Cardinals and Sidebars: Find and Share Great Content

Great Content Has Been Found on leoraw.com
What do cardinals and sidebars have in common?

Here’s a cardinal who just found a great seed in a bird feeder – how does he know that there are black sunflower oil seeds among the safflower seeds? Perhaps he learned from his friends. Perhaps he studied his competition. He finds it and stores it. You can sometimes see his girlfriend, a browner version of a cardinal with only a bit of red, hanging on a branch nearby.

I’m going to assume you know how to write that great content. Or you can learn the art of writing a great blog post elsewhere. In this post, we will explore ways to determine what is your great content (find it!) and then ways to share great content. Maybe we can learn from how the cardinals find the seeds.

Locate Popular Content with Google Analytics

If a lot of people are visiting one particular post, does that mean it is great content? Perhaps. One way to determine who is visiting your post is to use Google Analytics. If you haven’t already set up Google Analytics on your site, go to http://www.google.com/analytics/. If you are using WordPress, there are plugins that can help you add the code to your site.

Let’s say you have Google Analytics on your site for a few months. You go to take a look – and there is so much information you don’t know where to begin. Let’s look for the content that is most examined. Click on the link within Google Analytics, and you get to a page that looks sort of like this :
google analytics board
Then in the left column click on Behavior, then Site Content, then All Pages.

Here is an example of one site (a client’s site, used with permission) that is using Google Analytics – you can see which pages and posts are most popular on this site (njplaygrounds.com).
njplaygrounds analytics

Notice that the most popular page during this time period (February and March) is not the home page but a page of indoor playgrounds. This is not uncommon – finding out where to take your kids in our recent snowy winter in New Jersey makes a lot of sense! So this a good cue to the owner of njplaygrounds: what can she do now that she knows many people are going to that particular page?

Harness Great Content

So we have an inkling of where people are going on our site.

  1. Do you want people to continue to go to those places?
  2. Do you have other places you want people to visit?
  3. Do you want to create more popular pages or posts on your site?

One idea is if certain topics are popular, you can keep writing about those topics.

Another idea we will explore in the rest of this post is how to use the sidebar next to your recent or popular post. What can you do to harness the sidebar and redirect your readers to new pages or posts?

Make Use of Your Sidebar!

Most blogs have a sidebar – how can you use this side bar to your advantage?

websites by Leora Wenger

To the left is an item on my sidebar I use to highlight recent websites I have created (you can also look up and to the right in the sidebar to see it). This is a way to tell potential clients – hey, look at what I create. Do you need a unique website for your business?

What else could you possibly put on your sidebar? Let’s explore.

Did you write a book? Put that in your sidebar.

Do you have an article elsewhere you want people to read? Along with a relevant image, put a link to the article in your sidebar.

We have talked about subscription boxes for mailing lists – Subscribe to My Mailing List would be a great box in a sidebar.

Perhaps you could rearrange your sidebar to change what is important.

Do you have an upcoming meeting? One client of mine highlights their spring meeting in their sidebar. They use an image of the city in which the conference will be located.

Do you want people to contact you directly? Create an attractive box that links to your contact page.

If your next step for readers is to share your content, put social media icons in your posts that are easy to use. A key question might be: what do I want a reader to do next?

Your Turn, Please – How to Find and Share Great Content

Cardinals don’t talk, but you do. Feel free to leave in the comments how you might find and share great content. There is an endless list to ideas.

65 Responses to “Cardinals and Sidebars: Find and Share Great Content”

  1. My sidebars show what I tweet and what readers find popular. What I like is that it changes all the time. I can look at my metrics to see what has been really popular in the last month or year, but I like how organic it is when they change day to day to reflect reader interest. It prompts ideas for me too, since it’s rare that you can cover everything in a single post, you can always revisit and old post.

    Great post Leora! :)

  2. Catarina says:

    Absolutely, Leora.

    Have noticed that any article about leadership is hugely popular. And they remain popular for years. Humanitarian issues are, unfortunately, less popular.

    Put the kind of information you mention in the sidebar.
    Catarina´s last blog post ..Do you drive leadership through ambidexterity?

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Leadership – makes sense. Humanitarian issues: maybe people don’t know how to respond? It’s a difficult subject – sometimes one solution can lead to ten new problems.

  3. Tuhin says:

    Hello Leora!
    I like your idea to put the link of an article which is published in some other website.Will it be appropriate to use the left side bar too?

  4. Great stuff Leora! I actually love looking at what people put in their sidebars and google analytics has been a tremendous help. Like Deb, it does prompt ideas for me to write content that people seem to enjoy the most.
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)´s last blog post ..Where’s The Justice…Karma

  5. Lenie says:

    Hi Leora

    I have been blogging for a while but I’m now becoming more interested in updating my site and expanding. This information about google analytics and what to put in sidebars is very helpful. I’m going to bookmark this so I can refer to it again. Thanks.
    Lenie

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Lenie, glad you find this helpful. Google Analytics has tons of information about your site, and if you study it well, you can even have it track details of your site.

      Sidebars: that’s a think about it topic. Don’t just fill them up.

      Thanks for the comment.

