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5 Useless Elements You Need To Remove From Your Blog Right Now!

Useless Blog Elements

You want visitors to come back to your site.

And in most cases they don’t.

But, what if I could show you a quick series of tweaks that you can make to your blogs layout which would fix the problem?

Does it sound too good to be true?

I used to think so too until I started making these exact small tweaks.

Soon after, more visitors were sticking around for longer and they were coming back.

The insanely simple secret to improving your blogs user experience

Your visitors aren’t coming back because they’re too distracted.

Why?

There is too much going on!

And, when you have too many distractions, you can effectively kill user experience along with your conversions.

There are some blogs that I never go back to because the user experience is so bad, I’m sure you have experienced these types of blogs before.

This quote says it all:

When a visitor lands on your blog, you need to make it clear what you want them to do.

Be crystal clear.

Below I am going to talk you through some popular elements that you will find on blogs, which ones you should get rid of and why.

Social media widgets: a quick way to send visitors to other sites

Facebook like boxes, G+ widgets and Twitter widgets may appear like they’re a good thing.

Twitter Widget

After all, it’s easier to get a like than get someone to handover their email address.

But, the reality is that it’s not a good thing.

Here’s why:

You are just sending traffic away from your site.

And when we spend so long trying to get traffic from social networks, what’s the point of sending it back?

The argument for building your social following is all well and good.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be building a following but there is something you should be doing instead:

Growing your email list.

When you start adding social media widgets to your sidebar, you are drawing the attention away from your opt-in forms.

But, we need a social media following don’t we?

We do, but there are better ways to build a following.

And most importantly, Facebook’s organic reach is heading towards 0 [source] as well as engagement dropping for a lot of pages.

Some brands have invested millions of dollars into building a huge fan base on Facebook only to end up deleting their entire Facebook page like Eat24.

Interestingly, Eat24 also cited that after closing their Facebook page, email opens increased by a huge margin.

Sure, you can get some good results if you have a solid sales funnel and some cash but the smart thing to do is to grow your email list.

The lesson:

Don’t build a house on rented land.

Even if you fall out with your email provider, you can always export your list to a CSV.

That’s yours; nobody can take it away from you.

The bottom line is: don’t actively try to send traffic back to social networks, it just distracts your visitors from completing the action you want them to (e.g. signing up to your list or buying a product). If you still want to make sure your readers can find your social accounts, add them to your footer.

Social media fan counters: Is negative social proof impacting your results?

In a nutshell, this social proof thing can be explained by this quote:

The problem is that when the numbers are low, it can have the opposite effect.

That tells your visitors that nobody else is listening to what you have to say, so why should they?

If you have the numbers, then this can work well.

This example from Digital Photography School just screams “lots of people read our stuff, you should too!”

Positive Social Proof

Consider whether you really want to display a social media fan counter at all.

The truth is that when faced with too many options, people often make the choice to choose none of the options.

It’s called the paradox of choice.

To put it into perspective, have you sat down in a restaurant and looked at the menu only to be faced with so much choice that you don’t know what to choose?

The bottom line is: if a social media fan counter cannot provide you with any significant benefit (e.g. trust and social proof) then consider removing it.

That badge: Does it really mean anything?

On my journey surfing through the web, I see a lot of different badges.

These can range from blog directory badges, author badges to awards from influential websites.

Websites urge you to add these badges to your blog like some sort of badge of honour.

The truth is that most of these are just a waste of time.

You need to ask yourself how easy it is for someone to get that badge.

For example, the ‘Top 10 Social Media Blog’ badges from Social Media Examiner.

This can only be displayed by a limited number of bloggers and you’ve got to be doing some seriously awesome stuff to get one.

So, it makes sense for Francisco Rosales from Social Mouths to display these:

Trust badges

This has a purpose – to increase trust and leverage social proof.

And the results are publically posted over at Social Media Examiner.

But, if you were to display an author badge for EzineArticles.com or a badge for a blog directory, you may be wasting your time.

They have no function or purpose.

And more to the point, they’re easy for anyone to display.

