Avoiding Common Blogging Mistakes: Your Sidebars are Languishing

July 23, 2014

Be a Better Blogger
Welcome to our series on common blogging mistakes, and how to avoid them. Every other week, we'll debut a new post designed to help you avoid mistakes that are common to both new and veteran bloggers, full of tips and tricks guaranteed to help you become an even more passionate, engaged blogger with a growing audience.

Typepad offers easy ways to add all types of content to your blog's sidebars - images, links to other sites and pretty much anything else you might want to include. The downside is that it's easy to add content to the sidebar and then forget about it. This can lead to slow load times, broken outbound links, and a blog that appears unkempt.

When we perform a Blog Tune-up Service, one of the very first things we check is the health of the blog's sidebars. You can do this yourself easily and it can help reduce clutter on your blog while improving load time.

At Blogs > Design > Content, you can see each item that you have set for the blog's sidebars. First, look at the general number of modules you have in the sidebars. If it's a lot (maybe more than 10 in each sidebar), it's time to consider getting rid of non-essential items. Some widgets and banners are only relevant for a specific time, so those are easy to remove.

Then, starting at the top, go through each item that's not a built-in function, like ads and outside links, and check for:

Correct HTML tags: Simply open the module, copy the code and paste it into a validation service. If there are incorrect tags, replace the old code with the corrected code and save. It's important that HTML tags are formatted properly - it's not something you can approximate!

Functionality: If you have a banner or link to an outside site, click through it from your blog and make sure the site is still functional and the content is what you expect to see there. If you have a dedicated blogroll, it's a good idea to do this periodically so you know you're directing your own readers to sites you'd visit yourself.

Relevance: Each item in your sidebar should either aid readers in getting around your blog, learn more about you, or provide information that's in some way relevant to your blog. If you write about food and have links to different cookbooks or other chefs, that makes sense and adds value. If you have content that is not related to you or your content, consider removing it. Readers will likely ignore it anyway.

Finally, check to see that your sidebar items are in an order that puts important elements at the top. A good order is something like:

  1. A welcome blurb and photo of yourself
  2. Links to your major social media profiles
  3. Subscription options
  4. Search module
  5. List of categories
  6. Outside links and banners

This prioritizes information about you and navigational items so your readers can easily find more of the content they're interested in. A quick sidebar check up once a quarter will ensure that your blog remains in tip top shape.

New For Beta Users: Widgetpalooza!

July 22, 2014

Adding widgets is a great way to easily and quickly implement features on your Typepad blog.  With that in mind, we're very pleased to introduce several new and exciting features for our Beta Team subscribers: Take a look at our Sidebar Carousel widget, Spotlight Posts widget, and the Copyright and Introduction widgets!

Let's break down what each of these features are:

The Sidebar Carousel places a slideshow of the images from one category of posts to your blog's sidebar. These pictures will then rotate, based on the various settings you can choose.  It's a great way to highlight specific categories or images on your blog in an eye-catching way. You can even add more than one Sidebar Carousel if you'd like.

Postcarouseltheme
Example of the Sidebar Carousel in action.

To add the Sidebar Carousel to your blog, simply go to Design > Content, find the Carousel option under Widgets, select the options you'd like to use, and save your changes.  Easy as pie! See the Knowledge Base article to learn more about the available settings for the Sidebar Carousel.

Next up is the Spotlight Posts widget.  It displays a list of posts from a category in your sidebar, and even gives you the option to show the thumbnail for the first image in the post along with the post excerpt.

Top-excerpt_spotlightAs you can see, it's a pretty nifty way to highlight a specific category in your sidebar.  This can be useful to highlight text, images, or both! Learn more in the Knowledge Base.

Finally, we have the Copyright and Introduction widgets.  When you add either widget, they'll come pre-loaded with some text that we think is useful: the Copyright widget contains the HTML code for the copyright symbol and your blog's name and the Introduction widget contains some simple text to welcome and invite users to visit your blog.  The text for both of these widgets can be edited as you like.

Want to give these widgets a go but aren't a member of our Beta Team?  It's easy to join!  Just go to the Account tab, check the Beta Team option, and save your changes.

Beta Team, we'd love to hear what you think about these features!  Please open a help ticket with your feedback so that we can make them even better.

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