  6. Greg says:

    Nice one Leora!

    I always thought it was weird when a post go more traffic to my site than the homepage did but it makes complete sense. People look for quick information and our sites should deliver it with articles.

    I like interlinking my top 4-5 posts, because you never really know where folks will click.

    Isn’t that weird how your best post is on playgrounds when your a site about websites?

    — Greg

  7. Beth Niebuhr says:

    Leora, thanks for the good advice in making better use of sidebars. The title is very catchy and made me wonder what the connection could be.

  8. Tim says:

    I like the information regarding sidebars as am often wondering about what is the best way to utilize them. Thanks, Tim

  9. Susan Cooper says:

    I love your analogy Leora. The side bar is valuable real-estate that does take some serious consideration as to what needs to be there and what needs to go. I find that I move stuff around to see what affect it has if any. Sometimes there is a big difference in the results other times not so much

    I do have Google analytics. I use to be an analytics junkie but have learned that you need to give it time to see the trends, that Rome wasn’t built in a day… LOL.

    I do find it interesting to see what posts attract my traffic and what doesn’t. Some is a surprise and some not. As you mentioned it has been a good guide as to how to title my posts and what to write about at times. :-)
    Susan Cooper´s last blog post ..Homemade Marshmallows: #Recipe

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Susan, I can see the temptation to look at analytics too much. It’s sort of like checking the stock market too often.

      I’m glad sometimes the stats help you with titling posts. That’s a good use!

  10. Christina says:

    Lots of great ideas for the sidebar! I also list recent posts as I have different categories. Also a good place for archives or search button.
    Christina´s last blog post ..Georgia Aquarium

  11. Sandy says:

    Great advice on sidebars. It is always surprising to see what other people are interested in (not always what you thought it would be) I like to try to work in a feature directly into the content.
    Sandy´s last blog post ..The Writing Process -Blog Tour

  12. Based on Google Analytics, my most popular posts are about “Vikings”—now, I suspect a high bounce rate because some of those people were searching for something about the Minnesota Vikings football team and my post is not about that type of Vikings. But, the other searches people use and end up on my site are Danish Vikings and Irish Vikings. I’ve never been to Norway, but maybe I need to write a blog post about how I hope to find out about the Vikings of all Vikings—the Norsemen. I also have juggled around spots on my side bar. One thing you helped me with was adding a Most popular posts plug in and I also have related posts that show up at the end of each post.

  13. Mark Roope says:

    Thank you for this information on side bars. It is something I have never really paid attention to but after reading your excellent post I will have to look again and update them.

  14. Jeri says:

    It’s also a good idea to make sidebar images open in a new window. The way I get around this with my lack of coding skills is to put the image (this is case one of my eBook covers into a post draft) and from there I click edit image to link it to Amazon and to check the box to open in a new window. After that, I switch to WordPress’s HTML mode and copy that code into the text/html widget. I’m sure there are other ways to accomplish this, but this is what has worked for me.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Jeri, I’ve read some suggest it is never a good idea to open a new window. A better way to deal with images is to use lightbox, which opens them nicely. I wrote a bit about lightbox plugins (which should be fairly lightweight, just adding enough to add the lightbox coding) when I wrote about WP native photo galleries.

      The code for opening in a new tab is _target=”blank” in the anchor tag. Fairly simple coding.

  15. andleeb says:

    Hello Leora

    I started a blog few months back. I am learning a lot from all posts. This too was very informative blog. Your recent websites are nice and I always look on different blogs that have a lot of thing in side bar. It is like a place for advertisement about someone’s work.
    I learned a lot from this post and I have book marked to get back and take help.
    Thank you for a nice share
    andleeb´s last blog post ..Dress Code: Hijab , Niqab , Veil.

  16. Paul Graham says:

    Fascinating and useful sidebar info Leora. Aside from anything else Cardinals are often considered the most important numbers because you cant do much without them

  17. Hi Leora!
    I so love cardinals :) … so you pulled me in right away with the graphic. From harnessing, sidebars and analytics, surely these are cardinal rules to follow in sharing great content! Do have a great week!

    Kind Regards,
    Bill
    William Butler´s last blog post ..The Trouble With Traditional Thinking: Can You Afford It?

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Bill, that’s great, that the graphic pulled you in! That, of course, was the intent. I’ll have to ponder what imagery can do that for you next. Appreciate the comment.

  18. Pat Amsden says:

    The cardinal is eye catching so it could pull readers in. I don’t use sidebars on my page preferring menu bars at the top instead. That’s so if you’re looking at it on a mobile device which many people do now the readability is good. And in fact the iPad I am on right now shows your post with no sidebar so do you have it set up so the sidebar only shows when you’re on a laptop or computer workstation?
    Pat Amsden´s last blog post ..Chocolate Marble Cake

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Pat, the solution for sidebars and mobile is easy, for people who know how to code or know how to find a responsive theme: the sidebar just floats down instead of floating to the right (or left).

      Glad the cardinal pulled you in – he did his job, in more ways than one.

      I’ll have to look at my post on my iPad – I probably have it floating down so far that you can’t see it. Thanks for the note! I will check.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Yup, it’s way down, under all the comments on the iPad (and probably similar on a mobile phone).

