Well, let's get to work!
As stated last week, your sidebar should answer the question, "Who's blog am I reading?". That's its number one job. So the first thing you want to do is tell your readers who you are. There a couple ways you can do this.
1. Include your Blogger or Google+ profile. To do this, Go to your Dashboard, click Layout, go to your sidebar section, and click Add a Gadget.
From the list of Gadgets, choose PROFILE (may be on the second page of gadgets). Your new gadget, your profile, will now be listed in the top slot on your sidebar. This is where it should remain.
2. Sometimes you don't want the bio or description you've used for your Blogger or Google+ profile to show up on your blog. In this case, you'll use a picture with a caption or text.
From your gadget list, choose IMAGE. You can even have your image link up with a webpage--your About Me page, maybe, if you've added one to your blog. You can either include your text (your bio or welcome note) in the caption text box while setting up the widget, or you can add your picture then immediately below it add a TEXT gadget and write whatever you'd like. *note* Your profile text or welcome note should be short and sweet.
3. Or, you might choose to highlight your books as opposed to you, the author. In this case, you'll use the steps from #2 above, using your book cover and blurb.
Right after a reader identifies you as the author of the blog, you want to make it easy for them to connect with you right away. Again, there are a few ways they can do this and I recommend including almost all of them on your blog.
1. Google Friends Connect. From your Add a Gadget link, choose FOLLOWERS. Not Google+Followers, that's something totally different.
This Followers option is the one that looks like this:
Google Friends Connect is a popular and fun option for your Blogger blog. It makes your blog look friendly and makes you look popular. People like to see themselves there, too--it makes them feel like they belong.
Don't feel bad when you start out with one follower. I promise you that as you continue to provide great content and employ some of the other techniques we'll discuss later, you'll see your numbers grow. Also, it's hard for any of us to get to 100, 200 or 300--but the higher you go, the faster new readers join. So just be patient and give yourself time to grow the reach of your blog.
2. Add an RSS Feed. You can choose the gadget FOLLOW BY EMAIL, or you can add a third-party feed widget, like FeedBurner. We'll get into the pros and cons of using Google's RSS Feed vs. other feeds in a future post.
Including an RSS Feed sign-up is a nice thing to do because you want to make it easy for everyone to follow--not just those with a Google account. Also, not everyone likes to deal with a giant Google Reader list, so they might like to get their favorite blogs delivered right to their email.
Besides, you don't care how people read your blog, just that they do!
3. Invite social media stalking! Make it easy for people to find you everywhere you live online; Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. When you're starting out, a good option would be to choose LINK LIST from your gadget list.
You would add "Follow me on Facebook" and then link to your Facebook page or profile, then add "Follow me on Twitter", etc.
In a future post we'll talk about adding those fun follow widgets, like mine.
4. Now you can include any extras you think will benefit your readers and your blog. Don't just put stuff there just because Awesome Blogger has it on their blog, but DO include anything you think would be of value. Remember this is your chance to strut your stuff!
That's it for the sidebar! There are a lot of options and possibilities out there. The best way to discover what works for you is to visit a lot of blogs, see what you like and don't like, then experiment with the Add a Gadget list and figure out what works for you!
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments!
Ali Cross is the sensei of the writer's dojo where she holds a black belt in awesome. She lives in Utah with her kickin' husband, two sparring sons, one ninja cat, two sumo dogs and four zen turtles.
She's the author the young adult paranormal romance series Desolation, and a member of the Author's Incognito Executive Committee.
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