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Overheard on #Blogchat: Can Readers Find You? (@thekrg)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This Week’s Theme: Blog Design

During this week’s #blogchat discussion, we talked about everything from blogrolls to whitespace. One of the subjects that came up again and again was what elements to include on your site (especially on the sidebar) and what elements to leave off. Said one tweeter:

thekrg: Social media contacts are a must for me.

Back in December, I compiled the 12 Days of Blogging mostly by clicking from site to site. I visiting blogs from BlogWorld speakers, blogs that respected IM/blogging bloggers recommended, blogs people were promoting on Twitter, and blogs I just thought might be cool. In the end, I included posts from over 100 bloggers. Of those hundred bloggers, I found Twitter information for all but one or two, and I would estimate that at least 95% were active accounts (i.e., used regularly). I’m willing to bet that almost all of these bloggers are also on Twitter, and many are on LinkedIn and other social networking sites as well.

But not everyone made this information easily available. In fact, I’d say that I had to actively hunt for social networking information from about 25% of the bloggers that were included in the ebook.

That’s way too many people who aren’t making it easy enough for readers to find them.

This isn’t about promoting yourself even more or something. I mean, it can be – having more followers on Twitter, more “likes” on Facebook, and so forth…those are definitely good things. But more importantly, this is about recognizing that not everybody wants to contact you in the same way.

I’m a fan of email, for example. I will freely give my Skype information to anyone wanting a chat or phone call as well, and I reply to comments as needed. As much as I’m a fan of email, though, I’m finding it more and more convenient to reach people on Twitter or Facebook. Twitter is nice because it’s a quick and instant way to contact someone with a single question. It’s almost like chatting via an IM platform, but without the need to have an entire conversation. Perfect for someone who is busy. Facebook is another great tool, since it allows you to connect with someone in a more public way if you want, as well as invite them to events or send private messages. LinkedIn is another awesome social network for communication – if I’ve worked with someone in the past, I can send out a recommendation.

If you don’t include your social network information on your site, people can’t do those things. Frankly, sometimes I’m too lazy to open up my email. If I can’t quickly find someone’s Twitter information, I just thing, “meh, maybe I’ll catch them later” unless the question/comment was really pressing.

That’s not a good thing. The buzzword right now is engage, and you can’t do that if you don’t give your readers options for connecting with you. Not everyone likes the same things you do.

Is it a must to have Twitter/Facebook/etc. information on your sidebar? Although I think that’s the most convenience option, I wouldn’t say it’s a must. If you’re going for a minimalist look, you can also put this information at the bottom of your posts, one your About page or on your Contacts page. I recommend having it several places. Just where you want to place it on your blog depends on your niche and overall design.

But make sure you include it somewhere. If you expect to make money from your readers, give them several contact options!

Thanks, @thekrg, for a great tweet!

30 Days to a Better Blog: Consider Your Sidebar

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Consider Your Sidebar

Genesis Framework Themes I’ll admit it … I have a pet peeve when it comes to blog sidebars. It bothers me when the length of the sidebar is considerably longer than the length of a post.

Why?Because when I first land on a page, I take note of the position of the scroll bar on the right side of my browser. If it looks like I have a lot of scrolling, that impacts how I read the post. Imagine my surprise when I scroll down one time, the content ends, but the sidebar goes on forever?!

Really, what’s the point? People are going to stop at the end of your content, so anything further down on your sidebar is going to get lost. And it’s really an easy fix. You can either:

  1. Lengthen your posts.
  2. Shorten your sidebar.

The first option requires reanalyzing your content structure and amount of writing. The second option is really quite easy! Here are a few ways you can shorten your sidebar:

  • Add a second sidebar. Many of the good WordPress themes offer a second sidebar – you can add it on the opposite side of your content, or have two sidebars next to one another.
  • Add a top menu. If you don’t have a top menu for your categories/pages – consider adding one to remove that bulk from your sidebar.
  • Remove duplicate content. If you do have a menu on the top for your categories/pages – you don’t need to duplicate it with a list or dropdown on your sidebar.
  • Condense your sidebar. If your sidebar is still too lengthy, you may have to dump some items. Analyze what’s important – a search bar, advertising, social media buttons, a quick bio perhaps – and start deleting the rest. Tag clouds may be fun to look at, but if you already have multiple methods of navigation, it’s something that can go!

What’s on your sidebar and is it all necessary?

To Blogroll or Not to Blogroll…

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In West Philadelphia, born and raised, makin' blogrolls is how I spent most of my days...

When I first started blogging, everyone had a blogroll. I mean everyone. It was only natural to show some link love on your sidebar to people you enjoyed reading and people writing about similar topics.

Slowly, blogrolls began to disappear, to the point where they’re now pretty old skool. At first, it was just the lists of “random sites I love just ‘cuz” that were deleted to make space for other things on a sidebar. Then, we saw bloggers start to delete the “related blogs” lists from their sidebar, too. Some bloggers moved them to separate “links” pages. Other bloggers just deleted them completely.

Today, bloggers who use blogrolls are a dying breed. Why are people deleting them?

  1. They take up valuable space on a homepage. You could use that space for advertising, site navigation, links to your social media outposts, etc.
  2. You’re never going to have a list that includes everyone in your niche, so you run the risk of hurting feelings when you are choosing who to include.
  3. When you have a blogroll, it encourages people to email you and ask to trade links, even though their blog may not fit your site well (or at all).
  4. Blogrolls typically don’t get tons of clicks anyway. It depends on the niche, but people are more likely to click if you link with an explanation within your post.
  5. It takes time to maintain a blogroll, since you have to constantly check for broken links and update it when bloggers move or stop blogging.

That’s a lot of negativity about blogrolls! I’m pretty traditional, though – I still like to see them on sites, even if they aren’t the traditional long list of links. On After Graduation, I have my links in the footer so they’re still there, but out of the way. I support the use of a links page, too. Since I gave you a bunch of reasons why blogrolls suck, I’ll also give you some reasons why you should consider keeping yours:

  1. They give your readers more resources, and more is always better!
  2. It’s a way to show someone that you appreciate their site and the work they do there.
  3. People will email you to offer link exchanges, and when they do, you can offer them advertising rates instead. I’ve actually picked up a few advertisers this way in the past on other blogs.
  4. It makes your site seem more user-friendly and less commercial. Readers see it as a look into who you are and what you read on a daily basis.
  5. If you use a feed plugin to display their last post, you’re adding content to your blog, making it more valuable to readers.

I support some bloggers’ decisions to remove their list of links. I think it looks especially bad when you have a huge list of 100+ links on your sidebar. Even if they are all related to your niche in someway, do you really think they’re all high-quality? Do all the links still work? Do readers click through all of them? Probably not on all accounts.

Your turn – do you have a blogroll on your site? Why or why not?

Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. Using the term “old skool” in this post made immediately turn on her I Love the 90s iTunes playlist. Word to your mother.

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