Monday, June 30, 2014

Social Media Monday—What Gadgets Do I Need in My Blog’s Sidebar?

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Someone contacted my with this question just last week. I looked for a blog post about this to send her. That's when I realized that while I talk about this in bits and pieces within different blog posts, I’ve never written a post addressing this specific issue.

That’s a huge slip-up on my part because your blog’s sidebar is VERY important in the overall success of your site. Not just what's in it, but also what order those gadgets are in.

So today I’m going to break it down and answer the question, “What gadgets do I need in my blog’s sidebar?”

Definition: Gadget, Widget, Whatever
Depending on which blogging platform you use, the names of the plug-ins for your blog are different.
  • Blogger: here they’re called Gadgets and you can find them by going to your Blogger dashboard and clicking on Layout. There are several pages, but stick with the tab that says BASIC. These (at the moment there are 28) gadgets have been vetted by Blogger and won’t secretly imbed some kind of Trojan horse bug into your blog. The BASIC gadgets are the only ones guaranteed. If you want to use any of the others, be sure to do your homework and verify they come from reputable sources and can’t have been tampered with.
  • WordPress: here they’re called Widgets and you can find them by going to your blog’s dashboard and clicking on Appearance. WordPress has thousands of widgets, some free, some for sale. You can find Widget to fit a WordPress sight all over the Internet. Again, unless the Widget comes directly from WordPress, be sure to verify they come from reputable sources and can’t have been tampered with.

Before I get to the specific gadgets you should include in your sidebar, let me give you some basic information about the purpose of that section of your blog. Your sidebar is first and foremost, your call to action for your reader. That isn’t just a sales term, but in this situation, it’s what you want your reader to do (like subscribe to your site or follow you on social media). Beyond that, the order you put your Gadgets in is their order of importance.

The gadget your readers sees first, is the most important thing. The one they see next is second in the list of importance, etc.

What Gadgets in What Order?
Here are the two things I think every blog needs at the top of the sidebar:
  • Subscription Links: this is where your reader can sign up for blog updates sent to their email or their RSS feed. You don’t need to know what an RSS feed is, but you do need to provide a way for your audience to get updates through a reader. For blogger, the gadget for RSS is the one labeled Subscription Links. The one for email signups is labeled Follow by Email.
  • Social Media Follow Buttons: These buttons are generally generated on the site of the platform you want to share. For example you have to go to Facebook to create your FB Follow or Like Button and Twitter to Create your Twitter button. That's the same no matter which site you want to link to, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. Once you’ve followed the steps on the social media site and created the codes for your buttons, you’ll use the HTML Gadget to install them on your sidebar.

More Gadgets
There are lots of gadgets you can add to your site. You can also add them again and again, for different things. Most of them can be used multiple times. here are the things you might find helpful to include:
  • The Blogging Schedule for My Site: I put this one close to the top and you won’t need this if you only post once or twice a week. For this I use the Text Gadget.
  • Books I Have to Sell or Promote
  • Blogging List
  • Most Popular Posts
  • Links to Other Sites

Gadgets You Do NOT Need
I don’t recommend you have the About Me information in a gadget. Instead I recommend you put that information into a Page on your blog.

There are a lot of things you can add to your sidebar, but be careful. It’s important not to let your sidebar get too cluttered. Just add the things you need, as you need them.

Now it’s your turn, What questions do you have about your blog’s sidebar? Be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!



  1. Thanks, Edie for those great tips. I will be rearranging my gadgets. I love to learn new things that make my writing better.

    1. Barbara, I'm glad I was able to help! Blessings, E

  2. Thank you, Edie, I have learned so much in just the last few months. Good tips. Now to get my 'designer' to read and heed these things. :)

    1. Donevy, it's a step-by-step process. Don't put too much pressure on yourself! Blessings, E

  3. Thanks, Edie. Your insight and help is priceless to us newbies.

  4. How important is it to have someone who sees your blog to follow you on another social medium like Facebook or Twitter. You have a lot of other places where people can follow you. If they already know you from your blog, why does it matter? Do you post other, maybe more things on the other social media? Sorry for all the questions here.

    1. Ellen, it matter a lot for people to be able to follow you on other mediums. People have different conversations on different platforms. You want the opportunity to be included. And yes, I post lots of different things on different platforms. Think about it this way, it's the same reason that you're part of more than one writers group. And don't apologize for the questions, that's what I'm here for! Blessings, E

  5. Thanks Edie, Your tips are very helpful. It has really helped me to "upgrade" my blog. Blessing

  6. Great information. As a person starting out, I find this information very useful, glad I stumbled upon your site. Great stuff, would love it if you created a whole course on this subject.
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  7. Thank you, Edie, I have learned so much in just the last few months. Good tips. Now to get my 'designer' to read and heed these things. :)
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