The bottom line is: don’t display any badge of honour if anyone could get it and the more difficult to get, the better.

The sidebar: Does your blog really need one?

This is an element that not everyone will need to remove.

I’m seeing more and more blogs completely remove their sidebar.

As a user, I prefer reading a blog post without a sidebar.

This can help you put the focus back on your content which is great from a user experience point of view.

On the downside it can make it difficult for users to find their way around your website, especially because it means saying good bye to ‘recent posts’ widgets and ‘popular posts’ widgets.

It’s also worth considering that some themes for WordPress have full width templates that can be used, but studies have shown that people are put off by reading longer sentences. Derk Halpern talks more about this here.

If removing your sidebar is something you aren’t ready for, you could try it on particular posts/pages.

The bottom line is: removing your sidebar isn’t for everyone but it’s worth testing to see the impact it can have on things like your bounce rate. Also, consider collecting qualitative feedback by other means. It may be that removing the sidebar is beneficial to particular blog posts/pages.

Your main navigation: Is it overwhelming your readers?

This comes back to the paradox of choice.

If your navigation menu has a crazy number of different menu items, it can get very confusing for your readers.

The easiest way to handle this is to limit the number of options.

I like the simplicity of the navigation on Gregory Ciotti’s blog; SparringMind.com:

De-clutter your sidebar

By removing unnecessary menu items you can help to funnel visitors to key pages.

For example, YuppieChef removed a secondary navigation menu and increased sign ups by 100%.

Taking it a step further

Another tactic I like is putting together a start page which can be a nice way of helping out your readers and showing them everything you have to offer.

Despite this, you need to think carefully before you remove menu items.

Pat Flynn learned this the hard way when he removed a key element that caused a huge drop in podcast plays.

The bottom line: ask yourself how important certain navigation elements are and remove those which don’t need to be there. In some cases you will still need to keep navigation elements, but moving them to your footer will make them accessible while putting the focus on key pages.

Validate and test your design changes

Before you make any changes, you should test your existing design.

Then you can compare your results to see what has improved.

This is because, with all the best will in the world, best practice is not always the answer.

It’s a great start, but it can only get you so far.

It’s worth getting goal tracking setup in Google Analytics first, check this guide to find out how.

After that, try using a heatmap tool like Crazy Egg to identify where your visitors are clicking (or where they’re not clicking).

A great example of how to validate design changes by using tools like Crazy Egg can be found in this post by Brian Dean.

Your key takeaways

Look at every element on your blog and ask yourself if it really needs to be there.

If so, what value is it adding for users or how is it helping you to accomplish your own goals?

Each element on your blog must have a purpose.

Think about your own goals but don’t focus so much on it that you ruin the user experience and make your visitors want to run instantly hit the X button.

Your next steps

Here are your next steps:

  • Identify your key conversion goals – these are actions you want your visitors to complete (e.g. signing up to your email list).
  • Look at each element on your blog and evaluate its worth based on the key takeaways above.
  • If you haven’t already, read this post on growing your email list conversions by over 700%.

Over to you

There will always be a balancing act between user experience and conversions. It’s definitely a challenge to get the best of both worlds.

What are your thoughts?

About Adam Connell

Adam is the founder of Blogging Wizard. Previously managed a marketing agency. Adam now helps others to become more successful online. Get more from Adam on Google+.

Want More? Get My Best Blogging Strategies For Free!
  • Ashley Faulkes

    Great stuff Adam, glad to see someone else with their head screwed on :>
    You explored some good ones here. Social proof is good, if you have some.
    And likewise overuse of badges, ads and social widgets (never liked em).
    Gave me as a web designer some food for thought in improving customers websites!

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks buddy!

      I thought you’d like this. I noticed a while back that you had most of your social links in the footer – I like how you’ve done it!

      Awesome stuff, there’s always something more we can do (or test).

