Why is my blog slow? 10 possible reasons

One of the primary jobs I often do as part of my blog development business is performance tuning client’s sites.  About a year ago, Google modified their ranking algorithms to factor in overall site performance.  Meaning, the slower your site compared to other similar sites, the lower your site and articles would be ranked on the Google SERPs.  As a result of this announcement, I received an influx of requests to performance tune sites.  As a result of this work, I came up with a list of the top 10 reasons why people’s blogs and websites are slow.  The good news?  All of these are pretty easy to fix.

1 – Too many plugins

One of the most common reasons why your site may be slow is due to having too many plugins.  One of the really slick features of WordPress is that there are literally thousands of plugins for WordPress that will do pretty much anything you could ever want.  The downside is that many of these plugins are written by amateur developers and are not performance optimized.  Another consideration is that most every plugin, regardless of how optimized it is, slows your site down a little.  The more plugins you add, the slower your site becomes – Creeping normalcy if you will.

In a perfect world, you shouldn’t run any plugins.  Realistically, you should only run the bare minimum amount of plugins.  I typically don’t have more than 10 installed and two of these are performance optimizing plugins (W3 Total Cache and WP Minify).  You can read about the minimum plugins I recommend at Base plugins for blogs.

Wondering if your site has too many plugins?  Want to see which plugins are having the most impact to your site?  Ironically, I’d suggest installing another plugin called: P3 Plugin Profiler.  P3 will analyze your plugins and give you some really great detail on which plugins are taking up the most time and their overall impact to your site’s performance.  Once you’re done with the analysis, I’d recommend deactivating the plugin until you need it again.

2 – Theme

Another frequent cause of slow site performance is your WordPress theme.  WordPress.org offers many free themes.  Unfortunately many of the themes that look really great, are terribly slow.  I used to run a few of these free themes, but over the years realized that some things are just worth paying for.  All of my sites, except this one, now run on the Genesis theme, which is incredibly optimized and fast out of the box.   Converting this site over is still on my todo list.

3 – Too many pictures or graphics

I love pictures on blogs, especially free pictures.  They draw a reader’s attention, break up the wall of text often seen on many blogs (blogger blogs…*cough* *cough*) and frankly if done right, really make a blog “pop”.  Pictures though can have a negative impact on your site’s performance especially when not used correctly.

Here area few things to consider when using images on your blog:

  • On your main page, use smaller images or thumbnails.  Only show bigger images on your single post pages.
  • Optimize your image files before you upload them.  Image Optimizer is a great tool.
  • Don’t use HTML to downsize your image.  One of the big mistakes people make is uploading a 1024×768 (or bigger) image, then use the img tag height and width attributes to resize the image to 150×150 pixels.  Here’s the problem: the full image is still downloaded to your browser.  If you want the image to be 150×150, resize it first, then upload it to your blog.
  • Minimize the number of images used on a single page.  I was visiting a site the other day, where the blogger included a large amount of pictures in her posts.  This is all well and good, as the primary intent of her blog was photos.  The problem was, she was showing full posts on her main page and showing a good 50 posts on that same page.  It literally took a couple of minutes for her main page to fully load – very very bad.  In this case, I’d recommend only showing one image per post on the main page or better yet show 10 partial posts on the first page and only show 1 thumbnail.  The Genesis theme does this with just a few clicks.

4 – Too much Javascript

Another common cause of overall sight slowness can be Javascript, either too much of it, poorly written script or script that calls out to other sites too much.  Javascript can be a bit tricky, as if you view your site code you’ll often only see a few lines of actually Javascript, but what’s it doing is potentially loading a much larger javascript or HTML file from another location.

Try to minimize your javascript as much as you can.  If a plugin or widget gives you the option of using HTML or Javascript, I personally lean towards using the HTML.  One plugin that will optimize your Javascript (and CSS files) is WP-Minify.  I highly recommend you install and configure it.  Enabling GZip compression (see the next item) will also speed your Javascript load times.

5 – You don’t have Gzip Compression enabled

Gzip compression causes all of your site content to be transmitted across “the wire” compressed.  Meaning that the amount of data transmitted is much smaller. Smaller data = faster load times.  If you aren’t sure if Gzip compression is enabled for your site, visit this gzip compression tester and enter your sites URL to find out.

