Disclosure: Some links on this page are affiliate links, but please note that I’d never put something on here that I wouldn’t highly recommend.
The sidebar is a fantastic way to get a reader to search around on your site a little more & possibly even opt into your mailing list or sign up for a product (if you have one offered). Keep in mind that not everyone is getting to your website through your homepage. If someone is coming to you through Pinterest, then they probably won’t even see that homepage. So now it’s time to wow them with a sidebar that captures you perfectly. You game?
First let me show you what the sidebar looks like:
You’ll see it’s on the side of the screen here (sometimes bloggers put it on the left side) and features a few items. Items vary per blogger, but in this post, I’ll share the sidebar components that I find most beneficial.
Now let’s get started with creating one in WordPress (I’ve shared before how to set up your WordPress blog). In the WordPress Dashboard side menu, select Appearance and Widgets
The Widget area has all kinds of fancy tools that you can use for your Sidebar, Headers, and Footers. There are also many other widgets out there in the world if you search in the Plugins section of the WordPress Dashboard. But my goal is to cut out the fluff and give you what you need to know to hit the ground running.
Removing Unnecessary Sidebar Features
The first “cut the fluff” task we are going to do is to remove unnecessary widgets. Under the Sidebar option (shown on the right side of the screen), select any widget you want to delete. I recommend deleting Recent Comments, Archives, and Meta:
Add Your Photo to the Sidebar
Let’s first start by adding an image of you! It’s important that readers connect with you when they come to your site, this helps to establish trust. In the top of your sidebar, you’ll want an image of you and a way they can learn more about you.
Find an image of you that’s of good quality, good lighting, and you look friendly and approachable. From the WordPress Dashboard, select Media and Add New.
Then simply upload the image you want. Heads up– you are welcome to just use the image that you used on your homepage, if it was of yourself. Remember that most readers coming to your site aren’t coming through the homepage, so they would not have seen it. And even if they did see it, it’s no biggie that it’s on this page too.
Next, you’ll click Edit
What we are going to do now is to get the website address of this image. Where it says File URL copy that website address:
Going back to the Widgets page (from your WP Sidebar dashboard click Appearance and then Widgets). Click on the Text widget and drag it to the right side of the screen just under where it says Sidebar:
The Text widget allows you to put any kind of text in there, but also html, which is what we will use here. Html looks incredibly confusing. Over time as a blogger you learn little bits and pieces of how it works (Google is my best friend!), but for right now it’s most important that you just get the sidebar up, so I recommend you use the template that I have (inputting your information where I show all CAPS):
<center><a href=”LINK TO YOUR ABOUT PAGE”><img src=”COPIED LINK OF YOUR IMAGE”
height=”300″></a>QUICK BLURB ABOUT YOU<div><strong><a href=”LINK TO YOUR ABOUT PAGE”>Click to learn more…</a></div></strong>
Mine looks like this:
Once you are done, you can go to your homepage to preview it. If your image isn’t a perfect square, then you might have to go back and edit that html where it has the width numbers and height numbers. For example, if your original image is a little more wide, then decrease the width (or increase the height). Think of it just like you would inches with a photo…only this is measured in pixels.
Adding Your Opt-In
If at this point, if you’ve created an opt-in for your mailing list (something free you’ll give them in exchange for their email), this is a perfect time to add it into your sidebar. Find the Text widget again (a new one) and drag it over to the active sidebar widgets:
Insert the title that you want shown where it says Title: (for example, mine reads: “Blog Post Planning Guide”) then click Text
You will take the same exact steps as you did with inserting your personal photo, except this time you link to your landing page and the uploaded photo is of your free opt-in incentive. For example, mine looks like this:
You can then click Visual to see what it looks like. If you want to add text, you can also do so in the visual setting:
Once you are done, click Save
You should now see that appear below the photo of you on your sidebar:
Install Social Media Icons
Next you’ll want to include social media icons. This is how your readers can connect with you on the primary social media outlets that they use. For example, I’m a Pinterest junkie, so whenever I like what someone’s throwing down on their site, I instantly look for their Pinterest page so that I can follow them.
Next, go to the WordPress Sidebar dashboard and select Plugins and then Add New
Now select Add New
Then Upload Plugin from the top of the screen
Click Choose File and select the .zip file that you downloaded from the Ultimate Social Media Icons plugin page. Select Install Now
Next, select Active Plugin
The plugin will now be visible from the WordPress Dashboard Sidebar:
Click on Ultimate Social Media Icons. You’ll be taken to a page where you can customize what icons you want visible, where they link to, and what you want them to look like:
Once you have customized your settings, click Save All Settings at the bottom of the page.
From the WordPress Dashboard Sidebar menu, select Appearances and Widgets
Find the Widget that reads Ultimate Social Media Ic… (the name might be cutoff like this) and drag it over to the active sidebar widgets, just like you did with the other widgets.
You should now be able to see those icons on the sidebar of your website:
Add Recent Posts or Popular Posts Section to Sidebar
Another section that I recommend adding is a Recent Posts section. There is a widget already available for this, but it leaves out the photo, and I think people are far more visual. You can also make this section a Popular Posts section if your site is already established and you have some popular posts.
To create this section, I use the same process as I did for the photo of me section and the free mailing list opt-in section (using a text widget, same html code, but make the image the featured image of the blog post and have it link to your blog post).
Mine ends up looking like this:
Whenever I publish a new blog post, I go to this widget and add it (and remove the oldest blog post). There might be widgets that could automatically do this for you (if you know of one, please let me know!).
Changing the Sidebar Size Using the Divi Theme Customizer
I’m not a huge fan of how narrow that sidebar is looking, so I’m going to take a second to edit this. Because I use the Divi Theme (I bread down how to set up and use Divi theme in this post), I’m able to customize this. In the WordPress Dashboard side menu I’ll select Divi and Theme Customizer:
Then I’ll select General Settings
Then Layout Settings
Make sure the box next to Use Custom Sidebar Width is checked. Then a toggle will show up below it, drag the little dot under Sidebar Width to the width you want. While you’re there, you can also adjust the Theme Accent Color to reflect one of my branding colors:
Perfect, now it’s much better:
You might also find after doing this that you want to adjust the height and width of the html code you put in the widget.
And you did it! Your sidebar should be up and running. Keep in mind you might want to tweak it over time. But one word of warning: don’t overclutter your sidebar. You don’t want it constantly distracting from your awesome content!
FREE Step-by-Step Blog Launch Checklist
If you are starting or re-launching a blog, chances are you might be a little overwhelmed with the process. In this Blog Launch Checklist, I break down everything that you need to do to get your blog running.