  • http://blogambitions.com/how-to-start-a-blog-the-right-way/ Kristie

    Great post! My favorite: “Don’t build a house on rented land”

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Kristie :)

  • http://www.donnamerrilltribe.com/ Donna Merrill

    As usual great tips Adam! Not a fan of badges and too much sidebar stuff because it always confuses me. One opt-in is fine with me. The best advice is to never build a house on rented land. Our blog is our business weather realized or not! -Donna

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Donna! Our blog is a business, so true and we all need to get into the habit of thinking that way!

  • http://www.durhamwebdesigner.com Larry James

    You make some great points here Adam. I try to dive social media traffic to landing pages. The landing pages have no clutter, no sidebars, no navigational bars, and no widgets to distract the user from completing the requested action. These types of pages convert better.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Larry. I’m with you on landing pages, I’ve noticed better conversions as I remove elements. Next step is to remove sidebars for certain posts.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • Nirmala Santhakumar

    Excellent suggestions for the bloggers to enhance their reader experience Adam :)

    As you specified, the visitors should not get distracted in anyway while reading the blog post and hence they would come back regularly. I removed unnecessary badges according to your advice but will look at every element of my blog and decide really they need to be present or not.

    I got amazed with your tips in removing useless blog elements, keep educating us.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hi Nirmala,

      Thanks so much for checking out my post and for the kind words :)

      Look forward to hearing how removing distractions helps you get closer to your goals.

      Great to hear, there’s lots more in the pipeline!

  • Yael Kochman

    You are basically offering to separate the channels from one another, if someone already landed on your blog, don’t destruct them just to send the to your FB/twitter etc, makes a lot of sense. Curious to follow up and see if you still support this in 2 -3 months time.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hi Yael, that’s it! Definitely, I’m in the process of a redesign right now, sidebars for most posts will be going. I’ve seen more and more people make the shift recently so it will be exciting to see the affect on bonus rates and engagement.

      • Lee

        Hey Adam, what WordPress theme do you guys use? I’m using Optimizepress (which I could also install as a plugin to use a different theme if I chose to), but I’m not sure I can actually remove the blog sidebar with OP. Should I use the OP plugin for building my other pages and use a different, more versatile theme for my blog?

        Thanks so much for this!

        • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

          Hey Lee,

          I use the Epik theme, it’s a third party child theme for the Genesis framework.

          I had a quick look at one of my sites using the theme and there’s not an easy way to do that with OP. I usually use the plugin and go with a different theme so it’s definitely something worth trying.

          That way you will get the best of both worlds.

          Happy to help!

  • http://workwithmontes.com/ Joseph Montes

    Great information Adam! I’ll be testing this out on my site.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Joseph!

  • Lisa Irby

    Just shared this on my FB page, Adam. I love posts that challenge what most bloggers do such as create badges and display stats. Really good point about what that can convey when your numbers are low. Good article.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing my post – I really appreciate it. Challenging conventional wisdom can be a great way to drive things forward.

      Thanks!

  • http://www.arielsaysnow.com/ Ariel Says Now

    Such good information! Made me rethink a few things. I’ve already tried a few and am looking forward to positive results. Thanks!

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Ariel! It’s always good to re-think things every so often. Let me know how you get on!

  • Emmanuel Cudjoe

    Hello Adam,

    This is the best I have read this week. It left many questions on my mind as I kept wondering what have I being doing wrong?
    This is Emmanuel with kabenlah.com

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks for the kind words, Emmanuel. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Akshay Hallur R

    Great post, we should avoid widgets that direct visitors away from your blogand thus increase bounce rate.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Akshay!

  • http://www.shadeofinfo.com/blog/ Andrew M. Warner

    Really great post Adam. The first three I don’t use or never used at all. In regards to the sidebar, that’s a real toss up. I see the point that you’re trying to make with it and it may be something that I just have to test out for a week or so to see if there’s a difference.

    About the main navigation, I agree. I had so much useless crap on my main navigation before and when I took them away and focused on the ones that are important and I want people to go to, I noticed a difference.

    Great post my friend.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Andrew.

      You’re right about the sidebar – it’s worth while testing.

      I’m going through a re-design phase right now, the new site will have the sidebar disabled on particular posts when the focus has to be 100% on the post content.

