Hello you, and thanks for clicking your way over to the third installment of our ‘Elements of a Good Blog' series! Now that we've got design and template as well as content editing under our belts, lets move on to some of the helpful extras, shall we? Today I'm going to get into the beauty of blog widgets.
A widget or gadget is a tool you can add to the side column, footer or header of your blog. There are thousands of different ones out there, and when used wisely, they play a valuable roll in the depth and usability of your blog. The most important purpose of widgets is to make things easy for your readers. Keep that in mind when you're browsing and considering additions.
Let's start with the widgets I think should be on every blog's side column, and then move into the special sauce – the sprinkles on top – the widgets and gadgets that add a little extra somethin' somethin' to your site.
Blogroll: A blogroll is a list of links to the blogs you love, that you follow, or that are relevant to your content (or all three). I think this is a key element of cluing your readers in to your taste level and can be a good head-start to building a relationship with other bloggers. I don't think there's a specific formula for how many links to have in your blogroll, but I would say for starters at least 10, no more than 25 or so. PS: I just went to my blog and counted my links, and I have 42. I am immediately going to go edit it down. [Additional Sidenote: Much like asking for follows on Twitter, requesting to be added to someone's blogroll is in poor taste. Don't do it.]
Archives: Here is where you give your readers easy access to all your past posts. You want to make it simple for anyone to find things you've written that have cycled past your front page.
Members / Followers: When someone visits your blog for the first time, ready to fall in love with your amazing content, they're going to want to know what kind of following you already have. Regardless of whether it's high or low, they want to see it. Additionally, this widget makes it really easy for readers to become followers or members of your site. This widget can become a real sell for new visitors when your numbers start climbing, too!
Twitter / Facebook / RSS: We all know how important social media is in the blogging game. It's probably how most people are going to get to your posts each day. When someone visits your site for the first time and decides they want to keep up with your content, make it easy for them! There are a lot of different widgets and gadgets for these, and the most simple ones are already built into your platform, you just have to add them. Running a Google search can lead you to customized widgets that
Contact Info: Say I'm a brand, surfing the web for bloggers to collaborate with on an upcoming project. The easier I can find your email address, the more inclined I'll be to reach out to you. You can create a page for this, or have it as a side-panel gadget, as long as its plainly visible, near the top of your page.
Search: This is pretty self-explanitory, but it's important to have a place where your readers can search for specific posts or content within your site.
*IFB: I suppose technically I shouldn't list this as an essential, but come on, it totally is! An IFB badge lets your readers know you're part of our fabulous community, and takes them to our homepage where, if they're bloggers too, they can join and learn more about us. Also, it's really pretty.
Ads: Whether you use Google Ad Sense, an ad network or Reward Style, make sure your ads aren't obnoxious, and that they alighn with the mission, aesthetics, and content of your blog.
Bloglovin': Bloglovin' is a wildly popular database of fashion blogs, and if you haven't already, you should register yours immediately. It functions like an RSS feed, letting anyone catch up on all their favorite blogs all in one place. The widget allows readers to add your blog to their feed quickly and simply.
Top Posts: A list of your most popular and most read posts will continue to drive traffic, and it's a great way to highlight your best content.
Recent Comments: This gadget updates with the latest comments to your posts. Depending on if you recieve critical comments or not, you may skip this one. I also think it can tend to make your sidebar look a bit cluttered, because of all the text.
Pinterest, Polyvore, Etc: If you have a profile and you're a frequent user of sites like Pinterest and Polyvore, linking out to your page will help build your following and grow your community on multiple platforms. (I have both on my site, and I grabbed the HTML code to insert them from the Pinterest and Polyvore sites, respectively, then dropped it into a blank HTML gadget in Blogger.)
The most common and easy-to-use widgets and gadgets are usually available in your platform, making it a virtual no-brainer to drag and drop them onto your site. You can find many more by running a search through whichever engine you prefer. Another way to find cool widgets is to look at what your favorite blogs already have on their sidebars.