My Failed Sidebar Experiment And Why I Can’t Change It

Sometimes you read something that sounds pretty cool and decide to give it a shot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time you just correct things or change things and move on; this time, it’s not happening.

by striatic

If you look to the left side of this blog you’ll see something that I’m calling my Top Ten Favorite Posts. I don’t even remember which blogs I read this on, but at the time it really sounded like a great idea. The belief was that if you shared your top 10 posts with others, not only would they get an idea of the types of things you write about on your blog but that they’d become some of the most visited pages on your blog, which would help your rankings because people would be paying more attention to some of your older posts.

I went through my blog and selected what I considered as a pretty representative list of my top 10 favorite posts and popped it over there. I didn’t use a widget because my these doesn’t support widgets on the left side. I actually have to code everything that’s on the left side of my blog by going through the Editor, which most of you new folks or non-technical people shouldn’t even try. I removed whatever else was using that space, put those posts there, and figured life would be sweet.

I’ve had those posts there for 5 weeks, which of course means more than a month. I checked Google Analytics and the results are in; that idea is a flop. Out of the 10 articles, only one cracked the top ten, the one on diabetes, and it’s sitting at #50. As a matter of fact, it’s the only one in the top 100 as well. Major come down from what seemed like a great idea.

I wanted to replace those and pop something else in there. I also want to remove the Chitika ad on the side and replace it with something else because I’ve noticed when I check my blog via my smartphone it pops something up that’s actually quite irritating, and man, I hate being irritated (this is in reference to a guest post I recently wrote on Basic Blog Tips, which I just linked to above).

I went into the leftsidebar.php file of the editor and tried to remove all those links. When I went to save it, I got sent to a 404 page instead; what the hey? That’s never happened before, and I have to admit it was confusing. I kept trying but no dice. Then I checked on my other 3 blogs and found that I had the same problem, with different themes, on two of them; one of them is fine.

And what’s the deal with the last blog? I haven’t upgraded it to WordPress 3.1.3 yet. I started thinking that might be the issue, and indeed it is. I’ve been searching the entire internet looking for a fix for the problem. It seems that someone else had this same 404 problem a year ago when upgrading to WordPress 3.0. After trying everything he could and looking for information he tested it on another site and found it had the same issue. His thought then was that it might be a server issue so he contacted his host and indeed found that his host had blocked something because it saw a bunch of some type of errors coming through. They removed the block off his site and got it working.

I called my host; no dice. They’re blaming WordPress; then again, so am I. So I’ll do what I can, and we all know that at some point I’ll figure it out; I always do. Actually, I already know a fix but it’s ugly and I really don’t want to do it. However, now I’ve forgotten what I was going to put into that space; sigh…

31 thoughts on “My Failed Sidebar Experiment And Why I Can’t Change It”

  1. Not a one Dennis, but that’s okay; it’s there in case I really positively touch someone. 🙂

  2. Hi Mitch,

    There is one benefit to having suffered through spotty internet connections: after losing a whole post while composing online, I’ve NEVER worked directly in any of the WordPress editors.

    Here’s what I do: I make a backup copy of the php file I’m going to fool with. Then, using a folder structure on my HD that matches the server side of things, I change the php file. This makes life easy when I use FileZilla to upload the changed file.

    I can refresh my browser to test the change and, if I borked it, I just restore the backup to my local folder structure and FTP it over the messed up php file.

    This works for everything except pages and posts, of course. I build those in Word, hand coding the tags (I’m old school). Then I paste the text into the HTML view of the post or page editor.

    It’s more work, but I never have to deal with the WordPress theme editor.



    1. Mitch, as you said, that’s a lot of work! Actually, with one of the other WP updates it was killing posts as well, but my workaround was to save it as a draft and then approve it and all went well. That’s one of the problems with these companies when they’re always updating something; they probably don’t do all the stuff that we do, even while testing.

  3. There is a probability that template is causing the problem, especially badly coded CSS. Sometimes it can be a plugin issue. On one of my VPS servers I’ve had firewall which was blocking standard ports. It was blocking several plugins. I was a bit confused as actually I just moved the website and the blog so I thought may be I am making a mistake. A simple test showed me that port 80 which is most used port is blocked because of security reasons.

