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:
- A welcome blurb and photo of yourself
- Links to your major social media profiles
- Subscription options
- Search module
- List of categories
- 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.