If your site isn’t Gzip compressing, doing so is really pretty easy.  Just install the W3 Total Cache plugin.  Not only will this plugin enable Gzip compression, but it will also cache all of your site content, both in the browser and on the server.  Caching will cause your site to perform much faster – I’ve often seen it cut a sites response time in half.

6 – Your hosting plan is too small

One of the most common reasons your blog might be slow is due to having a hosting plan that is too small, or a shared hosting plan that isn’t correctly managed by the hosting provider.

Many times as new bloggers, we start off with an inexpensive hosting plan.  These plans generally work well for a few months as we slowly build blog traffic.  At some point, and this particular point is often difficult to recognize, our blog outgrows the current hosting plan.  I recommend monitoring your site performance from day one.  Just check your response times a couple of times a week, and record the times in a spreadsheet.  What you’ll generally notice is that over time, your site progressively slows down, then all of the sudden gets exponentially slow.  This is generally the point where your site traffic has exceeded your hosting plan and a big sign it’s time to upgrade.  Your hosting provider or a consultant like myself, can usually help you determine when it’s time to upgrade if you aren’t sure.

Another common problem with inexpensive plans is that they are generally what’s called “shared plans”, meaning your website runs on a single server along with many other websites.  The number of sites on a server varies greatly from hosting company to hosting company.  The problem with this approach is that if one of those sites has a technical issue or gets a large amount of traffic, the performance of your site will most likely be impacted.  The solution?  You can complain to your hosting provider who can manage this to some level, but generally these types of situations are the reality of a shared plan.  The real solution is to get a dedicated or virtual server.  The downside is the cost.

When picking a hosting company, I always recommend someone that has seamless upgrade options, meaning you can increase and/or decrease you plan as needed.  The three hosting companies I recommend for bloggers are:

  • HostGator
  • Bluehost
  • A Small Orange – This is the provider I run all of my sites on.  They are a little more expensive, but provide a high level of service and performance.

For more detail on selecting the right hosting, check out my article: Hosting for blogs.

7 -You aren’t caching

I already touched on caching above.  Caching is a technology that stores pages when they are requested on disk for fast access.  Enabling caching within WordPress, using a plugin like W3 Total Cache enables both server side and browser caching.  Caching offers significant performance increases for WordPress blogs due to the nature of how WordPress builds pages.  The content for each WordPress page is stored in a database, WordPress pages when requested are built using a combination of code and the actual page content from the database.  In a nutshell, running that code and retrieving the page content from the database each time takes time.   A caching plugin stores the final HTML page, so that the next time it’s requested, it doesn’t have to be completely regenerated.

If you aren’t caching, you should be.  Spend a few minutes installing and setting up W3 Total Cache, it’s time well spent.  One note, if you’re running Thesis – do not enable Object caching in W3 Total Cache, as it will cause your site to not render correctly.

8 -You don’t have the latest WordPress and plugin versions

Another common cause of slow site performance is having old versions of WordPress and various plugins.  WordPress and the many available plugins are constantly being upgraded and improved.  Staying on the lastest versions can not only make a considerable performance increase to your site, but it can also keep you from being open to hacks or security vulnerabilities.

Also make sure your WordPress version and plugins are on the lastest releases.  Fortunately this is easy to do with WordPress’s built in upgrade process.

9 – Too many blog posts on one page

I mentioned this earlier, but displaying too many posts on your main page can quickly slow down your site’s performance, especially if you have large posts or posts containing image or video content.   Every time a post is rendered in WordPress, WordPress has to fetch the post content and render it.  WordPress has to do this for each post.  Thus, if you display 20 posts on a page, and you’re displaying full posts – rendering that page is almost equivalent to displaying a single page 20 times.  For those more technical, I realize this isn’t exactly true – but regardless, the more posts on a page, the slower the page gets.

I generally recommend no more than 10 posts on your main blog page, and even then I recommend only showing “teasers” for each of those posts.  That is similar to what I do here on Side Income Blogging.  I show 2 partial posts, followed by 6 teasers with thumbnails.  I decided on the number of teasers to show based on the length of my sidebar.  As you can see, the main page loads quick, even with the images.

