How to Blog: Part 4
Today we're talking all about that pesky sidebar, and how you can utilize it to best help your readers. We're also digging into the details of what some of the Squarespace blocks do, so this post can be helpful for any page or blog post on your site as well!
Your sidebar is insanely valuable – it can add color and life to your page, typically provides an area for viewers to get to see your face (they realize they're talking to a real person!), and is an instant way to direct readers outside of the main nav at the top of your blog page. If you have a lot of pages you want to feature on your blog, the sidebar can be a great place to put some of the ones that are less important, and the most important ones can live in your main navigation.
How to edit your sidebar
Once you're logged into your squarespace site, you can easily make changes to your sidebar by going to Pages. Select Blog and hover over the sidebar portion with your mouse. Click the Edit button that appears.
Just like you add blocks to pages or blog posts, you can add blocks to your sidebar. You can add content like photos, text, social media icons, buttons, galleries, and more. It's here that you can begin to try out new ways to direct your readers around your site.
What if my page doesn't show a sidebar?
It's sad, but true: not every Squarespace template gives you the option to add a sidebar to your blog. To make things easier, here's a list of the current templates that do include sideabars:
Templates that include a blog sidebar
Don't be afraid to switch up your template to be able to have a sidebar. I promise you'll find something you like – these templates have a wide variety to suit your look and feel, and they really just serve as the "bone structure" for your page.
Have one of these templates, but don't see a sidebar on your blog? You may have to enable it. To do that, go back to the main menu of your site, select Design, then Style Editor. Scroll down the page until you see the Blog section and edit the Enable Blog Sidebar option.
So what should I include in my sidebar?
For starters, it's highly useful to have a picture of you on your blog, right there at the top. Readers will identify with you as a real-life human being that they can come to over and over again – as they read, they're creating dialogue with you so it's important that they have a face and a name they can put with that dialogue in their head! Use the image block to add a pretty picture of you. A great idea would be to make that image link to your about page so that readers can learn more about you, what your blog is, and why you blog. Another good idea would be to put a text block under your picture and type out your name and a short sentence describing your blog. This will be helpful to first-time viewers who may not know what they've landed on.
A search bar is also helpful. Just use the search block and it will be added for you! You can also attach your social media handles within settings on the main page of your site – so that when you add the social block to your page, it will automatically pull up the platforms you have associated with your blog. There's also social platform specific blocks, like twitter and instagram, that will post your feed to your sidebar. You can use the button block to add buttons and call-to-actions on to your site. Button blocks can link to content on your site, external content, or a downloadable file.
Want to set up ways for viewers to easily access past content? You can organize by month in your sidebar with the month list block. You can organize by tags (how you've classified your posts) by using the tag list block, which can help readers who want to search by interest or topic. Want to search by category? The category list block creates a link index of categories from one blog, event, gallery, or products page. When a visitor clicks a category link in the block, they'll see all items in that category.
The newsletter block lets readers sign up for a newsletter or receive updates to your blog (you do have to set this up with another platform to send these items, like mailchimp).
There are also several commerce blocks that suit unique needs.The product block adds a product from your Squarespace ecommerce store (yes, Squarespace offers ecommerce!) to a page or blog post. This is a great way to promote a product or display products in different combinations than your product pages. Before using the product block, you'll need to add products to a products page. You can use the donation block to allow visitors to donate to your cause or organization. The donation block works through the Squarespace commerce platform and uses Stripe to deposit donations to your bank account. This block is available on all plans.The Amazon block displays and links to an item on Amazon. This is a great way to promote your own items for sale or link to any other item you like. For example, if you're promoting a book, you can add an Amazon block to link to the book. If you're reviewing a product in a blog post, you can add the Amazon block at the end of the post to link to that product. If you participate in Amazon's affiliate program, you can add your affiliate tag to your site and use it with the Amazon block.
Sidebar starting to get a little heavy? Consider placing a couple of line blocks. This adds a horizontal line between blocks on your site. This is a great way to break up text or visually separate other elements.
A few creative ideas...
You could use the summary block to display a certain category of posts – maybe all of your design posts, or all of your recipe posts. You can tell it how many to display (I think 4-6 would look really nice in your sidebar), and can even adjust the way the text and imagery looks in the block. You could also use the summary block to highlight your most popular or favorite posts. You can find out which are most popular in your metrics page of your site, and then go through and mark those with a specific category all their own (like "popular" or "favorite"), then tell the summary block to pull that category.
You can also use a button block in your sidebar to link to an archives page. You can set up an archives page by creating a new plain page, then placing in a summary block that pulls any post to your blog. You can adjust what information you want it to display, or how you want it to look (I used "wall" display to make mine look like Pinterest!). This is an easy and engaging way for readers to explore past content quickly.
Have questions? Need help troubleshooting? As always, feel free to shoot me an email!
That completes the official series, but I'll be posting sporadically on blogging from time to time. So far, I've got a post on how to decide what to write about and how to write when you hate writing. What do you want to learn more about? I would love to hear!