Almost every blog or website has a sidebar. A sidebar is off to the side of the main content and is usually full of useful information.
There is a lot of discussion on which side of your site is better to put your sites sidebar (left or right). If you put it on the left then expect less people to read your content completely as they might get distracted by something in the sidebar before finishing. If you put your sidebar on the right, expect a lower conversion and click through rate as your visitors will be spending more time reading your articles.
The choice is yours!
So now that you know which side your sidebar is going to go on, what should be in it?
I see a lot of WordPress site sidebars that just have a bunch of stuff, filler. They put social icons with no real purpose. Maybe even have a search bar just to fill some space.
Your sidebar, just like the rest of your site is extremely valuable real-estate. It should not be wasted with fluff.
By the time you are done reading this post you are going to know what you need in your sidebar and how it is going to improve your site.
Is a sidebar even necessary?
The first question you need to ask yourself for EVERY page of your site is what is the goal. If my ideal visitor was on this page what would I want him or her to do?
Sometimes you may not need a sidebar. Sometimes you may want your reader to be so laser focused on the main content that any distraction would hurt the likelihood of your goal happening.
Sometimes it is better to not have a sidebar. Within your theme settings (especially if you are using a Genesis theme) you should be able to turn off a sidebar for a specific page.
You will notice that on my about page and a few other pages on the site I do not have a sidebar. This is because I really want the reader to focus on my content and not leave the page, except for maybe through an option form 😉
The sidebar tweaks that will change your website forever!
Tweak #1 Remove anything that is not important.
If you have items in your sidebar that are just there to take up space, then remove them. You don’t need the Facebook like box (this is bad practice as it slows down your site anyways), the search bar that no one is using, or the advertisements that no one is clicking on.
Social boxes look cool and they are great for social proof, but… they slow down your site and even worse they take visitors off your site and on to social networks where they will probably get distracted and maybe forget about you.
If you do want to show of your social profiles instead just have links to the social networks (make sure to have them open in a new tab). These will load faster.
If no one is using your search bar then you don’t need it. It is taking up valuable real estate within your site and is not helping anyone.
Instead make it easy for people to find the content they need!
I see ads in sidebars all the time. IF they are making you really good money, then leave them. But if they are just making you a few dollars a month then it is just not worth it. Again they take up space, they distract from your brand, and they take visitors away from your site.
For every single item in your sidebar you need to know its purpose. If you find that the purpose is simply to take up more space or because every other site has it, well it has to go.
Tweak #2 Add your optin box
The money is in the list.
I know, how original of me. This has only been said a billion times. I am only repeating it because it is true. You need to have an email list.
People are used to seeing optin areas in the sidebar. If they get to your site and love your content and look to your sidebar to sign up for your list…
and oh wait, nothing…
Give them what they want! Add your optin form to your sidebar and watch your list grow. Be sure to have a compelling lead magnet and image for said lead magnet to draw attention. I would suggest putting this somewhere in the middle of your sidebar.
Tweak #3 Talk about you, sort of…
It is a great idea to talk a little about you in your sidebar. Show your personality and why they should listen to you.
You don’t want to do more than a few sentences (2-3 max) and you want to sell them on your blog. This is the place they want to be. While it is called an about section, you should be talking more about how you are going to help them and less about yourself.
Use an image that shows your personality. The boring shot of you in a suit (unless your site is business related) is not going to get the job done.
Link to your about page so they can learn more. My about page is one of my highest converting pages on my blog. I want to drive traffic to it. You should too!
A great example is Pat Flynns photo over on Smart Passive incomes sidebar. In one photo he really shows what he is all about, family. Find what makes you different, what sets you apart and find an image that represents this.
Tweak #4 Popular content and resources
If you have some awesome stuff you want to show it to everyone. If you don’t, stop reading this blog and start creating it now!
Putting links to your most popular content in the sidebar is great for two reasons:
- It drives more traffic to this great content.
- It helps with SEO
A link to your resources page also goes great in the sidebar. Your resources page is probably one of your best money making pages on your blog so it is in your best interest to keep sending people there.
Plus, you are helping them out by giving them the tools they need to succeed.
Want to up your game? Use images.
Create an image for your popular content and use that in the sidebar instead. Using HTML and a text widget you can create some really cool sidebars.
Tweak#5 A floating sidebar
If you look at WPBrain.com on a desktop, (not a mobile phone) you will notice that a few items in the sidebar stay with you as you scroll. This is not magic, and its really not that hard.
In fact it only takes a plugin. And the best part, that plugin is Free!
Q2W3 Fixed Widget. Just install this plugin and navigate to your widgets. It adds a new option to your widgets of: Fixed Widget. Check this box for the widget you want to float when a user scrolls and you are all set!
This is great because it keeps your most important items in view the entire time someone is on your site. I suggest putting your option form in here and/or your most popular content.
By keeping your best stuff in front of your readers as they scroll you will keep them on your site longer. When they are done reading and looking for something new to read they will hopefully notice your awesome floating sidebar and click on one of the articles.
Watch your time on site and number of pages visited stat skyrocket.
Not every site is the same
It is important to remember that what works for one website may not work for yours. You should not only implement these ideas but also track them and how they effect your site.
Even if it is just making a note of when you made the changes, what they were, and the goal you are hoping to accomplish with the changes.
Example: If you are expecting to get more email signups by adding a signup box in your websites sidebar then it is easy to tell if it is working. Just check the number of signups you were getting before and how many you are getting after implementing the change (give it a month or so) and see if you are getting the desired results.
Time to implement!
Now that you know the tweaks you are going to make to your websites sidebar it is time to take action. Just incase you forgot the five tweaks are:
- Remove unnecessary items
- Add an option box
- Add an about section
- Add links to your most popular content
- Install the floating widget plugin
All of these items are easy to implement and will have a drastic effect on your website. Your sidebar is extremely important and should not be forgotten. Keep it updated and keep on tweaking it.
Help someone out!
Do you know someone else that needs some help with their sidebar? Share this post with them to help them on their way to an awesome website sidebar.
If you have a cool item in your sidebar that has been working really well be sure to let us all know in the comments.