Tip – While some might think this is a bit sneaky, showing partial posts and teasers on your front page not only makes your site faster, but it causes your reader to view two pages on your site.  Why would we want to do this?  That’s twice the advertisements we can show them.  Devious?  Perhaps, but remember, this site is about how to earn a side income blogging and without advertising there is no side income.

10 – You have a hosting issue

Finally, while not common, a cause of your site being slow may be an issue with your hosting company.  Perhaps they are having some type of network issue, hardware problem or configuration issue.  If you have all of the above taken care of, and your site is still slow, ping your hosting company.  Most likely they’ll say everything is fine, but every so often they identify a problem and fix it.  This is one of the reasons I like A Small Orange and pay extra for them – They have 24×7 support and most notably 24×7 phone support – meaning I can get a live person whenever I want.


Not sure if your site is performing fast or slow?  Visit Google PageSpeed and get an online analysis.  I got an 87/100 on this site, which isn’t bad at all but means I do have a little bit of work to do.  How did you score?

Did I miss any?  Have you experienced another reason for site slowness or have a technique, idea or strategy for making blogs faster I didn’t touch on?  Add a comment and make this article even better!

Photo by: ell brown


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How to put ads in the middle of your post content

I recently did a site design and build for a client who had a special request: He wanted to put ads in in the middle of his page content.  Generally my clients ask for ad blocks to be inserted, but they’ve always wanted them either at the top or at the bottom of a post or page.  Placing an ad block at the top or bottom of a page is easy, placing an ad block in the middle, automatically, is a bit more challenging and requires some special coding.

Put ads in the middle of your posts

How to put ads in the middle of your page content

While I’m sure the code I’m about to share with you would work with a few changes on any theme, the code as a whole is specific to the Thesis theme.

The easiest way to insert an ad block into the middle of your post or page is to just manually insert it.  This is easily done using the WordPress editor, and literally takes all of a few seconds.  That is not what we’re addressing here.  The code below will automatically insert an ad close to the middle of your article on every single post automatically.  Slick huh?

Code for ads in the middle of page content

Here’s the code:

* Insert ads in the middle of a post - after 3rd paragraph
function inject_ad_text_after_n_chars($content) {
$enable_length = 1500;
$after_character = 1000;
if (is_single() && (strlen($content) > $enable_length)) {
$before_content = substr($content, 0, $after_character);
$after_content = substr($content, $after_character);
$after_content = explode('</p>', $after_content);
array_splice($after_content, 1, 0, wp_ozh_wsa("AdSense-MidParagraph",false));
$after_content = implode('</p>', $after_content);
return $before_content . $after_content;
} else {
return $content;
add_filter('the_content', 'inject_ad_text_after_n_chars');

How the code works

  • The code first determines if the current page is a single post page or not, if not the ad won’t be shown.  It then determines if the post is more than $enable_length characters long, if not the ad won’t be shown.
  • The code then gets all of the post text up to position 1000 ($after_character) and all of the rest after this character position.  The first part is stored in before_content the rest in after_content.
  • The next line (explode(‘</p>’, $after_content)) basically breaks the after_content sections using the paragraph tags.
  • Next, an array_splice is done to place the ad code right after the first </p> tag found.  This is done so that the ad is placed between paragraphs – meaning the ad won’t be placed at exactly $after_character, but at the end of the paragraph end tag following $after_character.
  • Note the ad code is: wp_ozh_wsa(“AdSense-MidParagraph”,false).  This particular example uses a plugin called Who Sees Ads.
  • The $before_content is then concatenated with $after_content and returned.
The code above should be placed into your Thesis custom_functions.php file and Who See Ads configured to include the ad code you want to show.  This particular strategy of placing ads inside of your content is particularly effective with Google Adsense.
Let me know how this works for you and if you have any questions or problems using the code by adding a comment below!

Photo by: christopher.woo

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Monetize your blog with Adsense

If you’ve been following my Start a money making blog series, together we have: set-up your blog, consistently published content, and worked to increase your traffic.  If you’re averaging more than 100 visits per day, it’s time to consider placing some advertising on your blog so you can begin earning that side income we’ve been talking about!

