White Space Is Your Friend
I have an affinity for the ghost of cartoon lore. Try to work him into every 15th blog post. For good reason; white space is my friend.
White space has been good to me, blogging-wise. Using ample white space makes my content stand out. Like Olive Oil at a Weight Watcher’s convention. My posts and pages and sidebar ads and banners and links pop out like a cartoon thumb after it’s been bludgeoned like a hammer because I use mad (plenty of) white space on my blog.
Would you like readers to notice your sidebar? Give ’em contrast.
You can’t hear 1 person screaming bloody murder in Times Square when the ball drops but you can hear a mosquito buzzing by your ear in a Phnom Penh, Cambodia temple, during your nightly meditation. This is the power of contrast at work. Time Square is a noisy mess. Chaos. Can’t hear a damn thing The meditation hall is quiet, peaceful and orderly (there goes that word again). So you can contrast sounds to such an extent to actually hear a skeeter buzzing by your ear.
Transparency note; I’ve not been to Times Square on New Year’s Eve but have partaken in the maddening meld of chaos there on many a day, and yes, I have meditated in a Phnom Penh, Cambodia wat, where I’ve heard mosquitoes buzzing by my ear.
4: Personalize with Pictures
Selfie-ize your sidebar.
Post at least 1 selfie, or, face shot. Pictures are pretty. Pictures instantly clean up a trashy sidebar.
Readers want to connect a face with the name. Readers want to see the human behind the blog. Readers want no clutter; they want you.
After trashing the excess widgets to make room for selfies I bonded more powerfully with my readers.
Pictures are eye candy. My readers dig candy. I post enough selfies to just about induce a diabetic coma. Post at least 1 image of your smiling mug, guys. Class things up a bit.
Is your sidebar looking a little unkempt?
What tips can you add to this list?