    1. I’ll have to check my plugins, Carl, since I do have a firewall plugin.

      1. I think the firewall plugin within WordPress is not a problem, but the firewall on the server router. Probably need to check this with your webhost. If there is an message on error_log that something can not connect, probably port is blocked.

      2. Carl, I had contacted the host first & they had no clue. Sire’s idea was spot on as it immediately worked for me.

  4. Cool, I thought so. Check to see that your IP hasn’t changed in your plugin settings. if it has put the new IP address in and you should be right.

    1. Good call, Sire. My IP had changed, so I tried to change it and everything freaked out. I actually had to kill the plugin and add it anew so that it would work properly but it’s working great now. Thanks!

  5. I’ve noticed since I upgraded WordPress, my blog is soooo slow to load. I can’t even stand it. Between my host and it’s problems and WordPress, I’m tempted to go back to Blogger. LOL

    1. Don’t do it Jessica! Instead, do the upgrade again to see if that might take care of the problem. And, of course, take a look at plugins like Sire recommended I do.

    2. Something to consider is every time an image loads that is hosted on your web server, that adds to the load time — which is why I’ve taken lately to sourcing pictures off my server.

      1. Ari, I’m not going that route with images. I did install a plugin called SmushIt that decreases the size of almost every image that I use, so the load time from this blog should be minimal, which I couldn’t say before I started using the plugin.

  6. Writing as one person reading your blog, your left and right sidebars combined are too heavy. There’s too much stuff. I come to read your content, not your sidebars; but that’s me.

    Have you considered running heat maps to gauge how frequently people are clicking different links?

    1. I’ll answer the second one first; no, and don’t see myself doing it.

      For the first, if you notice almost everything on each blog post highlights me or something I care about. Sure, I do have the banner ads at the top and the one book to the side that I market that I didn’t create but used, and one other thing that’s a freebie download, which I’ve written about. But everything else I created, either the books I’ve written or the seminar I gave or the other blog posts I write. Now, you might not care about me all that much but one hopes that someone else might take a look at this blog, look at the sides to see I’ve created other stuff, and decide to check it out. Last week I sold one of my leadership books and one of my website ebooks; to me, that’s not a bad week. My purpose overall is to highlight me, and I have to say that I’m more than just this blog, thus I want to share where I am as much as possible with as many people as possible.

      But that’s me.

  7. Wow! There’s a lot going on over here. I’ve been reading through the comments and I’m genuinely impressed by how helpful everyone is here. I’ll definitely be back. Unfortunately, I don’t have any helpful suggestions to add but I can certainly commiserate!

    1. Thanks Sherryl. Actually Sire fixed my issue and I’ve eliminated the stuff I wanted to get rid of after the experiment. For now, I’m a happier guy. 😉

  8. That’s the one frustrating thing about wordpress. It’s intuitive but when something goes wrong you can end up going round in circles. Either updating wordpress or clashing plugins always seem to be the problem with me.

    1. I guess it happens to lots of folks, Charlotte. Eventually we usually get some kind of answer though.

  9. I have the similar experience. It’s so slow that I have to refresh the page every time I open my blog to get the full page. But I am a WordPress loyalist. I don’t really fancy Blogger.

    1. Andrew, you might need to run one of those programs that helps with the caching of your blog. I say “might” because I haven’t had the best luck across the board, but I’m running one right now that’s not too obtrusive called WP Clean Fix.

    2. Blogger allows for Disqus integration as a comment system but few Blogger blogs avail themselves of it. That’s opened my eyes again, for I hate logging into their obtuse comment system.

  10. Mitch,
    Nice to know you’re testing out your site. Errors do occurs and I’ve face countless of them e.g. sidebar missing, browser compatible issue and once my site was inaccessible.

    Still, it’s worth the time and effort to make a more appealing website with your self edited unique theme. Firebug a developer plugin for firefox will be some help to you on your future edits. Cheers 🙂

    1. I’ll have to take a look at that, Charleston, though I’ll admit that I don’t use tons of Firefox plugins because I worry about the resources the browser will use; all these suckers seem to suck up RAM way too much. And yes, I’m always testing things around here to see if what others say about improvements work or not.

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