      Great to hear how de-cluttering your navigation has helped you get results!

      Thanks my friend.

  • http://www.socialmouths.com/ Francisco Rosales

    Hey Adam, thanks for the mention, I just landed on your post by coincidence. Nice to meet you and connect with you.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hey Francisco, no worries. I love how you use social proof. You too!

  • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com/ Cendrine Marrouat

    Hello Adam, I really like this article. You make a lot of good points!

    Really puts things in perspective!

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hi Cendrine, thanks for the comment – glad you like the post!

  • http://www.mostpixels.com/marketing Steve Faber

    Adam,
    Excellent post. We tend to get distracted by “shiny object syndrome” So many bloggers and brands lose sight of why they want readers on their blog.
    If you:
    1) Have a documented blog plan
    2) Include goals in that plan
    3) Track conversions of those or intermediate goals from your blog
    You can discover which blog elements boost conversions, and which detract from them.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Steve. Completely agree with the “shiny object syndrome”.

      3 great points there!

      Thanks for the comment.

  • http://createanonlinebusiness.com James Earl Dickens

    Powerful post! “Don’t build a house on rented land.”

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks James!

  • http://nathanambrose.com/ Nathan Ambrose

    Nice post, Adam.

    Actually, the first thing that came to mind when I read the title is “sidebars.” Often, I see sidebars full of items that are not relevant to readers of the articles.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Nathan.

      Sometimes the time isn’t right to remove them completely, but if we ensure that they’re clutter free it can seriously improve user experience.

  • http://www.bloggingfromparadise.com/ Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Adam,

    Excellent.

    Such a keen point, about useful navigation. At one time I had 19 menus hahaha….funny to think about but not funny for my conversations. What’s interesting is this; getting clear on why you’re blogging, who you’re blogging for and making this audience ridiculously hyper targeted, helps you trim all sorts of fat.

    I’m ditching my old blog soon because although I had success with it, and loved it, I had too many inherent design flaws from top down and also, the idea of my new blog resonates perfectly with me and my brand. Clarity did it, and although my basic theme and style will mimic my old blog on some levels I’ll be posting few pages on my blog, and my menu will be super strict and tight, as will my sidebar.

    Plenty of images of course because people want to see where I’ve been and it totally vibes with the blog topic, but honestly, it’ll be super bare bones because my blog only needs a few basic elements to work nicely.

    Clarity, clarity, clarity, and when you do one thing, for one group of people, you’ll only include a few elements to build your bonds, provide a useful service, and build a sense of community around your blog. This is the key of keys, and something you do exceedingly well here.

    Wonderful post Adam.

    Thanks for the share. I’ll tweet in a bit.

    Ryan

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for an awesome comment.

      Sounds like you’ve been making some great steps in improving the usability of your blog – I remember when you had those 19 menus and your recent re-design made a huge improvement.

      Just caught your post about your new blog and I’m excited to see what you have planned.

      Glad you will still be including plenty of images – they’re always inspiring to see.

      That word – Clarity.

      Clarity is so important in everything we do, on our blogs and in life.

      Thanks for the kind words my friend – I really appreciate it and thanks for sharing.

      - Adam

  • http://www.bloggingtips101.com/ Catherine Holt

    Interesting read. Making sure that your site is clutter free does make a lot of sense. I have never thought about removing the social media icons before, but this is worth thinking about. Not sure if I would be ready to get rid of my sidebar tho….lol.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Catherine. The sidebar is one to put a lot of thought into, at the very least remove anything that could distract users or steer them away from your blog.

      There may be times when removing the sidebar on particular posts or pages could work.

  • http://www.unveiltheweb.com/ UnveiltheWeb

    You nailed it!!! I purposely don’t have a sidebar for that very reason. I don’t want people distracted or going off-site. The only links I have are social media share buttons that are pop-ups to share the articles.

    It’s all about user experience and if you’re allowing your users to get distracted, overwhelmed, and frustrated… what do you expect? They will likely not come back. Keep it simple, clean, and to the point. Don’t complicate and let them focus on what you have to say so that they may do what you ask them to do in order to help the achieve the result they are looking for.