A great way to start monetizing your blog is with Google Adsense.  Adsense is an advertising network run by Google and allows publishers (that’s you) to display text, image, and rich media ads on your blog.  What makes Google Adsense so slick, is that the ads are automatically targeted at your site’s content.  Adding Adsense ads to your site is also easy: all you have to do is add some script where you want the ad to be shown or use one of the many available WordPress plugins.

Here’s the catch: Optimization and placement of your ads is key to how well your ads will perform.  One of the biggest mistakes new and inexperienced bloggers make is just slapping Adsense ads on their blog, without giving consideration to who should see them, where they should be placed, what size should be used and how they should look.  No need to be concerned, I’ll help you through all of that.

 How to make a Google Adsense Account

The first thing you’ll need to do is sign-up for Google Adsense.  To sign up:

  1. Visit the Google Adsense Page.
  2. Click on the Sign-up now button.
  3. Complete all of the required information, paying particular attention to your website address.  Make sure this is correct.  This URL cannot contain anything that violates the program policies.  Press submit when you’re done.
  4. Next you’ll either link your existing Google Account or you’ll create a new one.
  5. The final page will display a summary of the information you’ve submitted and ask that you confirm.
That’s it.  Your Adsense account request has now been submitted and you’ll need to wait for your site to be approved.  This process takes anywhere from a day to a week, depending on how many requests Google has at the time.  You’ll receive an email from Google notifying you once you’ve been approved.
In the rare instance that you are not approved, the email from Google will contain information on why and how to resubmit your site.  The most common reason for a decline is due to content.  Google reviews your content closely, and will not approve a site that doesn’t meet it’s guidelines.   If this happens, you’ll just have to resolve the issue and resubmit your site.

Adsense Placement

One of the key factors to success with Adsense is the placement of ads.  The following diagram from the Google Help pages shows optimal placement using a heat map (dark orange – strongest performance, light yellow – weakest performance):

Note a few things:

  • Adsense does better below your nav bar – not above
  • The closer Adsense is to your content, the better it performs.  The best placement is right above your content
  • If you have a 3 column theme with a left side column, Adsense does well placed in this left side column as well.
In this article, we’ll focus on adding your Adsense ads just above your content.  For all of my sites, this has been the optimal position.  With that being said though, let me take a minute to address testing.  Each and every website is unique, and while you will see patterns with placement and performance, it is critically important test placement on your site.  By testing I mean play around with different placements and types of ads.  Track each ad’s performance and use that data for determining where to place your ads.  There is actually a way to show one ad to some set of your visitors and another ad to the rest.  This is called A/B Testing.  I’ll review how to do that in a future article.

How to create your first Adsense ad

Assuming your account has been approved, let’s jump in and create your very first Adsense ad.  As I mentioned, for this article we’ll create an ad above your content.  More specifically, we’ll create a 336×280 (large square ad) and place it below your post title but before your content on each of your articles.  We’ll additionally only show this ad to search engine visitors.  I’ll explain why below.

To create your ad, do the following:

  1. Login to your Adsense account.
  2. Click on the My ads tab at the top.
  3. Press the New ad unit button.  The new ad screen will appear prompting you for information about your new ad.
  4. In the Name field, put a name for your ad.  I generally use the name of my blog, followed by the ad size.  For example: Side Income Blogging – Large Square.  The name really doesn’t matter, as long as it is meaningful to you.
  5. In the Size field, select: 336 x 280 – Large Rectangle (this tends to be the best performing Adsense ad)
  6. For Ad type, use the default: Text & Image / Rich Media Ads.  This will allow a combination of text, image and animated ads.
  7. Custom Channels allow you to view and track detailed about your ads, so you’ll definitely want to use a channel.   To create a new custom channel, click on the Create new custom channel link.  In the pop-up, type a name for your channel and press Save.   The new channel will automatically be associated with your ad.
  8. Ad style/color Palette will allow you to select the colors for your ad.  Proper color selection is critical to good performance.  The ad should blend with your content and specifically with your link colors.  Here’s how to select your colors: Border – Use the same color as your background.  Generally this will be #FFFFFF (white), you don’t want a border to show.  Title – Same as your link color.  Background – Same color as Border.  Text – #CCCCCC.  URL – #cccccc.  Use the defaults for the remainder of the settings.  These colors are based on testing I’ve done and the experience of other bloggers I’ve talked with.
  9. Click Save and get code.
  10. Copy the ad code, and save it somewhere handy, as we’ll be using it shortly to show the ad on your site.

