Everyone has seen the infamous sidebar, that column to the left or right of your screen often crammed full of various details, information or tips. Chances are good you have one looming off the edge of your screen now. Here is the problem…
How often have you overlooked or even forgotten that it was there? Sidebars are a great tool to help readers, improve customer engagement, and increase traffic but those benefits only happen when your sidebar works.
Creating an Effective Sidebar
The art of creating a viable and active sidebar takes into account several factors. It is important to remember, however, that some of these tips will require some tweaking as there is no exact science and no one-size-fits-all sidebar for every site. That being said, there are still definitive steps you can take to bring your sidebar to life and empower its ability to work and produce results.
The “Which Side” Dilemma
Not quite as old as the “which came first, the chicken or egg” conversation, the discussion surrounding which side is the best side for your sidebar has been an ongoing one. This is a primary example of why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
As a rule of thumb, a sidebar placed on the left is more likely to catch the attention and eye of the reader. We are trained to read from left to right so this shouldn’t surprise us. What we need to be aware of is that sidebars on the left side can also detract from your main content. Placing the sidebar on the right will draw less attention and reduce conversion and click-through rates but place your content to be the primary focus.
The purpose of your sidebar will determine the side you choose. Now about the information within that handy little column.
Choosing what information, data, and material to include in your sidebar is a big deal. Remembering the sidebar is also part of your site means that this is also valuable real estate. Cramming your sidebar with useless filler information or using it as add-on space could be a costly mistake.
Just be mindful of the primary purpose of your sidebar and the purpose you intend for it to serve. That will help guide your decisions in what to include as well as what to omit. Sometimes it is that part of the process that can be the most difficult. Take a look at our post “Why Every Website Page Needs a Goal” for more guidance.
With the free Widget Options plugin, you can easily assign pages’ visibility and restrict each widget on different pages, posts, custom post types, categories, tags and custom taxonomies and more. For instance, if you have testimonials in your sidebar you don’t want them showing up in the sidebar on your testimonial page – this plugin takes cares of that issue.
Cut It Out
Our tendency is to want to keep more than we need while one of the keys to an effective sidebar is removing clutter and fluff that doesn’t serve a purpose. Old or non-money-making advertisements, little-used social network boxes that slow your site response times and unnecessary search bars can be common culprits. Not all websites need a search function. Cut them out, streamline, and make your sidebar appear clean and that will make it not only easier to read but more attractive as well.
So that leaves one last question…
What to Include in Sidebars
We have discussed the importance of keeping and including information that will promote and support the purpose of the site but what does that look like exactly? Here are a few examples:
- Optin Box – With Facebook ads, engagement, and conversion to paying clients going down, an email list is still one of your greatest assets. A sidebar is one of the first places readers will look for your newsletter sign-up and offering.
- About You – No need to clutter your main content with information about yourself. If they like your site and your content they will also be more curious about you. Guess where they will often look to find out more about who you are? Include your photo with a sentence or two about yourself and link it to your about page.
- All the Links – The sidebar is a great place to list resources, post links to your most popular content, and as a result you will bolster your SEO. This is just another example of making your sidebar work for you.
- Rotating Testimonials – Client testimonials win more customers and feel more genuine if displayed with a photo.
- Products – Feature your best-selling products.
If you want to get the most out of your sidebar or would like to learn more about how a sidebar can improve your business and your site, then contact us. We can help you create the right sidebar for your page and even help you decide if you actually need one. Our job is to help you convert more leads into clients, with or without sidebars!