    Great post Adam!!!
    ~Don

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks Don – great to hear that you’re taking a similar approach on your own site.

      That’s it exactly – user experience is where is where the focus needs to be if we want to achieve our goals.

      I had a quick look at your site and I like how you’ve got everything laid out. Keeping it clean and concise looks to be working very well for you. It shows with the great engagement you get on your posts.

      Thanks!
      Adam

  • http://vope.net Vope Digital Agency

    Some great points Adam.

  • Rob Montgomery

    Hey Adam! :)

    This is an eye-opener, most especially for me! I sometimes fill my website page with stuff that do not really matter or are not useful but I have always believed that the items given above are a must for any blog. Turns out, I was wrong. Thanks a lot for this!

    Rob

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hey Rob, thanks for the comment :)

      Some of them have their place, but when you put the focus on encouraging your audience to take a minimal number of actions (or just one) the results can be incredible.

      Thanks for reading!

      Adam

  • http://www.adriennesmith.net/ Adrienne

    Hey Adam,

    I don’t like the social streams in the sidebars or any type of counter or badge. Those to me are just screaming that they’re trying to prove something to me. I think we both will agree that it’s going to take much more than that to build my trust.

    I don’t mind having the social widgets where they can click on them and follow me but they’re never taken off my site. That’s what I currently have on my blog and it’s in the bottom of my sidebar too so they’re not distracted by just that. I’ve even had people ask me in the comments and emails how they can follow me because they aren’t noticing them at the bottom of my sidebar.

    I recently finished B-School with Marie Forleo and Derek Halpern did a module for us. After listening to that particular one I spent the weekend changing my blog. I took away a lot of the tabs and changed things in my sidebar. I rewrote some pages, added a new one and changed the look of all my opt-ins accept my header.

    So far they’ve been a good change for me but I still would like to do a little more. You definitely have to test some things out to see if they will help improve your readers experience on your site.

    I won’t be doing away with the sidebar though. I haven’t had an issue with anyone being distracted but with some of the stuff people have in their sidebar, they should go this route.

    Thanks for the tips and hope you’re having a good week.

    ~Adrienne

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hey Adrienne,

      Thanks for an awesome comment!

      Definitely, I’m with you on social streams, counters and badges. I don’t mind badges too much but they’ve got to be impressive.

      I like how you’ve positioned your social widgets near the bottom of your sidebar so they’re still visible but you’re able to keep the focus on subscribing to your email list.

      Great to see you’ve already made some changes based on Derek Halpern’s module – you’ve done a great job at re-focusing your calls to action and adding a great level of clarity.

      That’s it, always be testing!

      Definitely, the sidebar isn’t one for everyone.

      I’m in the process of a re-design now and certain posts/pages will be keeping the sidebar, others will be going full width.

      My pleasure, thanks for a great comment and hope you’re having a great week too.

      Adam

  • http://www.versedtech.org/ Sudip Majhi

    Obviously I like this post. I have a question. You have told that the social media fan counter can build a negative impact in readers’ mind. So, my question is, should I/we show the number of share just like you are showing in the bottom of post?
    Does the same thing ( just like social fan counter) work in readers’ mind while sharing the post?

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Thanks for the comment, Sudip.

      Great question.

      Social proof comes into play with social share counters too.

      So, it would depend how many social shares you are getting.

      If you’re getting a good number of social shares, it’s worth including. I prefer displaying a total number of shares because I think of it as having a greater impact.

      Another thing worth considering is button size and limiting options.

      I’ve limited mine to the key sites which refer me the most traffic and which my audience typically like to share on.

  • http://www.visionology.net Wendy Krueger

    Just discovered your blog the other day (no idea how I have missed it). I have been busy reading the last two months of posts. Some many ideas to implement. Thanks for all the great information.

    • http://www.bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

      Hi Wendy,

      My pleasure – really glad to hear that you’re finding my posts useful :)

      If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email via my contact page!