I get scrolling finger ache quite a few times as I visit blogs:). Some blogs are so bad that I have to leave in mid-flow, how horrible for the blog owner is that. I do believe that many of the blog owners don't realize that this is happening.
The following items are what i have seen in blog sidebars the good, the bad and defiantly the useless :).
Social Networks Badges
I know you have joined many social networks like Ning sites because you have displayed all the badges thus promoting these services for free.
Congrats on the many awards your blog has received for various events or categories. They grace your site, like award plates displayed on a fireplace at home. At home you can discuss them, bring them in the conversation. On your blog you don't have the opportunity to do that, so do they help your readers experience in anyway?
I now know I have arrived at your blog and where i am from Thanks for that. I can also see where everyone else is living it's that cool. Does it help me engage on your blog ? "Nope, but its a map and its cool" is your reply. You sticking with that statement really? Ok. Oh its promoting the map widget website and i bet if i click on it i leave your blog.
Blog Roll Widget or Blog List
Your sharing of the many many blogs that you love to read daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly is great. However do you really want to lose your visitor to another blog to read. Its great to show your interest in other blogs but not to the point of losing your own reader. Have they read your post, or have they forgotten about the post you spent days on, all because of your generous list of other blogs your sharing. How nice you are:)
Blog Followers Widget
Look who's following me. You have xxx members following your blog, I see lots of pretty faces. How is sharing your followers faces helping your readers experiences, would'nt a number be better?
Blog Archive Widget
Great I can see your full blogging life from start to finish. Don't know what your posts are about, so i guess i will have to take pot luck and if i get bored i will just leave.
Blog Categories Widget
The categories you have is showing me your posts and what they are centred around. Unless you have named them funky names that the average person would not understand or relate to.
Popular Posts Widget
Having your popular post widget helps guide me to where you want me to start reading, great stuff.
Facebook & other Social Media Icons
Great let's go over and like you, follow you and i will check out my friends while i'm there. I will stay there a little longer and revisit your site another time. Share your icons but don't make them be the first thing your readers see.
Badges for your site to show where your products/work are located is great. However sometimes when I click on these badges I end up at the home page instead of where your work/products is, mmm not good.
By reading through the above you can work out what's really beneficial to your blog and your readers and what is not. By the time anyone gets to the bottom of all your sidebar sharing, they are visually overloaded. They can forget the post that they were reading, which is why you wanted them at your blog in the first place right? If the reader actually makes it to the bottom of your sidebar with scroll finger in tack, the prospect of scrolling all the way back up would scare anyone.
Here's a way to stop your visitors from wondering to other sites you share before they have read your posts. Keep all your sidebar stuff on pages, you will still have them but they will be out of sight. If your readers /visitor really want to look at your awards, social networks you have joined etc,, then you know what they will click through and check them out.
Everything in your sidebar that has NOT been created by you should go on a page. Unless these sites you are nicely sharing are paying you advertising space fees, they need to go on a page. What if you have affiliate links? Well share 1 or 2 but unless your affiliate links are more important than your own work/products, just create a page call it recommended.
Pages work, people will click through if they really want to, thus you are giving the control of viewing other stuff in your visitors hands. So your blog focuses on what's important like your posts, your product images etc..Don't underestimate the power of customer|reader loyalty and good old fashioned nosiness 🙂
For your blog category | archive widgets opt for the drop down menu style, that way you free up space in your sidebar. Its still doing its job but your visitor has a choice of whether they want to use it or not. Use your images of your products and place them in your sidebar and link them to the original product in your shop. Or link the picture to a blog post that talks about the product and/or its benefits in more detail.
Boost yourself by featuring your products on your blog and share other things that are not related to your products on pages to keep them handy but hidden. Keeping your sidebar uncluttered and clear allows you to focus your visitor on your products which is the job of your blog in the first place.