Adsense performs very well for search engine visitors, and not well at all for normal visitors or readers of your site.  On my blogs, I focus on my readers as much as I can and I don’t generally like to show them ads, especially non-affiliate ads.  As a result, I only show Adsense ad to search engine visitors, meaning that only visitors coming from a search engine SERP (Search Engine Result Page) will see my Adsense ads.  Fortunately there is a really great plugin that takes care of this for us called: Ozh’ Who Sees Ads.

Here’s how to set-up the Adsense ad we just created so that it is only shown to search engine visitors:

  1. If not already installed, install the Ozh’ Who Sees Ads WordPress plugin and activate it.
  2. Now let’s get it configured.   In your WordPress admin menu, navigate to Settings>>Who Sees Ads.  Who See Ads uses something called Contexts.  Context allow you to set-up rules around who will see your ads (or who won’t).  There are a number of rules available (in the Possible Rules section).
  3. The first thing you’ll want to do is name the new context we’re creating.  Since we’re only showing our ads to search engine visitors, I’d suggest calling it something like search-engine-only.  Avoid using spaces, and use dashes instead, as it will make it easier to reference your name when we insert the Who Sees Ads code here in a bit.
  4. Next, we’ll set-up the rule.  Drag the rule named: “If Visitor comes from a search engine display” to the Active Rules box.  This is generally the only rule I use, but you can add others.  For example, you may want to consider showing adsense on your older posts (usually your normal viewers won’t view older posts).  To do this, drag the rule named: “If Post is older than XX days then display”.  As you can see, there are many rules available, and I would encourage you to try out various rules to see what works best for you for earning revenue.
  5. Remember earlier I told you to save off your Adsense code?  Time to pull it up, copy it and paste it into the box named “Ad Code”.
  6. Click on Save Context.
You’ve now created a context in Who Sees Ads that you can use to control whether your ads are seen or not.  Next, we’ll need to add a little code to call Who See Ads.  If the context evaluates to true, your ad code will be displayed, if not, it won’t.  The code below is for the Thesis theme, if you run a different theme, the way you add this code will vary.

If you’ll recall, we’ll be adding your Adsense ad below the post title, but before your post content.  To do this, we’ll insert some code into the Thesis hook named: thesis_hook_after_headline.  Open up your custom_functions.php file and insert the following code:


 * Insert Adsense
function show_adsense() {
     if (is_single()) {
add_action('thesis_hook_after_headline', 'show_adsense');

Save your changes.  If you are running a caching plugin like W3 Total Cache or Super Cache, you’ll need to delete/purge your cache as well.

At this point, your blog should be showing Adsense ads on your single post pages only if a visitor arrives on your site from a search engine.  Adsense generally takes a few hours to get working, so I would suggest stopping at this point and working on something else for a few hours before proceeding.  I’d suggest reading a few articles from the Side Income Blogging archives, but that’s just me.

Testing your Adsense code

Assuming you’ve waiting a few hours, it’s time to test your changes and make sure everything is working.  Pick your post that ranks highest in the search engines (often the one that gets the most search engine traffic).  You can use Google Analytics to determine this.  Make sure you are logged out of your WordPress administration console, then head over to Google, and search on the title of your post.  When you find it, click on it.  Since you came from a search engine, Who Sees Ads should recognize that, and at the top of your post you should see an Adsense Ad just below your post title and before your post content.

If you navigate to your blog then view the same post (without using Google), you should not see the ad.

If for some reason you don’t see an ad or see an error, double check the code above, and recheck your adsense ad settings.

Tweaking your Adsense ad

Let your adsense ad run for a few weeks and see how your performance does.  Make some notes, then try changing the colors or size of the ad.  To change the colors, all you have to do is go into your Adsense account, edit the ad and save it.  If you want to change sizes, you’ll need to edit the ad and re-paste the code into Who Sees Ads.

As I mentioned, I’ll discuss A/B testing in a future article, but it’s important to try different ad sizes and colors to see what performs the best for you.