      Hm, usually that makes no difference, but a post on sidebars with no sidebar … you certainly got me thinking, Pat! It certainly doesn’t help to highlight a post in your sidebar if your sidebar is way down there. Good point. I suppose sidebars only work on wider browsers; otherwise, they are useful for navigation, if people think to look at the bottom of all these comments.

  19. I’ve been meaning to set up Google Analytics since switching to WP. You’ve inspired me to go do it. I’m not into analysis, but I know it needs to be done. Thank you!
    Meredith Wouters´s last blog post ..Robin Eggs Palette

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Meredith, use a plugin to help with the setup. I use Yoast’s Google Analytics plugin. You just grab the numbers that Google Analytics gives you, and you stick it in the plugin form. Once you start getting results, then it gets interesting. I can’t imagine doing a site blindly – how do you know where people are going? Not everyone leaves comments.

  20. Arleen says:

    Leora- I was going to put up interesting products that I sell on the side bar, but I thought that would be too pushy. What are your thoughts? It might get people to click on the product and take a look and even if they do not buy it will help in the click through rate I am assuming.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Arleen, I’ve clicked around on your products. I don’t mind if you feature a few in your sidebar.

      People show Amazon products on their posts – I would rather see your own!

  21. Adrienne says:

    Hey Leora,

    Great tip about Google Analytics. I shared something similar last year back when they were showing what keywords people were using to find your site. You can definitely check by the most popular posts as well though, great tip.

    I recently redid my sidebar and took a lot of stuff out. Trying to put in what I think will be more beneficial hopefully for my readers but we’ll soon find out how that’s all working out. I’m following a specific course and trying to concentrate more on the end result if you know what I mean.

    Great tips though and I can see how those can be helpful as well. Might have to test some of those out too.

    Have a great week.

    ~Adrienne
    Adrienne´s last blog post ..Why Blogging Relationships Always Win Over Traffic

  22. Becc says:

    I think it is about time I took another look at my sidebar!
    Becc´s last blog post ..Feeling all Zen

  23. Leora — I use my sidebar for my my most recent posts, my bio, categories and social media icons. I’ve been thinking lately it looks a little busy so I’m rethinking it. I used to be a Google Analtyics junkie, too, but all you do is torture yourself when you have the slightest drop in traffic!
    Jeannette Paladino´s last blog post ..Has Google Killed Organic Traffic?

  24. A.K.Andrew says:

    I love that you use the correlation od this beautiful bird and a website -fantastic. And then the post goes on to be really useful! It is sometimes hard to know what to focus on and I don’t use google analytics enough,and rely on WP analytics via jetpack. so thanks for the reminder Leora. I us my sidebar for let’s connect, search,sign up as well as recent posts.
    A.K.Andrew´s last blog post ..3 Simple #Writing Tools for #Editing

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Glad you like bird bringing you to website! I’ve heard that JetPack can take a lot of juice and slow your site down. So maybe you should decide if you really need that plugin?

  25. Jason B says:

    Great info. I will be making better use of my side bar.
    Jason B´s last blog post ..5 Habits That Are Keeping You From Success

  26. Crystal Ross says:

    Leora, thanks for the informative and precise information. I am still learning the ways of the blogging world and this has helped. =)

  27. James says:

    Hi Leora,

    You have shared a very useful and highly helpful hint. On a personal note, I love placing on my sidebars pages and posts that drives the most traffic to my site.

    With this, i discovered that this leads to more traffic.

    Thanks for sharing.
    James´s last blog post ..Top 10 recommended best wordpress Food themes

  28. I don’t think I really do enough with my sidebar and I love many of the ideas you share here, along with those I’m seeing in the comments. I use “recent posts” as well as categories that might be of interest to my readers. I like the idea of a twitter feed to keep conversations fresh. I also love that you share other things you are doing, like the websites you are designing.. Lots of good ideas. Thanks!

  29. Vicky says:

    Well I think I will need to work on sidebars as after reading your post it seems sidebars play a crucial role in getting some good outcome.

    Thanks

  30. It really does help to Locate Popular Content with Google Analytics when looking for what you need to promote more. I often forget to go and run things down when I a stuck for a new topic series. Thanks for the reminder.
    Sherryl @ SimplySherryl´s last blog post ..Pear Tree Inn by Drury {Review}

  31. I don’t have much in sidebar – just a subscription box, about page link (using video as screenshot image), social profile links and top commenters.

    I have used popular posts in the past, and it is great :) Very much helpful for new readers.

    I don’t plan to use popular posts (as it is, the sidebar is congested).

    Sidebars can be useful, but they can also distract from readers from what’s important – the content (I have done an experiment on this, and got good results when I removed sidebars from post pages).

    Not sure if it was just exclusive for that blog; I have to repeat the experiment on my new blog to validate my findings.

    I am working on a start here page for new visitors (I still don’t have many posts, so I won’t be publishing this page any time soon).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing this, Leora :) Appreciate it!
    Jeevan Jacob John´s last blog post ..How Do You Conclude Yours Posts?

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