It’s easy to get so excited about your new blog that you want to use every bell and whistle that you can get your hands on. But if you’re serious about building a significant readership or turning your blog into a business, going overboard with widgets and plug-ins can actually hurt you.
Here are 10 time and space wasting widgets your should delete from your sidebar today:
- Subscription Count/RSS Widget. This is a great idea if you have a legion of subscribers, since nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. Otherwise, it can work against you by functioning as negative social proof. If your RSS widget shows you only have a handful of subscribers, many readers will wonder why they should subscribe if no one else is doing it.
- Calendar. Calendar widgets were fun and interesting when the Internet and blogs were new. But now, they’re really not. If someone wants to see something you’ve posted at an earlier day or month, they can always check out your archives page.
- Irrelevant Affiliate Ads. I often see new blogs whose sidebars are stuffed with all sorts of random banner ads and affiliate offers. It’s important to remember that people won’t click on your ads just because they’re there, and they’re definitely not more likely to click just because there are a ton of ads on the page. Relevance is key, so stick to promoting just one or two offers you know your readers will find useful and relevant.
- “Share This” Sidebar Widgets. Unless your blog is the most groundbreaking and incredible thing they’ve ever seen in their entire life, a visitor is much more likely to share single posts or pages than they are to share the homepage of your blog.
- “Hosted By” Badges. Most visitors don’t care who hosts your blog. And if they do, they’re more likely to respond to a well-written review post about the pros and cons of your hosting service. If you want to make affiliate sales through your hosting provider, it’s a much better way to go about it than a standalone widget in your sidebar.
- Blogroll/Link Exchange. If you must have a list of links of other blogs, move them to a separate page. Your sidebar should be reserved for the things you absolutely need your readers to see or do (and having them click away to someone else’s site shouldn’t be your priority).
- Facebook Stream. Facebook page status updates out of context can be distracting to your readers. If you really want them to become a fan or friend of your Facebook page, skip adding the feed preview and just use a simple and compact “Like” button instead.
- Recent Posts. It’s much more useful to have your most popular posts listed in the sidebar. Recent posts can easily be found in the archives or on your blog’s front page.
- Tag Cloud. No one uses them and no one has ever left a blog just because it didn’t have one. Use a search form instead, so people can find exactly what they’re looking for instead of having to weed through post tags.
- Blog Ranking/Technorati Widget. Your Alexa and Technorati rankings don’t mean much to your average reader (unless you’re blogging about blogging), and I can guarantee you they won’t be looking it up just because they noticed it on your sidebar.
If you give your reader too many calls to action at a time, they’ll generally decide on inaction, since it’s far easier to do nothing than it is to choose from a plethora of options. The best thing to do is to keep it simple and save your sidebar space for the most important actions you want your visitors to take on your blog.