I decided to run a heatmap analysis of one of my blogs to see what users clicked on, what they ignored and how they interacted with the site. You can do the same thing using CrazyEgg (there is a free version).
Less than 5% of visitors decided to interact with the sidebar
Thats pretty impressive stat. Users were still navigating through the blog, but instead of using the sidebar they we're navigating by searching, clicking the "related post" links at the bottom of the page and visiting the archives.
So with very little activity on the sidebar, why not optimise this space so that what is there is 100% value added for the reader.
This means canning the "directory" buttons. You know, the ones that directories require you to have in order to be listed. You don't need them! First of all, directories have basically "zero" SEO value and don't send through any traffic
Cut down on links. There is only so much link love you can share in one blogroll
Your readers will become lost in a sea of links. Instead of a huge blogroll, focus on 10 high quality blogs that you read. Move the rest of the links into a special "links" page.
Your Categories make no sense and provide no value
I'm guilty of having useless categories. Often when you start a blog, you have no idea what the best categories should be for your posts. Things like "uncategorized" seem handy for you, but how any readers will click on it
Come up with a set of no more than 10 categories that cover all the general topics. Use tags to categorize things more specifically.
Screw Widgets. They are just toys, that you will play with for a little while and then get bored.
Im not talking about a useful community tool - aka Facebook or Google Connect (they get high clickthroughs as peeps reading your content want to connect with other peeps), Im talking about the useless survey, shopping or poll widget. This is only going to distract your readers.
Photo by - wauter de tuinkabouter