Long article, but hopefully it wasn’t too bad.  I do think a big congratulations are in order though for those of you following my Start a Money Making Blog series.  You started with a blank slate, built a website, wrote your content, grew your traffic and now took the first steps toward earning a side income.  That is a huge milestone!  So Congratulations!!  Don’t stop though, continue writing and doing everything you can to grow your traffic.  Remember, the more traffic you have, the more income you make.

Stay tuned, as I’ll be addressing affiliate and private advertising soon.

Photo by: borman818

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Register your blog with Google

At this point in our Start a Money Making Blog series, you should have your blog up and running, looking great and have at least 10 high quality articles published.  A common mistake many bloggers make is to think that their blog will just suddenly get picked up by Google and a rush of traffic will arrive. Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Unless your blog is linked from another credible blog or website, Google won’t find you right away, if at all.  In lieu of getting a link from a credible site, one way to get your site on Google’s radar is to register your blog with Google.

Register your blog with Google

To register your blog with Google, we’ll use a site Google provides for webmasters (yes that’s you) called Google Webmaster Tools.  Just login using your Google account (if you don’t have one, create one) and you’ll be presented with the main home page.  Follow these steps to add your site:

  1. Click the Add a Site… button
  2. Enter the URL of your site and press Continue.  One note here, it’s very important that you use the right URL.  If your site is set-up to be preceeded by www, than enter the www, otherwise leave it off.  If you aren’t sure how your site is set-up, login to your hosting account and see how you set it up.  Most sites have the www.
  3. Now we’ll have to verify your site.  I recommend using Google’s recommended method which involves downloading an HTML file and uploading it to your server.  Just follow the instructions Google provides.  If you need a refresher on how to upload a file to your server, read over my What is FTP article.
  4. Once your HTML file is uploaded, click the verify button.
  5. That’s it, your site is now registered with Google.

Submit a Sitemap

Next you’ll want to submit a sitemap so that Google can easily find and index all that great content you’ve been writing.  A sitemap is a special file that is placed on your website that contains a listing of all the URLs to each of your websites pages.  So instead of Google having to find your content, the sitemap actually maps out all of your content for Google so that it can easily find it.  If you’re curious, you can view the sitemap for Side Income Blogging here.

The easiest way to do this is to install the Google XML Sitemaps plugin.  Once installed and activated, head over to the settings page (Settings>>XML-Sitemap).  At the top will be text that says “The sitemap wasn’t built yet. Click here to build it the first time.”  Click the “Click here” link to generate your sitemap for the first time.  From that point on, the plugin will automatically update your sitemap and notify Google of your new content.

Now that we have a sitemap, we need to return to Google Webmaster tools and tell it about your new sitemap.  To do this, do the following:

  1. Login to Google Webmaster Tools
  2. From the home page, select your site.  You’ll be presented with the Dashboard for your site.
  3. Open the Site configuration menu to left by clicking on the + sign.  Select Sitemaps.
  4. Click on Submit a Sitemap.  When prompted for the location, your domain name will already be populated.  All you have to type is: sitmap.xml.
  5. Click on Submit Sitemap.
That’s it, your sitemap is now submitted.  Come back in a few minutes, view your sitemap and it should show a green check box indicating it was successfully processed.  If not, just follow the steps above again, you most likely typed something wrong or the Google XML Sitemaps plugin isn’t working correctly.

A little help

While registering your site and sitemap with Google Webmaster tools certainly doesn’t guarantee it will help your site, in my personal experience it has proven to get my sites indexed much quicker and results in seeing search engine traffic much sooner.  As we’ll explore soon, getting search engine traffic is critical for earning money from advertisements.  Getting search engine traffic is the key strategy we’ll explore to earn a side income blogging.  So stay tuned.

Those of you with experience has registering your site with Webmaster tools and submitting a sitemap helped your site?  Any cons that you can think of?  Join in, add a comment!

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Add WordPress sidebar widgets

Now that we have our base pages in place, it’s time to add some sidebar widgets.  This will complete the overall look of the blog and then it will be time to dive in and starting writing.

