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You might think that the sidebar on your blog is just a place to stick extra information if you have it, but it is a crucial tool for getting your readers orientated. Without the proper information and widgets here, you can lead your readers astray. Here are some things you may want to include in your sidebar.

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About
This comes in two parts: about you and about this blog. You want to keep your personal bio short and sweet. Here’s an article on how to do that. It can include a photo, contact link, and links to your social media profiles like Facebook and Twitter. About this blog should be short and sweet too. Try to tell them in once sentence what they can expect from your blog.

Best Content
These are your “internal links.” Pick the few best blog posts that you have that are either good enough to make readers want to read more or are the posts that explain something important, for instance a short synopsis about your book and where to buy it would be a good post to highlight here. You can change these as time passes.

Categories or Archive
See my sidebar on the left? It has all my posts broken into categories like blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. When you arrive to my blog, you get all of my posts. But if you only wanted to read my posts about Facebook, you could click on Facebook and get all those posts on one page. WordPress allows you to do this. If your blog is more like a diary than something people will want to view in categories, you can have an archive separated by day, month, or year. Blogger.com sets one up for you by default (but you can delete it if you don’t want it). These things allow easy navigation rather than paging through your entire blog one screen at a time.

Blogroll
These are your “external links.” A blogroll is a list of blogs (hyperlinked to be clickable) that you read, preferably ones that your readers will be interested in too. If you have a lot of favorite blogs, you may want to have multiple blogrolls broken into categories like “Book Blogs” and “Cooking Blogs” and “My Friends’ Blogs.”

Widgets and Gadgets
Widgets can be the saving grace or the brutal murder of your sidebar. There are many third-party widgets out there that can do anything from tell you the time, tell you how many people visited your site, show your favorite YouTube videos, display interactive games, provide a search bar, and much more. Make sure that it’s important, that you’re not creating clutter, and that it doesn’t cause your page to load slowly.

Badges
As long as you don’t get carried away, badges are not a bad idea. They provide a simple graphic in the sidebar which is eye-catching. They also show your affiliation to online groups and causes, giving your readers some insight into you and feeling a better connection. It’s also free advertising for your favorite web places.

Subscribe
Make it easy for your fans to subscribe to you by creating an RSS feed. Here’s an article on how to do that on Blogger.com.

Ads
Obviously you don’t have to have ads on your blog. It’s just a nice way to make money. It might even help your SEO. Check out eHow for details.

Useful Links:
Most Popular Blog Sidebar Items (Bash Bosh)
What You Should and Shouldn’t Have on Your Blog’s Sidebar (Social Mouths)
Basic Tips Part 1 and Part 2 (Wayneliew.com)
5 Items Your Blog Sidebar Must Have (Blogging Tips)

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