How many widgets and chiclets are in your blog sidebar? Is all that sidebar crap giving your blog value, or making you look foolish?

When you’re out dropping entrecards or surfing and reading blogs do you notice all the crap in the sidebars? I know that to some extent you do – because that’s how the sidebar widgets virally spread. You see blogrush on Shoemoney.com or JohnChow.com and you just have to have it. Then in a week or two, like a brushfire – everyone’s got it. A month later we’re asking ourselves “why do we have this, what good does it do?” Even though some bloggers remove it in a month when they are unhappy with it – most leave it on their blog sidebar and over time the widgets pile up like trash you haven’t taken out. I did a little cleaning of my own lately, and it appears I’m not the only one who is tired of sidebar clutter.

You may have noticed (if you’re returning) that the other day I updated this blog and the WordPress theme a bit. I decided to clean up some of my own sidebar clutter during that process, and ended up removing myBlogLog, BlogCatalog, and all my 125×125 ads. One of the first comments I received was “how clean my blog was…” What does that tell you? It must have been “cluttered“.

Maybe it’s time that you thought about your own sidebar clutter? Before you start ripping out all those widgets to go back to your barebones theme, I’m going to give you some things to think about.

Do a “Sidebar Assessment”

  • How fast does your blog load? Does your blog load in 3-4 seconds? Have you ever noticed it “hanging” while loading during certain times of day (peak hour)? Every widget you place on your blog make an “external call” to another web site to get information. These external calls add up if you have a half dozen widgets. If any one of them is slow – it will in turn slow down the load time of your blog. It may even be intermittent. I noticed that during peak hours during this last week, myBlogLog was particularly bogging down my site during peak hours. I also tried to use adToll (which I quite like) for 4 125×125 ad blocks – but it slowed down my blog so much I had to remove it. If you have widgets that slow down your blog – they’ve got to go!
  • Is it annoying? Some widgets are so damn annoying, things that move and blink routinely piss me off. Also things that distract me and keep me from getting the information I want. If I feel tricked, I’m outta there. The one (that’s not really sidebar) that most annoys me lately are these new “peel ads” from adTool in the top right corner of a blog. You’ll know one when you see it because it flashes raunchy green stripes back and forth with such velocity that if you epileptic you’d probably have a seizure! You could lose any value a widget could provide if the format or display so annoys people that they leave your blog! Another big offender are widgets that automatically start playing audio or video! If I want to watch or listen to something I will click on it – turning your blog into an infomercial turns me off!
  • Is it related to your niche? Am I the only one who’s tired of this? Look, if I’m on your site about blogging – I don’t want to buy an iPod! I don’t want a total gym, I don’t want ringtones, and I don’t want to learn how to make money trading F0rex! This reminds of a few years back when a few undercard boxers started to accept money to have golden palace dot com stenciled on their back for a televised match. What the hell does online gambling have to do with boxing? Sure golden palace got exposure, but how cheap and sleazy did that boxer look? One of the biggest offenders in this area that I can recall is John Chow with his little widget on posts hawking electronic gadgets. Sorry John Chow, if I’m on your site about making money online I DON’T want to buy an LCD monitor or a digital camera. Maybe John actually gets enough traffic to pull this off – but 99% of blogs don’t. It’s not relevant, it looks stupid, and you’re probably not making any money from it anyway.
  • What Value Does it Provide? If you’re going to have a widget in your sidebar make sure that it actually adds value to your site and that it doesn’t “de-value” it. Does it do more than just look cool? Does it monetize? Does it allow you to communicate with site visitors or network with other bloggers? There’s nothing worse than a non-used widget. What about these “chat with me” or “live help” widgets that always say “not available” or “offline”? If you’re not there or the widget can’t be used most of the time – get rid of it!
  • Does it have a Track Record of Results? Well, you placed these god-awful widgets on your site, have you gone back a month later to see if they lived up to expectations? Does blogrush really provide visitors for your site? Are you actually networking with bloggers in myBlogLog and BlogCatalog – or just getting spammed with notifications? Has that amazon widget ever made you any money? Are people using your shoutbox? Are they voting on your polls? Are people actually clicking on those 125×125 ads? Be sure to re-evaluate all your widgets on a regular basis, and if you and your visitors aren’t getting any real clear and measurable value – get rid of them!
  • Would You Use it? This is what they call “eating your own dog food”! When you are on other blogs what annoys you? What widgets do you like? A good rule of thumb is to not add any widgets that you yourself don’t use when you’re out there reading blogs. If it’s not good enough for you – it’s not good enough for your blog visitors.
  • Is it professional? Certain widgets, chiclets, and forms of monetization work well on one blog and not another. It depends on the factors of professionalism and audience. For instance, on my “jokes” web site using in-line contextual text link ads is completely acceptable – and it does make money. On this blog most bloggers would hate it, and I would get almost no clicks. On my tech blog a widget with tech deals is fine, on this blog probably not. You set the level of professionalism on your blog, and if your sidebar looks like a Christmas tree you may not be taken as seriously. If your blog is about celebrity dirt and not making money online different guidelines apply.

All I’m asking you to do is take an assessment of your own blog sidebar(s) and not only the value of your widget(s) to you and your visitors – but whether or not it’s distracting and making your site look like the city dump! Please, comment now and let me know what you think!

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