WordPress sidebar widgets

One of the really neat features of WordPress is the ability “drop” widgets into your sidebars.  WordPress widgets are visual “gadgets” that can moved in and out of your sidebar and even moved around in your sidebar.  This all happens on on the fly and as soon as you drop a widget, it’s available on your blog.

WordPress by default comes with a number of default widgets.  You can see them by logging into your WordPress admin console and clicking on Appearance>>Widgets.  The widgets are displayed to the left and the available sidebars will be shown on the right.  There are widgets for categories, archives, links, calendars, searching, comments and more.  Remember too, this is just the default ones, there are many more available on WordPress.org Plugins library.

Sidebar Aesthetics

Many bloggers make one of two common mistakes related to sidebars:

  1. They content flows far beyond their sidebar
  2. Their sidebar flows way beyond their content

Let’s look at the situation of content flowing far beyond the sidebar first.  Doesn’t seem like a bad thing right?  Once users scroll past your sidebar, they aren’t being presented with anything but your articles.  All of your opportunity for them to click on ads, see your featured posts, subscribe, purchase your ebook ,etc are gone.  25 – 30% of your blog page is now white space (read wasted space).

With that in mind, filling up the sidebar and sticking tons of stuff in it would fix that right?  Well, if you sidebar flows way beyond your content, than you have the opposite problem.  Now you have up to 70% of your blog showing white space and no content.

As with most things, the best option is a compromise.   Do your very best to keep your sidebar and content equal in length.  Problem solved.  You’ll note that I do just that here on Side Income Blogging.  Personally, I think it just looks better too.  Nothing worse (in my opinion) than a large amount of wasted space.

What WordPress sidebar widgets do you need?

With all of those widgets, how in the world do you decide what to put and in what order?  Well, there is no right or wrong answer to that question, and ultimately you’ll have to play around with various combinations until you find what works.  But in order to get you started, here are the widgets I recommend an in the order I recommend them:

Subscriptions Widget – I talked about this widget earlier in this series when we did your Feedburner set-up.  This widget should always be at the top of your blog.  This widget is only available with the Thesis theme.  If you aren’t running Thesis, you’ll want to use a Text widget and build your own text and links.

Welcome/About (optional) – There isn’t a widget for this, so you’ll use a text widget.  The welcome/About widget will provide a few sentences (i would recommend no more than 5) about your blog or you.   The decision really depends on if you are trying to primarily brand yourself or your blog.  In general, most of you will want to brand your blog.  Those looking to establish consulting or services businesses should work on branding themselves. After the 3-5 sentences, provide a “Read more on our about page” and link to your about page.  I noted this widget as optional, as it really is personal preference.  I prefer to have this information in the footer rather than the sidebar.

Search – The WordPress search isn’t optimal, but for now it will be sufficient.  Later, as your blog grows, we’ll want to incorporate Google search.  Search will be an important tool used by your visitors to find your content, hence why it’s high on the list.  You don’t ever want someone to have trouble finding your search.

Categories – We’ll discuss this a bit more in a future article, but WordPress provides the ability to relate each post that you write to a category.  This provides your visitors with an additional way to browse your content.  For example, if you want to see all of the tips on blogging here at Side Income Blogging, than you could visit my blogging tips category page.  The categories widget will list off all of the categories that have posts on your blog.

Archives (optional) – Archives again provides an additional way for visitors to browse your content.  Archives allows visitors to view your content by publish date.  You wouldn’t think many people would do this, but I was surprised at the number of contacts I’ve received that said something like “I just finished reading all of your content from start to finish”.  Personally I prefer my archives on a dedicated page, but I’ve seen them in the sidebar frequently on other blogs.  The Thesis theme offers a really slick archives page.

Add WordPress sidebar widgets to your sidebar

Adding WordPress sidebar widgets to your sidebar is easy:

  1. Access the Appearance>>Widgets menu from your WordPress admin console
  2. Find the WordPress widget you want from the list of available widgets
  3. Using your mouse, drag the widgets into your sidebar.  If you have more than one sidebar, drag it to the one you would like the widget placed on.
  4. After dropping the widget, it will expand to show you any options the particular widget may have.  Set these to your liking and press the Save button.
  5. Your widget or widgets are now live on your site.

Always remember: Your sidebar should augment your content and never distract the reader from it.

Graphic by: Kurt Thomas Hunt

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